Archive | February, 2014

The Power of Prayer (and a Pint of Ben and Jerry’s)

13 Feb

Several years ago, I was seated next to a woman at a birthday dinner for a friend. I knew her, but not well.  I had heard she was going through a rough separation with her husband but didn’t know the details.  She had three small children and when I had seen her occasionally around the neighborhood, she looked like she had been through the ringer.  During our conversation, she opened up and told me about her situation.  It was a terrible story which involved her husband having a drug addiction she was unaware of and spending most of their savings, getting deeper and deeper in debt to his habit.  As I listened in disbelief and sympathy, I asked her how in the world she got through it.  She told me that she didn’t get through it alone.  She said that she felt as though someone, or something, picked her up and helped her to be able to carry on with each day to do what she needed to for her children and herself.  She told me that she felt God’s presence and that she was convinced that it was He who provided her with the strength she needed at her worst hour.  Having had several cocktails already, I tried to keep myself from outwardly displaying through facial expressions or body language that I thought she was completely nuts.  Um, yeah, ok…some strange force picked you up and carried you through your day.   And I suppose there were little green men helping you push your shopping cart at the grocery store as well.

After that night, I think I only saw her one other time.  I heard that she and her husband reconciled, that he got help and was able to beat his addiction, and they managed to keep their family together.  They also spent a great deal of time focusing on their faith and good fortune, which they believed was brought to them by God.  I didn’t think about this woman for years, until recently.  And I can honestly say that now I get it.  I completely understand what she meant when she said that something much greater and more powerful than anything she had ever known lifted her up and carried her until she could stand again on her own two feet.

Growing up, the extent of my religious practices involved reluctantly going to church on major holidays, like Christmas and Easter, and trying to stay awake.  I knew nothing about the Bible, Christianity, or theology. More importantly, I knew nothing about spirituality, or the fact that spirituality and religion are two completely separate things.   After getting married in the Catholic church, and especially after our children were born, I started to attend church much more regularly.  But still, only when things got rough, or when dealing with the loss of a loved one, did I turn my glance upwards, mostly looking for answers.  Then there were the many times, usually while paying homage to the porcelain god after a night of mixing drinks, that I either asked God to help me stop feeling so sick or vowed to Him that I would never drink again.  That never lasted very long.

When I took my last drink almost 21 months ago, the realization that I could never, ever pick up a drink again was beyond overwhelming.  It seemed downright impossible.  Add to that the knowledge that no one could do this for me, or really do anything to help but be there to support me, and that’s more than rubbing salt in the wound.  There was no magic pill that a doctor could prescribe.  There was no therapist who could magically remove the compulsion to drink.  There was no trainer, life coach, personal assistant, clergy, shaman, or magic wand.  There was only me.  And, when I was ready to know, understand and trust it, my Higher Power (HP).

I often think that if I only knew when raising my first child what I now know while raising the third, my life would have been so much calmer.  But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.  While I was immersed in diapers, nursing, bottles, spit-up, and sleepless nights, I couldn’t see that if I only took a deep breath and calmed down, I could have enjoyed that precious time alone with a beautiful new life.  By the time I got to my third child, I wasn’t obsessed about sanitizing a pacifier after it fell to the ground, or as much of a sleep-nazi about nap time and schedules.   He got thrown into his carseat, whatever time of day, to shuttle the other two kids around to their activities.  He had to just go with the flow. In fact, I would often just put the baby down for a while in his little playpen and just let him be…without hovering over him to make sure he was still breathing every few minutes!

Similarly, if I had only known during those first few weeks or sobriety what I know now, it would not have been quite as torturous.  Don’t get me wrong, it still would have been pure hell, but the knowledge I have now certainly would have helped.  Admitting having a life that is unmanageable due to an addiction to alcohol is the first huge step.  Understanding that you cannot fully recover from that addiction without turning to, and relying on, your HP is the next crucial turn.  That’s the magic bullet.  The power of determination helps.  The power of friendship and support helps.  The power of inner strength helps.  But the power of prayer heals.

When I started to understand that if I was willing to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, the road to recovery would be much smoother.  There will still be many bumps and potholes, but that belief and willingness helps to pave a smoother path.  I used to sit in church and during the quiet prayer time after communion, I would hold my head in my hands and cry silently.  I was miserable.  And usually hungover as it was a Sunday morning.  I positioned myself physically as far away from anyone, including my family, as I possibly could, even in the same pew.  I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone.  I chose to sit and drown in my depression.  I asked God for help.  But it didn’t come.  On my terms anyway…

As I learned more and more during my recovery, and truly trusted in turning things over to my HP, I started to see the magic at work.  I noticed that somehow I would hear something from a friend (angel?) on a day when that was exactly what I needed to hear.  And I actually was listening for a change.  I realized that the people who surrounded me where there for a specific reason.  A kind word of support or pat on the back worked wonders for my will to fight on.  I saw that the fortuitous encounter with a well-respected pastor with whom I shared my story recently was probably no accident.

I have prayed for strength for my recovery and I am still sober, 626 days later.  I have prayed for support and understanding from family and friends and I have that.  I have prayed for healing and learning to forgive myself and I am on the right path.  I have prayed for guidance with some tough situations and have gotten it.  I have prayed for the ability to sit quietly and listen and I’m getting better at that. Sometimes I will need a kick in the head to remember to turn to prayer and my HP when things get really rough, but hopefully I will get that kick too from the people who care about me and whom God has put in my life to help me.  As for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s, that can help immensely as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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