365 days without alcohol.
When I think about it now it seems so simple; but 365 days ago that idea felt overwhelming and unfair. I suppose we should start at the beginning.
It was a Saturday, the day after my housewarming party, and let me tell you- I was not in a celebrating mood. The energy and excitement I had the night before were now met with a splitting headache and a body that kept yelling, "Why didn't you give me more water you idiot!" And that was my day-hydrating my sad and angry self, and praying I could keep down the Wendy's I force fed myself later that night. On Sunday, I was driving to church, feeling a bit better but still didn't have that sparkle and shine back, and as I was praying for the service, I felt God lead my thoughts back to Friday night...
I don't know. I just wanted everyone to have a good time and feel included so I just kept drinking.
No. Why Brittany?
I told you. I would make everyone else more drinks and then it would be weird to not drink with them, so I would just make another or do that shot, and I know it was overboard, but I'm okay.
No. Why Brittany?
Do you see the annoying thought pattern I was stuck in? I didn't have a better answer for the "why" that I felt God was asking. I thought I knew why but from the persisting question, I can tell you I didn't. So, when I finally got to church and was standing in worship that morning, tears began to involuntarily roll down my face, and I told God I would give it a year. I wanted to do a month, but realized I had done that before with Whole30 so this needed to be different. I had settled on three months and that ever present voice came back...
No. A year.
Those were the only two things I heard that day. The question of why and the length of a year; and 365 days would be the time it took for me to learn the answer to the first part.
May 1, 2017: Of course the day I decided that I would give up alcohol for a year, would be the same day that I had an event to attend. There was a cute make-shift bar set up on top of a beautiful old trunk complete with twinkle lights. I got a glass of water and cup of coffee to keep me happy, but I can’t lie and say seeing my two favorite drinks being served wasn’t tempting. Everyone was drinking and laughing and having a good time. But, as I scanned the room, it made me realize something important. That in true community and friendships the same introductions and forming of new friendships, jokes and laughs, all would have happened without alcohol. Sure, you could argue that it maybe would have taken longer to happen if all of these strangers were without that “liquid courage” but I do not believe for a second that it dictated the outcome of the event. That gave me a little bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, this wouldn't be so hard after all.
May 11, 2017: It’s been 10 days, and it has been easier than I thought this would be. Overall, I feel so much better.
October 25, 2017: Besides being terrible about journaling this endeavor, I’ve been equally as terrible with sticking to this the last few weeks. It started simply. A drink with my best friend at dinner. One drink, and only that one time. Then a few days, maybe even weeks, had gone by and I was out with my boyfriend and I had a drink with him. Well, that became my new rule. I could drink if I was out with him and the max was no more than two. Soon that even shifted to when I would go and visit him at his work where he serves, I would get a drink while I sat and ate dinner and read for school. Granted, these times were still few and far between, but they were happening none the less. And this last week is when things got bad.
I was craving a good beer. So, being the nice guy that he is, the boy brought over some beers to keep me rolling through my homework. (Let me preface all of this and say that in NO WAY is any of this his fault. I asked him to bring me those things, and with how I had been drinking around him, he probably assumed that it was no big deal.) You see, last night I had four beers. I don’t say that to try and make it sound like a little or a lot, because everyone has a different scale for that range. I say that, because I want to be honest about this process. Four is a lot for me. Especially since those four came in a short time frame and when I was alone. I just figured, I’m awake and watching this show, so I might as well have another. I’m paying for that today. My mind feels foggy, my body aches because I’m actually allergic to gluten and still drink beer. So smart, right? But worse than that, I felt like I was covered in shame and guilt. I was so angry with myself. I laid in my bed crying. Not because of how I felt physically, but because of the spiritual and mental loss I was feeling.
(Spoiler: Here comes the big "Ah-ha" moment I hope you're paying attention.)
I made this commitment to myself, but I also made it to God. And these last few weeks I have been living from a place of justification and not discipline. I mean justification in the sense that I was using whatever excuse, because let’s be honest, that’s all those moments were-lame excuses. I was trying to justify my actions of having a drink here or a drink there. It worked for awhile, sure. I was able to push down the conviction. But last night took me right back to that Sunday morning when I felt the Lord leading me to this year of no drinking. Thank God for grace. Thank God for second (and third and fourth) chances. You see, I think I felt so terrible this morning because addiction runs so deep within my family. I am sadly realizing that I am just as prone to that mindset as anyone else.
Can I be honest? That terrifies me. I never want to get to a point where addiction runs my life. It has ripped a part too many memories and people in my family for me to allow an ounce of that in my heart and mind. This morning as I stared at my ceiling fan with tears rolling down my face, I had to swallow the heavy truth that I am not immune to this. I am no better than anyone else if I am living from a place of self-justification to make up for the things I choose.
So, today, I leave it with Jesus.
I remind myself that Jesus promised all sinful desires were crucified that day on the tree, and I do not live captive to them. Instead, they are captive to him and bow at his name. Thank you, Jesus! Today, I’m picking myself up and dusting off the disappointment and failure and moving forward. I can’t go back, so I refuse to sit and dwell there. Instead, I’m going to walk into the light stronger and more aware of my own mind and heart, thankful that Jesus walks with me along this road. Together, him and I will finish this year the way we intended.
Wow. Rereading those journal entries are hard. It's hard because those feelings are still real for me and as I type them here for you all to see, it's scary to be open and vulnerable. It's hard to admit that I'm human, messy, and definitely don't have it all together. It's how we like people to think of us though, right? I am always willing to crawl into the pit with other people in their messes and problems, but rarely shed light on my own battles. Yet, it is in those battles when I need people and real community more then ever. I learned that I can keep living a life making decisions and simply justify them; or I can live a life of discipline and be drawn closer and closer to the Father's heart where I feel safe, rested, seen, and secure. It took me a year to learn once again, that that is the best place to be. But, let's go back to the question.
Why would I drink in those moments or keep drinking? It's because I was trying to fill this craving, this void, or numb a feeling or emotion. Why would I do it? Because it was easier to pour a glass (or two) of wine then go into my office and spend time on my face praying, crying, worshipping, and working out whatever it was that was trying to knock me down. Why would I do it? It was easier. It felt better in the moment. It was the instant release that we often crave. But you guys, it is not worth it. It is not worth anything.
We were made to crave and those cravings were meant for God.
We were designed to desire more of God's attention, time, heart, and affection. We were made to crave community and relationship with the Father, the Good Shepherd, and the Spirit. We were made to fill ourselves with more of who God is and less of what this world, and ourselves, think we want.
This year was challenging at times, convicting as nothing else has been for me; but it was so worth it. I'm sure you're wondering if I'll go back to drinking. Honestly? Probably here and there. I love a good glass of wine with a great meal. But you better believe I have accountability in place, and have identified the thought process that would lead me to drink and the situations I need to avoid. I guess you could say I lean towards the side of not drinking, but I'm also okay with one every now and again.
I pray you are encouraged. I pray that if you struggle with addiction of any kind you bring light to the situation and know that you are not alone in the way you feel, think, or act. That there is NO shame, guilt, or condemnation being put on you by God. God is for you. God is with you. God will make a way for you. I pray that if you don't struggle but know someone who does, that you would seek out wisdom to know how to walk through it with them. Addiction is such a sly and slippery slope that traps up so many people. Let the light shine into those dark places. It's the only way out. I pray that if you're considering going dry for a season of time that you would. Try it. See what happens. Why not?
All My Best,