The Year I Broke: A Bottle of Shame

“Let me just pause and watch you
slide down that slippery slope that
keeps you stuck to the places you don’t want to be.”

<<<

I stepped onto IU’s campus as a fresh 21-year-old. Holding myself to a high standard of wise choices, I went in with a well-intentioned vow to not touch alcohol until I understood the environment and found “safe places” to have one glass in hopes to not be swept up by the immorality.

During my first semester I would go to the bars as the DD for my friends. I was the light in a dark place. And how dare all these Christians be in here drunk. They should be doing what I’m doing. Loving better. Representing God better. I often would go home, frustrated, judgmental and angry that all these college students were dismaying the name of God by being drunk in a bar.

I remember my first shot. I was with friends whom I trust dearly, and I was too scared to take a full shot. I was under the impression that just one would instantly make me sloppy drunk. So my friend, through laughter, made me one shot that was half alcohol/half orange juice.

I was terrified of alcohol. It was, in my mind, the fastest course to destruction and winning the shame of God.

In hindsight, though, I see that fear of sin is often what pushes me into the very sin I am afraid of. Fear is a mixture of wisdom and insecurity telling me that what I am about to touch is fire, but fear also tells me I am missing out. Fear is paired with curiosity, afraid I’ll miss the next big thing.

I also have learned that my deep judgement generally comes from a place I am unwilling to receive grace on. My inability to have grace in my own life is poured out as harsh judgement on others.

who was worse in the beginning: me or the ones drunk in the bar?

After my heart began to break apart, unable to stay as perfect as I thought necessary to be close to God, I actively decided one day to drink with my friends in celebration for one who completing his Ph.D. I jumped right in, took my first legitimate shots, no chasers.

I thought I was drunk then. But, months later, friends came to town to celebrate a birthday. I was so drunk, I was seeing double. One friend carried me back. I had never consumed so much alcohol.

It was like a small badge of honor. I’d finally done it. Everyone who’s always wanted to see me drunk will be so proud! But instead of a badge it was like someone tied a brick to my foot and I was sinking in shame. I vowed to never drink again. Like Mumford & Sons say, “Shame. Boatloads of shame.”

But it sucks you in. It gave me a momentary escape from the realities of my heartache. Only to come back the next day with a vicious attack of shame. For those who don’t know, drinking while already emotionally unstable is very awful. It makes your emotions even more unstable, causing a greater chasm from healing and wholeness.

To my college friends, I was the sweet, innocent one of the bunch who rarely drank.

To my family and friends from home, I was swimming in alcohol, sliding quickly into darkness.

It’s hard to explain the progression of my relationship with alcohol. The more I felt like ice had breathed over my heart, the more I wanted to drink and melt the harsh exterior. I wanted to let people in, I wanted to feel camaraderie with people, I wanted to feel. And drinking was one of the few times I could feel. I was so overwhelmed with sorrow, that my heart and mind often created steel casts to protect the sensitive wounds

After that first drunken escapade, I told one of my brothers the next day, through heaving sobs. He didn’t know what to say. I began to realize that nobody in my life who knew me as “good” understood how to interact with me in these dark moments. And it was so isolating. It felt like the eyes of those who loved me were looking with disappointment and silence. Gasping for air and not finding it in those I was so desperately seeking it from, I shut off my tears and walked deeper into the chaos.

I was wholly and utterly empty. Lost in darkness that blinded me, chaining me to itself. Grasping for anything to give me life. All the while pleading with life to let go of it’s dark grip on me, to let me get back to God. But shame had sinked its claws in me, dragging me around in my own blood.

I often thought about the vision of my lifeless, helpless body floating at the bottom of the ocean or of the bloodthirsty storm, unrelenting as my boat sank. Always, in the back of my mind,  I knew I was lost, but I was so helpless. I don’t even have any other words except that I knew I was helpless. I was living a nightmare far from God and I was unable to fix it all.

One day the vision on the boat came to mind, only this time there was a hair-thin strand of gold gently waving in the corner. It was a lifeline. But I ignored it. Felt I was too sinful to be allowed to take it.

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