Sunday, December 21, 2008

God's Grace


3 a.m. is just too early to wake on a day that you have deliberately left without a single plan in the world - just because you need the rest.  I went outside in my pajamas, in the 2º morning, taking pictures of lights and the moon.  And I am hoping to go back to bed after I post this.  

Reading blogs this morning, I am reminded of the person I used to be.  The person who needed to change.  And I thank God that he takes the time to personally change us.   I used to have a sponsor who said "I can't change me, only God can change me."  I believe that.  If I had the power to change me, I would have stopped drinking long before I created the wreckage I did.  I knew I was an alcoholic for at least eleven years before I got sober.  At least 90% of the days in that eleven years, I swore I wasn't going to drink that day.  I did not want to be an alcoholic.  I did not want to be a drunk.  But I was.  And if I had the power to change me, I would have.  

At the tender age of 32, I had enough and called AA.  They told me to ask God for help, so I did.  And then I did the rest of the stuff they told me to do.  I stayed sober.  I left my husband. I got a job and a nice townhouse and lived there with my children.  I went to meetings, was active in service, sponsored people, drove people around, gave people money, etc.  And after a while, I started patting myself on the back.  Look at what I did!  I was sober!  I went to meetings!  I was in AA service!  I WORKED steps!  I was sober!  

And after a little while longer, I started looking at all of you.  Well, you just didn't measure up!  You didn't WORK as hard as I did!  Some of the folks in AA were lazy!  Some of them weren't staying sober!  Some of them didn't work steps!  Many of them didn't have jobs!  Some of the mothers collected welfare and food stamps!  Well, gee, I figured I was financing their selfish lifestyle with my hard WORK!  So I went to my meetings in my little business suits and heels and looked down my nose at people who had all day to do nothing but whatever they wanted.  

And after a little while longer, I was still sober, but I wanted to die.  I would drive to the Safeway parking lot on my way home from work at night and sit and cry.  Sit in the parking lot and cry.  I was so tired.  I thought of George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life" and how all those people were praying for him... and I knew no one was praying for me.  (I didn't connect the dots that George had spent his life in service to all those people, but that's another post.)  My life was far too difficult.  

And after a little while longer, my boss sent me to the Employee Assistance Program, it seems she thought I needed help!  Me?  Sober almost 5 years - how could I need help?  The person I called at the EAP thought I needed to be seen immediately.  So, I left my workplace that day for a doctor's appointment, not knowing that I would never return.  The doctor wanted me to take some valium to calm down - but I refused.  I was SOBER!  Didn't he know who he was talking to?   He asked me to call him the next day.  When I called him the next day he told me I had the choice of driving to the nearest hospital and checking in within the hour, or he would call an ambulance and have me picked up.  I got a friend to drive me to the hospital.

So, here I was, in the locked ward of the hospital!  With almost 5 years of sobriety!  What about all that WORK I had done?  If you find yourself in such a situation and don't do some serious self-appraisal, you probably REALLY belong there.  I got on my knees in my room and humbly asked God for help.   I sat in groups and listened to people who were really mentally ill, and learned to have some compassion for them.  I got on the phone and asked for help from my friends and family.  I called the women I sponsored and told them my predicament.  (One of them actually said "Oh No!  Now I have to get a new sponsor!")   I got a pass to go to an AA meeting and a friend came and picked me up and took me.  Imagine ME as the passenger and not the driver in such a circumstance!  Unheard of!  

When I got out of the hospital, I couldn't work.  I went on short term disability.  I got my kids off for school every day and then went down to the AA club and went to meetings and sat around with all the people I had judged so harshly.  There was a lot more to those folks than I had seen when I was rushing in and out of meetings.  I learned to love the people I had deemed the most "worthless" in my self-important haste.  

I do not know why God loved me so much that he saved me in this way, but I am so incredibly grateful.  I could not have gone on the way I was - so full of self-righteous anger and hatred.  I don't think I would have picked up a drink, I think I would have died.  And frankly, death would have been a relief.  

I became a real part of my AA group, not a big shot in service, but a real member.  I made the kind of friends I had never had before.  And when I needed a few bucks, I had some friends who would "let" me clean houses for them.  I learned to love cleaning toilets.  It was so honorable.  It was so straight-forward.  It was decent work.  I made a few bucks that I felt I had really earned.  It was like getting rewired, because I had never learned these things before.  

I trusted God every single day to put me where I needed to be, and asked him constantly to show me what I needed to do next.  There is no pride in that.  There is a wonderful new thing called humility.  To humbly walk where God leads is the greatest joy I can know.  

I lost a lot - I ended up being homeless, I lost custody of my children, I had no car, etc.  But what I gained was far more.  I learned that I do not keep me sober.  I learned that all my WORK just keeps me busy, but doesn't keep me sober.  Only God can change me.  I cannot change me.

I am so so so so so so grateful that he loves so much.  

In case you have never read my blog before:  By the Grace of God, I later went gradually back to work. I started a new career. I went to college and within 6 years had my master's degree. My kids came back into my life.  I got promotions.  I bought a house.  I bought another house.  I stayed sober.  But the important thing is the first thing:  By the Grace of God.  The Grace of a Loving God who loves me more than I could ever deserve.    Sometimes the best things are what appear to be the worst things.  God is very clever that way!

16 comments:

dAAve said...

[clap clap clap]
Well done!!
Well done!!

Now, go to bed.

Laura said...

Amen!

Scott W said...

Wow. And you wonder why you woke so early on a Sunday morning. Obviously it was to share that incredible story with us.

There are some I wish could read those words and understand them.

Kim A. said...

MC--This is why I love going to open AA speaker meetings. Hearing honesty is action helps me to look at my own honesty. My favorite quote is "Success isn't where you are--it's how far you've come".

Namaste

Scott said...

just when I thought I was really, really important... and didn't realize it until...
until I happened by and read this post.

Thank you MC and HP for stopping me cold in my tracks for a few moments to take stock of my attitude. I can relate to much of what you've shared here. Thank You and Merry Christmas!

Mark said...

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

I really mean that...

What a breath of fresh air your experience is today. I haven't heard words like these in a long time.

Thank You!

wendy said...

Hope you got some more rest - those days without plans are definitely something to look forward to. This post touched me in many ways, thanks for sharing.

Trailboss said...

You have come a long long way Mary. You have told a very inspiring story as evidenced by the number of thank yous posted. You are a remarkable woman.

Lou said...

An amazing & inspiring story!

steveroni said...

Awesome post.

Yes, God is very clever--He invented "clever". He also invented "slowwww", and for me, He sometimes seems sooo slowww.

Thank you, Mary--again.

Bill said...

I feel like I just got a scalp massage. I'm tingling. That was an electrifying, honest, and inspirational post, and you wrote just what I needed to hear today.

Thanks!

Patty said...

Thanks so much for sharing this part of your story today Mary. Your experience strength and hope has really helped me in my recovery today as I could very much relate to the path you were on. Thanks again.

Pam said...

Mary, I think you've been needing to say a lot of that, but more importantly I think a lot of us (well me) needed to hear all of that.
Thank you...sending you smooochy love.

Scott W said...

Oooh yea! Scalp massages and smoochy love!

As Zane would say, it don't get any better than that!

Syd said...

Thanks MC for sharing that. I think that sometimes I start lapsing back into thinking that I have the answers. I don't. God does.

jeanne leigh said...

Mary,

Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us. Beautiful. You are beautiful. peace, JLD