Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Best Worst Year of My Life

My life was never so fragile as it was during the Spring and Summer of 2013. I struggled to process the loss in my life: the loss of a child, the loss of my femininity (in a physical sense), the loss of good health, the loss of my mother's health, and the list goes on. Matt and others sought to help me navigate this season of life in many ways, but I continued to spiral downwards personally and physically. At the same time, I had more prescription medications in my body and in my medicine cabinet than at any other time in my life. Whether they were recently prescribed or remaining from previous prescriptions, I had a variety of narcotics, sleep aids, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medications. It was a recipe for disaster.

During those months, I began turning to these prescription medications to relieve not only my physical pain, but my emotional pain. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was abusing my medications; I had obtained them in the right way, but I was using them in the wrong way. Before long, my abuse of medications became an addiction to medications; my body and mind wanted them more regularly and in greater amounts. I was blind to my addiction, but the evidence was becoming clear to others: I spent a lot of time in bed, I combined medications with alcohol, and I hid medications from my husband.

Friends, doctors, and my husband all noticed changes in me and tried to help. In certain ways, their efforts were fruitful, but overall my personal and physical life continued to spiral out of control. In early September of 2013, my husband came to see my life was so out of control that we needed to seek out professional help and he admitted me to an inpatient drug / alcohol treatment center in Statesboro, Georgia, called Willingway Hospital.

I was told that I would be at Willingway for four to six weeks for a detox and rehabilitation program. While I agreed to this plan outwardly, I told myself I would only really need to be there for a week at most. In my opinion, all I needed was help detoxing from all my medications. After a few days, I realized that I was going to have to stay for the entire four to six weeks. I didn’t know how I could be away from my kids for that long. I ended up walking out of the treatment center on two separate occasions, but I couldn't go home because my husband said I had to finish the program. I went back to Willingway after a few hours, and reluctantly resumed the program.

Eventually, my counselor at Willingway determined that the inpatient program was not the right fit for me. I needed a more intensive, long-term approach to my addiction recovery. And so while on a conference call with my husband, my counselor told me that I needed to go to residential treatment for twelve months. I resisted, saying that I could not be away from my husband and children for that long. To make matters worse, I was told that my husband had been asked to resign his job as a pastor because of the issue related to my addiction. Now we were all in the midst of "the night."

I won't go into too much detail about my time in residential treatment, but I will say it was "the best worst year of my life." It was good for me in many ways, but it was so hard physically, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.

The hardest part was being away from my children. At first, I couldn't even think of them without feeling physically ill. I made the decision to put away all my pictures of them, and had to ask my sister to pray for them because I could not. In time, God helped me feel better knowing I would see them again. My husband kept me updated on them, and I was able to talk to them on the phone for a few minutes each week. When I had the chance, I wrote to them, drew them pictures, and knitted them things.

During my time in treatment I was broken down to nothing and then built back up. God used the girls I lived with and my counselor to guide me through this time. He placed me so perfectly in the exactly right place with exactly the right people. God used them to show me things about myself that I had not been aware of before because of my addiction, pride, and selfishness:
  • God showed me my sin in a way I had never seen it before. 
  • God taught me what pure dependence on Him looks like. 
  • God taught me to trust in Him. For so long I depended on myself and I always thought I knew best. In some very dramatic ways, I learned that that is not true. When I gave my will up to God completely, He faithfully used other people in my life to point me in the right direction and help me make better choices. 
  • God gave me peace. 
  • God showed me His faithfulness over and over by providing for me and for my family: new employment for my husband in Dallas, in-laws to help care for the children, etc. 
  • God showed me mercy over and over through people at Willingway when I kept fighting against them. 
  • God showed me love in giving me some wonderful lifelong friends from my time in treatment. 
  • God showed me grace in giving me a second chance at life. 
Looking back, God had His sovereign hand controlling every event of the past two years. Our "night" was painful and long in certain ways, but true joy came in the “morning.” I know other "nights" may come, but I have no reason to doubt that He will continue to be faithful.

While I was in treatment I would play the piano whenever a could. Every time I would play, I would play the hymn, "It is Well with My Soul," and the words give me such peace. I've been sharing the story behind the hymn with our kids this week. The author, Horatio Spafford, suffered incredible loss; everything was taken away from him except his faith and people to support him. First, he lost his son to illness, then he lost his business, and then he lost his wife and four daughters at sea during a voyage from America to Europe. Following their death, Horatio made the same voyage and wrote these words at the location where the ship carrying his wife and daughters had sank:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul. 
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is well with my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.  
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul.
It is well, it is well with my soul.