I’ve been working sobriety from alcohol for 5 years. Rachel… Sober? Half of those who know me will say, “ohhhh good for her, makes sense.” The other half may wonder why. I was never the dependent alcoholic who was desperate for the next drink to function; I was a binge drinker who responded poorly to the effects of alcohol in my brain. I’ve been told by a psychiatrist that I’m allergic to alcohol, that my brain simply doesn’t process it like the average persons. If you have a peanut allergy you no longer eat peanuts, but alcohol is more complex an allergy than a food allergy. The death process of an alcohol allergy is slow where as any other allergic reaction would kill you immediately.
There’s another side of alcoholism that people don’t always talk about, the spiritual disconnect it causes. When I went through seasons of drinking, it seemed I couldn’t communicate with God the way I wanted to. There was a fog between us, perhaps because I was in a state of shame and regret. Drinking seemed to allow the darkness to stay in my life, and blocked the light. It was as if my prayers weren’t being heard, and as if while I was intoxicated, he couldn’t save me from myself. The times I would drink and become enslaved with the pain and anger of my soul wounds were terrifying, for me and my family too. Salvation comes with sacrifice, this sacrifice for me happens to be eliminating alcohol.
I made the decision to go sober again after a relapse, when I learned of my father’s death. I knew I wasn’t capable of processing grief with alcohol in my life, I knew it prevented me from experiencing spiritual connection and growth, and I knew it prevented me from feeling emotions. My father’s death is complicated. It’s complicated because I hadn’t spoken to him in 3 years, and because our last words to each other were ugly. To make it more complicated I learned of his death 4 months after the fact from his widow. There was no funeral to attend and he wasn’t given a grave site. There was an unknown cause of death on the death certificate. I ordered the medical examiners statement, and apparently after returning a beer can to the top of the stairs of the basement, he had a “natural event” and fell down the stairs and died. It appears he was an alcoholic until the day he died, with alcoholism listed as a contributor to his list of medical conditions, as well as the cause of our complicated relationship.
I had to accept my part in our failed relationship. I had to accept that though I was living as a Christian, I hadn’t extended compassion to this man while he was alive. One of the keys to sobriety is self-forgiveness. This is a step that can’t be skipped; there is no self-love without self-forgiveness. Without self-love we are not capable of loving others the way we should. There is no love for others until you release yourself from the prison of un-forgiveness. I can honestly say that I forgave my father for his shortcomings. I realized I had forgiven him when I began to feel compassion for him, when my heart began to hurt because he was so mentally ill, and so chemical dependent, so troubled that he wasn’t capable of being a parent. His life and death was a sad story, a legacy that still breaks my heart. It is entirely too late, I experienced this compassion and grace after his death, but I do believe in the afterlife, maybe then he will be given a do over in parenting.
Sobriety allowed me to be obedient to Gods voice concerning my future. By his grace and sobriety, I made it through college, the first in my family to graduate. My degree was a stepping stone to something bigger, a career in the mental health field. I get to help people, many of them with the same story as my father, some with my story too. Had I continued to drink, I would have continued the fog between God and me and wouldn’t have acted on his nudges concerning my future, and I wouldn’t be where I am today.
The biggest benefit of all is the transparency and growth I’ve had with my children. God began a work in them to begin to understand the affect alcohol has on some people. They can accept and love the alcoholic without judgment, and also understand that drinking isn’t a bad thing for everyone, I didn’t want them afraid with the notion that alcohol was the devil, but I wanted them wise enough to discern it. I am now able to see my husband through the eyes of Christ, and love him on a completely new level. I’m becoming the wife I was designed to be, my desire for control has weakened, I am able to trust and respect the way it was intended to be in marriage, I believe, because sobriety has helped me communicate with the third person in our marriage, God.
In a twist of fate I was given a portion of my father’s ashes along this journey. At first I thought I should hike up Mount Hood and release them there, a place he used to frequent. A nudge told me to hold off. Then I thought he needed to be placed in his Veterans Gravesite, but his widow denied me that.
I’ve been blessed with the most beautiful piece of property in all of Texas. I turned my Dad into a tree. I placed his ashes with a young, new tree in the hopes that they will blend into one. Life is a series of births, deaths, and rebirths, both spiritually and in the flesh. Without sobriety, the fog of alcohol would keep me from experiencing it. I believe if you search the soul, you can find beauty in any circumstance, no matter how painful. Honoring those who may not deserve it, you see, that’s the gift of compassion, something my father blessed me with. I’m looking forward to watching this tree of life sprout and grow, as my faith and love grows deeper for God and his people, especially the broken ones.
I released the reigns of alcohol to the king of the universe in faith, and found a heavenly father that provides above and beyond what an earthly father could ever do. The father wound is healed, it is finished, and it is well with my soul. Sobriety is an experience. The pain is real for everyone, the perceptions and growth we receive is different. We are all messengers, every last human walking the planet, especially the addict or alcoholic. My message just happens to be of freedom, what’s yours?