I wanted to wait until after Christmas before I tried to write. I was hoping, by now, the self-pity I’ve had wrapped around my throat might have gotten loose and fallen away. It hasn’t. I’m still all bound up and feeling sorry for myself. Not because I’ve been craving a drink and feeling deprived. And not because I didn’t have anywhere to go or anyone to spend Christmas with. I had a perfectly lovely holiday—surprisingly pleasant for a woman who is only a few days into her fifth month of sobriety. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. But that still hasn’t stopped me from feeling sorry for myself.
I was determined to go to church Christmas Eve. I was, after all, a pastor for more than a decade. How could I not? I stepped into the sanctuary, took a candle, found a seat and knew immediately my being there was a mistake. Everything felt very very wrong. I didn’t belong in a pew. I was supposed to be the one leading worship for crying out loud. The one who would soon rise to preach the Christmas gospel. The one who would gaze upon the candlelit faces of people she had grown to love. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t sing any of the songs. I tried like crazy to pray. It took every ounce of strength I had to hold myself together and keep from dissolving into tears.
My alcoholism has robbed me of many things. It took whole years of my life and knotted them into discarded bundles of forgotten days. It compromised my health to the point where I got right up to and crossed the line past which I would never again know what it was like to feel well and whole. And it took away the possibilities of my ever picking up the pieces and trying again, for I am now numbered among the disabled. But what I grieve the most is no longer feeling at home in sacred space. I am a pastor without a congregation, a servant without a call.
Christmas came and went without a miracle. I didn’t wake up to a second chance under the tree. I can never go back. I don’t get a do-over. All I can do is not drink today and then wake up tomorrow and not drink again. Eventually, life is supposed to get better. At least the people in the rooms all say it will. So far, the promises have eluded me, though. I am not yet able to imagine what all that happy joyous freedom might look like for me. But they tell me to not give up until the miracle happens, so I continue to stick with it. One day at a time.
Thankfully, a new year will soon begin. I desperately need a clean slate on which to draw four new seasons of possibilities. 2014 was pretty gruesome. Let it be enough to say the year brought the end of my career and a 30 day stint in a rehab. I am grateful for the cold days and long nights of winter that lie ahead. My staying in and laying low will be far less obvious to the world. Hopefully, by spring, a miracle or two will begin to bud on the barren branches of my sagging spirit. Between now and then, I’m just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other and waiting. Easter always comes.