The Trouble With Bottles

There are a few things in life that spook me, that make me completely uncomfortable within myself.  A couple of them relate to drinking.

Firstly if I ever dream that I have been drinking, always within the dream I get this overwhelming feeling of guilt, a guilt so deep that it feels like I could never live with myself again.  Then I wake up from the dream and it’s like I don’t know where I am, I don’t know what is real, was it a dream, if so why have I woke with the same guilt I was feeling within the dream.  I always wake from these with a heavy heart beat and a cold sweat, it take time to work out the truth, that this was all a dream and I’m still sober, I’m still able to count my days, I won’t have to start again and I haven’t failed.  That feeling of guilt within the dreams is enough to know I can never drink again.

The other was something that happened again on Wednesday evening, for only the second time, but it drove me mad for a short while, but it was something I couldn’t deal with.

I was on my way to a friends house for our Connect group social, we were having a meal which Ally was cooking, so I took along a couple of bottles of fruit juice.  These were only fruit juice, nothing alcoholic, just juice, yet they were in glass bottles, I chose them because they don’t resemble bottles of wine, my old nemesis, the last time I experienced this problem the bottles in question looked like wine bottles.

So I put the two bottles in a carrier bag and set off to walk to Ally’s house, just around the corner from mine.  I had no sooner got to my gate and I was feeling uncomfortable, like the whole world was watching me suspiciously.

Why?

I was just walking, with a carrier bag, with a couple of bottles of fruit juice, just on the way to a friends, so where’s the problem?

The problem for me lies in the fact that bottles in carrier bags make noises when they bang together.  Every time they made that clanging sound, I felt uncomfortable, anxious, guilty.

Memories of my dark past resurfaced, a past I try to put behind me, but every now and again memories rise that can shake me.

My choice of drink when at home was Rose Wine, I would fetch two bottles every night I was at home, together with cans of beer, the nights in between I would be out drinking anyway, but more often that not, five nights a week I would go buy two bottles of wine from the shop around the corner and do everything I could to sneak them into the house without making it obvious what I had brought.

I don’t know why I tried so hard to hide them, as I would leave the empties on the side the next morning anyway, but in my crazy mixed up mind, I would try to get these in the house without making a sound and hide them down the side of the settee, if they made a noise, I would rush in quickly with a sense of guilt, yet it never stopped me drinking and after all I left the empties for all to see anyway, but an addicted mind does what an addicted mind does.

So why now, why two and half years later, last time it was just a couple of months from my sobriety date of 29th March 2012, this time though, it was so far back in the past, yet these guilty feelings still arose.

As I walked the bottles continued to bang together, it seemed in my mind to get louder and I found myself looking around to make sure no one else was on the street and would see me.  I know this sounds so stupid, but to me it was so real, I’m not sure others can relate to it, but maybe some can.

Eventually, after even telling the bottles to shut up, I took one out of the bag and carried it in my hand, the bag in one hand and the bottle in the other, now that stopped them banging together and eased my guilt.

I walked the rest of the way with one bottle in each hand, the funny thing was I wasn’t bothered how it looked that I had one bottle in a bag and the other out in the open, the guilt was in the noise, that echoed through the mind like a painful memory.

When I got there, I didn’t expand on why, I just put the bottles down on the table and carried on as if nothing had happened.  I didn’t mention it, I’m not sure any one could fully understand how I felt about it or why I would feel that way about it.

I must say, I’ve avoided this sort of situation for almost two years, I thought it would be okay this time, but obviously it wasn’t.  The thing is I still don’t want to drink, none of this was about having an urge to drink, far from it.  It’s about the guilt of the past, the memories of the darkest parts of who I was.  I know I’m free from that past, yet these feelings of guilt, they keep it real, a real reminder that I am never going back to who I was.

I know I have been set free from the addiction by the Grace of God and the immense sense of freedom that brings. I know I have come so far in the last two and half years, although I know there is still work to be done.

The guilt of who I was still runs deep, the shame can be brought to the surface so easily, yet each time I come to this and conquer it, I am strengthened, the best lessons in life come through the trials and tests, from the failures and defeats, they’re the best lessons.

I know there is little to learn in just winning, sometimes we have to face the defeat to learn how to win.

FREEDOM REIGNS by JESUS CULTURE
Where the spirit of the Lord is
There is freedom
Where the spirit of the Lord is
There is freedom

Lift Your eyes to heaven
There is freedom
Lift Your eyes to heaven
There is freedom

Freedom reigns in this place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

If You’re tired and thirsty
There is freedom
If You’re tired and thirsty
There is freedom

Give Your all to Jesus
Give him all, there is freedom
Give Your all to Jesus
There is freedom

Freedom reigns in this place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

If your burden’s heavy
He brings freedom
If your burden’s heavy
He brings freedom

If you’re hurt and broken
He brings freedom
If you’re hurt and broken
He brings freedom

Freedom reigns in this place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

Great is Your faithfulness
Great is Your faithfulness

Verse of the Day – Psalm 13:5-6

Psalm 13:5-6

Psalm 13:5-6

Tonight I celebrate 134 weeks sober, I praise The Lord as He has been so good to me.

YOUR PRAISE WILL EVER BE ON MY LIPS by KALLEY HEILIGENTHAL
Your love is devoted
Like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that is tested
Like a covenant of old

Your love is enduring
Through the winter rain
Beyond the Horizon
With mercy for today

Faithful, You have been
Faithful, You will be
You pledge Yourself to me and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips,
Ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips,
Ever be on my lips

You father the orphan
Your kindness made us whole
You shoulder our weakness
As grace restores the soul

You’re making me like You
Clothing me in white
Bringing beauty from ashes
For you will have Your bride

Faithful, You have been
Faithful, You will be
You pledge Yourself to me and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips,
Ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips,
Ever be on my lips

And You will be praised
And You will be praised
With angels and saints
We sing worthy are You, Lord

Your praise will ever be on my lips,
Ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips,
Ever be on my lips

Verse of the Day – Psalm 10:14

Psalm 10:14

Psalm 10:14

The Lord saw all my trouble and my grief, when I found myself feeling all alone, He held out His hands for me to hold, so I knew I would never be alone again.

NOW I SING by POCKET FULL OF ROCKS
Let the world say that I’m crazy
Let the world call me a fool
But they just don’t know what I’ve found in You, my precious jewel
Let the world say that I’ve lost my mind and that I have no ground to stand
But they just don’t know what it’s like
To have the King of the universe hold your hand

So I sing, we dance before You Lord
I sing, we dance before You Lord
I can’t help but sing, we dance before You Lord
Lord I sing, we dance before You Lord

Let the world say that I’m crazy
Let the world call me a fool
But they just don’t know what I’ve found in You, my precious jewel
Let the world say that I’ve lost my mind
And that I have no ground to stand
But they just don’t know what it’s like
To have the king of the universe hold Your hand

So I sing, we dance before You Lord
I sing, we dance before You Lord
I can’t help but sing, we dance before You Lord
Lord I sing, we dance before You Lord

So let the world say I can’t dance,
That I’ve got no rhythm at all
They say that You can’t even two-step,
If You tried You’d trip and fall
And there are many ballerinas
With much more grace than me
But I tell ya, I’m God’s favorite,
He’s got eyes only for me

So I sing, we dance before You Lord
I sing, we dance before You Lord
I can’t help but sing, we dance before You Lord
Lord I sing, we dance before You Lord

Verse of the Day – Psalm 16:2

Psalm 16:2

Psalm 16:2

What I have in my life now, I have only because of His Grace that saved me from myself.

THANK YOU by JAKE HAMILTON & KIM WALKER-SMITH
Thank you for the summer
Thank you for the rain
And thank you for the pleasure
Thank you for the pain
And thank you for the flowers that bloom in early May
And thank you for the winter that washes fall away

I want to say thank you
I want to say thank you
Thank you for it all

Thank you for the deserts
Thank you for the trees
Thank you for the failures and for the victories.
Thank you for the pruning that gives me room to grow.
Thank you for the seasons where I learn to reap and sow

I want to say thank you
I want to say thank you
Thank you for it all

So come let us worship
Let us a release a joyful sound
Let us enter his presence
Let us all bow down
Let us enter his presence
Let us all bow down

Verse of the Day – 2 Thessalonians 3:13

2 Thessalonians 3:13

2 Thessalonians 3:13

Though sometimes other people make it hard to keep doing what is good, it is something I know I must push on and strive for.

JESUS DIED MY SOUL TO SAVE by POCKET FULL OF ROCKS
Well, I stand amazed at Your love for me
That lonely night in Gethsemane
This sinner’s heart can’t help but thrill
To hear You pray, ‘Father, not my will’

What depth of love, what reach of grace
Oh, how my grateful heart now aches
To sing it louder, the refrain
Jesus died, my soul to save

Atonement full applied to me
The blood that spilled at Calvary
Has swallowed all my sin and shame
I’m reconciled in Jesus’ name

What depth of love, what reach of grace
Oh, how my grateful heart now aches
To sing it louder, the refrain
Jesus died, my soul to save

Oh, such pleasure, oh, such pain
The Father’s wrath and fury laid
On Christ whom saints and angels praise
Jesus died, my soul to save

Come you broken, bound by sin
And let your weary journey end
Come and lay your burdens down
Where mercy rules and peace abounds

What depth of love, what reach of grace
Oh, how my grateful heart now aches
To sing it louder, the refrain
Jesus died, my soul to save
Jesus died, my soul to save

What can wash away my sin
Nothing but the blood
What can make me whole again
Nothing but the blood

Verse of the Day – 2 Corinthians 12:10

2 Corinthians 12:10

2 Corinthians 12:10

For some call me weak for suffering my alcohol addiction, yet in this weakness He gives me the strength to resist and fight the temptation.

STRONG IN US by JEREMY RIDDLE & KALLEY HEILIGENTHAL
Our God is strong in us
His love has overcome
He is alive in us
He is the risen one
The same power that raised Him up
Is the power that lives in us
Our God is strong in us
Our God is strong in us

When darkness rises all around us
We will see His glory
Breaking through the night
The King in all His wonder
Fills us with His power
Christ in us the answer
A hope for all the world

Our God is strong in us
His love has overcome
He is alive in us
He is the risen one
The same power that raised Him up
Is the power that lives in us
Our God is strong in us
Our God is strong in us

His promise stands throughout the ages
He will never leave us
We are not alone
Greater than our weakness
He is strong to save us
We will stand victorious
A hope for all the world

Lift Him up, let the whole world see
We will never stop singing
Lift Him up, let the whole world hear
We will never stop shouting
Lift Him up, every voice in praise
Everyone lift Him up, lift Him up

Playing Out Proverbs 11:14

Yesterday evening I sat down to catch up on my journal, I had failed to make an entry for Friday night, so I completed that entry and then last night’s.  That’s when it hit me really, how the events of Friday evening hadn’t really bothered me.

My past issues with drinking are no secret and form the basis of this blog, the recovery from struggling alcoholic, who when everything fell apart became so desperate to end his own life, only to find a way out through turning to God.

For about a year after I quit drinking I was still going to my local pub, quite happy in the same company of those I had previously drank with, but happy to enjoy just a lime and soda.  Eventually those friends drifted away and I just stopped going there early last year, around the time of my first sober anniversary.

Then around this time last year I began to sink into a depression, things began to change, everyday situations became that little bit harder to deal with, things that just weren’t right were almost impossible to deal with, I found myself spending time in tears for no reason at all.

As Christmas approached there were a few events that I was previously invited to and had agreed to go to, the first being the work’s Christmas dinner and the other being a good friend’s 40th birthday party.

Then a few weeks before the Christmas dinner, someone at work called me weak for having a drinking habit and deciding not to drink.  Obviously this person’s life is in such great shape they have never had to struggle at all and fell into a trap which they could not escape, the endless cycle that being an alcoholic involves.  So when it came to the day of the dinner, I had a massive panic attack and really didn’t want to go.

I couldn’t bring myself to get ready, I had made it clear well before the incident at work that I was only going for the meal and then going home, but now I didn’t want to go at all.  I had no fear of drinking, I just didn’t want to be there.

It was a last minute decision, but I pulled myself together, got ready and walked there, got myself a coke and stayed for the meal.  There was a sense of anxiousness all the way through the evening, it was like I was just watching the clock, not really involving myself in any conversation, just passing the time.  Then when everyone else left to carry on drinking around town, I walked home alone, the way I had always intended, but happy to be away from there.

Then when it came to my friend’s birthday I cracked once again.  He was one of the first people outside of those at Church that I told about my drinking problem and was extremely understanding, we had known each other since school and when I needed money, he gave me a few days work here and there.

But come the day I caved in, my panic set in and this time, I just hid.  I didn’t go, I couldn’t even bring myself to text or call him, to explain, I just chickened out, the fear had set in and I was hiding away from the world.

On both occasions I had no fear about drinking, I had no problem with being with people that drank, yet the fear of going into one of these places was so great I couldn’t do it, not without a deep internal struggle.  I made the decision a long time ago that I wouldn’t be going to this year’s Christmas Dinner, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to feel uncomfortable again, regardless of what anyone says, I won’t be changing my mind.

Yet all that being said, I’ve found myself in a pub twice this year and on both occasions I’ve had no fear, no worry, no panic, nothing.  Last night made me wonder why that was, that these two occasions were no problem, yet still the other ones are and I found the answer.

Proverbs 11:14

Proverbs 11:14

Both occasions I have been in the safety of my Connect Group, an abundance of Counselors.

I joined my Connect Group back in January last year, some of those people in the group knew my testimony and my problems, some were new friends that I have come to know that story as the weeks have passed.  I think I have the dubious honour of since January last year, being the only ever present, certainly in our Connect group, but in all the Church’s Connect groups too, that’s how much being within the company of these people means to me, I never miss.

So when a social night was arranged for not only our group, but a couple of others to come together for a quiet summer drink by the river, I had no problem with saying yes.  Even though that even back then I was definite that I wasn’t going to Christmas dinner because I didn’t want to be in that atmosphere, I was more than happy to sit with my Coke whilst my friends enjoyed a beer or a wine, my two old friends, with no fear, no panic, none at all.

Then a month or so ago, the idea of the group entering a pub quiz to raise money for one of the local schools came up, my reputation of being the quiz master of our group and indeed the Church meant the idea was welcomed with enthusiasm.  Once again, I had no problem with saying yes, because I felt safe with these people, even though a new couple who know very little about my testimony,  had agreed to go with us, I still had no fear at all, I was looking forward to it.

We had a great night, granted we were in the lead until the very last round, just missing out by two points, with a dubious double point picture round to finish, but we did well.  Once again I had no problems sitting there with a Coke whilst the others drank, the company meant more than anything else.

These people of my Connect Group have stood beside me all along, they’ve prayed for me when I’ve been struggling, they have become more than just friends.

My decision regarding Christmas hasn’t changed, I still won’t be going, nothing is going to change that.  It’s not that I dislike the people I work with, it’s not even that I fear drinking or don’t want to be around others drinking, it’s just that I feel far more content in the safety of those that I know that have my back.

Today is my 934th SoberDay, my 1000th SoberDay will be on Christmas even and that is definitely one anniversary I won’t be missing.

DON’T BE AFRAID by GREEN RIVER ORDINANCE
There’s a ringing in my head, there’s a ringing in my heart
That don’t belong
Drowning desperately in red
I know all the things I’ve said that don’t belong
And heavy hearted, I hear it calling

Don’t be afraid, any longer
But don’t be afraid, you’re so much stronger
Than this

There are lines we haven’t crossed
Aspirations that we tossed along the way
Even though we said we could
I just shook my head and stood there
In the way
And heavy hearted, I hear it calling

Don’t be afraid, any longer
But don’t be afraid, you’re so much stronger
Than this, know my love is here

There’s a spark in the way, of the dream that will no fade
It’s a light, in the dark, and you cannot find your way
Whoa, whoa.
There’s a spark in the way, another dream that will not fade,
There’s a light in the dark, that’s found your way

But don’t be afraid, any longer
But don’t be afraid, you’re so much stronger, you’re so much stronger
Than you used to be
You’re so much stronger, you’re so much stronger
Than you used to be
Know my love is so much stronger