Peace, Be Still — You Are Not Alone
I’m a good mom, an outdoor enthusiast, loving wife, small business owner and volunteer in my community. I even (begrudgingly, at first) helped in Scouts, with our school's fundraiser, and volunteered to run our neighborhood clean-up (okay, maybe I volunteered my husband). And if you were to ask anyone who knows me, they’d probably tell you that I’m a really good friend. I love people. But there’s more to my story that, until more recently, only a handful of people knew about. I’ve landed myself in jail multiple times and on the last night I ever drank, I woke up at a friend's house finally sobering up.
Why so many people I’m close to had no idea about the full reality of my addiction that had been wreaking havoc in my life? Because that’s what we do with addiction and things we are ashamed of, we keep it to ourselves—locked away for no one to see it’s ugliness. Shame is a tool the adversary uses so successfully when it comes to addiction that it strips away who we are and we become the best liars. Addictions thrive in secrecy. They like you to believe you are the one in control when in reality, the addiction has you bound. It knows all too well the extra mile you drive to buy alcohol so that you don’t run into someone you know. That’s why outing yourself when it comes to your addiction is the most vulnerable place a person can be. It makes it real and once everyone knows, it makes you look at your addiction square in the face with nothing to numb the pain like you would have in the past.
I struggled for many years with a severe alcohol addiction that brought me and my family much pain, agony, and despair. From an outsiders perspective, there were very few people who knew what a wreck I was or the full extent of what we were dealing with in my family because of it all. From the outside looking in, I was doing all the things that I thought helped me look normal. But underneath was this deep, dark secret that was sabotaging my life. The longer it went on, the worse the repair of the cycle was. This struggle came and went in waves including numerous broken bones, DUIs and jail time over the course of many years. It was humiliating as I lost control and watched my life take dark and depressing spirals downward—each one more painful than the last. I would often tell myself that I had it figured out, that it wasn't that bad and that I could get through this alone. This torturous path continued for many, many years. Over and over I thought, "This has to be the rock bottom!" "Why do I continue to put myself through this agony?" I felt completely out of control.
I lied to family and friends. I chose to alienate myself from my church and God because I was so ashamed. I felt unworthy of God's love. In spite of all this people around me continued to love me when I felt like I didn't deserve to be loved: I had a very forgiving husband, unconditionally loving family members, deeply loyal friends and an extremely faithful sister in my church family who kept nurturing the flicker of light in me. And they all continued to shine their light and love me in spite of the awful choices I continued to make.
After one particularly dark event, I ended up in the middle of the hardest challenge of my life, both physically and spiritually. I thought that I had gone too far and that it wasn’t possible for me to recover; that my life as I knew it was over. I learned the hard reality that there is another very dark world out there and I was very close to losing all of my freedoms. I was broken. Being this low finally brought me to my knees. Where else was I to go? I still remember that night, I prayed like I never had before. I begged and pleaded with God to help me. I told him I would do whatever was asked of me. I finally realized I could not do this on my own. It was a defining breaking point in my life. In that moment I knew I had a decision to make. Which path was I going to take the downward spiral or ask for help? Was I going to choose to stay in my misery or find lasting happiness?
I don’t know how else to describe it, but in that moment, the loneliest and darkest place of my life, I felt the comfort of a loving Father in Heaven. I felt the Spirit like I never had before. It was like a warm blanket wrapped around me and suddenly I knew that I would be okay, that I would come out the other side stronger. I felt peace and comfort and a small flicker of light. Heavenly Father sent angels to be with me. I didn’t see them, but I knew they were there because I was comforted.
Jesus Christ is a light in our lives and that light can be with us no matter what type of darkness surrounds us. And, in that moment, I felt the light of Christ guiding me. This light sustained me and helped me find the courage to be brave as I began my first steps to healing and finally asked for the help from others that I would depend on to get through it. He helped me see and guided me to that place where I knew I was going to be okay. I had to come to terms that my secret would be out and that I would need to take ownership of it. It didn’t happen overnight and I had a an agonizing road ahead of me, but I was finally making the right steps and realizing that my mistakes didn’t have to continue to control my life.
My experience helped me to understand what Christ's Atonement is all about. I came out of that situation to so many open arms and love and LIGHT. I realized that there was a huge support system willing and ready to help me. I wasn’t judged or ridiculed or made to feel less than, only loved. It inspired me. I had to make some hard decisions in my life and it was not easy at all. But I learned that every dark path has a formula for recovery through Jesus Christ. I saw how important it was to be around people who could maintain a positive outlook and keep cheering me on no matter the situation. I had a lifeline of people I held close, who I knew I could reach out to no matter what. A phone call or text, and I kept a list (and still do) of encouraging words received to lean on in desperation.
Those small acts of compassion brought me peace and strength and love that helped me take the leap to hold my head up and show up at church the next Sunday, and the Sunday after that, and the Sunday after that. My faith became less of an organized church group for me and more of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That love and light became the catalyst for so much of my healing and recovery and provided me an example of the kind of woman I wanted to become.
I will be bearing my testimony of this experience for the rest of my life, that Heavenly Father is mindful and miraculous in His capacity to tend to us in our moments of need. Goodness comes to us when we are receptive to it.
The side-by-side comparison of my life then and now is mind-boggling. Though my life is far from perfect and I'm still dealing with physical side of addiction, like a breathalyzer in my car and ongoing legal consequences, there is so much clarity, freedom, and peace where there was once anxiety, shame, and dark isolation that fueled the addiction.
Looking back now, I realize I went through my personal trial to grow and that each of us will have different trials to help us learn. I love people—going through my trials made my heart GROW and made me love people even more!! I have a huge sense of empathy for those that are in the same place that I was. Some of the times I have felt the closest to the Spirit have come in my Addiction Recovery meetings. If you have never been, or have at all considered it—no matter what your trials are—I can't recommend it enough. Give it more than one chance. If you know someone who is struggling, offer to go with them.
We will all experience darkness, confusion, and fear at some point in our lives. You never know when you will be the light that someone else needs. THE WORLD NEEDS TO SEE YOUR UNIQUE AND INDIVIDUAL LIGHT! I'm a fan of imperfection and loving people exactly where they are. Regardless of their worldly status—millionaire or broke, young or old, janitor or doctor. I am constantly reminded that each of us is one of a kind. Each has had experiences uniquely ours. You never know who will need to hear your stories. Don’t be afraid to be the light—reach out.
Julie was born in Arizona but has lived all over the west coast before setting down in in the Pacific Northwest which she now considers home, along with her husband and two kids. She loves spending with her family laughing, hiking and traveling. She loves running and gardening. Julie is a photographer and has run a vintage clothing company for 15 years. She loves working with the youth in her church. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @julieegg.