My husband and I switched churches when I was pregnant with our 2nd child, Jack. Our first “official” service just so happened to be on Easter, so we frequently joke about how our church anniversary coincides with Easter every year.
One of the big reasons we left our old church was simple- we weren’t growing spiritually. We were in that comfortable, dead zone of Christianity. Showing up on Sunday, saying superficial hellos and goodbyes to familiar faces and very comfortable with our sins. Fast forward to this year (2018) we have been members for 4 years and have been challenged in many ways. A sermon last week inspired this post titled “Sober” as in August I made a decision to cut back drastically on my alcohol consumption. I always get flustered and feel super awkward talking about the reasons for going almost completely sober because to some it makes no sense and quite frankly I get it.
I’m not an alcoholic if you view alcoholism only through a narrow lens of stereotypes. You won’t find me passed out on a sidewalk with an empty liter of vodka in my hand. You won’t see our children unfed or wearing shoes too small because I’m blowing our budget on booze. You won’t see me pulled over at night, having field sobriety tests performed in the darkness. You won’t see the stereotype of addiction portrayed as day drunk, homeless, jobless and judged by passersby. That’s because my behaviors and attitudes towards alcohol are seemingly acceptable and don’t appear to harm others.
I’d have a large glass of wine at the end of a hard day.
I’d have a large glass of wine when I’m feeling anxious in social situations.
I’d make jokes about how my kids are ridiculous, therefore I need wine, STAT.
I’m a happy drunk, not someone that picks fights.
I’m not hanging out in the bars getting into trouble.
My husband works a crap ton and I bear the mental load therefore I deserve my wine.
I can’t stop the anxious thoughts racing in my head, so wine “helps”.
I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking, so wine “helps”.
I don’t drink and drive, I deliberately plan to take a cab or have a sober driver to take me home.
So on the outside, my behaviors are acceptable, normal and almost expected given my season of life (motherhood) and where I live (Wisconsin). Nearly every event and occasion these days has alcohol involved. I did a Facebook search in my area and found Wine & Workout, Corkscrews & Snowshoes, Sip and Shop, Mimosas and Moms– Alcohol is abundant and is almost offered as a source of bribery for day-to-day events and living. (*If you’re a participant or host of these event, please bear in mind there is no judgement, truly- just a request to be respectful to those who choose to not partake in the partay).
Wine seemed to help bring down the terrifying, anxious energy I would experience some days, calm me when I was struggling in large groups of people that I don’t know that well, and it was also a comfortable sense of identity. I’d get tagged in wine memes, I’d share wine memes, I’d post selfies with wine glass #momlife. I remember my 31st birthday when I got 8 bottles of wine because everyone that came brought a bottle of wine.
Over the last year I started to feel convicted but it wasn’t until this August I finally decided enough was enough. After spending time facing situations instead of avoiding them, I began to wake up to the reality of my drinking. I began to feel uncomfortable with how 1 large glass, turned to 2… turned to 3… turned to a bottle and a hangover. I began to feel uncomfortable that I was associated with my love of wine… There was a gentle voice that seemed to be calling to me to that my behaviors weren’t serving me (even though they’re normalized in Wisconsin and drinking culture).
So August 13th, I removed nearly every piece of decor, wine glass, pairing cookbook, and bottle and put it into our basement for safe keeping for awhile. It was a way for me to clear my space and my head from the lingering thoughts of wine. The first 60 days of absolute sobriety were strange as I began to navigate social outings with La Criox in hand and share to a few close friends that I was taking a break. I sent my family a message that I wouldn’t be drinking at my brother’s upcoming wedding which was met with supportive words. I put up this sign in replacement of a wine sign as a reminder of surrender and following God’s plan, not my own. Where a wine rack used to be I now display tea, hot cocoa and decaf coffee.
“Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever your do and He will establish your plans.”
Then positive things started to happen- I found myself sleeping deeply through the night again. I found myself waking up rested with a clear mind, instead of tired and foggy a couple days a week. I found myself able to get into a really good morning routine involving stretching/yoga, coffee and my bible study. After about 30 days I started to realize that instead of helping my stress, anxiety and sleeplessness I was simply masking them with wine.
Over the last year my church has played a central role in making changes to deepen my relationship with Christ and make choices that serve to worship the King, not the idols of this Earth. When one of our Pastors gave an incredible sermon on “Alcoholic Drunkenness vs. Holy Spirit Filling” it was another reminder that when we choose to worship or idolize the wrong things there is less room for spiritual growth. When we drink, what becomes of our thoughts and actions? Do we do and say things we wouldn’t do normally? I will be the first to slowly raise my hand and admit I don’t think, speak or act the way I normally would in moments of drunkenness.
Sometimes we rationalize our behaviors because at least they’re better than someone else’s or because it’s considered socially acceptable. Sometimes we hide our sins and secrets behind perfect appearances. We fear judgement, change and spiritual conviction. We fear humbling ourselves and leaving behind a piece of who we are. We fear what awaits for us when we shed the chains of what is holding us back from real connection and facing feelings. Please know this is written with ZERO judgement and this isn’t some self-righteous finger wagging speech telling you to get sober. I hope you can read this and know that you have an ally should you need someone to talk to, pray for you or support you should you feel convicted to follow a new path.
If you’d like to listen to the church sermon I reference you can listen HERE! This sermon is among many that has touched on incredibly difficult topics this year. I’m ridiculously thankful for our pastoral team and our church for bringing light and shedding truth on difficult to approach subjects.