joanie

Sobriety and Life in the Spirit

“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3 6-8

I have been working to retrace the details of my recovery process. Two years sober, I know that God knit together a miracle that transformed me. But the precise timeline and details have felt hazy. It’s like trying to recollect the specifics of a storm. We might remember the meteorologist’s forecast on the news, the wind blowing the leaves of the trees, and the sounds of thunder and lightening, but some of the finer points might have been missed. The origin of the storm might not be considered or how the rain gutters diverted the water from flooding the house. There are a million details in a storm, most of which go unnoticed. Though we may not scrutinize the next monsoon, I do want to better understand the events of what felt like a storm that swept me up into a new life. How did it happen? Why did my heart shift? Why did sobriety finally stick as opposed to all of the other prior failed attempts?

In January 2015, my husband Ryan came to my home office with a trash bag in his hand. He entered the doorway and asked me to put any bottles of alcohol that I had been hiding into it and to throw them away. His second request was to call a therapist that had been recommended and to set an appointment. He didn’t say a lot, but every word was delivered with gravity. The way he spoke in that moment was without condemnation, without shame, filled with courage, and full of love. At the same time, his words and tone communicated absolute seriousness. It instilled fear in a way I had not previously known. It was love and anger at the same time, the most tangible experience of God’s mercy. It was a love that would not continue to stand by as I destroyed myself. The Holy Spirit spoke through Ryan to me and, finally, I was broken enough to listen.

That was the moment when life changed. I didn’t step immediately into sobriety that day, but it was the step in the right direction. I got into therapy, worked through a lot of pain, grew up, and most importantly, got to know God. I was free of shame.

Twelve weeks after that day in the office, I officially committed to a life of sobriety and recovery. Now, over two years later, a very different person from who I was, I know the voice of the Holy Spirit and I wait for its direction as I continue on this adventure. But, as I learned that morning in January 2015, this journey is not mine to plan. It is not even mine to anticipate or fully understand. My job is purely to listen and follow, knowing that I’m loved.

Granted, sometimes I wish the Holy Spirit would speak as loudly as he did on that day in the office. I’m an A-type personality and I love having a plan. But my desires for clarity are most often rooted in insecurity about current or possible future circumstances. I remind myself daily that God loves me and thank him for tuning my ears to hear the Holy Spirit so that when it is important for me to hear, I will be listening.