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.
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.
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.
My very last margarita!
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