At the end of this month I will somehow have five years of sobriety! What a whirlwind it has been! I feel like I have been and still am on a tour through all of the things Jessica needs to improve about herself. What can I say? When you spend the most important years of your life in a bottle you just don’t learn to do life, much less respond to it.
At this stage of the game, I know I have to find some financial security for myself. I am making financial security priority number one. I have been focusing my job search on higher education in Memphis and in the not too far away cities though there is a part of me that would like to be back on a coast. I know that staying in Memphis would be the best decision financially, but I also know one should never put all of their eggs in one basket. I am also looking at a few other career options outside of higher education…both in Memphis and outside of Memphis.
I guess it is just time to do some adulting. I have five years of sobriety, but I still have trouble handling stress and it has changed the type of jobs I go after. I often find myself comparing myself to a hurricane…. I definitely feel as though I am one. I roar into the office in the morning, wreak havoc all day, then roar out in the evening to the gym. To be frank, I pretty much do this everywhere I go. I expend a lot of energy that could be used elsewhere. Someone said I should try flipping my schedule – working out in the morning and doing yoga in the evening. I don’t know… I have very unstable blood sugar so I am not sure how that would affect things, but I might try it once I land a new job.
One of the bigger elephants in the room is the fact that I cannot seem to find a way to be happy. Every city I have lived in had something I hated about it. Every church I have attended had something I hated about it. Every job I have held had something I hated about it. One could argue and possibly win the notion that everything I have ever been a part of had something wrong with it. It has always been after I have left a place or an institution that I could really appreciate it for what it was and continues to be. And so after five years of sobriety, I have to ask the question, is it me? The answer is most likely yes. So then what? I guess I must get to the adulting. Find a career I don’t mind doing that will pay me a living wage and afford me the time off I need to do the traveling I want to do and start enjoying life for what it is instead of what it could be.
For some strange reason “Happy” always seems to be in the future with me, but the problem is if “Happy” is always in the future, then it is never in my present and I cannot experience it. That whole life on life’s terms thing in AA is my lesson right now. I have to do life on life’s terms, be grateful for what I do have and find a way to enjoy the blessings I have been given. How this works out in my day-to-day hurricane lifestyle… I do not know, but this is to be my lesson for year five of sobriety! I guess, in part, I just realize my age and realize that I am far more emotionally stable than I have ever been (I know it doesn’t sound like it) and I want to capitalize on the gratitude I do have and enjoy every experience I can. To do this, I have to find a way to calm down and stop complaining!
I don’t know if I will be staying in Memphis or moving somewhere else, but I do know that I have my work cut out for me in the year ahead. I am looking forward to getting back on my feet financially and I am looking forward to enjoying all of the new experiences this year will bring.
"If you want to find happiness, find gratitude." - Steve Maraboli
The drive back home was riddled with blinding rainstorms and interstate standstills so I had plenty of time to think back to life in Los Angeles and life in Jacksonville… The people I met, the things I learned, the growth that took place. As I look back over the last five years there are definitely some people who stand out in my mind. Some of these people are like Kirsten, Liz, and Tracy who became my close friends and made life fun. Liz was my adventure pal. We scaled a waterfall, paddle boarded and kayaked our way through various marinas and hiked our way through various mountain ranges during my time in Los Angeles. I hope to start an annual girls adventure vacay with some of my LA friends and some of my Jacksonville friends soon. I have so much more to see and experience and I want to make travel a top priority once I have the debt paid off and am back in my own place. Kirsten, Larissa, Nora & Lauren were my Mosaic friends. I met them all in a life group. On my first visit I knew I’d found friends and we became just that close friends doing life together. I miss having that in my life, but I am hopeful I will have some ladies to do life with again soon.
Someone I probably have not mentioned at all on this blog is a man named Joel. He was a producer at a church I went to for a while prior to making Mosaic my home church. I was freshly sober and scared of everything and somehow got put on the production team of this church to basically run the services. By that, I mean I ran the ever so important Macbook that ran the pre and post house music, the pre and post screen loops, the worship lyrics, the teaching screens, the videos… the only thing I did not run was the lights and sound, but I learned how to do that too… well, the lights at least. When I say I was scared of everything, I mean I really was scared of everything and everyone. I had no idea how to do anything without alcohol and I walked around looking like a deer in headlights to everyone I encountered. People were always asking me if I was okay and I always gave a very unsure “yeah”. Joel had the task of taking this deer in headlights girl and making her into someone who could run church services like a pro and that is exactly what he did. I remember the first time I was up to run point and he, being very smart, did not tell me. Instead, he let me figure it out when I heard him praying for me in our pre-service prayer. I had no time to freak out or get upset or think anything really. The only thing I could do was quickly go over what I needed to do and just do it and I did.
This experience came in handy shortly thereafter when I was working with a filmmaker on a live non-profit show that featured celebrity guests. One day I showed up a tad late at our downtown show location and the first words out of her mouth were “good you’re wearing something nice. The host cancelled. You’re it.” And just as before, I did not have time to freak out and I relied on my previous experience to ask the questions I needed to ask and memorized what I needed to memorize and about 45 minutes later, after introducing myself to the celebrity guest and getting some information from him – I took the stage and played host for the evening. It was so much fun! I got to welcome the audience, introduce the guest and occasionally remind everyone why we were all there – for a charity called Kids Need to Read. It was a great evening and we had a great time and more importantly I had a great time doing something I never thought I would ever do! I’m an introvert after all, but I have realized that doing what I never thought I would do has been the name of the game for this deer in headlights girl.
After leaving Los Angeles, I got involved in Celebrate Recovery and soon found myself back on a stage. This time I was giving my alcohol testimony and I did it for a few CR’s in the Jacksonville area. The more I get on stage, the more comfortable I become. I have learned the hard way that the only way to get over something that scares you is to do that very thing you fear. Now, I give other people advice on how to overcome their fears and I routinely put those with public speaking fear on the spot because it is the only way anyone can ever over come that fear. My next move is to get my teaching/preaching feet wet either in CR or in a Women’s Ministry, but I guess I need a CR or a church home for that.
Actually, my CR leaders Jay and Karen in Florida also had a big impact on my growth over the last couple of years. Looking back I now know the reason I was led to Celebrate Recovery – I needed a lot of healing. I needed to learn to love myself. I needed to learn how to make healthy choices and healthy decisions and healthy boundaries. I needed to raise my self-respect and my self worth and that is exactly what I did. I also was able to get my ministry feet wet by learning to become the women’s share group leader. Jay and Karen are also the ones who got me onto the testimony circuit and provided feedback so I could get better at speaking in public. I also needed to learn to love others, but I think that comes with being comfortable with yourself and understanding who and what you are.
This leads to the people that made the most impact on me. The Liz’s, Tonia’s and Tracy’s – the people who like me for me. They think I am funny and intelligent and pretty and a whole lot of fun. I didn’t know anyone could like me without alcohol. I lived most of my life under the oppression of extreme social anxiety and it was not until I got sober, learned to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations and started making sober friends that I found true friendships that showed me things I never knew about my self. I do belong and I do have a place in this world and there are people who cherish me for me. I guess this is the biggest lesson I have learned because it is the lesson that freed me from trying to be anyone except me.
I do not know what lies ahead for me, but I do know that I can handle whatever is coming my way. Right now I am focusing on job hunting and once I land a job I can start making a place for myself while I get back on my financial feet. I always wanted to leave Memphis and never come back, but maybe I wanted to leave because of what I needed to learn.
"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls." - Anais Nin
I thought I came to Jacksonville to get my feet wet in ministry. I thought I came to Jacksonville to learn how to be a nicer, kinder and gentler me. I thought I came to Jacksonville to root out some evidences of past abuse. It turns out I came to Jacksonville to stop believing a lie that I can’t even tell you how I ever came to believe.
God: Jacksonville is preparation and nothing more.
Some time later….
Me: I can’t find a community to belong to here.
God: Why are you trying to make a home here? This isn’t your home.
Me: Do you understand that You are killing me! I can’t take the loneliness anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
God: I’m in charge of when you breathe and when you don’t. I am not killing you.
Me: What is it that You are trying to teach me? I can’t figure it out! You’ve taken away all of my distractions and I still can’t figure it out! I will never get out of this desert!
God: Yes, you will.
Some time Later….
Me: I don’t know if this is it, but I think maybe perhaps You want me to silence the undercurrent that says I am not good enough and never will be for anyone or anything. I don’t even know where it comes from, but every sermon, song, lesson, talk, etc – whenever something relating to Your truth about me versus my truth about me comes up – I start crying.
God: And you thought you’d never get out of the desert!
Me: How do I silence this undercurrent? I mean really silence it? I mean I don’t even know its there half the time, where it came from or what to do about it – so how do I silence it?
God: You listen to me. You listen to what I say about you. You accept it as truth just like you accepted the 12 steps as a way to stop drinking. You didn’t fully understand the steps or believe in them – you just accepted them. You need to accept my words about you as truth. You can ask me to silence it too, but I’d rather you proclaim it is silenced in my name. You say you don’t know where it comes from, but you do. He’s been lying to women since the first one I made. Perhaps this will make it easier for you – You can choose to listen to my voice or you can choose to listen to his. Listening to both hasn’t been working, wouldn’t you agree?
Ugh. I am definitely one of those people who are way more afraid to succeed than to fail. I have previously recounted a sermon I heard from Erwin McManus on the topic of the two voices in the Garden. In this talk, Erwin makes it clear that while God’s voice may convict us, His voice never condemns and only calls us to be more, to do more. God’s voice always call us up and calls us to want better and to do better. The other voice in the Garden not only condemns us, but oppresses us too. The other voice wants us to feel bad and it wants us to hide or escape into whatever horrible situations we can create in our lives. Two voices that want very different things for us and Erwin asked us this question: Who’s voice are you listening to?
Obviously, somewhere deep down in my being, I am listening to the wrong voice. Another wise pastor from my past, Craig Strickland, once said “You cannot feel your way into an action, but you can act your way into a feeling.” I know that for me to move forward I have to start taking God at His word, especially when it comes to me. And since I am taking it as truth, I also need to start acting on it as truth. This is the key for me to get myself out of the situation I am in and the key to opening that big scary door I am for some reason afraid to walk through.
“The Cave You Fear To Enter, Holds The Treasure That You Seek” -- Joseph Campbell
Well, California, if it makes you feel any better, I too am in what feels like a burn season. I lost the job I have been trying to get rid of, had a biopsy done, got rear-ended by a dude in surgery scrubs who wasn’t paying attention and may now loose my car to the wonderful state of Florida who has all the laws it doesn’t need and none of the laws it does need. As we all know you can kill people and get away with it here in Florida, but to make it easier for killers, crazies and terrorists, the great state of Florida allows anyone to buy a gun with no wait and no background check. Anywho, that’s a soapbox for another day. Life can just sweep you off your feet in the worst way possible and that is what it is doing to me right now.
I was able to get another job within two weeks, but the job is still low pay. I believe it is going to average out to about $20 more a pay check so I guess I can say that I did move up, albeit a very tiny step in the right direction. The good news is that I have good benefits and much more time off. My work days are shorter, I get more holidays and I have a shut down at Thanksgiving and Christmas which means I will be able to go home and see my family. For those of you who haven’t caught on yet, I am now in the field of higher education. This is a career field I have been thinking about because it is historically good for women, has longevity, great benefits and depending on the university and department within the university – there is ample time off that you don’t get unless you are in education or entertainment production. All of which are pluses in my book. So while I may still be in a monetary pinch, I am seeing this as a launching pad sort of opportunity. I will be learning the ins and outs of a controller’s office and in a few years I can either jump to an internal opening or jump to another university and they have those everywhere! So it is not all doom and gloom for this gypsy heart lady.
The ministry side of life is going strong. I am taking on some more responsibility in my Celebrate Recovery home group. Aside from leading the ladies share group, I will be doing more talking in large group, co-leading a fall step-study and getting my teaching feet wet by providing the training portion of the CR leadership meetings. I love my Friday nights with my ladies and am excited to learn and grow as a Celebrate Recovery ministry leader.
Now that I know I will be remaining in Jacksonville for a while, I need to pick a church home. I feel like I am repeating my Los Angeles days all over again. I started out at a church where I felt something was off, but I ignored the feeling and tried everything I could to find a place to belong. After a year long battle, I stepped away from church #1 and started visiting a couple other churches and one of them became home, my tribe and my life for the remainder of my time in Los Angeles. I seem to be doing the exact same thing on the other side of the country. I picked a church and made it home even though I felt something was off, tried everything I could to find a place t belong, but in the end I find myself stepping away. I guess I am hoping that what happened in Los Angeles will happen here in Jacksonville, that I will find my Mosaic here on the east coast.
While I don’t know what is going to happen with my car at this moment, I do have peace about the situation. The insurance company is doing everything they can to help me, but in the end, if the bumper comes off and the body shop reports frame damage, I will loose my car. I have fought and fought to keep my car, but it hit me the other night, that this might be one of those saving grace moments. If my transmission or some other major repair was suddenly needed, I might not be able to afford to fix the car and I cannot finance a car right now so I would be in serious trouble. Perhaps, I am losing my car and getting a little cash to buy another one (emphasis on little cash which is the issue) because something is about to go wrong with the car I am fighting so hard to keep. I can’t see what lies ahead, but Jesus can and He might have orchestrated the whole rear-ending event to save me from something I cannot see. In sobriety they tell you that you that your life is like an onion. Our lives, our emotions, our attitudes, our opinions, our perceptions and our actions form the layers around the core of the onion and it is in recovery that we begin the process of peeling back those layers to get to the core of who we really are. I feel that I have been peeling back the layers of surrender these past few weeks. The idea of surrender is a huge component of the 12 steps, but the day-to-day surrender takes on new meaning when you begin to realize that you really don’t have much control when it comes to anything except your response to every day life. If you are like me and like to have everything done a certain way and in a certain time frame then you have even more of a struggle with the daily letting go and truly letting God.
Everything good is grace and everything bad is the stuff Jesus holds your hand through until we get to abide in His arms. It is hard to take a step back and surrender to a life event, but it is what is required. We like to think that we have all the answers, but many times it is our decisions and our will that gets us into the tight spots in life. We thought we were right, we thought we had the plan, but then something happens to shake everything up and we get rerouted and more often than not, we look back and say thank you Jesus for rerouting me out of that disaster! In order to get rerouted we had to come to a moment of surrender that we did not like and move in a direction we did not want or anticipate, but that decision to let go and move in the direction God was apparently moving, is what rescued us.
Sometimes life takes you way, way, way up in the air and just leaves you there, hanging. After a while you can’t help but wonder if you are headed for a touchdown or a crash landing.
While my financial situation hasn’t changed, my stress level has skyrocketed. The company that I have been trying to run from is crumbling before my eyes. There is good news though! After feeling uneasy and unsafe for so long I had started to question if my past was causing issues in my present, but it would turn out that my gut, my discernment, my instinct – whatever you want to call it – it was telling me something is off and so are all these people. I couldn’t understand it. It was unfounded and I found it crazy that I felt safer in gang-ridden Los Angeles than in Jacksonville, FL, but as I now know those feelings weren’t so unfounded after all. This is the good news. It wasn’t me. It was and is the company and people I call my day home. While I cannot share any of it here at this time, it does feel good to know that I can and should trust my instincts.
I have been questioning many of my past decisions that were made based on my gut instinct and while they look like they might have been wrong – current happenings say otherwise. Following your gut instinct can lead you into a deep valley, but that doesn’t mean you were lead astray. In my case, I know that the valley I am in is a back-to-the-basics, re-grounding and re-focusing list of lessons that will make all the difference when the gate opens to the pasture in my future.
One of those lessons is the simple truth that I can ask Jesus for a hug whenever I feel overwhelmed and over stressed. I learned this one evening while in shavasana after a hearty detox flow. I saw myself as a little girl in a white dress balled up crying my eyes out. Jesus came to me and picked me up and I watched myself disappear into His light. I did catch a glimpse of myself in His arms and I was smiling from ear to ear and happy as a child could be. I then saw present day me get up off the yoga mat and walk into Jesus’ arms disappearing into His light. While I was watching all of this I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, calm and tranquility. I was immediately elevated somewhere above my current human status and experienced a calm I had never known before. I guess what I felt was love and my tear stained face proved it. And I have felt this same tranquility again and again as I have taken Jesus on His word when He told me at the end of that vision “Don’t forget I AM always here.” I no longer deal with anxious or unwanted thoughts in bed and I no longer worry about what to do with myself when I am alone. Some people have alcohol or weed or a host of other things, but I have Jesus and I find Him to be the most effective calming presence with zero negative side effects.
I am also finding out what is important to me and what deserves my focus and what does not. I am sad to say that like many people who grew up like I did – I have quite a fascination with materialistic things and the finer quality things at that. Take it from one who always wants the most expensive of everything… It turns out that I look just as good if not better in what I can easily afford! I do have to admit that my pride took a hit and I might have had to be forced into one of the stores after exhausting myself in 100-degree heat trying to replace a pair of everyday sandals that broke, but once I was in the store I had a hard time leaving.
And then there’s that whole living with intention and learning to make the best of every situation and becoming a living example of what I want to see more of instead of what I want to see less of…. Yes, I do agree… trusting your gut can lead you into a deep valley, but it does not mean you misunderstood or made a mistake. It does mean that you went where you needed to go to learn what you needed to learn for when you get plucked out of the valley and into the pasture that is your future. I mean what’s the purpose in getting everything you want if you have no idea what to do with it? I am now realizing this could have happened to me and it would have been a complete disaster! Oh and another something – I am finding that when I spend the day in Jesus’ arms – all those personality traits that I have been trying to get rid of somehow disappear and I didn’t do anything but ask Jesus to let me sit in His arms all day long. They say Jesus is sufficient and after spending the last couple of weeks in His arms I can say with complete certainty that He really is more than enough.
This last month has been a whirlwind of emotions. I went from loving my surroundings and my church to wanting to leave and never look back only to find myself thinking maybe it’s not the end of the world if I stay here a little bit longer. The bottom line is I have to do something and after glancing at my savings account I think I know what I have to do. As much as I would love to get back to a bigger city, I need to stop pre-judging every opportunity that comes my way. I also need to be realistic about my current financial situation and that means accepting an opportunity within my preferred salary range either here in Jacksonville or back in Memphis and sticking with the job for the next few years so I can get my debt paid off, replenish my savings account, buy a new car, buy a new Macbook and buy a new Galaxy. I am literally living on borrowed time with all three of those absolutely necessary items! I mean I know my phone is old, but I didn’t realize how old until I was until I was taking a picture of a lion at the Catty Shack Ranch. Everyone was lined up along the fence, zooming in for the perfect shot and I couldn’t believe the captures of the people next to me. I might as well been standing there shaking a Polaroid. At least that’s how I felt.
Anywho… Once I allow myself to accept a boring (my perception) new job with a decent salary, I will be able to put the focus back on my writing, my video devotional series and the books I have planned to write! I will also have more energy to devote to the ministry leadership opportunities that are currently sitting in my lap. I guess what it all comes down to is trust. I am going to have to give up, give in and trust that God knows exactly what He is doing. I would like to say that I am in the Hall of Fame when it comes to trusting God. I have certainly trusted Him with some pretty big items: keeping me cancer free, the move to LA, and the move to Florida. While I might find it easier to trust Him with the big-ticket items above (items I feel I cannot control) I am realizing that I don’t trust Him when I have or feel that I have partial control. It’s like if I can touch it then I can screw it up so it must not be in the cards type of thinking. I have to come to a point where I realize what walking in grace actually means. I had a conversation with Jesus this afternoon regarding some opportunities – good opportunities – that I totally flaked. I told Him that I guessed those type of opportunities were long gone considering my inability to accept parachute number 250. His words to me were this “Did you not think I would know how long it would take you to relinquish your control? Do you still not realize that you always walk in My grace?”
Perhaps it is time to start trusting God for all the things I secretly want in and for my life. Not begging for them, not petitioning for them, but just trusting for them to appear when they are supposed to appear. Perhaps it is time to realize that while there may be a direct route to where we each want to go in life, we seldom ever choose it. If we did, we’d miss out on so much. Besides, don’t the best things in life come in unexpected packages? I think I’ve heard that somewhere. So maybe, just maybe…when life pushes you into a corner thereby taking away your ability to pick and choose – it’s actually for your own good.
The definition of corral is to gather together and confine. Synonyms include capture, collect, enclose, lock up and shut in – in other words trap. This might explain why I feel so trapped these days. God spoke to me recently and He told me I was being corralled into a very tight space so He can direct me to the right pasture. His words, not mine. His thought, not mine. I am a Taurus through and through and trying to corral a Taurus is like trying to corral the most stubborn and aggressive bull on the planet, but I do like that word ‘pasture’.
I feel like I am on a rotating merry go round of phases of corralling. In Phase 1 I am cocky and fighting back non-stop. In Phase 2 I realize I am trapped and I start freaking out and trying to find a way to escape. In Phase 3 I am teary-eyed and weary with a willingness to relent, give-in and give-up. There is a Phase 4 – the phase in which one has waved their white flag, fully given up and accepted their new reality. In other words – they have stopped kicking and screaming allowing the Rancher to open the gate to a new and uncharted pasture – a pasture created especially for the individual walking into it. A pasture that will be well – liked. Unfortunately, I am stuck rotating relentlessly in and out of phases 1, 2 & 3.
I cannot stay where I am, but I don’t necessarily want to leave either. I need a career and not just a job, but Jacksonville doesn’t exactly offer what I am looking for. It can, but those positions are not numerous and are usually given to the friend of a friend, which I am not. It sounds weird, but I like the trees here. I also really starting to appreciate the church I attend and I really love my involvement in CR, the close proximity to the beach and the weather! What I really like is that I feel like I can be used here, that I can have a voice here. I didn’t feel this way in Los Angeles. I couldn’t relate to many of the actors and entertainers I encountered there. I can relate to people here and I think the feeling that I can be used combined with all the other things I like about Jax is what is making me want to stay.
The thing is I don’t have anyone to rely on – it is just me versus the world and if I don’t make some sort of move soon – the world is going to win. It is only a matter of time before something gives and I am ruined. This is why I keep rotating through phases 1, 2 & 3 of corralling. There is a large part of me that wants to stay in Jacksonville, but when I look at the larger picture financially along with the type of jobs available in Jacksonville – I feel that I am most likely facing another move. On the one hand, I know that wherever God leads, it will be good, but on the other hand, I want to take control and stay. I feel as though I need to choose between where I want to live and having the job I want. I am just conflicted. In the past when God wanted to move me, He made it abundantly clear and I was ready for it. This time I am not ready, not very willing and not very clear. It is more of a general knowledge that if I want a job like A, B or C – I will most likely have to move somewhere else to get it. As I said earlier, Jacksonville has these jobs, but they are rare and given to friends, not strangers. Of course, something could give and also force me to give up and just get another job – a much better paying one, but still another j-o-b and stay in Jacksonville.
The number one thing I need to do right now is stay open to what God wants to do and trust that He will direct my path just like He directed me away from the Kansas City opportunity. I need to stop fearing that I am going to make the wrong decision and start trusting that if I do consider a misstep, that God will course correct like He always does. I seriously want to get a tattoo that reads “Stay Gypsy” “Stay in His Wind” on my forearm so I can read it all day every day. I need these phrases written everywhere to remind myself to stay connected to His Wind and not necessarily this world. And like they say – if you are trying to hold on to something, you probably need to let it go.
And of course the one giant elephant in this conversation that has not been broached is the fact that when one is being corralled, one is most certainly going to be doing the exact opposite of what one wants to do – otherwise it wouldn’t be called corralling. Do you think the sheep want to go into the pen? No, they don’t. They want to stay out in the field even though there is no grass left for them to eat and they run everywhere except where the Rancher is trying to get them “Bahhhhing” all the way until they finally collapse from exhaustion and go in their pen only to find that the Rancher was corralling them so he could get them into a new pasture full of lush green grass and rolling hills for their delight. The key for the sheep is yielding to and trusting their rancher and it is the same for you and me. There is a reason Jesus is referred to as the Great Shepherd and it has nothing to do with the literal act of herding sheep.
“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” - Margaret Shepard
What Up Folks! So far 2016 is looking a lot like 2015 only with less sweetness because I gave up extraneous sugar for this 21 day fasting thing. I surprisingly did not have a hard time without my fix of fro-yo every weekend. I did, however, find it hard to not buy any sweets at the grocery store, which is why I am glad I kicked the sugar as my way of participating in a fast. It is easy to break promises I make to myself; it is harder to break promises I make to God. I can actually recall myself tooling down the frozen isle scoping out some new fro-yo only to remember “oh wait, this is a God promise. CRAP!” and I tooled on along down the isle and out of frozen land. While I have not officially lost any weight yet, my stomach is flatter and this improvement is all I need to keep extraneous sugar kicked out of my life!
On another front, I can say that my excitement for church is coming back! I have no idea how either. All I know is that once I finally relented and started going to the church that I felt God was constantly re-routing me to – something changed on the inside. I have found that I wake up excited on Sunday mornings even though my situation has not changed. I still go to church alone, sit alone, leave alone and go home to hang out alone, but I have an excitement that I cannot understand, an excitement beyond all understanding if you will. This is something I have been wrestling with while in Jacksonville. I have told God that I don’t like not having the excitement I had in LA. I told Him I want to enjoy my Sundays again, I want that excitement back, I want Sundays to be legendary again. Somehow the excitement is back and I am very grateful for it. I guess it lets me know that I can have joy in the middle of what was a situation that brought nothing but disappointment and tears. That’s definitely something, a God something, a Philippians 4:11-13 something. I also changed where I sit. I like to be in the middle of the action so I sit down front now regardless of when I arrive. I used to relent and go up the stairs and found that it interfered with my participation in service. They have these usher/bouncer dudes all over the place and I just make them find me a seat as close to the front as possible. I mean it is their job so why not let them be of service.
I am also trying to dig deeper in my Celebrate Recovery involvement. While I have been a facilitator/leader for the ladies share group at the beaches, I have only been fulfilling the role in the small group session itself. This past month I have been digging deeper in that I have been focusing on building better relationships with the women who come to the beaches CR. Instead of talking to friends at the café afterwards, I am focusing on talking to some of the ladies in the group, trying to get more of a feel for where they are in life, where they are mentally and where they are spiritually. I want to be an encourager, a cheer leader, an ear, and a guide for these ladies in their own battles and the only way to do this is to spend time with them and so far I am loving what I am learning.
I have had that Live Love Lead book by Brian Houston for a while now, but just recently started to read it. I came home from the grocery store on Saturday and felt a prompting to go to the beach. Due to the cold weather I hadn’t been in about a month and it was a sweet 67 degrees and already 3pm so I decided to head to the closest beach for some relaxation. As I was leaving I felt the nudge to pick up Brian’s book so I grabbed it with no intention of actually reading it. Once I got to the beach I was glad to see some soft sand and nestled in to watch the waves roll in and out. I find their rhythm hypnotizing and healing. The waves do something for me that I cannot do for myself and after my recent vacation I found that the sound of the waves can be just as beneficial and so I took out the book and started reading. I got through the introduction and the first two chapters and feel that God was trying to re-confirm His plans for me, my ministry calling and His promise in the verse He has gave me last year. (Joel 2:25)
Life has just been hard and it is getting harder. The pressure is on at a level that I have never experienced. I know I have to make a move, but the move I want to make and the move that is most likely going to be available are not the same. To make matters worse, I am conflicted about staying in Jacksonville. In Los Angeles I had everything I wanted, but felt that something was off, that I wasn’t supposed to stay and that prompting turned into busted fire hydrant pressure. Here in Jacksonville, I have nothing that I want, but feel complete peace and have absolutely no prompting to do anything except focus on the tasks I feel God has given me like this blog, the new video series, a possible memoir and continuing with ministry leadership training. It is so strange especially since I know that I have to make a career change due to impending financial ruin. Jacksonville does not seem to offer the career options I am looking for and I feel very conflicted about leaving and more frankly I don’t even know if I can leave at this point. You could say that just like I relented on the church I felt God leading me attend, I am ready to relent on Jacksonville and so I tell God daily – If you want me here – then plant me. If not, then move me. But whatever You do, do it quickly - One thing I am looking forward to is the job hunt being over! I need to focus on the video series and I cannot do that if I am spending an hour a night job hunting. That hour should be creating time if not resting and relaxation time. I can’t keep going on all cylinders all day and all night, especially with a job that drains ones soul like mine does. To be frank, I need a minute and some fun to boot.
Overall, I do have a good start to the new year. Eating is going better thanks again to the fasting thing at church. I am delving deeper into ministry leadership, looking for a better paying job, making an effort to venture out more via local Meetup groups and in a few weeks I will be participating in a small group and the women’s ministry stuff for the spring semester at my church. All of these are in my goals for 2016 and to quote my calendar for the month of February…
I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart – Vincent Van Gogh
Ladies and Gents, over the past month I have really forced myself out of the rut that has become my existence. A serious pulling up of the boot straps if you will. I have been spending a lot of time alone here in Jax due to my inability to make friends. I have a couple of people I can place in that category, but overall my life is pretty empty right now. I found myself gaining weight, not caring about what I looked like or wore and feeling rather pointless. I mean I couldn’t even bring myself to get a haircut because I couldn’t bring myself to care. I remembered a phrase spoken by Craig Strickland, one of my former pastors, “you can’t feel your way into an action, but you can act your way into a feeling”.
I decided to heed the advise in those words and made a list of things I could do to make it look like I gave a flying seaweed about myself and my life. I got my hair cut and added some highlights, started working out on a regular basis again, started eating better and watching my calorie intake, took advantage of some Labor Day sales and updated my wardrobe, and made a point to think about what I was going to wear each day (makeup, jewelry, dress, shoes, bag). I decided that just because I feel like nothing matters right now, doesn’t mean I have to act like it. I feel like I am loosing myself here in Jacksonville so I am just going to act like I am still in Los Angeles. I am going to wear the right clothes, have the right attitude and keep working towards my goals whether I feel like there is any reason to or not.
I have also come to the realization that I really need a better paying job. While it is true that I am in one of the better departments with my current employer, I do need to make a jump in the not too distant future which brings up the question do I wait for a decent paying ministry position to open or go back to the entertainment industry or go for both and see which door opens first? I will most likely do the latter once my class ends in a couple of weeks because like I said, I need some financial stability, a place to call my own and some sort of anchor in my life. Whether that anchor is a job, a city, a ministry or a man, I am feeling the need to anchor to something besides myself. Maybe it is the security driven Taurus side rearing its head, but I feel a major push to get some things taken care of financially and get a home base ASAP. Problem is how does one pick a home base when one hasn’t yet found a place to call home. Perhaps home will find me.
I am just going to have to trust that whatever door opens is the door I am supposed to walk through. I am going to have to trust that there is a plan at work and that the next steps will make sense. Trust has come up several times in my Redeemed Esteem class and I feel like God is not only teaching me to trust Him right now, but He is also teaching me to trust myself, my gut, but not necessarily my feelings. I tend to attract very inappropriate men. It is probably why I am still singe, well that and all the drinking. But anywho, I had been keeping a certain male at arms length for a while and no one seemed to understand why. I guess I should also say that this was not a romantic interest, just a fellow alcoholic on recovery road. Everyone else sings praises of this person, but I felt something else, then when this man started complaining to me about his marriage and his sex life, I thought hmm, I might be right about him because why else would he be talking to me about a topic that establishes emotional intimacy nevermind the fact that I have never been married or that he is no where near my age. Then the nail was hit on the hammer. I will not repeat his words here, but I received total confirmation that he is not trustworthy, definitely not Godly or even trying to be and definitely not someone who should be in any sort of ministry position (which he is L). I am just glad that I could smell him a mile away and was able to get an early confirmation so that I can keep stiff arming him as long as it takes.
I am also learning to like and love myself. I can say with all seriousness that this is the first time in my life that I have been able to look in a mirror and like what I see in the reflection. When God told me that I was in Jacksonville for preparation, I had no idea what He meant, but now that I am going through this class, serving in a ministry and taking part in a women’s leadership group, I feel that the preparation God was referring to was internal. I feel that this is a time to get the inside right. To cultivate good habits, good thought processes and a healthy belief in myself and my God. Those signs you see at the front of roller coaster rides that say “if you have a nervous disposition then don’t ride” Well, that’s me. I am somehow always freaking out and living in fear of every mistake I make, but I am learning to ride the waves of life, trust my gut, trust my God and more importantly, I am learning how to enjoy the ride as I move towards realizing all of my God-given potential.
I recently had the opportunity to share a bare bones version of my testimony at a local Celebrate Recovery anniversary party. I didn’t realize how much of a story I actually had until I tried putting my story on paper. I spent the following week trying to cut it down to the time frame I had been given and it was tough because everything I’ve ever been through seemed pertinent. Anywho, since August brings my 3rd Sober Birthday I thought I would share my bare bones testimony with all of you:
Hi! My name is Jessica and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with alcohol, anxiety, and self-worth.
When I write I like to have angle to work with and my angle for this testimony came from a song called Broken Vessels: “Oh I can see you now, Oh I can see the love in your eyes, Laying yourself down, Raising up the Broken to Life.” Because this is exactly what Jesus is doing for me!
You see I have been switching back and forth between two very different lives since I was nine years old. I grew up in church. I had a good family. I lived in a nice house in a nice part of town. I sang in the choir, I taught Sunday School, I went on mission trips, I led bible studies and I helped make the first Passion Conference happen. I did a lot in a few short and widely separated years of sobriety.
However, the majority of my life went more like a nightmare. I grew up with extreme social anxiety and had a hard time connecting to anyone. BUT, I quickly found that I could do anything and be anyone as long as I had alcohol in my system. My first drink was at nine years old. Nothing special, just a stolen beer shared between two best friends. It would be years later before I would have another alcoholic drink. I was 16 and made a new friend who introduced me to wine coolers. High school quickly became a blur as I routinely opted for spiked coffee in the morning, spiked soda at lunch and whatever I could get my hands on after school. I had a horrible relationship with my parents. I cursed them out daily and was out all hours of the night. My parents had no idea what to do with me. It was normal for me to drink until I blacked out and I did so every night of every weekend. My social anxiety made me dependent on alcohol, which brought a lot of depression so I was also a cutter for most of my teenage years. I hated myself, I hated my life and I only felt free when I was in the oblivion alcohol brought me.
As I mentioned earlier, I had bouts of sobriety that were broken by that lie alcoholics like to tell themselves. “I can control it this time. I just need a little release. Everybody else gets to let loose. One drink won’t kill me.” And down the rabbit hole I went faster than the previous time. Only now I was working and supporting myself. I was in Human Resources of all careers and I had found a new best friend in wine. Most of the time I was sober during the day, but I started drinking the second I was home. I longed for the weekends so I could go on benders and I got increasingly irritated with my co-workers, family members and friends due to my constant craving for oblivion. It got to the point that I was consuming multiple bottles of wine a night, often drinking until I vomited or passed out.
I eventually had another stint of sobriety that lasted about two years. It was all adrenaline and zero anything else and so I fell back into the arms of alcohol and told myself I would change my life once I left Memphis and I did just that – but it was not on my terms.
A few years later, I found myself living in a roach infested rented room in Los Angeles. By this time I was drinking a large bottle of Vodka a day and popping migraine pills to ease the suffering of my vodka based diet. I could barely walk to the mailbox because my muscles were so weak, including my heart, which palpitated non-stop. For the first time in my life, alcohol was not working. I could no longer reach oblivion. I needed something else, something stronger – and considering the state I was in – that something would have killed me.
I was at a very dangerous cross roads when God intervened in my life one last time. I had been seeking His help with a job. During a day of prayer and fasting I had a vision that scared the crap out of me. It turns out that Jesus loves me, but He was ready to let me die if I did not hand over the alcohol once and for all. I cried out – But it’s my Everything. Jesus replied, Exactly. Realizing that I had finally pushed God past His point of no return, I surrendered the one thing I had that made everything else okay and entered into a very reluctant sober state. I entered the rooms of AA in Los Angeles and I found a new home. After about 6 months of screaming into pillows and being afraid to even try going to the grocery store - something just changed. I started feeling more comfortable. Los Angeles taught me a lot. The Recovery out there is top notch and I needed to hear every word that was spoken. My favorite being “you’ve been upside down for so long that you have no idea what right side up feels like. Of course you feel upside down right now – it’s because You’ve finally turned right side up. Give it a minute.” And he was right! I also learned to like myself in Hollywood of all places. I made friends that liked me for who I am. My LA tribe helped me realize that I am funny, pretty, sweet, fun to be around and deserving of the best in life. After I got called to leave LA and found myself in Jacksonville, FL – I felt God nudge me to attend Celebrate Recovery instead of AA. I did not understand this at all. AA had saved my life. I live and breathe the AA logic in my soul. It keeps me from doing stupid things. But, I decided to follow God’s prompting and visited CR and I absolutely hated it. I felt so weird. I was a newbie all over again, but my AA logic quickly spit out the “Shut up and Show Up for 90 days” and so I did.
The first CR I went to, wasn’t my cup of tea so I sought a different one and met a super sweet woman and so I came back and I kept coming back here at the Beaches CR every Friday night. I have found that Celebrate Recovery offers me an atmosphere of love and acceptance where I can work on the root issues that cause my insane desire for escape. Thanks to CR I am staying sober while learning how to ground myself in God’s truth. I am learning to see myself the way God see’s me. I am learning how to serve, I am learning how to lead and I am learning how to deal with those unwanted emotions that usually make me bolt in every direction except the right one. I can say that after working the steps, I mean really, honestly working the steps, I no longer feel the need for alcohol. Sometimes I may want it, sometimes I may think about one drink, but I immediately tell myself that it cannot happen. I know where that one drink leads. For me it leads to my death. It really is that simple.
There is no going back, there is only pressing forward to the life that Jesus is calling me to lead and excitement about where He is taking me. He has given me a new vision for my life, which is the old vision I started out with years ago before alcohol took over my life. The good news is that the last 15 years have not phased God one bit. His plans for me have not changed. He still sees me as the same person I was before all of this mess started. This past year He gave me a verse that has been spoken in this room by others – Joel 2:25 - …He will restore the years the locusts ate away… – thanks to AA and Celebrate Recovery I get to live a life of freedom today and I get to be excited about the restoration of all the things the locusts ate away in my life while I was deep in my addiction, my depression and my self-torture.
AA Saved My Life. Celebrate Recovery is teaching me how to live and accept the new life that has been freely given. If you’re new – keep coming back! Keep doing the next right thing! Get a sponsor, get an accountability partner and Work the steps! Make yourself available to others! Surround yourself with the right people – people who have what you want, people that are grounded in God’s truth! Lean into Jesus and you too can sing that song with gratitude knowing that you are one of the broken God has raised to a new and awesome life. Thanks for letting me share.
And I really am excited for all that is to come! The vision God has given me seems so unattainable and so unreachable, but that’s also the fun part – I cannot remember who said this – Louie, Erwin, Russ or maybe they’ve all said it at one time or another – God never gives you something you can do without Him – I just have to be willing and God will take my willingness and make something awesome out of it. Like this blog, for instance, the readership has slowly been rising since the day I started it and I will keep writing until the day people stop reading it.
I am also working on some full-length (main speaker) versions of my testimony as I might soon have the opportunity to share with some other nearby Celebrate Recovery groups. Not to mention that I am delving into the Advanced Leadership training materials as I continue to develop my ministry leadership skills.
Looking back, I believe God had to take me out of LA so I could slow down and figure out where my life was going. My LA life was very hectic and due to the location of my work it made it very hard for me to be involved in after work activities. I MISS LA A LOT, but it is clear God brought me to Jacksonville so I could slow down long enough to truly change direction.
August 26th, I will be celebrating 3 whole years of sobriety: Three whole years of a different way of living; Three whole years of a better way of living; Three whole years of feeling my feelings; Three whole years of facing my fears; Three whole years of being the real Jessica. Three whole years of being someone I am proud of, someone my family is proud of and someone I know Jesus is proud of. Three whole years of better decisions, better relationships and better impact on those around me. Whoever said Sobriety is boring, uneventful and unattractive - doesn’t know Sobriety.