Sometimes I think I would be a more rested and productive individual if the bulk of my writing ideas didn't come to me in the middle of the night. But tonight... this morning? 2am? I cannot begrudge God this one. Ever.
I woke up just a few minutes ago with a song, "God Has Smiled On Me", running through my head. I have only heard this particular song once - 11 years 5 days ago at my friends Denise and Zach's wedding. When I asked her years later who sang it, Denise couldn't remember and I have never been able to find it online. It was a lovely a cappella song and not a bad thing to wake up to at all!
And God has smiled on me! Today is proof in ways that other days aren't. As He is teaching me to love mercy and show it to others, today is a day that is meant to remind me of the awesome mercy He has bestowed upon me! I am having to stop my typing every few seconds to feel love and gratitude washing over me.
So what is the big deal, you might ask? Eighteen years ago today - 18 YEARS - God delivered me from dependence on alcohol. Wow. I just have to sit here and take that in. He really did it, for me, a sniveling mess at that time. He did. God just looked at me and said, "Let me give you a big miracle today." And I was, at best, very grudging in my relationship with God at that time. I wanted to wrest away the awesome power He has and fix my life that way I thought it should be done. Still, He gently pried my hands away (although I didn't think it was gentle at the time) and said, "Here, let Me help you with that, Carolyn." I did not understand (and still don't most days) the amazing love that God has for me personally - that I was not just another number or obligation to Him. He is gracious in not waiting for that understanding to come before He moves His mighty hand and shows who He really is.
My drinking life was a short one, but it delivered me quickly all the way to the gates of insanity and death. I needed to be numb and in short order I found that alcohol only delivered a temporary numbness. I knew it wasn't the answer, but I did not have a better answer for getting outside of the mess that my head and heart had become. Somewhere in my upbringing (very legalistic) I had come to the conclusion that I was going to have to make myself "good enough" on my own steam before God would accept me and everything would be alright in life. I just couldn't do it, though. All my efforts led to failure. I made one bad choice after another and depression was hounding me hard.
I didn't drink every day. The days that I didn't, however, were not any better than the days I did. I tried, though. I had been taught that any drinking was a sin and I didn't want to knowingly sin (I liked the sins where I could be in some type of denial). But I would end up paralyzed, really. I was living with friends at the time and there was a stocked liquor cabinet there. I didn't have a job (couldn't ever follow through on holding one very long) so I was alone at the house often. I would sit there waiting on the couch - not eating, not going to the bathroom - for someone to come home and walk me safely past the alcohol that was sitting there calling my name. The cravings for alcohol were beginning to convince me that I was crazy. It was a physical thing. I would feel like my skin was being pulled off one strip at a time with a potato peeler. I knew that good little Christian girls weren't supposed to be alcoholics, but here I was - with no specific instructions (to my mind) on what to do. I don't remember any stories in the Bible about Jesus specifically being tempted with drunkenness, and I wanted proof. I always wanted proof. Proof that if I follow these exact instructions I will get the exact desired results immediately. Not a lot of faith going on there. My religion (not faith) had reduced me to an "if I do this then You will do that" bargaining method.
So there I was, craving alcohol and without my own power to stop the absolute need for numbness. So did I surrender it all to God? Not yet. I still thought He expected me to be able to get myself out of this mess (how many times have I had it pounded into me that "God helps those who help themselves"?). I didn't have a clue how to do that. So I became suicidal. At that time, it made perfect sense to me. "I cannot get this right, God, so let's just end Your little Carolyn experiment, okay?" I was sure that even His power could not change the defective pile of self-pity that I had become.
So what to do? I didn't want to do the girly thing and slit my wrists in the wrong direction (there is an actual way to make it work but so many people fail - thank God). I didn't want to end up taking a bottle of pills that wouldn't kill me - it would just make me sick. I knew all kinds of stories of failed suicide attempts. I was afraid of heights, so I didn't want to go jump off the Harbor Bridge (locally known for suicides). Besides, that was too public. And I knew... suicide with guns ran in my biological family (note: if you don't know, I was adopted at birth). So I thought, I'll just blow my brains out and keep the tradition going. Short and sweet.
There were two things blocking my plan, though. First, I did not have ready access to a gun. Second, I knew I was too scared to do it. It wasn't the idea of being dead that scared me. It was the process of getting there - would I die immediately? Would I feel it? Would it hurt? Remember that I was completely addicted to numbness, so pain was my complete enemy. So the thought of feeling anything in the process (I've never actually been shot, but it seems like it would be extremely painful) was just not working for me. I had also heard of people who had tried to kill themselves with a gun and failed (I would get to meet some of them later, too). So lacking any fool-proof, painless plan, I was stuck.
Being stuck between being here and not wanting to be here is a bad place to be. There is no hope there. It is dark and lonely. It is the perfect place for the Author of Lies to come in and tell you there is no grace left for you. None. It might have only been a day or two, but in my memory it seems like an eternity that I was in that desolate place listening to all the lies in my head. Just thinking of it now, I can recall the feeling. That's okay though - it is a motivating memory.
We could be here for days if I tried to tell you all of the details of how I managed to get out of that mess. If you think knowing them would help, please email me and I will share all. The short story is that God had brought some old high school acquaintances back into my life who had already faced down their addictions and were living a grace-filled life. They saw what was happening to me and came alongside me and shared their stories. They suggested that I try offering it all to God and living a life dependent on Him. Most importantly, they modeled exactly what that looked like. I was not left on my own. I was surrounded by people who were willing to share the journey with me. And though I had been having a rather contentious relationship with God at that point (my entire fault, of course), I finally became willing to surrender.
So on July 20, 1993, I gave it all to God. I asked Him to deliver me from my dependence on alcohol and show me a way to live that didn't require numbness. Looking back, deliverance actually sounds like too mild of a word, but that is what I have. I remember that word from early childhood - God delivered Daniel from the lion's den. God delivered three men (not going to try to spell those names) from the fiery furnace. God delivered the Israelites from all kinds of dangers. It was a distant word for people long dead. But that is what happened. God delivered me. He delivered me from a personal Hell that I had no way of escaping on my own.
I did not have high expectations at that point for what life would become. My prayers were a grudging "not my will but Thine be done" and not much else. I tried to be polite to God, since He was helping me, but I still had much to learn about humility and who is in charge. I also thought that my friends would teach me how to just live with the physical cravings for alcohol. I had no notion that God would graciously take that away. He did though. It actually took about two months, but the physical compulsion to drink left me and I have not felt it since.
Let me be very clear. If the only thing God had given me was a release from the cravings, that would have been enough to qualify as a miracle in my life. Being released from that kind of torment is not something I think can be managed on human terms. However, I also want to be clear that God has given me so much more that I cannot even begin to number all of the blessings and miracles. Over these past 18 years, Mom and I often talked about how you could not get from my starting point to where I had ended up without Divine intervention. It is like two totally separate lifetimes. I still face challenges in getting rid of self (All of You and none of me), but it is just nothing like before. There aren't enough words (although I always seem to try) to describe the changes in my life.
So I hope you understand now why July 20th is my on personal Holy-day. I have been shown mercy. God has smiled on me!