Who I was is not who I am.

I want you to have an idea of where I come from mentally, so I’ll give you a (hopefully quick-ish) background on me.

Once Upon a Time……

JUST KIDDING. When I was younger I was pretty depressed.  I don’t know that it started off with a reason.  I was mad about my parents getting divorced, but really, so many people have divorced parents, and they didn’t all make the decisions I did.  I’m not saying it didn’t affect me, but I had a choice to make in it.  I chose to hate (for a while) my step-dad.  I don’t know that I’d call it easier (do you have any idea how much energy goes into actively hating or even despising someone??  A hint: a lot.), but it sure did give me an excuse to do and say the things I did…and said.  I felt about the same for my step-mom.  I can’t even remember being mad at anything else, or anything else that affected me except for guys.

I developed quicker than most girls in my grade, and boys picked up on that.  There were 3 instances that I can count were I was….violently pressured sexually with guys my age.  In junior high.

I started smoking in 6th grade.  I don’t even know why.  I just remember signing out of  my Jr. High to go to the library across the street and convincing my friend to light up a cigarette in the pack she brought to school (which I convinced her to steal from her brother or dad or something).  I don’t think I even inhaled, but I felt cool so I kept up with it.  Hey, whatever scores you points, right?

That summer I also started drinking.  Whenever I’d go to a friend’s house (which was pretty often in the summer – we all lived like 30 minutes away from each other in the middle of farm town USA) we’d steal bottles (yes, plural) from their parent’s cabinets.  We’d go out into the woods with one of their older siblings and their friends and drink.  That summer I was probably drunk about 2 days a week.  We’d continued the trend throughout the next 2 school years and following summers.  The following summers, I was pretty drunk most of the time.  I got the attention of some high school and college guys too.

That was a double-edged sword for me.  My parents were really good about telling me that I was pretty, but I never felt it.  It was no fault other than my own and the general mentality of kids.  I wanted the attention of boys, but when I got it, I didn’t know what to do with it and that scared the crap out of me.  Alcohol became much more important to me.  When I got into high school, I started to drink way more.  Obnoxiously more.  I liked to mix it with speed and pot.  That with a bottle of vodka (just for me) hit the spot.

By the time I was 17, I had at least 10 friends that were 21 or older.  They became pretty important to me.  I couldn’t tell you what their favorite things were, or even most of their last names, but I saw them more than I saw anyone else.  I started to bring some of my high school friends with me to party at these houses (but it wasn’t necessary to have them there), and I made a lot of really stupid decisions.  If I wasn’t high on something, I was usually drunk.  More drunk than high, and a lot of times I was both.

Also, by the time I was 17, I wanted to die.  I had been violated (both in drunken and sober states, although the last had become much more rare) so many times, I was depressed – really depressed, I was well on my way to becoming an alcoholic, I was having horrible nightmares that left me next to no sleep, I was on really poor terms (really poor) with my step-mom (I was living with my dad and her in high school) and I was teaching my younger sister how to do what I was doing.  I was so mentally destructive.

There was one night, I was 17 and it was my senior year, that I found myself crying uncontrollably.  I look at my journal from that time and I can’t even relate to it.  I was writing down a conversation I had with myself (mentally) and I wasn’t referring to myself in third person.  It was as if I was listening to someone else talking to me (i.e. “You need to end it.  Wouldn’t you feel better if it was just over?  All you need to do is cut in.”).  I got off my bed, went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife.  I went back in my room, sat against my bed and cried into my hands for a bit.  It was my sister and her friend who stopped it that time.  They came barging into my room, much like they normally did, but I heard them coming so I chucked the knife under my bed.  The second time I tried was a couple of months later.  My step-mom heard me crying and came in.  Obviously I didn’t do it, but my dad caught on to my change and asked me about it.  I told him what I did and I sought counseling.  For a day.  I went one time.

I never tried to kill myself again, but I upped my drinking.  By the time I was 18, a few months shy of high school graduation, I was high at school and drunk after.  I had a friend that would bring me drinks on my breaks at work, I’d go out when I was out of work; you get the idea.  I was impaired 97% of the time.  I didn’t feel anything.  Not remorse, not sadness, not anger, not pain, not joy.  Nothing.  I felt nothing.  For a while it was great.  I moved out of my dad’s house 3 weeks after I graduated.  My friend and I moved in together, and I kept my over 21-year-old friends.  In fact, I got more friends that could buy.

We had a friend, Ryan, who appeared at one of the parties I was at.  He was (hopefully still is) a recovered alcoholic and saw what I was doing.  He had to save me from myself that night and he began to make appearances at almost all the parties I was at.  Still that wasn’t enough.  Around October 2001, circumstances prevented me from drinking and getting high as much.  I had some withdrawal symptoms, but I didn’t cut it out completely, so they weren’t debilitating.  November 29, 2001 was the last time I had gotten high (I slipped up one time since then – the summer of 2002), and the last time I was drunk was December 15, 2001.

People like to tell me that because I didn’t take classes or because they didn’t notice my drinking that I wasn’t an alcoholic.  Whether or not I use that label, this is the truth of what my life was: I couldn’t go a day without it.  I needed it.  I needed its numbing powers.  I needed it to get by.  I needed it to stay alive.  At least, that’s how I felt back then.  If that’s not an alcoholic, then fine, I wasn’t.  The label isn’t important to me.  The feeling, the thoughts, the need; that’s what’s important.

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The day I walked into that church changed my life.  It was December 16th, 2001.  I was hung over.  I didn’t want to be there.  I wanted to be anywhere but there.  I hated myself more.  At the end of the service, a service that I literally wept the entire way through, Pastor James Cousineau said the most beautiful 5 words I have ever heard: “Can I pray for you?”  Y’all (yes, I am passionate enough to use southern slang here), I couldn’t even speak.  I almost couldn’t breathe.  My body was shaking, and miraculously, I started to cry harder.  Desperately, I nodded my head.  But all I could think was, “Yes, please!  God, yes!  Make my life different!  I don’t want this anymore!  I can’t do this anymore!  I hate this life!”  God knew my thoughts.  He knew my heart, and, man.

If you’ve never experienced that transformation, I don’t know that I’ll be able to accurately describe it for you.  When Pastor Jimmy C (that was my affectionate nickname for him – he will always be my pastor and I love him and his family more than I could ever say) finished praying I was laughing.  I was laughing and I was sober!  I was laughing and it wasn’t at somebody – it was with joy.  I opened my eyes and it was like a light had been turned on.  Everything was brighter.  I know that’s such a cliché, but I mean it literally.  I almost felt the need to shield my eyes.  While he was praying for me, I started to stand up straight because I actually, physically felt a weight lift from my shoulders.

I was chained in that old life.  I was held captive by all those things.  I was forced down into darkness.  At first I went willingly, but once it had a hold of me I no longer had a choice.

And all I had to do, all I had to do was say yes.  Yes, God!  Take this addiction, take this pain and depression; take my hatred of myself, of life!  Take it all!  I give this burden over, God!  Yes, God!   Being the loving Daddy that He is, He took it all from me.  He, almost giddily, took it from my shoulders.  He wiped my slate clean, made me new.

I am new.  Let me say that again.  I am new.  Every day.  I am new.

Where I was chained and bound, I am now free.  I have to choose to follow after Him every day, but knowing the joy and the light that I now know, it’s a no brainer.  It’s hard, yes, to follow after Him.  I screw up every day, as I’ve mentioned many, many times.  But God.  But God, y’all.  But God loves me anyway.  In my mistakes and missteps, in my poor decisions and quick temper He loves me.

I am not who I was.  I’ll never be that person again.  Sometimes, when I’m not in the Word or focused on God, I’ll have the thought that I just really need a drink.  Old habits and all that.  Plus, the devil was my constant companion back then.  I welcomed him into my innermost thoughts.  He knows exactly what buttons to hit to try to steer my thoughts in that direction.  Usually, as soon as I have the thought, I’ll fight it down and remind myself how ridiculous it is.  Sometimes, I’ll grab a drink at a gathering without thinking and after I’ve finished realize what a mistake it was.

But God.

He made me new and new is what I’ll stay.  His mercies are new every morning, and so am I.  I will never be in that place again, and I will never be who I was again.  I am new and I am changed.  Permanently, thank you, Jesus.

But God, y’all.  but God.

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