Day 3259 – Thoughts On Addiction, Mental Illness, And Society

I want to start this by saying I have never been diagnosed with depression, alcoholism, or a mental illness by a professional (lol, or a non-professional, come to think of it). But I think that my life experiences have given me some room to speak about these things.

Reading a post on Facebook, made me want to share some of my thoughts. I loved how the author compared how our society is totally ok talking about cancer but not the brain. The full post is definitely worth a read.

I never really paid attention to how the media portrayed alcoholics, addiction, mental illness, etc, until I got sober. Even I didn’t think I had been an alcoholic until AFTER I hopped on the wagon. The alcoholics portrayed in shows and movies were living on the street or coming back to the hospital again and again to get more meds. They never looked like me. When the leads in the show or the movie drank, it tended to be glorified. Even when they get drunk, it’s seen as fun or a way to blow off steam. Yet, without my beer goggles, I can count how many glasses they drink. I can see how binge drinking or their “functional alcoholism” majorly shakes up their lives.

As I’ve spent a good deal of the last few years working on my own personal growth, I’ve read a lot about taking care of yourself and how so many things impact our lives. I know for me, if I don’t get 7-8+ hours of sleep, I am much more susceptible to discouragement, beating myself up, poor work, and a decrease in creativity and productivity. There have been several times where nothing was getting done, I was exhausted, but I kept putting off a nap. “It’s fine, I can handle this” but I really couldn’t. Every time I’ve taken a nap when I’m lacking sleep, it makes a difference.

I also have recognized that even things that don’t seem like a big deal, have huge implications. Facebook is a big drain on my brain and my mood. There is so much negativity. Even if I’m only on Facebook for a few minutes, if I’m looking at my full feed, later I’m irritable or down. I have to take care of myself and severely limit my time on Facebook to work-related things or looking at things that build me up, not down.

I think a good comparison (which I am absolutely not the first to make) of mental health, specifically depression, is a migraine. If you’ve never had a migraine, you have no idea the debilitating power it can have over a person. To folks who haven’t had one, it’s just a headache…”just take a pill, you’ll be fine.” But to those of us who have experienced it, we know it exists in a category all its own. I think depression is the same. I do think there is a mental/chemical aspect to it, to a certain extent genetic as well as due to environmental influences. But if you haven’t experienced depression, it’s easy to think “just be happy! Think of all the things you have! You don’t have anything to be sad about!” But again, those of us who have experienced it know it’s not that simple. I do also believe we can have some control over it. But I think at the end of the day, it’s something to talk about, to try and understand.

Sharing about my alcoholism has been one of the greatest things that I’ve done. It has opened up so many doors of conversation and made me think about things differently. But, I can also attest, it’s scary, it’s not the normal thing to do. Then again, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had that have opened my eyes to think about things differently.

It’s a huge topic, way outside the scope of this blog. But I wanted to take a minute to share some of the things I’ve been thinking about…and really, encourage more conversations about it. It’s not easy by any stretch, but it’s worth the work.

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Day 3183 – Reflections On 3.5 Years Of Sobriety

In some ways, I feel like I’ve always been sober. I feel so far removed from my drinking days that they almost seem like they happened to someone else. I suppose in some respects, that’s true. I am so different from that person. I always heard “people don’t change” so I didn’t try to change myself or others. Looking back on my own struggles and changes, I realize people do and can change, but sometimes it can take a very, very, very long time. I was arrested in 2006 but I didn’t take God at His Word (to be sober-minded) until 2014. I joke that it took me eight years to quit cold turkey. But the truth is it was all God doing a work in me over many many years. It has helped me to be patient with change; to not rush it. Some things take a long time to marinate.

One change from not drinking is the ability to get up early. I still can’t believe we regularly get up at 5:00. But there is so much peace and productivity in the early morning hours. I would never voluntarily get up this early in my drinking days.

An awesome blogger I follow (No Wine I’m Fine) celebrates big anniversaries with epic trips. While I’m not taking a trip today, I do count my trip a few weekends ago as a celebration. I do think I’ll take another solo-cation for my four year sobriety anniversary.

One of my life verses is Ecclesiastes 5:20, “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” I feel like this is a reflection of how I feel about my drinking days. I don’t much remember them (which has made writing my book especially interesting and hard), but God has kept my heart occupied with such joy that even looking back becomes easier.

Hello 3.5 years, here’s to 3.5 more!

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Day 3161 – A Surprising Side Effect Of Sobriety

One thing that has really surprised me about sharing my story about my alcoholism and sobriety was confidence.

I struggled with low confidence and low self-esteem for a good portion of my life. I was always fearful of what people would think of me. So, needless to say, I was TERRIFIED of people finding out I got a DUI.

But then, I shared my story at church, and now, I’m writing a book about my drinking. Boy howdy, that is digging even deeper into my struggle.

Yet, I am the most confident I have ever been. I am who I am, and I don’t apologize for it. I don’t do things that aren’t true to me. I say no to things and I don’t feel like I need to apologize or explain myself. I don’t find myself trying to fill empty spaces with empty words.

I say yes to things and I’m not embarrassed if it’s silly.

I am unabashedly me.

It’s hard to look at the person I am today and not be totally surprised. I am worlds apart from the person I was, even just a few years ago. And you know what, I am excited about that fact. It shows just how big and deep of a change God made in me through helping me get sober.

Last night, I finished reading Sober Mercies by Heather Kopp (this is an Amazon Affiliate link. If you click the link and purchase this book, or something else on Amazon, I will get a small percentage of what you order, at not additional cost to you. I only share affiliate links to products I have personally used and love. Having read this book, I heartily recommend it). One thing that has been very hard for me to do is read books about alcoholism and sobriety. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t ready to read them yet or if it was how the author talked about their struggles. Or honestly, if it was just too soon after getting sober to go back to the darker times. I think there will always be aspects that are hard about remembering my alcoholism. There will always be things that I did (or didn’t do) that will haunt me. But my streak of starting an alcoholism memoir and not getting far was broken this week with Sober Mercies. On top of that, it only took me six days to read. Maybe it was that it was written by a Christian and just struck a deep cord – this person understands how hard this is. How seemingly odd it is that someone who knows all these things about God struggles so much. I am grateful for every word. It has given me renewed strength in writing my experiences – even if it means taking a totally different approach.

For my sober friends, what surprising side effects have you seen from your sobriety?

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Day 3147 – When It’s Hard To Be Sober – or – Thoughts On Society And Drinking

There are times it is hard to be sober. I’ll see a drink that looks like so much fun to drink or I’ll read someone’s meme about drinking. It’s the memes where they are making fun of those who are sober that are difficult. The ones that are especially hard are the ones that seem to say – “it’s no fun being sober. I’ll never be sober, because I’d be boring.” As someone who is now sober, and some days feels alone and not normal, seeing that really makes me feel sad. What also makes me sad, is that drinking alcohol is almost the expected thing to do. “Long day at work? Have a glass of wine. Bad break up? Drink from the bottle.”

Why is alcohol the first thing people go to on the best days and the worst days? Why do we say – “Let me buy you a drink to celebrate!” “I’m sorry to hear about that, tell me all about it over a beer.” It’s the default posture of our culture – grab a drink.

It also really bothers me how TV and movies handle alcohol and addiction. While thinking about this topic, I noticed something on a show I happened to be watching. One guest character was dealing with addiction to drugs. He was shown in a negative light. You almost got happy that the characters were treating him with contempt. “We see you have a problem, we caught you in it, ha ha, you need help now.”

Yet in the next scene, we see a main character having a tough day, when offered the chance, they get drunk. We’re told, “oh, you had a bad day? Let’s drown it in alcohol.” This is shown as a fun and perfectly normal response. Forget about your responsibilities and the fact that your bosses are here, have fun! Thankfully the character does make a mistake and is caught. But it’s still glorified.

If you pay attention to how much characters drink in TV shows, you would think every one of them has a drinking problem. I can definitely look back on some of my drinking days, and watching shows about drinking was a trigger. “Oh, hey, so and so is having a drink, I’d like one too, thank you!” But it would leave me hungover the next day, again.

Is it any wonder people struggle with addictions?

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Day 3087 – Don’t Drink And Drive This Holiday Season – Getting Arrested Stinks – Take It From Someone Who Has Experienced It – repost

In light of the upcoming holidays, I wanted to reshare this post. In some respects, I wish I had gotten a ride that night I was arrested, Lord knows I had TONS of people offering. But in other respects, it changed my life. That said, I don’t wish it on anyone. A cab or Uber will cost you SO much less than a DUI.

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originally posted 12/23/15
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Yesterday, I was listening to a sermon and the pastor was talking about how God will protect us until we have lived out our testimony.

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” Luke 10:19 ESV

As I drove, I passed the public service announcements on the highway, along the lines of “spend the holidays with your family, not in jail, drive sober.” The sermon and those signs got me thinking about my past, near death experiences and stupid things I’ve done.

I was arrested for drinking and driving 9 years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t pulled over, I might have driven off the road that night. Getting a DUI cost me thousands and thousands of dollars. It was part of the reason I came to our marriage with $30,000 in debt. It was something I was so ashamed of for almost all of the 9 years since. So, what makes me want to share this embarrassing fact about myself? Well, I hope it’s a warning for you. Friends, it’s NOT worth drinking and driving. It’s SO dangerous, not to mention expensive. Seriously, spend the money to take a cab or crash on a couch wherever you are. Deal with the minor hassle/cost. Thankfully, no one was hurt when I drove, but there are so many stories where that’s not the case.

I know I’ve been hinting about sharing my full testimony about drinking and how I quit* for a couple of months, well, I have a date on the calendar at my church! I will be sharing on January 10th, 2016 at the 9 a.m. service as well as the 11 a.m. service. Our church is in White Marsh, Maryland and I’d love it if you came! The video** will be available online later and I will share it here, along with my full text.

I love y’all, my dear readers. Please use my mistakes as a lesson!

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* Actual text of testimony.
** Video of me giving my testimony (recorded after I shared it at church)

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