Sobriety Part 1: What is sobriety?

sobrietynoun. The state of being sober.

sober adjective. 1a- sparing in the use of food and drink 1b- not addicted to intoxicating drink 1c- not drunk

2- marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character or demeanor

3- unhurried, calm

4- marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness

5- showing no excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice

Webster’s dictionary keeps it pretty simple when they explain what sobriety and sober is: not drinking to intoxication and not drunk. But, I think it goes much deeper than that. I can see on this side of sobriety the unhurriedness, the calmness, the thoughtful character, and the levelness that comes without the extreme qualities of emotion.

To me…sobriety is not just about not drinking. Drinking alcohol is what caused me to have clouded eyes. But, there are other things that cloud people’s eyes that might need to be adjusted. We think of drugs, gambling, and sex…you know, the “big ones.”” But what about the little things? Overeating…shopping…gossiping…social media slander…or other overindulgences that are clouding the way you see the world and stopping you from living the life that has been designed for you. When you “sober up” from any of these habits, addictions, or choices you can begin to the see the world in a much clearer way. Better? Not necessarily. But clear. And when you have a clear view in front of you, you can make choices to find the path out.

Everyone has their own unique story. I break out and share my story to bring light to the fact that you can have a drinking problem without being a raging alcoholic. I think our society has this idea that if you can get yourself to work, pay your bills, and provide basic levels of care to you family, you can’t have a drinking problem. But, that just is not true. In my story, I went to work each day and did the best I could there, giving it all to my career. I came home and took care of my family…but with a beer in hand…and then once my kids were in bed, I had a few more beers. On repeat. And when I wanted to stop the cycle, I just couldn’t. This is when it became apparent that this was a problem. This was my problem.

I did not go to rehab or get a DUI. I did not lose my job or my family. But…I hurt my family. I hurt my friends. I broke all faith I had in myself to be strong and do the hard things. I did not make the memories I hoped I would have made with my young children and shame overtook me.

Depression brought forth the drinking and the drinking kept the depression around. Cycles over and over again.

Here is the fine print as I open my heart to share with you one of the hardest things I will ever write… but also what I feel God calling me to write the most. I am not an expert in sobriety or addiction, but I have lived it. I share with you my story in hopes that my story will help bring healing to someone else in their story. I am also not writing from a place of condemnation to those who do drink. I truly believe that some humans can drink responsibly… I am just not that human. I write these words with the thought that if being served alcohol is no longer serving you, you may want to rethink your approach.

In the next few days, I will be diving deep into my heart and sharing pieces of my journals with you…as though we were sitting here in my living room together…peeling back the pain and the layers to walk together forward into the life that has been designed for us. I will share things that I have only shared with Jesus, in hopes that they will give light to others.

So please, snuggle into a chair and grab a cozy blanket. I will light my favorite scented candle and bring my journals along. I will pour us some coffee or tea. Maggie (our dog) will keep our spots warm. Together, I will share my story and hope to hear yours. It is time we have this hard conversation.

To keep reading, check out Sobriety Part 2: the fall, Sobriety Part 3: the valley & the rescue, Sobriety Part 4: the climb, and Sobriety Part 5: glancing back to walk forward.

In the meantime, you can read more like this here: Mountains and Valleys, Surrendered, pieces, throwing rocks & collecting rocks, let it leave its mark, and Suffer well.

Rivers, Rapids, & Waterfalls

What if we took a moment and thought of our journey of life as a river?

A flowing river that meanders around curves and hugs its banks, that goes through winters without freezing and summers without getting too hot at the bottom. A river that has clear water but hits murky sections. A body of water that has purpose, brings joy, and can also be destructive.

When I type that out, I can see how our lives are very much like a river.

We float along on our individual river and many of the days are really smooth. Gorgeous, sun on your back, light paddle smooth.

But rivers also have rapids and waterfalls. The rough parts and the straight up catastrophic parts. Our rivers aren’t mappable. We are at the pressures of the waterflow to take us forward. Yes, we can choose to get to the bank and look ahead for the best paths, but really, we cannot see much farther beyond our own eyes’ limitations.

Rapids come. Waterfalls come. Smooth waters also come.

The thing about rivers is, you cannot control the flow of water. You cannot make water stay only in the calm banks. Humans try really hard to control the water. Really hard. This coming from a girl born in upstate New York, who has traveled the Erie Canal lock system more times that I can count. We try really hard to control the flow of water. We have systems to conquer the climb up the flow of water…but truly, we cannot stop the water flow. Even dams cannot control the heavy weight of it all for too long in bad enough storms.

But God.

What if the rapids we are entering or are currently in, are preventing us from a waterfall ahead?

What if these prayers we have prayed and have gone very unanswered or even solid closed doors, are really saving us from some rocky water we could not survive?

What if this lack of current is preparing us for the next turn?

As humans we feel the need to control it all, thinking we know what is best for us. But really, we do not know all the ways things could play out for us. We do not know what is down stream. We just don’t.

Right now, many of us are not doing our normal things, at all. But I have to believe with everything in my being that there is reason for that. That we are growing from this, or we are being protected from things we are not ready for, or our paths need to change. There are so many possibilities and we just do not know and won’t ever truly know.

But God.

This is where faith is so life giving and powerful. If you have experienced enough closed doors or unanswered prayers and then look back at how it all worked out and realized it is exactly how it should be, then your faith just keeps growing.

My dearest friend, gave me this quote today, not knowing exactly what the words of my heart were:

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.

Buddha

Now, I will not even attempt to argue that Buddha was a Christian, but I do think he was very wise in many ways and was right about this. I can look back at so many things that have not turned out how I expected or are as a direct result from a closed door on some big prayers and I am so grateful for the closed doors and unanswered prayers. The situations have worked out exactly as God wanted and beyond what I could have ever dreamed of.

I firmly believe that we will get to the other side of this current bend in the river, whatever it is for you right now, and we will look back at it and it will all make sense. The hard, the suffering, the good, the bad, the yes, and the no.

This is faith.

Trusting that God is in control and it will workout to match His plan.

That is the hard part…It will match His plan. His plan often does not match your plan. And, if you do not know God, I get why you would have a lot of trust issues with this one. A lot. I only recently really learned to trust in God’s plan because I had made enough of a mess of my own life trying to do it myself. This is hard. I get it. I wrote about finally handing over the reigns in Mountains and Valleys

He takes us along on our river and only He can see ahead. Only He has the map and only He can known why we are in current rapids, slow current, or murky waters.

It does not mean we cannot get frustrated at our current situation for a bit. Have you ever been in a canoe with another grown adult, in water that is 6 inches deep and stuck in muck? Anyone would get frustrated at this. Or at least this anyone did.

But, it also means that we need to surrender and trust the One who knows your river best to lead your course.

And, it also means that we need to be grateful for all the unknown waterfalls He has protected us from.

We have much to be grateful for.

Rivers are beautiful, uncharted, wild, and constant progress forward.

So is life.

Take the journey for all that it is.

Yes, this is a view of a lake. But, we took a long river to get here.

Looking for the bird seed

I woke up feeling defeated.

Saddened. Teary. All the gross feelings. In this challenging season, we have hit a harder stretch as our Covid numbers keep spiking and the impending doom of distance learning circles as a black cloud above all parents’ and educators’ minds.

It is Thursday, the first day of our three day fall break. Typically, we use this long weekend to do all the fun fall things and soak in getting through the monotonous routine building season of the school year and ready to dive deep into the learning and growing at school. We use this time breathe after pushing hard to get school up and going and know that when we return to school, our normal and structure will be there and we can start to soar.

Well, not this year. Not this year at all and it hurts. A lot. Everything is changing and constantly pivoting. Even as a write this, we are transitioning from face-to-face instruction to hybrid instruction, but our numbers do indicate a strong inclination towards full distance learning. And this breaks my heart.

I could list all the ick that these changes brings to me and my family. But, it is about so much more than my family of 5. It is about everything and everyone.

Everything is out of our control. All of this weighing so heavy on my heart.

So here I am. The first morning of our break and feeling like I am about to break myself. I grabbed my coffee and walked out onto my porch. It is a balmy 33 degrees. Snow will be coming soon and I am quickly reminded that this is a constant I can rely on. The seasons just keep strumming along, like they always do. I find so much peace in this.

I curl up on my porch and watch these little birds. There are at least 10 of them who keep flying to our bird feeder and skitter away. They come closer to me now as they see I am not a threat. And I am reminded of a Bible verse:

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

-Luke 12: 23-26 (NIV)

Welp. This is the truth I needed in this moment. I have the very next verse tattooed on my arm.

 Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!

-Luke 12: 27-28 (NIV)

I do not have the words but I have a field of wildflowers on my arm as a reminder to consider the wildflowers and how much better God will take care of us than the fields. However, somehow I forgot this truth.

Yet, here before me are these beautiful birds, getting their fill for winter, from our bird feeder that we just moved to this spot a week ago. How would they have known it would be there? We have run out of seed twice since moving it, as we provide for these birds. Birds we did not know were there.

God provides.

God will provide for us during this time. It is a real bummer of a time but I firmly believe that God will provide for us and see us through this season. We will be stronger because of it and on the other side we will see all the good that came from having gone through this season. However, right now, as we are stuck in the deep middle, with the paths constantly changing, I am reminded to just keeping looking for the next provision to get through and to stop worrying beyond the next step.

I have to look for the bird seed. The small provisions to move us forward. I cannot keep worrying about the long road or attempting to plan farther ahead. I am reminded to be present in this moment and seek God’s provision for today.

I spent far too long on my porch today, especially given that it was 1 degree above freezing, then I soaked up some family time, read a whole book, and went for a walk in the woods.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

I have started to plan in pencil.

But, thanks to these little birds, I will start looking for the bird seed.

God’s provision is beautiful.

Fear…. Irrationally, rational fear

Well hello there again, fear. I feel you sneaking up to remind me that you are still here, still with me, still trying to control me.

But I am fighting back. Instead of letting my mind spin out of control over the what ifs, I am pausing to think about the root of the fear and to put it in it’s place.

See, my mind keeps coming back to something I read, which I am just now remembering what it was, about someone who knew someone who lost their 2 year old in their sleep and something tragic happened to their 7 year old. This might not even had been the premise of the article, and as I am thinking of it now, I am almost certain I am getting it wrong. But what did stick and what I am reminded of randomly as my babies are sleeping in their rooms, is that someone’s 2 year old died in their sleep. I do not know how or why, but it happened. Which therefore means it could happen to my two year old or my ten month old or my husband or myself.

I’ve checked their rooms four times now. This is two more than my normal night checks. They are still breathing, peacefully, and beautifully.

Whoa, fear. Settle down.

See what I initially thought was that it could happen to me. Meaning, my child could die in their sleep and that this tragedy would hit me. The fear goes to the fear of experiencing something so tragic that I truly do not even want to give it words. The fear is of something so gigantic and represents more than just a tragic…but also life after it and so many unknowns that I pray every day, literally, that it is something my children or I never have to face. Every night when I lay them in their crib or bed, I thank God for them and for the day we have had together. I pray they grow strong and happy. And I pray that they will grow to know their grand-babies.

See, this is all we can do about fear, is give it up to our faith, because bad things do happen. Tragedy does happen. It might not happen immediately to your family, but it surrounds us. We also do not and will not understand why it happens. We cannot imagine the person we would become if it were to happen to us.

When I hit these moments of fear I have to remember that my children and my spouse are with me for a short time in existence on Earth and that they have been a gift, not a right. It is not my will to control our path together and it is my choice to enjoy the moments that are given.

I also have to remember that this irrationally strong fear of rational events, only has power when I allow myself to obsess over it. Instead I need to be aware of rational dangers, keep them in check, and give the rest up to faith so that my current moments are not stolen from me.

See that, fear, I just talked myself out of obsessing over you for tonight.

Plus, I just heard my daughter move around in her bed from across the hall, so I am feeling reassured.