As a newly admitted alcoholic, I face tests and pass milestones every single day. Some are big, some little. Simply counting the days is a milestone. I wonder if, years from now, alcohol will not be so present in my mind all the time, or if the thoughts of it will shift back into the shadows of my brain; there, but not so dominantly present.
Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day. A day of celebration that, for many, is really only about getting drunk. St Patrick’s Day for my family is different. It is the birthday of my beloved father-in-law, and now, 16 years after his death, still the day when we celebrate his life and the love he had for his family.
Years ago, my mother-in-law would host a combined St Patrick’s Day – Birthday Party for the family. Eventually, I took over hosting the celebration. Because I like a challenge in the kitchen, and because we were cutting “processed” meat out of our diet, I decide to make my own homemade corned beef for St Patrick’s Day a few months after my mom had died. The fresh from the butcher brisket soaked in my homemade brine for 7 days before it was cooked the traditional way with all the trimmings. When it came time to serve the meal I was nervous, but everyone loved it. I got the nicest compliment I could have imagined when my Mother-in-Law said, “This is the best corned beef I’ve tasted since my Irish Grandmother made it for me.”
Well, as you can guess, I now host every year and make my home made corned beef. I love hosting this meal, which has become a gathering of family and friends with Irish roots. This year it felt a little different, facing the holiday famous for alcohol and not being able to take part in the drinking. Because I am not ready to be “public” with my status as an alcoholic, I hid behind one sentence, “I gave up wine for Lent.” Period. No one said another word, or offered me another drink, and went on with their partying. Next time it may not be so easy, but that will be a story for another day.
The dinner was a success and I did not really think about wine during the party. The hard part came with the cleanup. Everyone had left and I was picking up and doing dishes when I realized there was an open bottle of white wine left on the bar. Talk about tempting! My husband was upstairs, my daughter was not home, no one would see me if I poured a glass. I thought about it. I debated. I considered. I danced a little jig around the bottle testing to see how close I could get to it before its magnetic force would be stronger than my willpower.
Then it hit me. It’s not my willpower I need to hold onto. It is the healing power and strength of God’s love. It is not really me I will be disappointing if I take a sip, it is God. There was not another human being in the kitchen with me last night, holding me accountable, but God was there, quietly watching me struggle, but at the same time whispering in my heart, you can do this, you are strong.
So I did it. I put the stopper in the bottle and put the bottle into the fridge. What?! you ask? Why didn’t you throw it away? Dump it down the drain? Remove the temptation? To be honest, at the time I was not certain why. At the time it was just what I did. However, I had a thought as I laid in bed a little while later. Over the years, I have poured multiple bottles down the drain declaring I’ll Never Drink Again. This time my soul told me I did not need a grand gesture, and I did not need to remove the temptation. My soul told me, with God, you are strong, you can do this. I realized that God had whispered to me so quietly my brain did not hear, but my soul did, “I will make you strong. I want you to put this bottle into the refrigerator, and not look back.”
I faced a milestone last night. What a relief it is to sit here this morning sipping my tea, surrounded by dirty pots from last night’s feast, knowing I am wrapped in the strength of God’s love.