Monday, August 11, 2008

Who Am I? Part 2 ~ My Testimony

If you haven't read the first part of my testimony, you can catch up here.

My parents were far from perfect, but the most important, most precious gift they ever gave me was to raise me in a Christian home. I knew from the time I was a very little girl that what I saw in them was real. No matter what kind of problems we had or faced as a family, I knew that they truly loved the Lord and they tried to do the best they could. But, life is not always kind, and I have found that sometimes when you grow up in chaos, you become comfortable with it. So much so that many times you unconsciously create your own at the very same time you are trying like heck to pull yourself out of it. You crave normalcy, and yet once you have it in the slightest measure, you panic. It feels uncomfortable and unnatural. And while you are waiting for the roof to cave in on you, you inevitably create more chaos/drama somewhere else in your life. It's comfortable, and you know how to survive and function in it. It's a vicious cycle, and it's not pretty. But when it is all you know, and you grow up in it, you can't always see it for what it is. Even when you are faced with the stark reality of it all, you can try to do better- to be better. But it isn't easy. The road seems to be filled with stumbling blocks at every turn. And sometimes you fall down over and over again. You're lucky if you can reach out and take God's hand and let Him help lift you up out of the mess you've made. It is very hard for me to write about this. Most of you know that my parents have passed and I don't want to do anything that would mar their memory or disrespect them in any way. But, I want to be truthful about where I've come from and what the Lord has brought me through, because that is where my testimony lies. I used to feel intimidated about giving or sharing my testimony, because I don't have some great conversion story to tell. But, I am a testament to how God can take something broken and make something beautiful out of it.

Addiction has plagued my family for generations. Alcohol runs deep in our veins and seems to be a part of an everyday ritual within our environment. I know it has destroyed lives four generations deep within my family and is as wide spread as it is long. I can not name one living family member who hasn't been touched by it and changed by it's devastation in some way. It is a very powerful disease. My mom struggled to free herself from the strong hold it had on her until the day she died. I don't think my parents realized for a long time that she was an alcoholic. I remember a story she told me once of how she fell a part when she found out one of her brothers had been murdered. She was hysterical, and my dad couldn't calm her down. Being an old fashioned military man, he was raised in a time when emotion was a sign of weakness, and frankly, he didn't know what to do with her. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her, telling her to stop it. She was still crying hysterically when he slapped her, sat her down and then set a drink in front of her and told her to pull herself together. I don't think my mom ever had a single safe place in her life to express her emotions, which only perpetuated her drinking all the more. She survived extreme poverty, abuse (both physical and sexual,) neglect and abandonment, as well as the effects that addiction had on her own family growing up. As I came to know my mother as a woman in my adult life, I was utterly amazed that she emerged out of that part of her life as a whole, sane person. And I think she tried to drowned out the memory of it all in her drinking.

My mom would drink herself to sleep a lot when I was younger, but as the disease progressed, it seemed to wake a rage within her. It was never directed towards me, but it was in turn met with an equal and ample amount of anger and rage from my dad. He did not deal well with her drinking. And when she was drinking, they could really tear each other a part. I always hid when the yelling turned to blows and breaking of furniture. I'll never forget one night hiding under the pool table as I watched blood fall down around my feet. I never remember being scared, just very sad. I always knew that Jesus was protecting me. And I would talk to Him kinda like you would an imaginary friend. But, He was very real to me even then, and I believed in Him with my whole heart. I knew I was safe and that He was with me.

I had to draw upon the comfort and strength I found in His presence when I finally faced my own anger toward my parents. I felt very used by them both, like a pawn in some kind of game they played to hurt each other. They would fight, she would drink, they would fight some more. Then she would take me and leave. We would fly half way across the country to be with her family until he apologized and then we'd return. This happened at least two or three times. Or he would take me and leave and we'd live some where else for a while. She wouldn't be allowed to pick me up from school or dance. (I remember a teacher actually hiding me in a closet one time in school so my mom would think I had already been picked up. I'm sure the teacher thought she was doing what was best for me, since she 'd been told my mother was a danger to me, but it hurt me none the less, and I felt very ashamed.) I remember my dad even pulled me out of school at one point and had a lady watching me at her house during the day, just so my mom couldn't find me. It was only for a couple of weeks. Until of course they made up and we were all back together again. I felt like a rag doll being pulled back and forth between them. After years of the drinking and fighting, false hopes of recovery (she was in and out of six different rehab hospitals in six years,) and the looming threats of divorce, we finally moved out of state again with my dad's job. It was a new start for all of us and my mom prayed long and hard for the Lord's help with her sobriety. She quit drinking and stayed clean for almost twenty years. That was June 1,1986.

When my mom quit drinking, it was as if it had never happened. I closed the door to that part of my life and walked away. I did what I could to get passed the anger and hurt I had and tried to concentrate on building a normal relationship with both of my parents. It wasn't perfect, but it was good. Finally, I felt like I'd found some peace. (I can hear the devil laugh even now, at my false sense of security.) The most difficult challenge of my personal life was yet to come.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your story. While I can't relate to everything you've been through, I can relate to having an alcoholic parent. My parents divorced and never reconciled, so I didn't have the physical pulling back and forth, but I was used and manipulated by both of them. And I also felt the need to create my own chaos when life started feeling normal. I'm looking forward to the next part.

Tiffany said...

Thank you so much Leslie for your encouragement. I struggled through a rough night of nightmares last night after opening up old wounds. It's hard to share. I don't really want to thiink about it. I have struggled with the prodding of the holy spirit in this area for months now. I know He wants me to share, but like Jonah, I was like what?! -and went running in the opposit direction. But here I am, right back where I started. And I am just trusting Him to lead me through once again to the other side.

Denise said...

Bless you for opening your heart, and sharing. I love you precious one.You are in my prayers.

Christy said...

Reading your story is like reading about my own mother. Thank you so much for sharing that. It is painful to read and at the same time so powerful that God was there with you and with me as well.

Alcoholism is something that people can only understand if they have been through it and divorce is the same way-what a powerful testimony you have. I know how hard it is to share it, I still feel the same old shame and fear whenever I do. Be strong and know that YOU ARE HONORING Christ by sharing what He has done in your life.

Anonymous said...

my sweet, sweet sister. you amaze me. God is so good. so amazing. look at you now. a loving husband. two beautiful babies. you are instilling in them a lasting legacy that will pass on to your grandchildren and their children after that.

i love you.

luvmy4sons said...

Having come from my own set of childhood issues I could so recognize that symptom of feeling comfortable in chaos and learning not to sabotage your life. I appreciate your honesty and transparency. It is cathartic and I know God will use it to minister to someone else. It is funny how so much of life that is true growth comes with pain and suffering. And how amazing He restores it all.

Marsha said...

Oh sweetie, Amen! God specializes in taking the broken things and making something beautiful out of it. You are definitely a testament to God's grace. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your life. I know how hard it is to make yourself vulnerable, but He will receive the glory from this. He will use it in your life and maybe even in a readers life.

I thank God for you!

Penless Thoughts said...

Wow Tiffany. I wept my way through this. I think it is so wonderful you are able to open up and share this with others. We each have our story and that is why it is important to share ours and let other people know they are not alone in their struggles. Bless you.

Kimberly said...

I am so sorry I have been away for a busy with getting my girls started with school. Thanks for checking in on me. :)

I am so glad that you are sharing your testimony. I know God will use the story of your life to bless others...especially those who have walked a similar path. I don't know all of your story yet, but from the months that I have been reading your blog, I know that God truly has redeemed your life. His love shines through all that you say.

Blessings! Looking forward to reading more about His faithfulness in your life.

SharonB said...

Tiffany I just sat and read Part 1 and 2. I am praying for you as you begin to write Part 3.
Your testimony so far has been amazing because you are giving God the glory for what He has done. You are His precious daughter and He loves you so. He will give you the courage and strength as you shre your journey with those who need to hear.

Peige said...

My precious friend, You are God's glory! your sweetness and childhood innocense, and strong faith, even years ago, has always brightly shown in your life. I never can find words to describe you, only tears come to my eyes, when I try to. God's presense and spirit follows you, and I can always feel it. May God bless you over and over for your faithfullness and obedience. I'm so.. blessed to call you my friend, My bestest friend Iluvu Tiffer!!

Pearl said...

Hi Tiffany... I've been reading your blog and am slowly learning some of your life and of who you are... how generous of you to open up and share such deeply personal and intimate parts of your life. I know that it is not an easy task.

I have also been touched by alcoholism, abuse, divorce, death, etc. during my journey in life so far. Toss in several diseases, chronic illnesses and Autism to my list... it just is not very pretty. But when we learn about who our true Father is and when we feel His hands guiding us, then the picture does not seem as ugly. What a blessing it is to know that we are cradled in God's warm embrace! It simply is beyond amazing, isn't it?!

Though your "story" is hard to tell, please know that He is with you, as I am sure you do know... and know that there are many of us who truly do understand. I feel such gratitude towards God for leading me to get to "know" you. You and your dear family are in my prayers... God bless...

~gentle hug~


Deanna said...

I stumbled across your blog tonight. Thank you for being brave enough to post your testimony. I grew up in a family deeply affected by alcohol.

I have been teased by friends who wonder why I don't drink. Until you live that life you just have no idea why that would hold no appeal.