Oh, the Burdens We Carry

It’s one thing to own your mistakes. It’s quite another to allow them to define you. To continue to carry them long after the lessons have been learned.

One thing I discovered about myself early on in my recovery journey was how tightly I held on to my pain, my mistakes, my guilt, and my shame. They were so much easier to carry than things like forgiveness and faith and grace. It was a revelation to discover how willing I was to wear those shackles rather than trusting in any process that asked me to relinquish them. Who was I, after all, without my carefully constructed cages? They were my armor and my justification for continuing down the dark path I was on.

Through the power I allowed them to have over me I could continue to drink. I could continue to starve myself. I could continue to wallow in the darkness. I could continue to make poor choices. I could continue to separate myself from anyone and anything that tried to shine a light my way. In short, I could continue to be selfish, manipulative, and angry. I was broken, after all, so I got a pass, right?

Wrong. So wrong.

In the Spring of 2018, after almost three decades of unsuccessfully battling alcoholism and anorexia, and after almost a year of self-isolation and self-destruction, my husband and our two grown daughters came to me with their hearts in their hands, fear on their faces, and their gut-wrenching pleas, “Please, please don’t do this. We love you. We need you. We can’t watch you destroy yourself anymore. Try, Mom, just try. Please.”

They didn’t say for us. They said, “For YOU.” They knew anything I did, any help I reached for would have to be of my own volition, and for my own survival. They simply wanted me to know that they believed in me. That despite all the ways I had let them down, they believed I could and would find the strength to overcome.

Looking back now, I have to be honest, I agreed to go into the hospital NOT for myself, but for them. I had already given up on myself. All that was left was the end. That I was wasting away and drinking myself into oblivion were just the means to that end. I believe they knew that. I knew it too. So, unwittingly, almost on auto-pilot, I agreed to the Orlando Recovery Center. I agreed to treatment. I agreed to try, for THEM.

Certain I would fail.

But God had another plan for me. I realize now that He always had. He simply waited for me to reach the end. My end. So that He could show me the beginning. His beginning.

It’s been almost five years since that beginning. The best five years of my life. The most peaceful and present five years. Five years of growing, learning, trusting, and mending broken relationships. Five years of living each moment wrapped in the freedom of God’s faithful and abiding presence in my life. Five years of beginnings.

Relinquishing control was the first step. Placing my past, my failures, my fears, and my sins into His hands, hands filled with grace, mercy, and forgiveness, was the second. Acceptance was the third. Accepting the path that had brought me to that moment of surrender without judgment. Accepting that I am a child of God and therefore, worthy of His love and mercy. Accepting that my choices and actions moving forward would be the only way to demonstrate that I had truly changed. Accepting that I’d continue to face adversity in this life, but that I would never again walk alone. “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go,” Joshua 1:9.

I believe those words. I trust in them. I continue to place my faith in them because I have lived their truth. At no time has God forsaken me; not at any moment of my life. Not even when I was lost in darkness. He has always been, will always be right where He promised He would be. “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,” Deuteronomy 7:9.

It was I who turned away. I failed to keep His commandments. Failed to trust in His steadfast presence. I failed to wait on His timing, so sure I was in control. And yet, He remained, patiently, lovingly, waiting for me to reach out to Him, to call on Him, to relinquish myself, body and soul to His keeping. His covenant was kept; His promise was fulfilled, and without hesitation, He took my hand and led me out of the darkness.

These last five years have been a journey of healing and of learning as I go. A lot of the poetry and writings that fill my journals are words of discovery, deepening faith, recognition, lessons learned, and wisdom earned. I share them exactly as they come to me, a gift from a loving God, placed upon the heart of His grateful child.

Image from Pinterest | Credit to the Photographer

You can let go of the past, my child.

You don’t have to carry it all.

Just the lessons you’ve learned,

the strength you’ve earned.

Everything else is baggage,

you no longer need.

Trust that I will show you

the difference.

Give in to faith

and allow My peace 

to grow within you. 

JN Fenwick (© 2022) | mothjournal14