One morning in meditation I focused on the phrase “I am capable”. I began to hear the lyrics to a Crowder song float through my head… “Oh, the cross meant to kill is my victory…” My mind began to combine the two into one phrase or one thought: I am capable because the cross meant to kill is my victory… This led to a final impression during the meditation: That which is meant to destroy me, can also be used to propel me forward.
I think anyone reading this blog knows that I have really been going through it since my return to Memphis. I have known some others who like myself left, got sober and later returned to only find themselves back in treatment. I even had people warn me to stay away, but my path took me here. At the time, I just thought they were weak or not working their program, but Memphis is proving to be the biggest test of my sober life. I love that my family is here, but I don’t really love anything else about this town, or the south for that matter. It’s not like I live against the grain here or anything… I just find that I do better or feel more comfortable in very open and creative environments. It’s like my introverted soul needs that accepting energy in order to breathe.
After the meditation, I decided to jot down the things that I perceive to be crippling my life:
My job – the happy hours, the coworkers, the work itself or lack thereof.
My severe social anxiety
My indecision paralysis
My health issues
My depression/Fear of my future
My question to myself has been how in the world do each of the above items propel me forward? How can each of them be used to propel me forward?
In typical Jesus fashion my answer came in the form of a parable regarding life on the trail. I feel most free when I am exploring a new trail and it occurred to me that I never remember the end of a trail… I never remember the moment I finished. I only remember the sights, sounds and discoveries made while exploring. I recall the pressure moments when I had to find a way around, over, under or through something in order to continue on the trail. I recall a creek discovered, the baby deer we got footage of, the large snapping turtle that walked across our path or the moment we decided to veer off the main path which led us to a private waterfall. I never recall the beginning or the end… only all the stuff in the middle, the experiences, the moments of awe and the moments of sheer terror and it is these moments that form and mold me into the person I am today. It’s not a defining moment, but rather a slow progression that happens without my even being aware of it so long as I continue navigating to the best of my ability and trusting that my savior and friend will help me if I get stuck.
I guess that’s the answer to my question. How does each of my life crippling factors propel me forward? They just do so long as I stay committed to putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing over and over again while staying committed to doing life with my savior and friend, Jesus.
I mean I have seen it happen in my own life. My first year of sobriety in Los Angeles was insane. I couldn’t even take myself to the grocery store I was so freaked out…. But somehow I finally managed to go grocery shopping, attend all my meetings, get a good job, make friends, find a church home, start adventuring, take commitments at meetings, take commitments at church, learned to rock climb, learned to paint, learned to SUP, learned the neurology of addiction and most importantly I have learned what it means to do life with Jesus because when you can’t even go to the grocery store because you are paralyzed with fear… you really learn what it means to lean in, trust and walk hand in hand with the Creator of the universe. (P.S. it was my sobriety that led me to several new loves in my life including hiking/adventuring, photography, live show production and public speaking! Not bad for someone that was so scared and timid she couldn’t even go to the grocery store!)
Walking hand in hand with my higher power is what I am doing right now. I am being tested beyond belief, maybe slightly loosing my mind some days, but I am staying sober and not taking on any new addictions – thank you! Slowly, but surely I am getting back on track with my creative pursuits. I feel uncomfortable, I feel unstable… I feel like nothing in my life is making sense right now, in fact, I feel like I am walking on a dead end road and maybe I am for that matter…. but I know that all of this stuff that is meant to destroy me… meant to be my downfall… is actually going to be what propels me forward into a new existence, a new reality or perhaps onto a new path. It’s not about the beginning or the end; it’s about where the journey takes you and who you become as a result of saying yes to the adventure.
I was told that this year is going to be full of a lot of things that don’t make sense. It is ringing true. The new job I was so happy to obtain has brought a new set of challenges in that this office really likes to drink! The office has a nice café in the center that not only includes coffees and teas, but also vodka, wine, champagne and a bevy of beers. My coworkers are big on happy hours and routinely take the last hour of the day to congregate in the café and pour their drink of choice while talking about all the drinking they do when they are not at work. I don’t usually go to these “happy hours” which has me singled out as the new girl who doesn’t like the people in the office. I don’t know why I am so weirded out by it. I have been in plenty of offices where alcohol and drugs were around… maybe it is the whole Memphis thing that has me feeling extra introverted. I’m back in that muck of what I once was and I don’t know how to escape it. My friends in LA wouldn’t even know what to do with me right now… I’m such a shadow of the person I was when I lived out west.
Maybe I am in one of those middle of the night moments I read about for the umpteenth time in my favorite book, Calm My Anxious Heart. I find this book to be similar to the Bible and The Big Book in that every time I read it, I glean something new. The author, Linda Dillow, talks about the night before God parted the Red Sea. She speaks on how the Israelites were most likely freaking out… they were pegged in against the Red Sea with no where to run to, no where to go… so all they could do was listen and wait for their death. She speaks of a little phrase found in the Bible with immense impact… “All that night the LORD drove the sea back…” God didn’t perform His miracle in daylight; He chose to perform the miracle in the middle of the night, in complete darkness, while no one was watching. The entire night the Israelites had no idea their God was overcoming what was overcoming them. Quite an interesting thought to ponder. I don’t know why I am back in Memphis or why I have a job with a kitchen full of liquor for happy hours or why I am back to feeling more alone than ever. None of it makes sense, but like I said – none of it is supposed to so maybe I am exactly where I need to be… Maybe it will all make sense at some point. I was told that it would after certain things fall away from my life and new things emerge… Maybe while I am sitting here dealing with loneliness, fear, anxiety and a general desire to leave planet earth… God is working on my behalf in ways I can’t know, touch or see at the moment. I can say that I am putting my program to work in this situation just like I did in the last situation. I am making sure I get to meetings, making sure I make time for things I enjoy like walking (it clears my head) and I am keeping busy. I recently joined the media team at that church that makes me feel so uncomfortable. This church does live, broadcast and web feeds so the opportunity for learning is huge. I am currently training for a position in the control room and as much as I dread showing up, I find that I have a blast once I am there. I often think it is crazy that a timid, shy and anxiety filled me would find enjoyment in speaking engagements, live show production and other similar things that scare most other people. I just like the energy of making something happen and truth be told I am somehow good at it too. I just have to get ME out of the way.
Another thought from this book is the creation of an Anxiety Box. Not unsimilar to what a lot of people refer to as a prayer box, only instead of prayers, you place all the longings, desires and dreams that keep you awake at night and steal your joy during the day – into this box. You hand them over to your creator and you allow Him to deal with them. Just like in sobriety, sometimes you find yourself handing over these joy killers all day every day. I know I have been deeply depressed. A lot of my dreams seem to be dying as each year passes, at least they are dying in my own mind. This marks another major lesson for me this year. It was impressed upon my by my higher power (Jesus) that I need to stop making assumptions (jumping to conclusions) about how my life is going to go. I have it in my head that I am going to get to a point where I simply cannot go on… I guess I have it in my mind that I am going to stay single, never amount to anything, become homeless yet again and just have to jump off a bridge and become fish food. It is a reoccurring and dominating thought in my inner life… It just seems that everything in my life is moving me toward this end. This would be one of those moments where you think Sweet Jesus would appear and tell me how much He loves me, but no… He told me that I have to stop jumping to conclusions about my life, my abilities, about everything. And there is truth here. I will not lie. No one takes me out of the game more than myself because I tend to decide ahead of time how things are going to go, how people are going to perceive me and whether or not I will be successful or liked or whatever. I’ve always had this assumption that I am not wanted, not good enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not fat enough… just not enough, just not wanted. Somehow everyone else on the planet makes the grade and I don’t. This is such a deeply ingrained part of me that I make assumptions based on this thought pattern all the time and I rarely realize I am doing it. All I can do right now is pray to be made aware of when I am jumping to a conclusion or making an assumption that I should not make. It probably comes from some survival skill that is way too strong from early life trauma and while it serves a place in certain situations; it cannot continue to reign supreme in my life.
On a positive note, I have taken myself back off the Caramello bars! LOL! I am back on a decent schedule that allows time for the things I need and while I am still enjoying some chocolatey sweets, I am choosing healthy, low sugar options instead. I guess choice by choice I am making decisions that prove to myself that I am worth it. In life, just as in sobriety, we sometimes find that we have to find simple ways to override our brains. Our brains are designed to retain system balance and system balance doesn’t always mean keeping us alive and healthy. This tidbit is one of the best things I learned from my first sponsor. Just because the brain wants to restore a perceived imbalance doesn’t mean you should follow its impulse. It will reach for the easiest and fastest way to achieve its end, which usually means walking down a bad road. The same is true in life.
As I type this post, I am nearing the end of my stint in retail. I never knew how important keeping a schedule was to my sobriety until I entered the world of retail at Christmastime! I have worked nights, days and weekends with minimal days off and it has wreaked havoc on my soul. I have always known that I was a lower energy individual and that my time to myself is important to my mental and emotional balance, but this time in retail proved just how important it is! I have talked previously about how my ability to cope with any sort of perceived stress is at an absolute zero in my sober life. During my stint in retail I had zero time for things I enjoy, zero time to veg out and zero time to well, breathe. As a consequence I spent most of the holidays in a sustained craving for a release and the most desired form was the insane desire to cut. I haven’t had this particular desire since I was a teenager. It was like my mind just skipped over the whole alcohol and drug thing, knowing it was a road to nowhere fast, and opted for cutting to release the insane amount of pressure and anxiety building up inside me. I cannot even explain this pressure, just that it was almost too much to bear and that I routinely daydreamed about jumping off a bridge into water and quickly drowning or I dreamed of cutting… the cutting dreams were actually bringing me some relief… they lessened the pressure a little bit. I started to crave cigarettes again too, which is something I haven’t craved since I quit drinking back in 2012. So how am I still here you ask? Well I prayed, begged and pleaded with God to somehow help me AND I took myself to any meeting my schedule would allow AND I found some ladies I could confide in and I told them what was going on inside me. I used the program of AA like I am supposed to when my world gets turned on its side leaving me wanting any escape possible. I also ate a lot of sugar… I believe I was eating a large Caramello a day just to keep myself alive plus a lot of other sugar. I learned early in sobriety that there will be days that I will have to substitute sugar (alcohol) for sugar ( candy, chocolate, etc) and I did what I had to do to keep myself sober. I kept putting one foot in front of the other by going to work, going to meetings and letting people in the program be my support system and I made it through… still sober today. An extra tidbit for those who experience this same type of internal pressure/anxiety… I also started doing alternate nostril breathing multiple times a day. It’s kind of a reset for your nervous system and it helps quiet the chatter. I know of the practice from yoga, but I have not used it for anxiety/stress/anger until now and it does produce relief!
On a brighter note, I have finally landed a new job that will take me back into a balanced lifestyle. And I have a generous amount of vacation to start with right off the bat! I am not even sure I can use all of the vacation the first year! I want a family trip, a ladies excursion and then maybe a fun trip somewhere to just visit life elsewhere. We will see, I guess. It was this job that saved me, really. As soon as I knew I had it, I could see light at the end of my craving tunnel. At least I am hoping that it is the crazy schedule and not Memphis that has produced this prolonged and deep rooted desire for escape! I guess we’ll see on that note soon since my new job has me staying in Memphis!
And so it begins… New year, New Job, New Life… Back where it all started. I want to complete my new years resolutions this year. I have been working with my higher power (Jesus) to formulate a plan to make things better for myself and I have quite a list to charge my way through. Some of the things on the list aren’t even fully conceptualized, but I trust that things will become clear as I approach and/or begin each task. I don’t even fully understand each task, but I feel that the key to making my life and me better rests on the completion of these tasks and so I will complete every last one. Understanding or not, makes sense or not… I just know I need to complete the list. As of right now, I only have the first half of 2018 to complete, which means I need to get going, because there is a second half that will begin to fill up as I complete what is on the first half. I kind of feel like I am at the starting point of what is to become the rest of my life and I have no idea what that looks like, but I am ready to try. And so it begins… my next chapter…. How will you write yours?
Resolutions for 2018
At the end of this month I will somehow have five years of sobriety! What a whirlwind it has been! I feel like I have been and still am on a tour through all of the things Jessica needs to improve about herself. What can I say? When you spend the most important years of your life in a bottle you just don’t learn to do life, much less respond to it.
At this stage of the game, I know I have to find some financial security for myself. I am making financial security priority number one. I have been focusing my job search on higher education in Memphis and in the not too far away cities though there is a part of me that would like to be back on a coast. I know that staying in Memphis would be the best decision financially, but I also know one should never put all of their eggs in one basket. I am also looking at a few other career options outside of higher education…both in Memphis and outside of Memphis.
I guess it is just time to do some adulting. I have five years of sobriety, but I still have trouble handling stress and it has changed the type of jobs I go after. I often find myself comparing myself to a hurricane…. I definitely feel as though I am one. I roar into the office in the morning, wreak havoc all day, then roar out in the evening to the gym. To be frank, I pretty much do this everywhere I go. I expend a lot of energy that could be used elsewhere. Someone said I should try flipping my schedule – working out in the morning and doing yoga in the evening. I don’t know… I have very unstable blood sugar so I am not sure how that would affect things, but I might try it once I land a new job.
One of the bigger elephants in the room is the fact that I cannot seem to find a way to be happy. Every city I have lived in had something I hated about it. Every church I have attended had something I hated about it. Every job I have held had something I hated about it. One could argue and possibly win the notion that everything I have ever been a part of had something wrong with it. It has always been after I have left a place or an institution that I could really appreciate it for what it was and continues to be. And so after five years of sobriety, I have to ask the question, is it me? The answer is most likely yes. So then what? I guess I must get to the adulting. Find a career I don’t mind doing that will pay me a living wage and afford me the time off I need to do the traveling I want to do and start enjoying life for what it is instead of what it could be.
For some strange reason “Happy” always seems to be in the future with me, but the problem is if “Happy” is always in the future, then it is never in my present and I cannot experience it. That whole life on life’s terms thing in AA is my lesson right now. I have to do life on life’s terms, be grateful for what I do have and find a way to enjoy the blessings I have been given. How this works out in my day-to-day hurricane lifestyle… I do not know, but this is to be my lesson for year five of sobriety! I guess, in part, I just realize my age and realize that I am far more emotionally stable than I have ever been (I know it doesn’t sound like it) and I want to capitalize on the gratitude I do have and enjoy every experience I can. To do this, I have to find a way to calm down and stop complaining!
I don’t know if I will be staying in Memphis or moving somewhere else, but I do know that I have my work cut out for me in the year ahead. I am looking forward to getting back on my feet financially and I am looking forward to enjoying all of the new experiences this year will bring.
"If you want to find happiness, find gratitude." - Steve Maraboli
They say God might not be there when you need Him, but He is always right on time. I guess the saying stands for those moments when life turns your time table on its side and lets it stay sideways for a while. Events seem to happen at the absolute worst moments and nothing makes any sense. You start to feel like you are in one of those metal crushers, you know the ones that crush cars? You already thought pressure was coming from every angle possible, but you have been proven wrong when new and stronger pressures appear out of nowhere. Each day you discover a new meaning to the phrase “stuck between a rock and a hard place” and that is one onion you never had any interest in peeling.
I have been focusing on getting out of my job and getting out of my temporary living situation as soon as possible, but now due to a health hiccup, I am not even sure I can do that! This health hiccup, until resolved will keep me in the exact situation I am trying to escape. I can’t even give up and go home because I have to keep my health insurance. It’s as if God through out a spike strip to halt me in my tracks. The fact that I know I am not wanted in my temporary living situation makes it all the worse. It really sucks when you are going through hell and the one person you find yourself at the mercy of really doesn’t like you, nor you him for that matter. I am constantly afraid he is just going to abruptly kick me out. He has already thrown the fact that he is letting me stay in his home in my face and people who do favors and then throw it back in people’s faces or hold those favors over their head are the exact people I don’t want to associate with and they are the exact people that would throw someone out abruptly. My only saving grace is that I start paying rent this month so if he does try to throw me out – he is going to have to pay me for it. Oh, and my wonderful car with the brand new coolant system is still having coolant problems. I am back to adding coolant every few days! I honestly don’t even know what to do right now. I am trying to keep my plan on track by continuing to job hunt and if something more comes of this health hiccup, then I will have to re-evaluate the plan at that time. I will know more in a couple of weeks, which incidentally coincides with my deadline of switching gears and preparing to head back home to Memphis.
The one bright light in all of this chaos is the fact that I have not even had the inkling to pick up a drink. I mean what good would it do me anyway! Yes, it might make me oblivious to all of my problems, but the problems would still be there only I would probably have more problems if I gave alcohol another chance.
I don’t know what I am being held in place for, but I just have to continue riding this crazy wave and trust that it will take me to where and who I need to be. Besides, those of us that know Jesus will never find ourselves outside of His hands. My Jax pastor said something the other day that struck me: when Jesus was in the garden asking for the cup to be removed, the cup He was referring to was not all that would happen on the cross, He was referring to what would happen immediately after – the momentary separation from God that He would have to suffer on our behalf so that you and I would never have to spend one second out of His arms.
New Everything seems to be on my docket for 2017. It’s an everything must go sort of season in my life. For starters, the house where I have been room renting, is going on the market this month and it is being listed at base price to sell quick! Second, my car appears to be on its final leg. I own an Impala and anyone with an Impala from 2000 to 2005 probably knows what I am going through. Actually, most of you have probably already gotten rid of your Impalas. According to the Chevy forums, there is nothing that can be done, unless of course, God reaches down from Heaven and puts a stop to all this crazy coolant system nonsense. Third, after having spent a semester in my new job, I can tell you that I must leave this place! There is no money at this institution and moreover, people in my department haven’t seen a raise in five years! That’s just plain crazy. I do love the holiday shut down and time off structure, but that can be found in other institutions that actually pay their people so ya know… I will be leaving.
Change is everywhere right now and I do not know if I will land on my feet or crash on my butt. The only person I can blame is myself. I left Los Angeles for some financial stability, but the decisions I have made regarding employment have not exactly helped me attain much of anything close to stable. So now I find myself at a dangerous cross roads. I have a decent amount of debt to pay off and am in need of a new car and a new place to live and a new place to work. My brother has been pushing for me to come back home for a year and while he does make sense numerically, I don’t want to move without a job, which would put me in the realm of blowing my savings.
So with all that said, let’s talk New Year resolutions. You do have them right? Mine are simple this year and fall into two categories: Finances and Fitness.
Financially, I need to get the rest of this debt paid off so I can buy a new car! And of course, a house would be nice too! The main way to do this would be through a new and better paying place of employment. I am geographically open, though I would like to move closer to my mom and brother. I would also like to be in an area with a lot of hiking. One doesn’t really hike in Florida. There are tons of trails here, but it is more nature walking so to speak. Plus I haven’t really been able to find a good hiking group or find any outdoors buddies to go exploring with so I have been at a loss in terms of one of my favorite past times. I am a professional when it comes to living on nothing, so the challenge will be to keep living on nothing until the debt is gone. AKA, not buying new things, which is very hard to do once those credit cards start lighting up with zero balances. Self Restraint is needed indeed.
The second category is fitness. I am not necessarily trying to loose weight, but I do want to be healthy! I need to get back to eating mostly fruits and vegetables and zero sweets. I am trying to follow the adrenal body plan which means I need to add in protein. I have toyed with the idea of bringing seafood back into my diet, but I just don’t feel right about it. I mean if I can talk to it, I shouldn’t eat it. Right? I also need to up my morning and evening workouts. I do yoga every morning, but I need to start getting up earlier so I can get more time in on the mat and I need to be doing an hour of cardio and/or strength in evening when at home. Once my debt is paid off, I would like to join a gym or program where I can be taken through a series of exercises. I just do better with someone telling me what to do and making me do it when it comes to workouts. I am good at doing the workout, but I am also good at making every excuse as to why I don’t need to give 110% or why I need to do the beginner version or the low impact version or ya know whatever. I have decided to take a picture of myself on the first and last day of 2017 to further motivate me to eat healthy and keep up with the workouts. Perhaps I’ll share my results with you this time next year.
I guess I do have a third category in terms of New Year resolutions, but I feel that it is going to have to take a back seat until I am in a new job. The third category would, of course, be my creative endeavors. I have a few ideas that involve a second blog that is topic focused for 12 steppers and a YouTube channel and I do want to get back into my writing. Since this is more dependent on the first two resolutions getting off the ground, I will dub this a bonus resolution, which in turn gives me more motivation to make the first two resolutions happen.
I wish all of you a Happy, Prosperous and Adventurous New Year!
What can I say folks, sometimes life hurts. And my life is hurting bad right now. I think it is safe to say that I left a physical desert where I was in a mental, emotional and spiritual oasis in sunny SoCal, and now find myself surrounded by water in a mental, emotional, and spiritual desert in sunny Florida.
Physically, I am back in a complete standstill. I threw out my back a few weeks ago and went from being able to do a forward bend with my nose against my knees to having to fight to barely touch my toes! I thought I was on the mend and went for a short walk a few days ago that reignited all of the pain and so I am back to gentle yoga and absolutely nothing else. My lower back and right hip are the main culprits with my right hip taking the trophy for intense sharp pain shooting around all the day long. Emotionally, I might as well be the only person in this town. Every time I think I have made a new friend they start treating me like an afterthought by routinely making plans with me and then canceling at the last second only to say something like “hey, I’m doing this now so can’t do whatever with you.” My roommate says she has experienced a lot of that herself. Who knew small town Jacksonville would have bigger and more blatantly rude flakes than that of Los Angeles. At least in LA people make up an actual excuse! Here in Jax people actually tell you what they are going to go do instead of hanging out with you! So Rude. And then there’s that job I have. There’s nothing like working with people that you know hate you. It gets even more fun when your job doesn’t even begin to fulfill, engage or excite you. I am one of those people who need to be fully engaged in my activities because if I am not, my mind rolls over to everything in the world that I should not be thinking about and so with the pain, the rude treatment from could be friends and the nothing but time to focus on all the wrong things – folks – I am mentally, emotionally and physically spent. I have no idea how long I am supposed to be in this town, but let’s just say that unlike LA, I don’t think I’m gonna feel terrible if I suddenly have to move elsewhere.
The only good news is that I have finally sort of picked a church home. It is a church I just keep going back to because I really dig the pastor. I am actually going to be spread across two churches this fall – a class at one where I will be taking on a major issue in my life and a life group at the one I am calling home at the moment. The other good point is my continued involvement at a local Celebrate Recovery where I am getting my ministry feet wet. I am learning how to lead a group of ladies, learning how to connect to people and learning how to speak in front of others and hopefully slowly gaining a stage presence. It is this ministry stuff that needs to become more of my life – that is where my passion is, that is where my excitement is, that is where I come alive and activate the best version of myself.
You would think year 3 would sound better wouldn’t you? I thought about that too and then it hit me – I spent 15 years in rebellion to God in an addiction that I repeatedly chose to stay in. Yes, I gave God the one thing I didn’t think I could live without, but I’ve only worked off 3 of my 15 years. Thank you Jesus that You are not that kind of God! While it is true that I am still an infant when it comes to sobriety, God is not sitting up there with a stick marking off each day waiting for me to equalize the situation before He can bless me, love me or work in my life. We humans tend to find ourselves thinking that way because it is how we were taught right from wrong. You intentionally break your little brother’s tricycle so he can’t follow you around, chances are your parents will take away your bike as punishment. It’s how they teach us to treat others the way we would like to be treated, but it is not how God deals with us, especially when we come to Him and admit what a shattered disaster we have become. I fully admit that I have absolutely no idea how I am gong to go from where I am right now to the vision of my life that has been laid out by God. The good news is God does! My job is to stay close to Him, stay in His word, abide by His word understanding that any parameters are there to protect me and not keep me from having fun, and trust that as I grow in faith, God will open the doors that I so desperately want to open right now. I guess for me, year 3 is the year of being a grown up, digging in and doing what I don’t want to, being faithful to the positions and places God has put me in until He opens another door.
That door I am so desperate to open is a position under a successful and dynamic ministry where I can learn how to be a leader and grow my abilities for speaking God’s word, teaching God’s word and leading others through discipleship. Until that happens I am continuing to learn and grow in the ministry I am currently serving in and hoping for a career opportunity in the same realm.
I recently heard a mega gator fan give his CR testimony and in that testimony he shared this line from Tim Tebow’s book: Use the platform you’ve been given for God’s purpose and not your own. That line made me start thinking. I know what I want out of my potential ministry involvement, but I haven’t asked God what He wants out of it. I haven’t asked God what He wants out of my life, my work, my writing, my relationships or any platform that He might bestow upon me. And that’s a question I probably should have asked at the beginning. I am currently meditating on that question with God. So far, I feel like He has told me that His purpose and Plan for any platform He gives me is to help change lives by changing habits and to promote true healing by helping people live in true alignment with Christ mentally, emotionally and physically. I really need to start making this my purpose in all of my dealings whether it is in a CR group, the grocery store or with my less than desired co-workers. I may not be living the life I wish to yet, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t act as if I already am that person.
I recently had the opportunity to share a bare bones version of my testimony at a local Celebrate Recovery anniversary party. I didn’t realize how much of a story I actually had until I tried putting my story on paper. I spent the following week trying to cut it down to the time frame I had been given and it was tough because everything I’ve ever been through seemed pertinent. Anywho, since August brings my 3rd Sober Birthday I thought I would share my bare bones testimony with all of you:
Hi! My name is Jessica and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with alcohol, anxiety, and self-worth.
When I write I like to have angle to work with and my angle for this testimony came from a song called Broken Vessels: “Oh I can see you now, Oh I can see the love in your eyes, Laying yourself down, Raising up the Broken to Life.” Because this is exactly what Jesus is doing for me!
You see I have been switching back and forth between two very different lives since I was nine years old. I grew up in church. I had a good family. I lived in a nice house in a nice part of town. I sang in the choir, I taught Sunday School, I went on mission trips, I led bible studies and I helped make the first Passion Conference happen. I did a lot in a few short and widely separated years of sobriety.
However, the majority of my life went more like a nightmare. I grew up with extreme social anxiety and had a hard time connecting to anyone. BUT, I quickly found that I could do anything and be anyone as long as I had alcohol in my system. My first drink was at nine years old. Nothing special, just a stolen beer shared between two best friends. It would be years later before I would have another alcoholic drink. I was 16 and made a new friend who introduced me to wine coolers. High school quickly became a blur as I routinely opted for spiked coffee in the morning, spiked soda at lunch and whatever I could get my hands on after school. I had a horrible relationship with my parents. I cursed them out daily and was out all hours of the night. My parents had no idea what to do with me. It was normal for me to drink until I blacked out and I did so every night of every weekend. My social anxiety made me dependent on alcohol, which brought a lot of depression so I was also a cutter for most of my teenage years. I hated myself, I hated my life and I only felt free when I was in the oblivion alcohol brought me.
As I mentioned earlier, I had bouts of sobriety that were broken by that lie alcoholics like to tell themselves. “I can control it this time. I just need a little release. Everybody else gets to let loose. One drink won’t kill me.” And down the rabbit hole I went faster than the previous time. Only now I was working and supporting myself. I was in Human Resources of all careers and I had found a new best friend in wine. Most of the time I was sober during the day, but I started drinking the second I was home. I longed for the weekends so I could go on benders and I got increasingly irritated with my co-workers, family members and friends due to my constant craving for oblivion. It got to the point that I was consuming multiple bottles of wine a night, often drinking until I vomited or passed out.
I eventually had another stint of sobriety that lasted about two years. It was all adrenaline and zero anything else and so I fell back into the arms of alcohol and told myself I would change my life once I left Memphis and I did just that – but it was not on my terms.
A few years later, I found myself living in a roach infested rented room in Los Angeles. By this time I was drinking a large bottle of Vodka a day and popping migraine pills to ease the suffering of my vodka based diet. I could barely walk to the mailbox because my muscles were so weak, including my heart, which palpitated non-stop. For the first time in my life, alcohol was not working. I could no longer reach oblivion. I needed something else, something stronger – and considering the state I was in – that something would have killed me.
I was at a very dangerous cross roads when God intervened in my life one last time. I had been seeking His help with a job. During a day of prayer and fasting I had a vision that scared the crap out of me. It turns out that Jesus loves me, but He was ready to let me die if I did not hand over the alcohol once and for all. I cried out – But it’s my Everything. Jesus replied, Exactly. Realizing that I had finally pushed God past His point of no return, I surrendered the one thing I had that made everything else okay and entered into a very reluctant sober state. I entered the rooms of AA in Los Angeles and I found a new home. After about 6 months of screaming into pillows and being afraid to even try going to the grocery store - something just changed. I started feeling more comfortable. Los Angeles taught me a lot. The Recovery out there is top notch and I needed to hear every word that was spoken. My favorite being “you’ve been upside down for so long that you have no idea what right side up feels like. Of course you feel upside down right now – it’s because You’ve finally turned right side up. Give it a minute.” And he was right! I also learned to like myself in Hollywood of all places. I made friends that liked me for who I am. My LA tribe helped me realize that I am funny, pretty, sweet, fun to be around and deserving of the best in life. After I got called to leave LA and found myself in Jacksonville, FL – I felt God nudge me to attend Celebrate Recovery instead of AA. I did not understand this at all. AA had saved my life. I live and breathe the AA logic in my soul. It keeps me from doing stupid things. But, I decided to follow God’s prompting and visited CR and I absolutely hated it. I felt so weird. I was a newbie all over again, but my AA logic quickly spit out the “Shut up and Show Up for 90 days” and so I did.
The first CR I went to, wasn’t my cup of tea so I sought a different one and met a super sweet woman and so I came back and I kept coming back here at the Beaches CR every Friday night. I have found that Celebrate Recovery offers me an atmosphere of love and acceptance where I can work on the root issues that cause my insane desire for escape. Thanks to CR I am staying sober while learning how to ground myself in God’s truth. I am learning to see myself the way God see’s me. I am learning how to serve, I am learning how to lead and I am learning how to deal with those unwanted emotions that usually make me bolt in every direction except the right one. I can say that after working the steps, I mean really, honestly working the steps, I no longer feel the need for alcohol. Sometimes I may want it, sometimes I may think about one drink, but I immediately tell myself that it cannot happen. I know where that one drink leads. For me it leads to my death. It really is that simple.
There is no going back, there is only pressing forward to the life that Jesus is calling me to lead and excitement about where He is taking me. He has given me a new vision for my life, which is the old vision I started out with years ago before alcohol took over my life. The good news is that the last 15 years have not phased God one bit. His plans for me have not changed. He still sees me as the same person I was before all of this mess started. This past year He gave me a verse that has been spoken in this room by others – Joel 2:25 - …He will restore the years the locusts ate away… – thanks to AA and Celebrate Recovery I get to live a life of freedom today and I get to be excited about the restoration of all the things the locusts ate away in my life while I was deep in my addiction, my depression and my self-torture.
AA Saved My Life. Celebrate Recovery is teaching me how to live and accept the new life that has been freely given. If you’re new – keep coming back! Keep doing the next right thing! Get a sponsor, get an accountability partner and Work the steps! Make yourself available to others! Surround yourself with the right people – people who have what you want, people that are grounded in God’s truth! Lean into Jesus and you too can sing that song with gratitude knowing that you are one of the broken God has raised to a new and awesome life. Thanks for letting me share.
And I really am excited for all that is to come! The vision God has given me seems so unattainable and so unreachable, but that’s also the fun part – I cannot remember who said this – Louie, Erwin, Russ or maybe they’ve all said it at one time or another – God never gives you something you can do without Him – I just have to be willing and God will take my willingness and make something awesome out of it. Like this blog, for instance, the readership has slowly been rising since the day I started it and I will keep writing until the day people stop reading it.
I am also working on some full-length (main speaker) versions of my testimony as I might soon have the opportunity to share with some other nearby Celebrate Recovery groups. Not to mention that I am delving into the Advanced Leadership training materials as I continue to develop my ministry leadership skills.
Looking back, I believe God had to take me out of LA so I could slow down and figure out where my life was going. My LA life was very hectic and due to the location of my work it made it very hard for me to be involved in after work activities. I MISS LA A LOT, but it is clear God brought me to Jacksonville so I could slow down long enough to truly change direction.
August 26th, I will be celebrating 3 whole years of sobriety: Three whole years of a different way of living; Three whole years of a better way of living; Three whole years of feeling my feelings; Three whole years of facing my fears; Three whole years of being the real Jessica. Three whole years of being someone I am proud of, someone my family is proud of and someone I know Jesus is proud of. Three whole years of better decisions, better relationships and better impact on those around me. Whoever said Sobriety is boring, uneventful and unattractive - doesn’t know Sobriety.
I really do miss LA! My friends, my adventures and Mosaic. While I no longer have that constant nagging in my soul telling me to leave the City of Angeles, I also no longer have any sort of life. My days consist of job hunting and playing with my roommate’s dogs. I knew I was going to be up in the air for a while and I also knew that once I officially had a new city, it would take a while to start a new life, but the reality of it is just now hitting me and, for lack of a better word, it sucks. As of right now, the only time I get out of the house is to go for walks, go on a job interview or visit a local church.
I think it is safe to say that Erwin McManus and Hank Fortener have changed my worship DNA. They and the Mosaic team introduced me to a freedom in worship that I never knew before and I am finding that freedom to be important in my next faith community. I currently have 22 churches to visit in the Jacksonville area so here’s hoping one of them will offer the tangibles I am looking for and the intangibles that I require. For me, worship is now a response to Who my Creator is, all of Who He is; His kindness, His mercy, His grace, His power, His unending love – all of Him. I can no longer just stand in a service and robotically sing songs as if they have no meaning. For me, worship is personal and messy and emotional and amazing and inspiring and communicative and heartfelt. Worship is my response to what Jesus is doing in me, for me and through me; and it was my time at Mosaic that taught me this. Mosaic also gave me an idea as to the energy Heaven is going to have when we all come together to worship our Creator. It’s going to be an energy we don’t want to be away from and I promise to try to bring some of that energy with me wherever I go. If you ever find yourself in Los Angeles, I encourage you to attend one of Mosaic's services. Whether you are a believer or not, the experience will be worth it.
My friends in LA wrote a story on my heart. They reminded me who I am and how much I matter. For some reason I have always deemed myself as someone’s second or third choice, but my friends in LA told me a different story. I learned that I am someone worth knowing and that I make a difference in people’s lives. I learned what it means to be me, to stand up for myself and that I am someone other people want to be around. I’m funny, spontaneous, adventurous, insightful, caring, intelligent, somewhat crazy and 100% worthy of love. I am still trying to wrap my head around that last one, but my friends in LA are living proof of it and I miss them every day.
LA is also where I learned what it really means to trust Jesus with my life. LA beat me into a corner and left me for dead and in doing so I finally surrendered my everything (alcohol) to Jesus and I got sober. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and it has changed my life forever. Folks, I am living proof that AA works because I was one of those people that could not imagine, a me, without alcohol. I mean when I heard love songs on the radio I thought about my favorite vodka drink or my favorite wine. The tables have definitely turned and when I hear love songs on the radio these days, I now think of Jesus and something He has done or is doing in me, for me or through me. Alcohol is no longer my everything. Jesus has taken its place and I trust Him daily to keep me sober as I navigate life without alcohol and trust Him to bring friends into my life that don’t drink for their own reasons. I trust Him to keep me afloat financially and I trust that He has a plan for my life even though it doesn’t look like it right now. I trust that there is a reason that I drove across the entire country and landed in a small city on the opposite ocean with just a few grand to my name and I trust that everything is somehow going to be okay and that I will be able to one day explain to all of you why I had to leave all that I loved so abruptly. The only thing I know right now is that God is being very quiet. Not exactly what I want from my Creator as I watch job opportunity after job opportunity slip from my grasp. I have heard, however, that one of the keys to success is one’s ability to be comfortable in complete uncertainty so I guess I need to suck it up, enjoy my break from the daily grind and trust that if I am supposed to stay in Jacksonville then I will. I am, after all, in my Father’s hands and He is the pilot; I’m just a passenger on His flight who isn’t entirely sure of her destination.
Lastly, leaving LA has made me acutely aware of how important it is for me to feel important and to be seen as important by people that I do not know. Every time I have an era in my life come to an end, I fall back down the rabbit hole because I have no idea what to do with myself now that I’m not Jessica the athlete or Jessica the HR professional or Jessica the production coordinator or Jessica the show host or Jessica the bloody whatever… every time I loose my title my identity disappears with it. I need to get rid of the notion that I am what I do. I am so much more than a job title, but for some reason, my identity is wrapped up solely in outward success and as a result my light is very dim and my light should never be dependent on the thoughts of other people.
All in all, I had and will continue to have a love/hate relationship with Los Angeles. It taught me a lot about myself and when referring to LA or Mosaic I use “we” so perhaps I’ll be back one day. For now, it appears I have some things to do on the east coast – I just haven’t figured out what they are yet.
I wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year. Stay Safe. Stay Classy and don’t be afraid to Let Your Light Shine Bright. I will see you in 2015.
Last month I shared my inability to create a community around me here in Los Angeles. I also shared how this inability to create a community was eating away at my soul. As it turns out, this simple longing in my soul led me to cling to the only person available to me, My Lord, Jesus.
As everyone and everything appeared to be taken from me, it became clear that I needed to cling to Jesus, that I needed to spend time with Him and ask Him what He wants from me and for me. He did not hesitate to respond.
His main priorities concern the proper care of my spiritual body through spending time in His Word and in prayer, the proper care of my physical body through moderate exercise and healthy eating (something I’ve been struggling with as of late) and of course, my writing.
It was through spending time in His Word, that He has slowly revealed to me what I believe to be a portion of His plan for me. His plan starts with my growing up. He gently told me that I have been an infant Christian for over 15 years and that it is time for some growth. I have found myself back at the very first church I crossed off my list when I started church hunting a few months back. I started going to this church for the sole purpose of spending time with a spiritual friend who happens to attend this church. My intent was to spend time with my friend and endure this church, but this church is where my growth appears to be beginning. To be frankly honest, the plan God has laid before me starts with taking part in several learning and growth opportunities available through this church, which means I will be remaining in LA for quite some time.
This plan also laid out a new career track and I have begun the exhausting work of job hunting. I know I would like to work in a non-profit or ministry related non-profit, but I do not have any further definite direction. I feel like God is taking me all the way back to my beginning. I thought I had already come full circle, but it turns out I wasn’t quite there yet. As each month of sobriety passes, I get a little more clarity on who I am and an equal amount of clarity on how much confusion alcohol brought into my life.
In August, I will be celebrating my second year of sobriety and with this celebration; I am recommitting myself to the AA program. I have to admit that I have not been to a meeting in months. I had to leave my home group due to a bleeding deacon and some issues relating to the male variety. While I have been searching for a new meeting that easily fits into my schedule, there are semi-convenient meetings available and I am just going to have to make one of them my new AA home.
On a recent hike, a friend and I planned on following a local hiking group to a southern Cali waterfall that actually had water. We kept a decent distance until we got lost in our cameras and completely lost sight of the group. Since we were following a group, we did not bother looking at the map at the park entrance so we had to pick a trail and hope for the best. And so we hiked and hiked and hiked until we found a stream. It was easy to tell which way the current was running so we stayed close to this stream and headed up towards its source. We had no idea where we were, but we knew we were headed in the right direction. We followed the stream for over an hour and were about to give up when we heard the sound of rushing water and laughter. We pressed forward and found this stream’s source, a beautiful and somewhat rare, southern California waterfall.
Sometimes, God only reveals which way His current is flowing and leaves it up to us to take on the adventure of following His stream wherever it may lead. It’s what I am doing right now and if you find yourself in a similar circumstance, I hope you will choose to follow the stream because if you don’t – you just might miss the beauty and wonder of a magnificent waterfall.