It’s Sunday afternoon. I’m sitting at my departure gate at the Charlotte Airport, still hyped up by two glorious days at the She Speaks Conference hosted by Proverbs 31. Last summer I received an invitation to be a workshop presenter at this year’s conference. I loved attending as a participant in 2013 and 2014. Over the past twelve months, I prayed that God would use me to bless those ladies. On top of that She Speaks is a premier event, both highly respected and valued. I knew that teaching at the event would make the highlight reel of my career so far.
Little did I know that the 25 days before I left for the conference would be as P31 President Lysa TerKeurst characterized during her opening keynote message, “licking the floor of hell.”
Figuring out how to start this post is tough, especially since the situation has been unfolding for many years and so much has happened just recently. I can’t really even point to a beginning, but by 2008 I realized that there might be an on-going problem. Back then, it was discussed. After, I figured that it was fixed. Then, a crisis in 2011, followed by a disaster in 2015. Now, this is just a season of on-going pain and loss.
It’s hard to figure out how to talk about something that you’re really not free to talk about…
If you come from a family that keeps white elephants as pets, you know what I mean. Over the past few years, I’ve tried to find ways to allude to what’s going on even though I couldn’t share the details. If you’ve read my Winning the Worry Battle book, there’s a low-key reference on page 14:
One of the scariest cliffhangers in my life has had me dangling by my fingertips on the edge for a few years. I wish I knew how or when it might end, but I don’t.
There’s another reference in the chapter titled, “Secret Weapon” on page 171:
Over the years, I’ve tried fasting periodically until a season of my life when my worry skyrocketed into the stratosphere. That new worry battle was either going to destroy me or create an opportunity for a new perspective on discipleship where I allowed God to reshape and remold me in a radical new way.”
Until recently, that was all that I could do. This might not be a big deal to you, but it has been painful for me. Integrity is at the top of my value list, along with authenticity and vulnerability. While our family and friends are fully aware of what’s been going on, it hasn’t been appropriate until now to talk about it in a public setting. In the past year, the gap between my ministry life and my actual life widened far past my comfort zone. I’ve felt the pain of that gap every single day. About 10 days ago I sensed a release from God to begin closing that gap.
But this means that I have to tell you the deepest, most painful place in my heart and life. It’s a raw, bleeding space with broken edges and dripping tears that I want to keep safe from criticism, gossip and well, nosy people. Telling my story opens up the possibility of more pain. But, as I learned last night when I spoke for the first time to a group of women at a Bible study at my church, maybe something good can happen. Like women who hugged my neck last night and whispered a low, “Thank you for sharing. This same situation happened to me.”
Here are words that I prayed for so long that I’d never have to say…
On July 1, I had to move myself and my two younger daughters out of our home and away from my husband of 26 years. I am the wife of a good man who struggles with a long-term alcohol addiction.
Family is a fabric. When someone we love begins to unravel, eventually we all fall apart. With a broken heart, I have to tell you that my family has fallen apart.
For the past 10 years, I’ve cried, plead, prayed, fasted, and begged God to rescue our family from a tool that Satan has been using to destroy someone that we deeply and dearly love.
If you grew up in a similar situation or lived in the pain of a marriage affected by this struggle, you know that every road is unique, but without recovery the end is the same – death. Without recovery, the destination of addiction spirals toward death, whether physical, relational, financial, or social, or a combination. We experienced some of this in our family, which led to the painful decision to separate.
While our family situation is complex, let me pause to emphasize three important things:
- My marriage and family are broken due to alcohol abuse, but there has never been a threat or instance of any physical or emotional abuse.
- I initiated the July separation as a last resort and in hope of future healing and restoration of our marriage and family.
- I am so grateful for recovery tools like Al-Anon as well as support from counseling, Bible study groups as well as our family and friends. I’ve used these tools and praise God for them! If you can relate to my story, I want to encourage you to jump into one of these recovery tools.
Clearly, there’s more talk about. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to talk about a few tough questions that I’ve wrestled through over the years. I’ll talk more about the mistakes that I’ve made, what God has taught me and most of all, examples of God’s favor and faithfulness even in the midst of our messy situation.
Words of life…
For the past year, there is a verse that has been central to my life and my soul survival. I think that now that you know a little more about my story, perhaps the following words that God spoke to a man named Joshua as he stood looking across the Jordan might look a little different to you. These words have bought great hope to my heart over the past year:
“This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9 NLT
As I wrote the Joshua Bible study, I clung to these words last summer. God has taught me so much over the past 10 years about walking by faith in uncertainty. Perhaps this is why this Joshua study is so precious to me.
I understand what it’s like to stand on the edge of unknown challenges and know that I’m going to have to fight for my life. I know what it’s like to face giant problems and solid walls that I can’t take down on my own. But, most importantly, over these many years, I’ve experienced the strength, courage and peace that comes when I remember that God is with me and for me in every circumstance, real or imagined. I learned that I can cry and carry a sword at the same time. I can wipe tears and still fight like a warrior.
Without a doubt, I know is that God taking care of each person in my family, even though He has allowed the heartache that we’re all experiencing.
God has given me the strength and courage to keep going in a year that I’ve lost my dad, my father-in-law, my husband (for now), and my home (for now). God’s strength and courage is the source of fuel for my soul. It has to be. There’s not a chance that I could have survived this year without God holding me tight. Not a chance. Too much has happened. Much more than I could handle on my own.
I might be brokenhearted, but I’m not beaten down.
Even though I’m hurting, I am filled with hope.
I believe in a God that can make all things new, even when all seems lost.
I know that God is faithful and able – whether He heals my marriage or He heals me.
I trust in God to deliver on His promises.
P.S. If you live in my community or go to my church, please be cool around my kids. They’ve been through a lot. They didn’t ask for a mom who works in public ministry and they are part of the reason why I’ve kept things private because it’s been tough. Please understand that they won’t feel comfortable talking about this at church or the grocery story – even if you have the best intentions. A simple smile or a quick “Praying for your family” will be welcomed and appreciated or you can email encouragement to email@example.com.
Your prayers for my family and other families like mine are welcome. If you are walking a similar road, I’d love to pray for you. In fact, if there is anything in your life that is stressing you out during the day or keeping you up at night, I’d love to pray for you. Click here to share your prayer request. When I pray for others, it helps me to stay others-centered and not get focused on myself.
I read through your blog and never realized the struggle you have been dealing with! I have not personally experienced addiction but I have been a victim of sexual abuse. I realized much later in life that by my experiences, I could help others by pointing them to the one who has given me life..,out father in Heaven. Sometimes it’s good to know that people you admire struggle too, and you are definitely someone I admire. Thanks for sharing this personal struggle!