Written by Christa Booker
Michael and I met when we were 20 and in college. Children. Babies. We had an instant connection and fell hard and fast. We were inseparable. By the time we were 26 we were both living in Nashville building our careers and engaged to be married. No one knew that there was an intense issue behind the curtain of our newly engaged bliss - Michael was an alcoholic. On the day we were married I watched my husband to be standing at the end of the aisle and I could tell he was so drunk that he may not be able to remember much of that day. That was after I had begged him not to drink. All I could think was, “What am I doing?”
The first year of our marriage was a train wreck. On our honeymoon he had promised to stop drinking following our less than perfect wedding day. I wanted to live the typical newlywed life filled with trips to Costco, dinners in our new home, snuggling on the couch with movies, etc. But instead I was coming home to a passed out or belligerent husband every. single. day. Towards the end of our first year of marriage he had 3 car accidents in a 6 week period of time. Something was wrong. He was denying and hiding the drinking. I was an anxious and resentful mess - I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I begged him to seek counsel and prayed to God every night to reveal the problem. Was he mentally sick? Did he have an underlying health issue? Little did I know what I was praying to be revealed was about to become a life long journey for both of us.
He called me one day after seeking outside counsel that his work provided and said “They think I need to seek treatment for alcoholism”. What? But you don’t drink anymore (that’s called denial, my friends.) I thought alcoholics were older scruffy looking guys that always hung out at bars with beer guts and DUI’s on their records. No way. And after that, I soon found out that the drinking had never stopped and that was definitely the problem.
He entered outpatient treatment immediately. Outpatient was unsuccessful for him - he could never stop. He would lie that he was going to treatment and end up drinking at his office nearby after hours. And on the weekend of the great Nashville flood, Michael came home in the middle of the day drunk after driving around in the flood waters and failing to find an open 12 step program meeting (meetings were closed, but gas stations stocked with beer were open). It was that day that I completely broke and hit the end of my rope. I couldn’t help him and I didn’t think change was possible. And he decided to go to inpatient treatment.
The story that unfolded after that was one that only the divine could write. MY plan was to get out, and fast. I got the carpets cleaned and researched real estate agents and lawyers as he attended inpatient treatment. As I visited him in treatment and the mask of his addiction began to fade, I started to see the vulnerable man that I loved that was deeply pained. My heart started to soften and my head started to quiet. I started to address my own pain and begin my healing journey. And shortly after he got out of treatment - I found out I was pregnant. On our 1 year anniversary I was 7 weeks pregnant and Michael was under 90 days sober. You can tell by the math that was not OUR plan. I definitely heard the message. This was where I was supposed to be - as messy and difficult of a road we had ahead of us. We went on to have 2 more kiddos after our “rehab baby” and just celebrated our 10 year anniversary and Michael’s 9 year sobriety birthday.
To this day - it’s not easy. We realize that our story is not normal and could have had a very different ending. We both struggle with different trauma responses to alcoholism. Many painful things happened as a result and trust was (and still is) a struggle for me. There were maladaptive coping behaviors that formed (such as isolation, codependency and withdrawal) that we have continually struggled to deal with and can take us back to our very unhealthy past. But the synchronicity of events following our pain and trauma have continued to show me that God was slowly healing us through the details. And as we began to heal we were placed in other’s paths so that we could use our past experience to help them find healing. To prove that with faith and a lot of freaking hard work - you can take your life from miserable to amazing.
Addiction is real and does not discriminate. It comes in the form of alcohol, drugs, shopping, destructive relationships, food - you name it. Addiction is a response to pain and trauma. An attempt to numb our hurtful pasts. Not only does it numb the pain - it also numbs the joy. It provides a false and temporary euphoria that dims the light inside people and rips apart families, friendships, careers, relationships and marriages. And everyone it touches is affected. Once we start removing the stigma and judgement around addiction - I believe that more people will begin to seek healing. The recovery journey from addiction looks different for every person. Everyone has their own method to get to the bottom of their pain and trauma and live a life free from addictive behaviors used as bandages. But I do know one thing - no one can do it alone. I hope that if you are reading this and it has resonated with you in any way (whether you struggle with addiction or love someone that does) that you reach out to someone to help point you in the right direction to begin your healing journey.
My growing faith is a large part of what continues to guide me to healing. To me, faith in God is to align with love instead of fear, judgment and resentment. To not know the answers and trust in Him. To quiet my mind and stop feeling the need to make decisions and letting things unfold in time. In His time. Faith is knowing that no matter what happens, I am going to be ok. I wish I could take my 27 year old face in my hands, look her in the eyes and tell her that. Everything is going to be ok. But that truth now will continue to carry me in the future. My pain is a beloved part of me that has created my life story and has continued to provide growth opportunities for myself and help to others. It has provided wisdom that I would not trade for anything. I now know that no matter what happens, what pain I feel, what trauma I endure - God will make sure to put friends, family, situations, therapists, life coaches, programs, articles, books, animals, work out programs, blog posts - whatever it may be, in my path to make sure that I’m assured that - Everything is going to be ok. And with an open heart aligned with a God of love and dedication to be His hands, feet and hearts on this earth - we can all find continued restoration in this life. Never alone - always together.