I don’t know who turned my timetable on its side, but whoever it was – Please sit it right side up! Chaotic is the only word that comes to mind to describe my life right now. Dead End is another good description for my life right now as that is all I seem to be encountering at the moment.
I had to leave my rental situation of the last two years at the end of March. I have never had any issues finding a room to rent, however, I have not been able to find a place this time around and so I am typing this blog from my friend’s dining room table. I am staying with her and her fiancé for a few weeks which doesn’t sound too bad, but the house is tiny and they are getting married and about to have a dozen people staying here and so as I said timing is just horrible right now. I also lost my roommate and my neighbor who have been a great help to me when it comes to my car of never-ending problems. I helped her pack up some last minute things and drove her up to her new town and while doing so that wonderful Low Coolant Light started flashing. The entire coolant system in my car is brand new including the thermostat and sensor so I really have to ask, What now, Chevy? Maybe your new cars are award winning, but your old cars are far from it. Problem is that I no longer have anyone to help me with my car. It goes down, so do I.
And of course, I had to say goodbye to the world’s greatest dog, Lilly. As soon as I would open my door in the morning I would hear the thump, thump of her tail wagging on the floor. At first sight, she would jump up and run to greet me and flop over onto her back for a morning belly rub. She also helped me with my exercise by taking me on very brisk walks through the neighborhood. She is a sweet girl and I will miss her and my roommate very much as they were both very good to me.
While I was going through all of this cleaning stuff out and packing stuff up and trying to find a place to live, my work asked me start working overtime. Again, timing is just not working in my favor these days. My work is asking the impossible of me, completely disrespecting me on a daily basis and they pay me quite close to nothing for all of my trouble. I guess I should have never taken this job as it certainly has put me in a tight corner, but I didn’t know the financial issues surrounding this university until after I started work. I have been trying to find a new job, but that too has been one dead end after another. What do you do when all the doors are closed and your typically vocal gut is completely silent? Well, I have been grappling with the idea of going back home to Memphis for a while, but I have been reluctant to quit my job, which would mean loosing my income and my health insurance. I can only have coverage through a group plan or Obama Care since I have that ugly “C” word in my medical records. Memphis is also a place where a lot of bad things happened. While I do have family there, it is just a hard place to go back to due to all of the things that went so wrong there.
Unfortunately, my decision might be made for me shortly because if my car is going to start acting up again, I will have no choice but to abandon ship and go home. It already has a starting problem and if I have to start putting coolant in it again and start taking it back up to the shop again I will have no one to help me out. I will have to fork out money for a rental car every time as well as the money to fix whatever is wrong. It would be far better for me to take it up to my brother in Tennessee and have him look at it and if needed have him help me find a tide-me-over car for a couple grand and unload this car of a million problems.
Back when all of this upheaval started, I asked God what in the world was going on and what I needed to do about it. Thus far, He has only stated, “ You need to learn to ride the wave.” I am literally flying blind and just taking each day as it comes and trying to understand that any control I thought I had now seems to be gone. Circumstances are taking over and ushering in a new reality. I have known that I was racing against a ticking time bomb with my car, my job and my finances and it appears the bomb is starting to detonate, it appears I have lost the race, it appears that I am watching myself crash in slow motion… But I have to continue to ride this wave to its destination leaning not on my own understanding and trusting that the wave will take me to where I need to be regardless of how uncomfortable I am while in transit.
God may call it riding the wave, but I think I am learning how to trust. My trust meter is really low for myself and for others. Erwin had this to say recently, “…many of you are wondering where your opportunities are, but they have been there all along, you just treated them like giants and ran from them in fear…” This is especially true regarding some opportunities that have come across my path. They were awesome opportunities that any sane person would jump at, but I would find a list of reasons why I might not be a good fit. As I said in my previous post, I have burned a lot of lies I have believed about myself – the easy part. Now, I have the hard part – the part where I have to start acting as if the lies really are lies which, means stepping out of fear and into faith and facing these so called giants head on and trusting that I am fully capable.
The End of an Era
I thought I came to Jacksonville to get my feet wet in ministry. I thought I came to Jacksonville to learn how to be a nicer, kinder and gentler me. I thought I came to Jacksonville to root out some evidences of past abuse. It turns out I came to Jacksonville to stop believing a lie that I can’t even tell you how I ever came to believe.
God: Jacksonville is preparation and nothing more.
Some time later….
Me: I can’t find a community to belong to here.
God: Why are you trying to make a home here? This isn’t your home.
Me: Do you understand that You are killing me! I can’t take the loneliness anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
God: I’m in charge of when you breathe and when you don’t. I am not killing you.
Me: What is it that You are trying to teach me? I can’t figure it out! You’ve taken away all of my distractions and I still can’t figure it out! I will never get out of this desert!
God: Yes, you will.
Some time Later….
Me: I don’t know if this is it, but I think maybe perhaps You want me to silence the undercurrent that says I am not good enough and never will be for anyone or anything. I don’t even know where it comes from, but every sermon, song, lesson, talk, etc – whenever something relating to Your truth about me versus my truth about me comes up – I start crying.
God: And you thought you’d never get out of the desert!
Me: How do I silence this undercurrent? I mean really silence it? I mean I don’t even know its there half the time, where it came from or what to do about it – so how do I silence it?
God: You listen to me. You listen to what I say about you. You accept it as truth just like you accepted the 12 steps as a way to stop drinking. You didn’t fully understand the steps or believe in them – you just accepted them. You need to accept my words about you as truth. You can ask me to silence it too, but I’d rather you proclaim it is silenced in my name. You say you don’t know where it comes from, but you do. He’s been lying to women since the first one I made. Perhaps this will make it easier for you – You can choose to listen to my voice or you can choose to listen to his. Listening to both hasn’t been working, wouldn’t you agree?
Ugh. I am definitely one of those people who are way more afraid to succeed than to fail. I have previously recounted a sermon I heard from Erwin McManus on the topic of the two voices in the Garden. In this talk, Erwin makes it clear that while God’s voice may convict us, His voice never condemns and only calls us to be more, to do more. God’s voice always call us up and calls us to want better and to do better. The other voice in the Garden not only condemns us, but oppresses us too. The other voice wants us to feel bad and it wants us to hide or escape into whatever horrible situations we can create in our lives. Two voices that want very different things for us and Erwin asked us this question: Who’s voice are you listening to?
Obviously, somewhere deep down in my being, I am listening to the wrong voice. Another wise pastor from my past, Craig Strickland, once said “You cannot feel your way into an action, but you can act your way into a feeling.” I know that for me to move forward I have to start taking God at His word, especially when it comes to me. And since I am taking it as truth, I also need to start acting on it as truth. This is the key for me to get myself out of the situation I am in and the key to opening that big scary door I am for some reason afraid to walk through.
“The Cave You Fear To Enter, Holds The Treasure That You Seek” -- Joseph Campbell
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.
When It Rains, It Pours...
“So the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials…” 2nd Peter 2:9
It has been rather stressful to say the least. Word to the wise: If the first word out of a man’s mouth is “I’m not a crook” or “I try to sleep well at night by doing everyone right” guess what? That man is a crook and he is ripping you off.
It all started when I took my car to a repair shop to get yet another coolant leak checked. The shop easily found the leak, but the recommended repairs were around $700.00. This was not great news since I am running on empty and without employment so I looked at my available credit cards and reluctantly decided to make the repairs putting one of my cards near its limit. I was told the job would only take half a day, so I was surprised to find out that the job is “ a big job” and the shop would need my car for another whole day. I called again the following day for these wonderful men to tell me that while they were able to fix the leak, my head gasket blew during testing for more leaks. The only recommended option was a re-manufactured engine, which would cost $4,500.00! Needless to say, I hung up the phone and called my brother. He immediately called bull honky on the situation and told me that if my car was not running hot then there was no feasible way for my head gasket to have just blown. I continued to talk to the men at this repair shop for the next three days. They were adamant that I needed a new engine. I was adamant that they had messed up my engine. It took this guy three days to “find” a shop that would take the job because he claimed no one would do a head job on an engine that had over 100,000 miles on it. I think he was really trying to find someone that he could refer me to that wouldn’t out his shop as having bent the connector to the fuel injector, which is what really happened. I did not need an engine. My actual cost for this additional repair was $294.00 including the tow truck.
There was a good week where I was thinking that it was game over Jessica. I could not afford $4,500 in repairs, but I also had to fix my car. I was in a major mess; I knew I was being taken advantage of, but I did not have the proof or the knowledge to combat my offender and I was terrified. Then God dinged me yet again with the phrase “you haven’t asked me to turn this around for you yet”. God, as usual, was right. I had been praying all the way through this ordeal for the techs working on my car, but I had just accepted the situation as is and assumed I was doomed. Just like I just accepted the fact that I was feeling all of that fear and anxiety last month and would continue to do so until I started a new step study. While sharing in Celebrate Recovery, God made me acutely aware that I hadn’t asked Him to remove the fear and anxiety that was plaguing me and in the very same second He removed it from my life. I’ve been back to the real Jessica ever since. This time I took heed and immediately apologized to God for accepting this current situation as is and asked for His help, for Him to turn this situation around and He did. At my brother’s advice, I called some other machine shops in the area and a man at Automotive Block Head and Welder agreed that there was no way my head gasket had blown and referred me to Bell’s Automotive, which is the BBB shop that found out what was really wrong with my car. I do plan to confront Monument Road Tire and Service now that I know they bent my connector while putting my engine back together. While I am not entirely out of the storm yet, the rain has stopped and the clouds are thinning. I have some 2nd interviews lined up and I hope to accept an offer very soon which will allow me to finally exhale and turn my focus onto the reason God brought me to Jacksonville in the first place.