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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Day 3013 – World Mental Health Day – and – Another Peek In My Alcoholism Memoir

Today is World Mental Health Day. From the Days of the Year website, here’s a little bit about the day – “Mental health problems, ranging from issues like depression and anxiety disorders to conditions like schizophrenia, affect millions of people around the world. In fact, according to current statistics, 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem during their lifetime and many more will see friends of family members affected.

What a staggering statistic! And one that I believe is pretty darn accurate. There are so many things that the people we know struggle with that they keep hidden or think they should keep hidden. Today is a good reminder that we’re all not perfect, and to take some time to get to know those around us. And that if you struggle with something, it’s ok, and there is much freedom in sharing your struggles with someone you trust.

In a bit of serendipity, I was working on the chapter about being a Christian with a drinking problem in my memoir today. Let it encourage you to go deeper with those around you. And let it serve as a reminder that we’re all facing battles that aren’t seen on the surface.

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A friend recently asked how long I’ve been a Christian. They thought maybe a new belief is what caused me to stop drinking. I’ve been a Christian my whole life – which makes the fact that I had a drinking problem as a Christian more confusing, and hard to believe. But here’s the thing – no one is immune to struggling with things. I think being honest with yourself is a big part of knowing when you have a problem. It wasn’t until I was honest with myself, acknowledging that I couldn’t drink ever again, that a change was finally made. It wasn’t until several months after I was sober that I could acknowledge that I was an alcoholic.

I didn’t look like what you might think an alcoholic would look like. I went to church, I was homeschooled K-12. I got good grades when I went to college and graduated with honors. What you didn’t see were the times I hugged the toilet. What you didn’t see were the hysterical crying fits I had. What you didn’t see were the puffy eyes and bloated body the next day. You were surprised when you heard I was an alcoholic. You had no idea. I had become a master at hiding my drinking problem. Whether it was sneaking extra glasses of wine when you weren’t looking or sipping cooking wine when the alcohol was gone. And yet, I never thought I had a problem. Yea, maybe I needed to think about things, maybe I had too many drinks when I drank….but there always seemed to be an excuse to drink.

On the last night I drank, Bret and I were supposed to do evening devotions, but we didn’t because I was so intoxicated.

After many of these humiliating moments, I would swear off alcohol. I would be ashamed of myself. “How could a Christian act like this?” I’d tell myself I won’t drink again. I would journal and ask God’s forgiveness. Many times, if not every time, this verse came up:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Every time I read it, I’d mentally agree and think “this is it. I can do this.”

But then a few months would go by and I would think, “Oh it’s our anniversary,” “Oh, it’s so and so’s birthday,” “Oh! It’s Tuesday!” And there I was again, right back where I was before. It would start slow and then would be a full-blown problem again. It was an endless cycle.

Here are a few entries I’ve journaled about my drinking over the years.

1/1/06
Maybe these dark times are to show me what God has saved me from. A taste of what the worldly Jennilyn would be.

I didn’t realize I would end up being worldly Jennilyn when I was arrested only eight and a half months later. I didn’t realize I would cross that line – or how easy it would be.

So when did I know I was an alcoholic?

Probably in the few months after my last drink. Here’s a snapshot from my journal.

September 29, 2014 (first day sober)
I do enjoy it and I have had some great times, yet I’ve quit so many times. Can I really not control myself or am I trying to prove to myself that I can? Am I holding on to sin? Should I cut it loose? Do I need to cut it out completely? Truly? Forever? Is it standing in my way?

On October 3, 2014
Thank you also for the clear “it’s time” to quit drinking. Thank you for the strength already against temptation. Let it open doors to honest communications about how Christians aren’t perfect.

Another factor to this time being different was I took a few days to make the decision. Other times, it was a quick decision. It used to be a way to placate Bret – “Don’t worry babe, this is the LAST time.”

Looking back, I think it has been so true – that it opened lines of communication. People are shocked when they hear about my sobriety – “but you’re a Christian!”

Thinking back to the months following this moment, I remember thinking that there is almost more stigma against people who don’t drink than people who do. I was more embarrassed and nervous to say “no thank you” to a drink, then when I was downing bottle after bottle.

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My very last margarita!

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