Saturday, September 22, 2012

Recovery Walks! 2012

Today was Recovery Walks!, a walk to "raise awareness that drug and alcohol addiction is a public health concern; overcome stigma; put a positive face on recovery; provide hope that people do recover; honor the people and organizations that provide services for the recovery community; show solidarity; and honor those who have not survived this disease."

Because I have 11 years of continuous sobriety, I got to be in the Honor Guard (for 10 years & up).  Being in the Honor Guard feels a bit like your birthday. People make a little fuss over you, give you a sash with a numbered badge on it, make you all stand together for a group picture, and then have you lead off the Walk. I'll be honest, it feels pretty awesome.

I volunteered for Pro-Act this year, so I was at the registration table for a three hours before the Walk began. Once it started I joined the Honor Guard at the front and off we went. There were 6 or 7 people carrying the Walk banner right in front of me, and after a minute I realized that the man right in front of me was Ted Williams, also known as The Golden Voice.

If you aren't familiar with him, this video gives a synopsis of his story. It's really incredible.

We walked for several blocks, and then one of the men carrying the banner turned around and said he was going to step back and I should take his place. I was surprised but said ok. I got to chatting with the men on either side of me. The man on my left introduced himself as Dave, and asked where I was involved. I told him where I was from and that I was currently a homemaker but going back to school in the hopes of becoming a substance abuse counselor. He said he thought that was great and that he loved hearing what different people were doing to get involved. I then asked what he did. He told me that he was the Deputy Director of Demand Reduction for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (David Mineta). I'm not often speechless, but this came pretty close. I also chatted with the man to my right, who introduced himself as Gary. It was a delight chatting and walking together. After I got home I discovered that Gary is actually Gary Tennis, Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs. I'm pretty sure by tomorrow I will find out that the other man walking with us was the Pope. It was absolutely humbling, amazing and surreal.  (And something else that's amazing; if you watch that video and you see Ted's sober living coach, Eric? He took this picture for me; how cool is that?)

I love this Walk, and everything it represents. And being blessed to walk with people who have the power to truly make a difference in the lives of people seeking treatment was beyond words. And the funny thing was that as I walked with them, I felt like we could be equals. I realized that as I was driving home, and it brought me to tears. For eighteen years I have regretted that I didn't stay in school and get my degree. My disease of alcoholism took that from me. I never really thought about trying to finish because I believed myself unworthy of a college education. I wasted the chance I was given. But now I'm doing it, finally doing it, and I can walk tall on this journey, and know that it's ok to believe in myself, and to imagine that I can help people find long term recovery.

Recovery has given me many gifts, and I love that it continues to surprise me. Plus, I get to wear the super cool sash, which I really think I need to wear on grocery store trips or when I'm picking up the kids from school.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Senior College Student

I started college twenty years ago this month, and I love that God timed it so I would start again now. When I applied to college the first time I was looking for an education, but what I wanted in the short term was Christian community. I chose a small, Presbyterian school that I had visited during some missions conferences, and was thrilled to be accepted. I had always wanted Christian friends and craved those kinds of relationships. I was sure this was finally going to be where I found a circle of friends that I could pray with, be real with and grow with in our faith.
It didn't take long to realize that I had made mistake, and there was really no Christian community to be found there. My roommate was a believer, but she turned out to be a complete psycho who wanted me out of the room. (She eventually moved out.) There was one tiny club for Christians but it just seemed nerdy and there wasn't anyone there I thought I could connect with. I gave up on Christian friends and just tried to make any friends I could. This was the beginning of my problem drinking, downward spiral, etc. In hindsight it's easy to see that I should have left and gone home, or applied elsewhere and tried to transfer. But at 18 I didn't think I had a choice, and assumed I was stuck there. I did what I could to fit in, somehow still always being alone and isolated, my faith fading.
So twenty years later, I am starting over and I get my first message from one of my new professors. She went over some basic information for the course, and then closed with this:
"I can't wait to see what God has for us together this term. I am looking forward to meeting each of you and getting to know you. I am already praying for you, but if you have specific prayer requests that you would like to share with me, I would welcome your emails. I like to be able to pray for you with specificity. I pray that God will bless each of us as we work together, learning and strengthening our daily walk. I look forward to hearing from you.  I urge you to commit yourself to live out this verse: The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.  Proverbs 21:5"
I cried when I read that. I never thought that I would be able to go back to finish my degree, and I certainly never even sought to find that Christian college community again. To get my first message from a professor and read about prayer and scripture was just overwhelming. I love that God gives us gifts like this. I'm excited for this new chapter, and feel so blessed that I can do it the way I wanted to twenty years ago.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Women of Faith

I can't stop singing this! It was one of the finals songs we sang at Women of Faith this weekend, and I can't describe how it moved me. If you've never gone to an event like this, please do. There is nothing else like it; the experience of worshipping our Lord with 11,000 other women is so moving, so powerful. It is like a tiny glimpse of what Heaven must be like, praising Him together. There were many speakers, in particular women like Christine Caine, who have such a painful & beautiful testimony of God's love and redemption.

Oh, and also, there's this:
Like my tiara?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Random Things

A, 8th grade (last year of junior high)

E, 5th grade (last year of elementary school)

TC, Kindergarten

Kids are back to school, and TC started Kindergarten yesterday. I spent the afternoon crying. It's super hard to let him go after having him home with me for nearly six years. He isn't a kid I usually need a break from either; he's generally easy and affectionate and hilarious, so I'd really rather keep him at age 5 forever. I took a bunch of pictures, and waved at him bravely, and waited until I got in the car to fall apart. I don't know that I'd ever be ready for him to go. This year has kept me in a raw emotional state, so it doesn't take much at this point to get the tears rolling. I just didn't know that dropping the last child off for Kindergarten would be this much harder than the first.

I am all registered for school and my first textbook is on a UPS truck somewhere right now. My first class starts on the 17th, which is coming up quickly.

My mother, who has Parkinson's Disease, is having brain surgery next week. Specifically she is having Deep Brain Stimulation done. I'm pretty much wigging out about this and trying not to think about it much or do internet research. The surgery takes six hours, and she'll be awake for the first two. That's pretty much all I want or need to know at this point.