I am obsessed with how people connect, what gets in the way and what’s possible when they irradiate the barriers between them and whatever they call God.
The Spiritual Disconnect of Alcohol
~By Rachel Stephens and our friends at Sober Nation
It’s been almost 13 months since my last drink. Rachel…..Sober? Half of those who know me will say….ohhhh good for her, makes sense……the other half may say why? I was never the dependent alcoholic who was desperate for the next drink to function; I was a binge drinker who responded poorly to the effects of alcohol in my brain. I’ve been told by a psychiatrist that I’m allergic to alcohol, that my brain simply doesn’t process it like the average persons. Therefore, I have issues surrounding drinking. Issues like thinking about the next drink before the first one’s finished, issues like binge drinking and blacking out, I seemed to have no control over where and when this would happen, so the wise thing to do is simply to eradicate it out of my life.
Eliminating alcohol eliminated regret, and the pain and sorrow I cause those who are around to witness my drunken stupor (including my husband and children…), that no matter how I tried to control, admittedly it controlled me. Even after 2 step study programs for other issues, I still thought I was in control of alcohol.
There’s another side of alcoholism that people don’t always talk about, the spiritual disconnect it causes. When I went through seasons of drinking, it seemed I couldn’t communicate with God the way I wanted to. There was a fog between us, perhaps because I was in a state of shame and regret. Drinking seemed to allow the darkness to stay in my life, and blocked the light. Salvation comes along with sacrifice, this sacrifice for me happens to be eliminating alcohol.
I made the decision to go sober again after I learned of my father’s death. I knew I wasn’t capable of processing grief with alcohol in my life, I knew it prevented me from experiencing spiritual connection and growth, and I knew it prevented me from feeling emotions. My father’s death is complicated. It’s complicated because I hadn’t spoken to him in 3 years, and because our last words to each other were ugly. To make it more complicated I learned of his death 4 months after the fact from his widow, and there was an unknown cause of death on the death certificate. After months of wondering, I ordered the medical examiners statement, and apparently after returning a beer can to the top of the stairs of the basement, he had a “natural event” and fell down the stairs and died, facedown, alone. It appears he was an alcoholic until the day he died, with alcoholism and tobacco use listed as contributors to his list of medical conditions.
I thought grief was a series of emotions you went through, checking the boxes along the way, until you reach the finish line called closure. It turns out it a tangled web of emotions, jumbled up in a knot, which you have to navigate one day at a time, with triggers going off on any one of them, at any time. In a twist of fate I was given a portion of my father’s ashes (hoping for closure…but learning there really never is any). I plan on releasing these on the top of Mt Hood next spring. This is a mountain he used to visit frequently, and a place I’ve seen in my dreams many times. Climbing it seems like the next step in letting go.
One of the keys to sobriety is self-forgiveness. This is a step that can’t be skipped; there is no self-love without self-forgiveness. Without self-love we are not capable of loving others the way we should. Much like forgiveness in other people, there is no love for others until you release yourself from the prison of un forgiveness. I can honestly say that I forgave my father for his shortcomings. I realized I had forgiven him when I began to feel compassion for him, when my heart began to hurt because he was so mentally ill, and so chemical dependent, so troubled that he wasn’t capable of being a parent. His life and death was a sad story, a legacy that still breaks my heart. It is entirely too late, I experienced this compassion and grace after his death, but I do believe in the afterlife, maybe then he will be given a do over in parenting.
My year of sobriety came with other benefits. I received a job offer as a mental health professional for a psychiatric crisis clinic, and crisis residential home (which I took of course). I was now working 3 part time jobs, and was seeking guidance from my higher power. In spite of financial debt, and a month when the bills were bigger than the budget, God urged me to quit one of these jobs that I was not called to do (not the new one of course). Hours after giving my notice and being scared about income, but confident in my new purpose, I checked my bank account to find $25,000 in back pay from the VA. Being a veteran I have other issues that contribute significantly to problem drinking. In no way am I saying sobriety will make you rich or get you what you desire, but the humility of recovery allows for the supernatural to work in the way it was intended to.
It took a while, but I believe I’m free from the social avoidance and social awkwardness surrounding alcohol. I don’t have to avoid people and places anymore with the fear of relapse. It sucked and it was awkward for a while, but sobriety eventually becomes second nature.
The biggest benefit of all is the transparency and growth I’ve had with my children. God began a work in them to begin to understand the affect alcohol has on some people. I was able to forgive my father and extend him grace, something I needed also to do to my husband, I was now able to accomplish this to the fullest. I am now able to see my husband through the eyes of Christ, and love him on a completely new level. I’m becoming the wife I was designed to be, my desire for control has weakened, I am able to trust and respect the way it was intended to be in marriage.
I released the reigns of alcohol to the king of the universe in faith, and found a heavenly father that provides above and beyond what an earthly father could ever do. The father wound is healed, it is finished, and it is well with my soul. Sobriety is an experience. The pain is real for everyone, the perceptions and growth we receive is different. We are all messengers of hope, every last human walking the planet, especially the addict. My message just happens to be freedom….what’s yours?