A New Song

Originally shared by Crissy Wilson at The Gathering Church on Sept. 29, 2019.

My name is Crissy Wilson and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ and a recovering alcoholic. They call it recovering regardless of how long it has been since you’ve had a drink because the Enemy still waits to use your past drinking against you. The book Alcoholics Anonymous puts it well in saying that the privilege of drinking alcohol has been revoked because you’ve abused it so heavily. I’ve been in situations since recovery and will be again where I am offered a drink. If a simple “no thank you” does not seem to get the point across I simply state, “I’ve had enough for my lifetime.”

I’ve been laughed at during secular recovery meetings for my talk of spiritual warfare, but in the world of addiction or alcoholism, in my experience, the battle is as real as night and day. The Enemy waits to get you. Not just to make you sad or isolate you or have you believe the lies that will allow your insane behavior to seem appropriate in your own mind. But to kill you dead. Alcohol was the Enemy’s weapon of choice for me but Jesus saved my life.

 It would take much longer than the time we have here to give a full testimony. The Lord is with me every second of every day and the more I lean into him, the more I am able to see the affection and love He has for me and for all of us. What I say to you this morning cannot begin to explain or describe the countless ways in which He has rescued me and will continue to rescue me. Isaiah 46:4 says “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” He is my best friend, my comforter, my mending wall, my guide.

When God rescues you two things happen. Well, a lot of things happen but two that I will mention today. 1. You are never the same as you were before He rescued you and 2. You must tell someone. Not just because Scripture says to or other people tell you it is a good idea or because the 12th step is to work with another struggling human being, but because when He rescues you, there is a longing in your heart to stand on a rooftop and shout about it. I considered this when I first became of sober mind but decided to keep my quiet apartment community quiet. The Enemy has kept me from talking since the first time I decided not to say anything. I have told a few people over the years but not in great detail and even last week and every day including today, the Enemy has tried to keep me from saying anything. “You are right in the middle of moving, you have a baby, remember that other thing you are supposed to get done, it’s ok to wait.”

Fear is an odd, adaptive trait. It can save our lives in some situations but in others it can kill you. The type of fear I feel in my hesitation to share is the kind that kills, that of the Enemy. In the gentlest of ways, our Father has encouraged and enhanced my desire and need to say, “My God has saved me and I am going to tell someone about it.”

I talk with Him all the time. Prayer is a funny thing. When you decide that you want to get to know God, (and it is because He is calling you that you make that decision, do not for a second believe you had anything to do with it), you pray. Oh so important. He loves hearing us own what is on our hearts. He wants to hear you speak it, though He already knows what is on it. Reading the Bible is great and you will yearn to learn more and more once He has chosen to call you to Him but the most important thing, in my experience, is our personal relationship with the Lord. It is a living, growing relationship that sustains me in this life.

As a child I knew I was loved. Not just by my parents or grandparents, but by something big, something HUGE. We all feel that way in the beginning. It’s impressed upon our hearts. Little girls wear crowns of clover and little boys bath towels for superman capes. Then something happens. Cue the Enemy. Something tells us that we are incapable of achieving greatness and sometimes if given the right circumstances and vulnerability, we believe it.  

I watched my mother die an alcoholic death. Not the kind where someone who already has liver disease drinks too much and doesn’t wake up again, but the kind that happens over years. She stopped eating whole meals. She stopped making sense, eventually stopped bathing and though you would think that these things would cue some type of personal awareness and the behavior would change, it didn’t. The alcoholic or any addict, suffers an insanity greater than any sickness I’ve ever seen or heard of. My favorite scripture is Romans 5:3-5. Not only so, (Paul speaking on standing in the glory of God), but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

After my mother’s death, in 2007, I found myself constantly worried for the future and living in the past and I was exhausted. I continued to drink for five more long years. I began to see what it was I was doing to myself but could not seem to stop of my own power. Every morning I would get into the shower with my hangover and tell God that I didn’t want to drink anymore. Sometimes right in the middle of saying that I was thinking about where I would go to get a drink when I got off work. They call it being a “functioning alcoholic” when you are able to work and somewhat manage your life while drinking daily. Let me tell you, that is no way to function. I was tired for years. Everything seemed in order from the outside but I was often a week from eviction, from car repossession, I pushed the limit on anything and everything and was in a living hell emotionally. Was I sad? Was I angry? Who knows, have another drink. I was in a constant state of grief. I grieved for the life I wasn’t living aside from the death of people close to me. I grieved for the little girl that I used to be, so happy and hopeful. I was being killed slowly by the Enemy himself and at my own hand. I believed his lies. They were so loud and direct.

Underneath it all through the years, however, a soft steady voice remained constant. “You are more than this, you are loved.” Again, once God has called you to Him, He does not let go. With an internal battle going on, I got church clothes out one drunken Saturday night and made up my mind that I was going to church the next morning. Fairly simple it would seem to most.

I was not taken to church as a child but in my adolescent years, I attended a Sunday night youth group and then eventually episcopal church with a family that lived down the street from my grandparents. People that God brought into my life. Now, though it is the house of God, imperfect people make up the church and as people we can be judgemental. After a few too many judgements by people my own age and even adults, I let fear once again keep me from God. I visited one church when I went away to college in Greenwood, SC but the pastor remarked about catholics going to hell and I left immediately and never returned. Who was he to condemn anyone, especially people of faith?

So relatively simple it would seem to lay out clothes for church on a hungover Sunday but it was by the grace of God. I got up that morning and got dressed then dropped to my knees. I didn’t want to go, or did I? I could barely tell the truth from the lies any longer and I was tired and hungry and had a horrible headache. Something a drink could have fixed. I prayed, “Tell me what to do!” “Get off your knees and go to church.” The truth He wanted me to hear had never been more clear.

So I went. When I arrived I pulled on the handle of the door and it felt locked, “a good enough reason to leave” said the Enemy, “you are tired, after all”. I pulled again with all the strength I could summon and the door opened. I still don’t know if I was weak or if that battle for my heart continued all the way to the door of that church. The faces were friendly, it was reaffirmation Sunday. Ironic. People were rededicating themselves to God in front of their congregation. I sat in the back and cried the whole time. Relief, sorrow, real feelings, not fabricated ones induced by alcohol. I was invited to the church by a neighbor in my apartment building but as I stood up to give peace during the service do you know who I saw? The mother of the family from down the street at my grandparent’s house. I pushed through the crowd and tapped her on the shoulder. I was ashamed because I just knew I smelled of alcohol but I accepted the embrace anyway. I was ashamed a lot.

I forced myself to go Sunday after Sunday. It was the only day I felt sane out of the week any longer and I didn’t seem to be able to do anything else to help myself but make sure to go to church. I filled out one of those little cards they pass around during communion that asks if you are a visitor and whether or not you are interested in talking more about the church. I didn’t expect anything, I had filled these out before. No one had ever reached out. And besides, I didn’t have any money to give them. At my former church during adolescence that was an issue. No adult in the clergy wanted to invest time in me because my parents didn’t come with me and as a teenager, I didn’t have any money to give. To my surprise, I got a call. Not a letter, not an email, a phone call. The pastor wanted to know if Id like to have coffee. Here was a chance to be sane on a day that wasn’t Sunday! I went. I didn’t tell him that I had discovered that I was an alcoholic, that everyday was a living hell and putting one foot in front of the other to get to work and back home again felt like a nightmare. I just met him for coffee. 6 mos later I was baptized and the mother from the family down the street was my baptismal sponsor. We met on Wednesday evenings for dinner. Another day I felt sane again. I was baptized with a hangover, tears running from my eyes as fast as they could be produced on an Easter Sunday. I was changed. I was still drinking, but I was changed. I began to remember who I was before the lies of the Enemy crept into my childhood and I began to dream again.

The war waged on within me and one night I could no longer take it and I cried out to Jesus from a defeated position on my knees in my bedroom floor. “Is this it? Is this all you have for my life? To die like Mom did, sad and alone? Use me! I beg of you! Use me for your works! Help me, I can’t do it without you, I don’t want to be an alcoholic, I want to do your work” I wept and asked Jesus to hold me. He did. Best I can remember, I found rest for the first time in a long time. I woke up the next morning to a hard look at what my life had truly become. I hadn’t made it into pajamas, or even under the covers. My bedroom light was on, the bathroom light was on, the hall, the dining room… there wasn’t a light in my house that wasn’t on. What was that about? I always turned the lights out, even when I was drunk. I had to save on my electricity money so that I could drink. There was a spoiled dinner in the microwave that I hadn’t made it around to eating. A puddle of urine was in front of my front door because I hadn’t stayed conscious long enough to take my dog out. (She was also a gift from God, I’m positive of it) Before I did anything else I opened the refrigerator door to see what alcohol was left, if any. I did this often, in preparation of the next night’s “therapy”. I didn’t take anything out, but all of a sudden the air seemed different like it was shaking and I heard one word, “Enough!” To this day I don’t know if that word was meant for me or the evil that had hold of me, but it was all that was needed. I began sobbing uncontrollably and out of nowhere. I was free. I panicked and pulled a list of AA members that I hadn’t thought about in years out of a nightstand. I don’t know how I knew it was still there. I had gone to a meeting once or twice close to ten years prior to appease a friend at the time.

I called the first one, disconnected, I called another, no answer, third one, she said to me- go to the 6pm meeting tonight, they will teach you how to live. “I don’t know if I can stay sober forever”, I told her. I had no desire to drink any longer but I was afraid for my life that it would come back. “You only have to stay sober for an hour” she said. “Then two hours if you want, then a whole day if you feel like it, but right now, let’s just say an hour.”

I’m still sober. I don’t test it. I have a girlfriend who said to me a while back, “don’t you think you could just have a glass of wine now and then, it’s been years.” No, I’m not testing that. Sobriety was gifted to me by God himself and it would be an insult to Him for me to try- not to mention, I don’t know that He would gift it again. As Dr. Parks stated in his sermon last week, “God has a rap sheet.”

I liked the same fellow for the last few months of my drinking and the first couple of my sobriety although I didn’t see him for the first couple of sobriety as I was busy getting my life back together. I went to a birthday party for a mutual friend of ours three months into sobriety and he happened to be there. He was hungover, he reeked of alcohol. It was the first time I’d smelled it since becoming sober and it made me sick to my stomach. It smelled like the poison that it is. I left the party sooner than anyone else for fear I might smell it again. On the way home, I prayed, “Lord, I’m good alone. If you want me to just be with you for the rest of my life, I’m happy to just do your work. In Jesus name, Amen!” I cranked up my Christian station, sang my heart out and oddly enough met Jason Wilson three hours later. Something else amazing happened. I understood my mother’s struggle. I could see how she could have been taken over by alcoholism and not be able to find a way out. I forgave her. This is just a small portion of what I have seen God do and an even smaller part of what He has done that I don’t even know about. Thank you for letting me share.

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