Today’s post is by Karen Perry of mendedmusings.com. Karen writes about “recovery, family, God and the desire that most of us have to be authentic in all aspects of our lives.” She describes herself as a mom, Jesus follower and in recovery from all that numbs.
It’s pretty much a cliché: alcoholic finds Jesus. I know that’s what some people were thinking when I became a Christian. But in reality, my relationship with God has been a long journey and didn’t happen because of one choice.
As a child, I believed in God the same way I believed in Santa Claus; I wanted him to exist despite the lack of facts and implausible explanations. My parents, who were divorced, awkwardly answered my questions or avoided them altogether. I got the sense that it was ok to believe in God but that you didn’t really want him looking too closely. Both my parents struggled with addiction and I understand now how that tainted their view. Shame can make it really hard to believe in a loving, forgiving God.
While my parents have both been clean and sober for many years now, I was raised in a world of addiction and I experienced firsthand what can happen to a child when her adults are too impaired to notice what others are doing. I suffered abuse, mistreatment and bullying under their noses. Like many victims of childhood abuse, I created coping mechanisms that did as much, if not more, damage than the initial abuse. I spent my teens and 20’s in survival mode in a cycle of re-victimization. I sought out the very things that would harm me as a way to feel in control and numb my emotions. I attempted suicide, smoked pot, took hallucinogens, sought the approval of men through sex, and suffered from night terrors, anxiety and depression. At the same time, I had friends, went to college and held down jobs, which allowed me to mostly fly under the radar and to appear “normal.”
God wasn’t someone I thought about very often until my dad and stepmom became Christians. It affected me in a profound way. I found myself jealous of my little brothers because they were living the childhood that I was supposed to have had. They had responsible parents who cared about them, body, mind and soul. I deeply resented God for this. Why did he choose them over me? Couldn’t he see that I was the one who needed him? I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling that I was too damaged, unworthy and broken to be deserving of God’s interest. Ever the victim, I was blind to the healing that was taking place in my family, like the fact that my father, who had been in the grips of addiction for years, was released from the obsession.
I didn’t need God anyway, I thought. I had been taking care of myself my entire life. I knew how to keep up appearances so that no one would see how messed up I felt on the inside. I got married, had a good career, a house and dogs. My life looked pretty good, and in many ways it was, but I dealt with nearly constant anxiety and suffered frequent bouts of depression. Drinking became an increasingly bigger part of my life as my anxiety attacks worsened. Drinking on the weekends allowed me to feel likable, smart and in control of my life after feeling like a failure at work all week.
A turning point came several years ago when my father-in-law gave me a Wayne Dyer book called The Power of Intention. For the first time, I started to explore the concept of a loving God without feeling like I had to be a Christian. I started praying regularly and began to see God as someone who was on my side, who loved me and wanted me to be happy. Letting God into my life helped me to get out of the survival and victim mode that had kept me going for so long. I didn’t have to do it by myself anymore.
Still, I was resistant to anything related to Christianity. But the cool thing about God is that he meets you where you are. God didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t a Christian when he healed me of my night terrors 6 years ago after I became pregnant with my first child. Or 3 years later, when I huddled on my bathroom floor and heard his voice say, “You can never drink again.” God, as I understood him, worked in my life to bring my shame, pain and fear out of the darkness and into his healing light.
I stopped drinking 2 ½ years ago and as I looked around with my new sober eyes, I noticed that the people I most wanted to emulate happened to be Christians. Despite my misgivings about Christianity and Christians in particular, I figured it was worth looking at this Jesus guy a little closer. I remember thinking that Bono loves Jesus and I love Bono so that’s got to mean something. Six months after I got sober, I became a Christian.
What I understand now that I didn’t when I first started exploring my spirituality is that it’s not all about me. Yes, I’ve been blessed in amazing ways but I’m not blessed because God granted my wishes. What happened to me – not just the good stuff but the abuse, my alcoholism, everything – is a gift that I can use to help others. Having a relationship with God isn’t about what he can do for us individually, but how he works through us to take care of each other. My life has become about far more than just coping and surviving and I couldn’t have gotten to this point without faith in God.