One of my biggest problems when I was still drinking—aside from still drinking—was I somehow had myself convinced that I would be totally unable to write without lubrication. I can remember, a full two years before I gave up alcohol for good, I had managed to stay sober for about 30 days. I was on medical leave at the time and feeling pretty awful, so my sobriety was more a consequence of circumstance than a choice. After a few weeks, I was feeling better and planning to return to work. I will never forget sitting in front of the computer, trying to write a sermon, and staring at the cursor mocking me from the blank page. The pressure was on. I had to write something. And there was only one way I could imagine making that happen. I went out. Procured a bottle of Merlot. And returned to the computer with glass in hand. Voilá! The words started flowing.
Unfortunately, the wine kept flowing long after that first sermon was written and preached. It would be a full two years before I would find myself sober for any considerable length of time. Again, more as a consequence of circumstance than anything else. I ended up in rehab for 30 days—at the conclusion of which, I was, eh, shall we say, encouraged to resign my position. I was sober alright. I was also broken, depressed, and convinced I had been sentenced to a lifetime of repentance and misery. I would never preach—let alone write—again. The cursor would forever mock me from the blank page. There would be no words: no sermons; no poetry; no musings. The flow of wine and words had dried up. I think I started this blog to prove just that. What I discovered, however, was it was still possible for me to coax words onto a page. It felt clumsy at first, but the words eventually did come.
Before long, I was writing again! Mostly about my struggle with sobriety at first, but then I started stringing nouns to verbs and crafting bits of poetry and fiction and actually found I was enjoying myself! Discovering I could indeed still write without lubrication was, for me, the single most precious gift of my sobriety. At around nine months sober, my bishop asked if I felt ready to supply—to fill in for pastors who , for one reason or another, would be away from their congregation on a given Sunday. The previously unimaginable happened: I said yes. And last month I sat down and wrote my first sober sermon—ever. My joy was nearly uncontainable. It was actually pretty good. And leading worship was, as they say, like getting back on a bicycle. I took up the mystery and rhythm again without missing a beat. I preached like a woman who truly did have something to say. And I ended up having an absolute blast! I was called upon again to supply last Sunday and I’ll be filling in somewhere else this Sunday, and have another half-dozen or so dates scheduled throughout the summer.
I am ecstatic. Not so much about the preaching gigs—although those are a pretty big deal—as about feeling alive and forgiven and whole. Maybe it does take a full nine months to a year for a career drunk to get comfortable enough in her sobriety to step out into the world with confidence. At least that is proving to be my experience. When I was drinking, I was as all but agoraphobic; ridden with anxiety and certain everyone “out there” was judging me. In early sobriety, I felt humiliated and embarrassed and just wanted to be left alone to wallow and cry. Slowly; ever so slowly, all that began to change. The idea of living and laughing and writing and being happy began to feel like a real possibility. Even for me. And, what’s proven even more amazing is it’s turning out even better than that! When I look in the mirror, I still see a middle aged woman, but on the inside, I’m feeling like a bright and capable somewhere-still-in-her-thirties kind of gal.
My sobriety is no longer a consequence of circumstance. It is a life choice. A gift. One I want never to take for granted or risk losing. People promised me it would get better. I did not believe them. And, aside from the merciful presence and encouragement of God, I cannot tell you how or why I was able to stick with sobriety through so many months that felt like deprivation and misery. Somehow, I did it, though. I stayed sober long enough to begin to live sober. And life is good! Oh, I still have plenty of problems. Decades of drinking wreaked havoc with my health and my finances are in a shambles, but those concerns have receded into the background. What is front and center now is—safeguarding my sobriety, yes, but—mostly wanting to smile like crazy because it’s summertime and the marsh grass is green and the sky is blue and I can write and life is so incredibly wonder-filled. Thank you, God!