FOUR WEEKS HAS BEEN THE HARDEST, but also the most rewarding journey of my life, and it’s only the beginning.
Before I departed from the Orlando Recovery Center (ORC) in April of 2018, I shared my story, in what turned out to be a pivotal moment in my recovery. I wrote nothing down. I didn’t labor over the words. Instead, I asked God to provide me with the words to speak. Words that would bring glory to Him, and healing to myself and others. Like all the words He’d been gifting me with daily as I moved through this journey, He didn’t fail me at that moment.
My story wasn’t about the past; all the events that had happened that I believed defined me. It wasn’t about my disorders and addictions either. It wasn’t about my accomplishments or failures. Instead, it was about the journey itself. The journey of discovery I had been on all along. And what I discovered is this—alone I am weak. Alone I am prideful, angry, selfish, and filled with shame. Alone, my choices are self-serving and destructive. Alone, the voices that whisper, “You are not good enough, thin enough, strong enough—you need more,”—those voices win.
Through God’s mercy, I am empowered. Through His grace, I am forgiven. Through His love, I am enough. It is only through surrendering everything to Him I am saved and that I continue to be strengthened and blessed each day.
That evening, the story I shared was markedly different from the story I would have written at any other point in my life. It was an end, but also a beginning. I shared my past. But only in the sense, it had brought me to this place. The culmination of all the events, both good and bad, that had happened. The events themselves were not me and in the process of discovering that, I learned acceptance.
I shared my scars, both the ones I had inflicted, and the ones inflicted upon me. The scars would always remain, but they would no longer define me, and in that, I learned forgiveness.
I shared my guilt. The shame I carried for the selfish choices I had made and the pain I had caused. The overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and doubt I had carried with me for so long and the voices that had always whispered in my ear, “You are not enough.” The voices are still there, but they grow quieter still and in their place is God’s voice, “You are my beloved child and you are always enough;” and through that, I’ve gained strength.
I shared my journey within the walls of ORC. The lessons I’d learned; the tears I’d cried; the armor I’d shed and the power of daily and total surrender. In that I found healing.
I shared what I had learned and what had impacted me the most. That when I am active in my addiction and in my despair, the world revolves around me. I make choices only to serve myself; to feed my addiction. Depression, anxiety, isolation—all these things affect me and take me further and further under.
My addiction locks me in a destructive cycle that seems never ending in its power. I sink further and further beneath the surface until suddenly I am drowning in a sea of my own making. I feel powerless. Because I AM. It’s only in accepting that powerlessness that I slowly float back toward the surface. It is only when I finally surrender everything that the chains holding me down finally break and I can truly swim to freedom.
One of the last things I shared that night was how deeply my addiction and selfish choices affect the people who love me most. I only had the words because my husband, in one of our phone conversations during my stay, had put it into a staggering perspective for me. He said, “Jen, do you remember the moment the doctors told us that Emma had stage four cancer? How helpless and hopeless you felt. How you would have taken it from her in a heartbeat?” I said yes.
I would never forget that moment. What I’d felt at that moment was a complete and total powerlessness. Here was my child, an extension of my soul, and she would have to fight for her life; suffer physically and mentally as she battled this disease with the outcome yet unknown. It was one of the few moments in my life where I gladly fell to my knees, willing to give anything if only she would be spared.
John’s reply rocked me to my core, “That’s how I’ve felt watching you.”
What I didn’t realize when I was in the middle of my struggle was how I impacted those around me. The people who love me the most; who are rooting for me. I thought my choices were only about myself. That I suffered alone. And so, I pushed and pushed, broke promise after promise. I lied, cheated and stole to feed the beast and then looked up surprised when I found myself alone.
What I’ve realized on the other side is that I don’t live in a vacuum. That every choice I make that keeps me on the path to destruction affects others. My husband and children who watch in fear and anguish, wishing I could see myself the way they do; praying I’ll come back to them. My parents and siblings, who hurt for me and many times in frustration lash out, only wanting me to come back home.
What I did was selfish and hurtful. I cocooned myself thinking it was only about me, but I was so wrong. Foolish really. When I regained any sense of clarity and could step back and look at myself, at first, I didn’t like what I saw at all. I’d carved a path of destruction that bled into the heart of what meant the most to me. I had hurt the people I loved repeatedly. They were tired of my words. My words held no meaning anymore because I had overused and abused them.
When my husband shared that insight with me, I wept. I wept for him, for our daughters, for every person I had let down. And I wept for myself. In those moments I realized just how wrong I had been. How selfish and manipulative my actions had been. How my choices had caused so much helplessness and hopelessness in the lives of the people who loved me.
Once you know something, you can’t ‘unknow” it. You may ignore it, but you can’t ever ‘unknow’ it. I now knew, with resounding clarity, the extent of the damage I had inflicted. My words would not be enough anymore. It would only be my daily actions and the choices I had yet to make that would restore their trust.
While my family was an integral part of my decision to seek treatment, the greater part of the equation was myself. I was tired. I no longer wanted to live in the grip of addiction. I no longer wanted these destructive things to have power over me. I wanted to be free. I wanted to know peace.
The path I’m on now is one I take one day at a time. It’s one I entrust to God’s keeping in all things. It’s one where I surrender daily to His plan for me. It’s one where when the trials of this world come, and they do, I don’t worry because I know God has me, come what may. It’s freedom like I’ve never experienced. A peace like I’ve never known.
Each time I feel any doubt, each time I encounter a craving, or those voices try to overtake me, I pray. I ask God to take it, to direct my steps and to give me the strength to prevail. He always does. I immerse myself in my relationship with Him, seeking His guidance in all things. I trust in His plan for me and in His promises because He has shown repeatedly that He is steadfast and faithful.
It seems like such a simple thing, but it has taken me a lifetime to reach this place. I can tell you sincerely, though, that I would not change a minute of the journey that has brought me here. It took every joy, every heartache, every tear to bring me to this place. But I am so grateful that I am here. At this moment. In this life.
I pray that if even one poem, one word, one thought from Four Weeks touches you, that you let that seed take root. That you know you are worth the journey. That you are so much stronger than the chains binding you. That a life filled with peace, love, and joy await you on the other side of the curtain. How do I know this?
Because I am standing on the other side, and the view is beautiful, and the road ahead—filled with hope and promise.
© 2019 Jennifer N. Fenwick, excerpt from Four Weeks © 2018
There is a surrendering to your story and then a knowing that you don’t have to stay in your story. —CHARLOTTE BARON-REIDFour Weeks: A Journey from Darkness by Jennifer N. Fenwick, is available now on Amazon