I learned to numb with alcohol when I was 13 years old.
At first it was an experimental, rebellious act. My life was not troubling or painful, was just being a 7th grade boy at a party with some friends. I snuck two beers from my house, hid them in my sleeping bag, and drank them that night at my buddy’s sleep over. That’s how it started.
When I was 25, I went to see a counsellor. I never told anyone I went. Concerned about how I had continued to drink, I was more frequently drinking for buzz and rarely in social settings. I typically drank by myself.
On the outside, my life seemed normal and healthy. I had a growing marriage, family, career, and ministry. On the inside, something was wrong and I didn’t want to feel it. Numbing with a few too many was there.
Fear lurked in the shadows—fear of being found to be weak, needy, unable, imperfect, unlovable. Shame became the emotion to be managed. I managed it with grit and determination. I would beat this, whip it into submission.
I whipped for 40 years. Still numb. Still managing.
It had to come into the light.
Shame cannot exist in the light. Fear subsides and vanishes in the light of truth.
Shame always reacts by hiding, covering and blaming. My numbing fear involved an abnormal use (abuse) of alcohol. It also included an abnormal obsession with success and achievement.
I used those, perhaps more so, to numb my achy soul. If I could own my own company, make great money, live in a beautiful home, get another one, have a great family, kids that turned out ‘great’, etc…
Oh yea, I had become comfortably numb. Leaking my way towards empty is the more accurate truth.
I share this vulnerable side of me for two reasons:
(1) I need to live in the light. I want what the light provides: Life. Healing. Restoration.
(2) I want to bring light to others who are hiding, covered and blaming in shame. I don’t condemn you. I am here, with you.
The light is here for us.
There is an enemy of our souls whose mission is to “dis” us. Discourage, dishearten, dissuade, distance, discount, distract, disillusion, dis-unify, dis,dis,dis.
There is a redeemer of our souls whose mission is precisely the opposite. Restore courage, rebuild hearts, rekindle and persuade, bridge the distance, remind us that we count, restore and clarify vision, unify people.
The Hebrew people have a word for redeemer. Goel. It speaks of a person in our family, what they call a kinsman (like folks in the south referring to family as kin-folk). If you were in trouble or deep need, the Goel in the family was the person who could help you, who had the qualification, ability and willingness to help.
Growing up I had good parents and siblings who may well have been qualified, able, and willing but I never asked. I hid it, covered it and hoped they wouldn’t see.
Through a deeply painful and terrorizing moment this past year, I let go. I got good and numb in some of my typical ways, felt the weight of it all at what should have been the height of my joy and finally, in one big crappy, shame-filled moment, admitted I could not carry it any longer
My son, Drew, carried my limp soul–he carried me to the light. He carried me to his Goel and to mine, Jesus. Other family members and friends joined in to help and to support.
Goel – a family member who is a qualified, able and willing redeemer. God is the ultimate Goel and He sends others. He, and they, are available to us.
I spent 40 years trying to clean up my inner mess. Heck, I tried to become one of the righteous ones whose lives are marked by such virtue that they don’t seem to even need a redeemer. Who was I kidding? I was acting like an idiot 7th grader again.
But here’s who I really am. I’m just a guy who’s often felt alone, amidst a crowd of friends and family, willing to fake-it-till-you-make-it, hiding behind some levels of success, achievement and social status – and afraid that you might know that I drank a few too many beers by myself sometimes.
In the quiet places of my soul, the place where no one but I go, I’ve felt others would think less of me if they knew I lived under the weight of that. I believed the lie that I was the only one, the uniquely disqualified – so I numbed and I hid the inner me.
My heart is not to judge whether another is living a redeemed or numbed life, instead it is to simply reflect whatever light that has come to me.
And to be a man who walks with others to light.
Thank you for hearing part of my shadow story. It’s hard to tell. I’ve left details out to help avoid assessment and comparison. Who did, how much and for how long are irrelevant here – the truth is that we are being both dissed by the enemy and pursued for Redemption by One who is qualified, willing and able.
For those of you who pray, please thank God for His work in my life this past year. I’m still the same old me that some of you know pretty well – just enjoying more light than I have in the past and it feels wonderfully healing.
For those of you who need someone to talk to, please call or write. For those of you who need to share, start sharing. Shame cannot hide when we bring ourselves into the light.
Peace to you today.