What does it mean to be healthy? If you had asked me four years ago, I probably would have said things like eating good food and exercising regularly. While this does fall under the physical health category, living a healthy life encompasses more than just physical health; it includes mental and spiritual health, as well.
My name is Melissa, and I am a recovered alcoholic. I have remained sober for almost four years, and all glory be to God. I did not have a relationship with God when I was growing up; I am not sure if it was pressure from peers, a true lack of interest, a rebellion, or perhaps it made me uncomfortable – maybe a combination of all the mentioned. I was raised Presbyterian and frequented a local church with my family. I do remember thinking when the church spoke of God, He seemed really mean and I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to worship a punishing and unforgiving god. As soon as I was allowed to break free from the church, I did.
THE MIDDLE YEARS
I was around the age of 14 when I started drinking and began using drugs shortly after. By the age of 21, I had already acquired three misdemeanors and two drunk driving convictions, which caused me to lose my driver’s license; I was growing quite the “rap sheet”. I can tell you, that in every one of those situations that I had gotten myself into, I was calling out to God for help. “Please, if you get me out of this, I won’t do that ever again!”. It’s crazy to think about the number of times I prayed while sitting in a jail cell, and yet – I still didn’t want to admit that, deep down, maybe I really did believe in God and the miracles he can offer.
“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” – Genesis 3:22
My alcoholism progressed, I lost many friends and gained more drinking buddies. Time kept moving; I kept drinking. By the age of 28, I was 77 pounds at the height of 5’5”, and I looked frail. I could barely hold myself up. My “meals” consisted of a couple of chips followed by half a fifth of whiskey. I was in and out of the hospital with pancreatitis and seizures, I was failing out of school, I couldn’t hold a job, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. My “life” was unmanageable.
It was almost 5 years ago that I went to treatment for the first time. You see, I had a dream that I saw myself in a casket, and when I awoke, I was in a full-blown panic attack and all that was running through my head was, ‘What are you doing with your life?’. Something from within me reached for my laptop and began researching facilities for substance abuse. I had hit my bottom. After checking myself in, on the fifth day of my detox, I had my eighth and final seizure. I was taken to the hospital where the doctor told me, and I will never forget his words, “Melissa, I am not sure what is keeping you alive right now, but science tells me that you shouldn’t be here.” All I could think about was the dream I had five days prior.
I went back to treatment after the hospital and continued my 28-day treatment at the treatment center which was Christian-based. I learned a lot of things about my addiction, and I began learning about God and Jesus little by little. After the treatment, I went back home to my parent’s house and I was just beginning to build a relationship with my higher power, God. Things were looking up for a brief period. It wasn’t too long before I had some things crumble in my life and I wasn’t sure how to cope. I turned away from God and went back to drinking, and the worst part of all of it was I was worse off than when I quit the first time. After a few months of relapse, I checked myself back into treatment.
This time I came in with a 110% attitude. I was ready to get rid of this demon once and for all. I took all the suggestions I could get! I began reading the word of God, and I was relating His scripture to my own life. A solid foundation was being built and allowed for the creation of an authentic relationship between God and myself which I have the pleasure of knowing today. I ate food, laughed, wrote, and cried, among an array of other things while I was recovering from alcohol.
I didn’t go home after, instead, I went to a three-quarter house. While there, I learned about living a healthy life – this ranged from hygienic care, as well as setting boundaries, and even paying bills. I had no boundaries prior to living there and I don’t think I ever paid a bill up to this point unless it was a collections account. I am grateful to have had that experience since I now live alone and use many of the skills that I learned while living there. Living away from home also helped me repair the damaged relationships within my family. I am so blessed that today we have a rock-solid foundation we walk on – and we walk together with God.
It would take me pages to let you know where I am now in my life. I feel confident in saying that I am a far healthier individual than I was when I was living with an active addiction. As you have read, I was not the most amazing character. I was cynical and dark. I had untreated depression and a host of other ailments both mental and physical. I was clearly spiritually sick as well. Had I not had the dream which enlightened me, I do not believe that I would be writing this to you today; I believe the dream was gifted from God.
WHERE I AM TODAY
Physical, mental, and spiritual health means so much more to me today than it did four years ago. I am not a big exerciser, although I make it a point to remain active. I can’t say that I eat the healthiest of the foods that there are to consume, but I eat – and I eat a lot. I do not suffer from depression any longer as I have been able to confide in my peers and discuss things from my past that I was ashamed of. The health problems -both mental and physical- I had from the excessive drinking, and I will spare you the gruesome details, no longer plague my life because I acted and sought the help that was required.
I look back on the history of my drinking and I saw that I did a lot of things based on fear. I was afraid to live, and I was afraid to die. I was afraid to succeed, and I was afraid to fail. I was afraid to say yes and afraid to say no. I was plagued with fear. I later learned in Alcoholics Anonymous that fear is one of the common traits found among people who suffer from alcoholism, along with resentment. My spiritual sickness had quite literally taken over my life – which then leaked into my physical and mental health. Today, my spiritual health is in the best condition it has ever been because I have been trying to seek God in all that I do, which is key to maintaining my sobriety.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeramiah 29:11
The Way to Healthy Living
Today, I can honestly say that I am not the most righteous person. But I try. I have learned through the teachings in the Bible that I am human and that I am bound to make mistakes, but when I follow close to His words those mistakes will become less, and less. The more that I seek His ways, and listen for His guidance, the more I will begin to walk in His ways with ease. I have been letting Him guide me since the day that I surrendered my addiction to Him, and He has taken me places that I did not think possible.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! – Philippians 4:4
If you are struggling with alcohol or other substances and want to break free from the chains of addiction, there’s hope! As you can see, it was a long journey for me to get to where I am now. I had to learn to rely on God to guide me and follow His ways instead of following the path to destruction. Little by little, day by day, you can live a healthy life when you lean on Him – God will do for you, what you cannot do for yourself.
Things that helped me become closer to God, which you can do too, are things like, reading the Bible, checking out a church like Shepherd’s Gate who will be there to love and support you in your journey while teaching you about Jesus, joining a Bible study where I met like-minded friends, and listening to podcasts of church sermons, to name a few.
These past few years have been a learning experience with finding the right amount of balance in my life, but the thing that I am the most grateful for is finding the courage to build that foundation with God. I was unaware of what life inside His grace and mercy felt like, and I am not disappointed.
May God bless you and keep you.