have you ever...

***This is the hardest, most painful post I've ever written.  Please be nice in your comments.  And if you start reading please read all the way through.  Thanks for being part of my journey.  Writing this frees me from a lot of shame I've carried for a long time.  Here's to healing from the past.***  

**Please also note that the events I will share and relay are of MY opinion and viewpoint as a child/young adult.  I share to help others who struggle with alcohol or who live/have lived with alcoholics.**  

Those who know me may or may not know that I never drink alcohol.

Those who know me a little better may think that it's a "good Christian" vs "bad Christian' sort of issue for me because of my faith.  It's not.  I think the choice whether or not to drink has nothing to do with if you love Jesus or not, at least not for "normal" people.

For me the reason is much, much deeper.  It's only been the last year of my life that I could even SMELL alcohol without having a near anxiety attack.  And that's a true statement.

You see I lived with "the alcoholic" and "the codependent" for eighteen long and hellish years of my life and suffered the results of their behavior for several more.  I firmly believe that my life would have been severely different had alcohol not been as much of my life as breakfast in the morning.    

Consider the following to understand my view:

Have you ever had to listen to late night arguments fueled by drunkenness?
Have you ever you ever had to lie about injuries to "the codependent" under threat of upsetting "the alcoholic"?
Have you ever gone years without seeing your grandparents (with multiple stints) because "the alcoholic" deemed them bad?
Have you had to stop shopping with "the codependent" because you know they shoplift?
Have you ever had to visit "the alcoholic" in jail?
Have you ever had to pretend not to know what pot looked like as "the alcoholic" grew it in your back yard?
Have you ever seen "the alcoholic" in handcuffs? 
Have you been molested on numerous occasions because "the alcoholic" couldn't keep a job and therefore had their family living under iffy conditions?
Have you ever listened to "the alcoholic" and "the codependent" physically fight and scream their way through the night...once the day before you graduated high school...with a friend sleeping on the floor beside you?
Have you ever had to shower in the night in the middle of a dark campground because "the alcoholic" was too drunk to know where he was pissing?
Have you ever been called a slut loudly in front of your best friends by "the alcoholic" because you said hi to a boy at the fair?
Have you ever listened to the rationale of both "the alcoholic" and "the codependent" behind the multiple affairs on each other?
Have you ever had "the alcoholic" have to go talk to "the codependents" employer because they were caught stealing from them?
Have you ever had all of your clothes dyed red because you washed your own clothes...because "the codependent" told you to wash them yourself?
Have you ever had to wait in the car while "the codependent" bought drugs for "the alcoholic"?
Have you ever been called within an hour of giving birth to be told that you are a terrible daughter and sister by "the alcoholic"?
Have you ever been held hostage in "the alcoholic's" home because you came home deciding that the Navy was not for you?
Have you ever been told that you were too dumb for college?
Have you ever witnessed "the alcoholic" piss beside the washer because he was too drunk to realize that it wasn't the bathroom?
Have you ever lived in a house where the tension in the air was so THICK that anyone who visited could describe it to you in as much detail as though it were a physical thing?
Have you ever lived in a home where you waited anxiously for "the alcoholic" to pass out so that the least stressful part of your day could begin?
Have you ever gone to school sick as a dog because it was better than being home?
Have you ever been picked up from school and taken to the home of your molester because "the alcoholic" couldn't be bothered to pick you up?
Has your home life ever been so bad that your best friends grandparents looked into how to get custody of you?
Have you ever had to leave cards and gifts in the middle of the road because "the alcoholic" stormed you out of your grandparents house because they found out that "the codependent" had been bringing you there secretly?
Have you ever been punished for telling the truth?
Have you ever had to constantly choose which parent's side you would be on...knowing that it would be used against the other parent?
Have you ever witnessed alcohol being bought with cash on a daily basis while you had to feel the shame of buying groceries with food stamps....because "the alcoholic" always knew more than their boss and couldn't keep a job?
Has every action you've taken been questioned at length and tears for "obvious" ulterior motives? 
Have you ever witnessed "the alcoholic" scream at your 8th grade teacher, in her yard, because you dared to write that she was "like a mother to you" in your journal, that they read and then held every word against you?
Have you ever been judged and abandoned by all of your family for choosing to step out of the ring and refuse to be hurt anymore...or for your children to be hurt?
Have you ever had "family is FOREVER" used as a way to make you feel guilty for not wanting to be hurt anymore?
Have you ever had to account for the actions of "the codependent" because "they are up to something"?
Have you ever poured your heart out, in a last desperate attempt to "fix" the relationship, sharing all of your hurts and pains from over the years, only to be called a crazy liar and advised to get help?

In short...my heart was soaked in a brine of hurt and pain, bound together for the first 25 years or so of my life by alcohol.  It's hurt me more than any other thing in the world.  It has insulted me, pained me, caused me grief and caused damage to a level that I feel, at times, I have only just begun to heal from.  The scars from alcohol heal about as well as a wound that is constantly scraped with a rusty steel brush.

Because, in fact, it caused repeated hurts.  As I would begin to heal from one incident, I would be buried again under another.  Having never fully healed from the first incident, a new layer was added, then another and another and another.  25 years worth at least.  Or more.  I'm essentially, at my worst, a small child wrapped in a cocoon of pain and anxiety.  Layer over layer over ugly layer.  It's literally a crazy life.  

This previous life of mine still brings me shame.  I feel guilt over things I had no control of.  I have often felt dirty and less than.  Broken and worthless. 

I am still working through anxiety.  And self confidence.  And timidity.   I often struggle to speak up.  I sometimes still have anxiety asking simple questions.  All of these behaviors direct results of living with an alcoholic for so long.  You just never knew what would set them off, make them happy or put you on the wrong list.  You doubt every choice you make and decision you encounter.  Asking to go to a friends house (rarely happened) would cause days of severe anxiety and often I could never gain enough bravery to even ask. 

If you ever meet me in real life, you may notice that I take a while to warm up to talking.  That comes from years of being afraid to say the wrong thing, or too much.

I've had to un-train myself from sitting or standing with a completely closed posture, arms and legs crossed tightly.  Another result of living in fear for so long.

You see, I don't believe that "Family is Forever".  It was used against me for too long.

No, sir.  Not me.  Saying it that way adds a shade of entitlement.  Like "we're gonna be family forever so you better just suck it up and take what I give you".  That's what it has come to mean to me...at least phrased that way.

I feel like I have to work for my right to be part of my kids life forever.  I don't feel entitled to it.  I feel like they deserve my time and love and respect.  Not like "I'm not good enough" but in a they are my fellow children of God and they deserve to be treated that way, kinda way.   

I have the utmost respect for God choosing for me the parents that He did.  I know He had His reasons and I would never doubt them.  Amazingly, I've never had a "Why did you do this to me God?!" phase or moment.  I believe that evil exists in the world to show us how deeply, earnestly and wholly we need God.  The pain of my past has been the fetter that drives me to Him.  It defines my need for Him.

I don't suffer from un-forgiveness.  I was able to work through all of that.  What gets me are the random things that bring up fresh pain.  The normal events that spark a new flood of tears or hurt.  Seeing a friend with her mother.  Reading about someones great relationship with their father.

For a long time I was stuck in their cycle.  On repeat forever.  I chose to step away.  To step out of that cycle.

I had to choose between that family I was born into and the family I chose.  One was hurting the other.  And it had to stop.  It cost me a lot.  But honestly, I trusted and I've gained so much more.  God has given me many mothers.  He has given me many fathers.  He has filled my life with people who want to pour good into it.  His hand is here. 

I haven't heard from my parents since Aaron was about one.  They've seen him once or twice.  Moses has no memory of them.  I was the only part of the equation that I could change.  I lost my brother and my sister.  Both sided with my parents because of course you HAVE to choose in that family.  I also understand that they may not remember the worst of the years.  They were too little.  And for that I'm thankful.  Thankful that they get to go out into their lives less broken and wounded than I was.  I've lost most of my aunts and uncles.  All of my grandparents.  And to be clear, I don't think a single one of the members I lost are bad people.  Not at all.  Some are just people who let their sin hurt those around them.  Others had to choose sides.  And that's OK.  I can only make my own choices.  I just had to make a choice.     

And I would do it again.  The Peace and Joy that exudes in my home is measurable.  We laugh.  We love.  We have fun.  There is no tension.  There is no fighting.  Out of great pain came immeasurable Joy.  We're healthy.  We acknowledge our problems and issues and we lay them at His feet on a regular basis.   

All of that pain.  Years of it.  Years more of recovery.  That is why I don't drink. Ever.

I don't want to even give the smallest chance in the world that my kids ever experience even the remotest speck of what I did.   I'm not convinced that THAT seed of evil potential is not hidden somewhere in my DNA, just waiting for the chance to wake up.  I'm not willing to leave it to chance.

Have I had a drink before? Yes.  I did not get nearly enough in return to gamble with my kids lives.

That may seem severe to you.  And maybe it is but to win big you have to risk big.    

And at this point, I'm winning.  And I would take that chance again for the health of my boys.  All day long.   
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