My first job out of college was as an intern for an inner city ministry. On a daily basis, I saw the consequences of addiction in families. Many of our clients struggled with abusing alcohol or drugs, and I was stunned to learn that alcohol was just as addictive as most street drugs, and it was more dangerous than those drugs during detox. At that time, I hadn’t yet become a mother, but it was still hard for me to comprehend someone neglecting their own child for the sake of drugs or alcohol. How could a parent could put their own child in harm’s way in order to get another hit or another drink?
Fast forward about 10 years, to September 2011. I am now a mom to three children, a teacher, an active member of my church. And one morning, I wake up and find myself in rehab.
Hi, my name is Amanda, and I am an alcoholic.
How did I get there? Up until the previous year, alcohol had no role in my life. I drank on occasion, usually only one drink, no more than two. After my ministry internship I got married, had three beautiful children, and had a group of friends from church that were as close as family. But over time, my marriage had begun to deteriorate. Small, biting comments from my husband eventually became full blown accusations such as, “You are not a Christian.” “If anyone really knew you, they would be disgusted with you.” “You are ugly.” “You are stupid.” I began to believe these comments. I also lived in constant fear of his physically threatening anger.
My daily anxiety was overwhelming. One day, I had a glass of wine at home, and it changed the way I felt. Alcohol numbed my emotions, and suddenly life felt a little more bearable. The drinking quickly spiraled out of control. I began picking up my kids from school while intoxicated, and leaving my baby at home, asleep in the crib, to run to the store and get more alcohol. I tried to stop on my own, but it was impossible.
My husband did not cause me to become an alcoholic. Alcoholism and addiction run in my family, but that isn’t why I became an alcoholic either. I became an alcoholic because I let what others think and say about me become more important than what God thinks about me. In fact, other people’s thoughts and opinions became my god, my idol. In my mind, those horrible words and actions weren’t just coming from someone close to me. They were coming from God Himself. My name, Amanda, means “worthy of love”, but that became impossible to believe. Instead of knowing I was a beloved child of God, I decided that I was worthless.
As my drinking worsened, my lack of control and deceit seemed to just confirm my worthlessness. I lied to family and friends in order to cover up my drinking. I emotionally abandoned my children. I was on the fast track to either killing myself or someone else. I had no hope.
When I woke up in rehab that September morning, I wanted to die. But God, in His graciousness, had let my worst nightmare come true. Every friend, family member, and even every acquaintance now knew my darkest secret. I was exposed, and I felt like the chief of sinners to everyone, including myself. I had two choices: I could die, or I could turn to God. God had led me to the point where I had to solely rely on Him for my identity. I was scared that God wasn’t really there or that He really didn’t love me. But I was finally forced to trust Him, and find out.
And God showed up.
It’s still a work in progress, but I am finally able to see that despite what others think of me (or what I perceive they think of me), I am a beautiful person with a unique purpose in life. I am finally able to take care of myself. Other people’s judgment of me, whether in church or out, doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is my relationship with God. I am learning to make Him the center of everything I do. Because I know He loves me, I can trust in Him instead of looking to others for love and guidance.
Though my strength comes from God alone, He has used other people to show me my identity in Him. In the recovery process, I have made many friends who are just like me. They are amazing, beautiful people who have been deemed failures by society and the church because they struggle with addiction. We have a common bond of hitting the bottom and seeing God lift us up as we depend solely on Him. We are more aware than many Christians that we are hopeless without Him. And these people truly love me, shortcomings and all.
God has used them to show me that even as I admit that I am Amanda, “recovering alcoholic”, I am also Amanda, “worthy of love”.
Amanda is a mom to three kids and a teacher of children with autism. She is also a recovering alcoholic who is finding her voice again. You can read more about her journey at Recovering My Words.