Hi! My name is Pat, and I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ!
I struggle with alcohol, anger and trust issues.
I was a seven-month baby. No, I don’t mean I was premature. When my mother found out she was pregnant with me, she and Dad “had” to get married. That’s what they did in those days. Dad used to joke, “The first baby can come anytime. But the rest have to be nine months apart.”
I didn’t get it. I was in my thirties at a family reunion before I understood. On the wall of the reunion hall was a huge poster of a family tree. On it were dates of marriages, births and deaths. I looked for our family, and for the first time added up the dates. Mom had been pregnant before she married Dad.
It was such a huge relief! Everything wasn’t my fault after all.
Children are far more observant than their parents know. I was very young when I caught on that everything was my fault. No one ever said so, but I knew. If something happened, I’d better make myself scarce or I was going to get into trouble. My dad nearly killed my younger brother. I already knew that my world was not safe. And there was no one to trust.
I thought that if I did well, maybe they’d love me. I obeyed the rules, never hung out with the wrong crowd, made good grades, babysat my younger brothers instead of having a social life, but it was never enough. If I excelled at anything, someone was better. They made sure I knew that.
The first time I got drunk I was about four years old. My parents were at a party, and no one noticed little Patty going around the room sipping drinks. That high made a lasting early impression on me.
Like I said, I obeyed the rules. I didn’t sneak liquor very often. My parents rarely partied. In fact, no one came over. Their whole social life was at church. They didn’t even invite church friends over. My mother rarely drank at all. After my father returned from Okinawa, he stayed sober most of the time, but that didn’t mean he didn’t act like an alcoholic. He acted like a dry drunk, full of rage and insults, blaming everything that happened on everyone else, and pounding his will into us if we dared to believe he wasn’t serious.
Suppertime was the worst. I don’t remember one calm supper. I had four younger brothers, the youngest being eleven years younger than I was. Someone would spill the milk or something, and then World War Three would break out. So whenever I could, I wolfed down my meal and fled to my room where I isolated until the violence stopped.
There are things worse than a physical beating, and that was an emotional beating. Dad never forgot an offense, even if he had to make one up. He spent the rest of our childhood reminding us of the time we did whatever, and how stupid we were for doing it. His favorite line was, “You’re not stupid, Stupid.”
My mother’s favorite line to me was, “Patty, you’re the oldest. You have to be responsible!” That meant I had to be responsible for whatever my younger brothers did. If they got sick in the middle of the night, I cleaned it up. I thought, “If I do everything right, maybe they’ll love me.” That never happened.
Jesus found me the summer before I turned thirteen. We went to church every Sunday, but there was no Jesus in our home. However, we did have an excellent pastor who talked to us about how much Jesus loved us.
I couldn’t seebelieve it. I remember praying in bed, crying from another beating, and staring at the ceiling. What was I praying for? There wasn’t any God. It was stupid to pray to the ceiling. But my heart was crying out far harder than I was. I wanted desperately to be loved. “God,” I prayed, “if You’re real, oh, please be real. I need someone to love me.”
God said, “I love you, Patty,” and He flooded me with more love than I could contain. I was overwhelmed with how much He loved me. THIS was the Jesus who loved me so much He took all my sins away and nailed them to the cross, and suddenly everything the pastor said made sense.
But just because a person accepts the Lord does not mean life gets better. Life was hard. I was full of anger, and practically no common sense. Once I planned my father’s murder. I couldn’t follow through. Once, I was sixteen, I stood up to my father and dared him to kill me. I thought he would. The way I figured it, I would either die, or I would send his sweet little behind to jail. Either way I would be rid of him. He didn’t kill me, but he didn’t hit me again after that.
The next year I tried to kill me. It was just too hard to live. I wanted to be gone. I wanted to never feel anything ever again. I took out the bottle of aspirin…and I didn’t die. I told my parents I had the flu, and they believed me. No one heard my cry for help.
I waited until I was an adult, eighteen, and married to my wonderful husband Dennis (we’ve been married 49 years) before I took alcohol seriously. I told you, I was a rule-follower. I never drank very much, just weekends, with friends or at a couple of favorite watering holes. I could go for months without drinking. So I didn’t have a problem, right?
We were going to a church that believed in no alcohol. Ever. I never let anyone know about our weekends. We were careful to hide them, but I was feeling convicted. So I prayed about it. “Lord, I’m feeling all this outside conviction. I don’t believe I’m wrong just to drink on the weekends, or sometimes more often (I was drinking daily by this time). So, I’m not going to accept this outside conviction. But if YOU consider it a problem, just convict me through my husband, and I’ll stop drinking.”
This was a very safe prayer. I never said it aloud. I never told my husband, who, from a German household, considered beer a food and not an alcoholic beverage. So a couple of weeks later we went to Bunga’s Cellar, my favorite bar, and got into a terrific argument. The next week we had wine with a spaghetti dinner, and repeated the pattern.
And Dennis said, “You know, I was talking to the Lord about our arguments, and He showed me how I got when I drank. So I’m going to stop drinking.”
I thought the floor was going to fall from under me. “I’ll stop too.”
“Oh, you don’t have to because I do.”
“Yes, I do,” I said. Then I told him about my very safe prayer.
We didn’t really stop. We just cut way back, to only a few times a year. But this time I think we’ve stopped. Anyway, the last time we drank was November 2013. I realize that it’s only been a year, but we’ve been attending this group called Celebrate Recovery, and we just decided to trust God for deliverance.
But the anger issue was still there. When I decided to attend a step study, I concentrated on my explosive temper. It was killing our marriage, and I have too much invested in this marriage to destroy it. But I had no control. I could go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. Poor Dennis didn’t know what to expect from me.
I finished the step study with not much improvement. And then I heard Ken talking about his favorite, Principle 1: “Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing, and that my life is unmanageable.”
That was ME! I had tried and tried on my own strength for almost fifty years, with no success at all. I wondered what would happen if I quit depending on me and began depending on God?
What I found was, when I let go of trying, God got into the business of releasing.
The reason for the anger was that I felt abused, victimized, and betrayed all over again. That was when I exploded. But when Jesus fills me with His love, I’m not abused, victimized or betrayed. I’m loved, honored and respected by the very one who has the right to hold all my shortcomings against me. I have gone from being a helpless victim to being a cherished child of God. He is making me, who USED TO BE treated as if I was ugly, into someone beautiful.
That’s why I can truly say, “I am a very grateful believer in Jesus Christ.”