On the back of my senior t-shirt, I added these words in white vinyl letters.
Harmful or Harmless?
What do YOU think?
My maiden name is Harm, thus the creative play on words. But a darker meaning also lurked there.
I swallowed my first taste of alcohol at age 16 sitting on a car in the high school parking lot. The next morning, I sat in the choir loft for church. I was a notorious good girl who thought way too much about doing, saying, feeling the right thing, so I quickly learned that alcohol was an “easy” way to release the nagging voice in my head. Under the influence of elixir, layers of weight shed from my skin. Words flowed freely. Spontaneity was achievable. My reserved nature fell away and an alter-ego took her place with sweet release.
For the first decade of my drinking years, there was no such thing as simply enjoying a glass of wine or a can of beer.
I drank to become someone else.
“You know, alcohol is more dangerous for you than for others,” my father said one night, a reminder of our shared family history.
The angel on my right and the demon on my left. A conflict of character. A battle of identify. I was both of them, but thankfully they weren’t all of me.
Can you relate, Messy Miracle? Do you sometimes wish you could change the things you dislike about yourself? Do you wish there was a pill to erase the fear? Do you long for a magic mirror in which to see the future yet to come?
We all do. It’s universal, this desire to control. And sometimes it actually works…for a little while.
The dark side.
I’ve experienced two drinking-induced blackouts. Entire evenings missing from the cavern of my mind. On my 19th birthday, the last memory I have is throwing back shots at a bar during a fraternity social. I woke in my sorority bedroom soaked in layers of vomit with no recollection of laying face down, comatose on a parking lot the night before. Nor do I remember the (thankfully kind) designated driver who carried me home. He left a note. His name was Troy.
In my twenties, I attended the marriage of friends and drank the glasses of wine that continuously appeared before me. I vaguely recall dinner, then dancing and then nothing. Except the echoes of embarrassing stories the next day.
Blackout. No memory. No picture in my head.
Life moved ever forward with career, marriage, and kids. The escape of drink turned to shopping, moving up the corporate ladder, decorating a home, and dozens of smaller distractions to numb the ever-blooming chase for contentment.
Who am I? Why am I here? I had everything I ever wanted, but nothing was enough.
First the heartache. Then the healing.
I intended this essay to be about drinking, but I realize now that it’s actually about so much more. Drinking is just one of many ways I’ve sought to avoid the pain of this chaotic world. And what I’m learning is that You. Can’t. Avoid. The. Pain.
At least not forever. Any attempt to stuff it or hide it or ignore it, just makes it intensify when it can no longer be contained. And trust me. At some point, it will no longer be contained.
So, what’s a lady to do? I wish there was an easy fix, dear one. The truth is that the only way out is through. You have to open the door on the pain to set it free. You have to find trustworthy people to help you. And you have to surrender it all to Jesus.
I know you’re chasing contentment. You are wrestling with warring sides of yourself. So am I…still. We’ll never find the answer in the bottom of a bottle. It’s nowhere in the latest trendy clothes, lower numbers on the scale or newest wrinkle cream. It’s not in your boyfriend or your spouse or even your children. All of that will fail you. You will fail you. But it’s ok. We were never meant to heal ourselves. But we ARE made to be healed.
Can you believe, just for a moment, that you were made to live free? Live free from the pain and emptiness? Imagine what that would feel like…to know that you are perfectly loved and accepted exactly the way you are. And what if you didn’t have to do anything for this to be true? What if you only had to let go of the reigns and believe? Would you do it? Could you do it? Stay with me on this quest to Seek The Still and see…
Fear tells me to hold these memories deep in the cavern of my mind. My weirdness, quirks, and imperfections feel safe hidden from stinging curiosity and judging eyes.
But change is stirring. With each word released, with every story shared, my heart and soul are stretched in new ways. Feelings fly free and shame is undone in a mysterious dance that I’m learning to respect – and even enjoy.
These tales are true, and they are mine. Yet they are also strangely yours. In the sharing, our lives intertwine, and we see one another more purely. Perhaps for the very first time.
This post originally appeared at Seeking the Still.