Pushing off of Rock Bottom

 I love you, God—     you make me strong. God is bedrock under my feet,     the castle in which I live,     my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag     where I run for dear life,     hiding behind the boulders,     safe in the granite hideout. - Psalm 18:2 (Message)
I love you, God—
you make me strong.
God is bedrock under my feet,
the castle in which I live,
my rescuing knight.
My God—the high crag
where I run for dear life,
hiding behind the boulders,
safe in the granite hideout. – Psalm 18:2 (Message)

On January 3rd,  I will celebrate thirteen years of continuous sobriety. In getting ready to publish my testimony in full, I wanted to share what ‘hitting bottom’ was for me. I need to remember these things, so I am not doomed to repeat the past.

And I need  to share it with you – in case you have touched bottom yourself, or know someone who is there now.

“Bottom” is a terrible place to be, but it is the only place that gives you enough leverage to  push off.’

Hitting bottom enabled me to anchor on the true Rock, instead of drowning in the dark abyss.

I am still – forever – an alcoholic, and still – forever – in need of Grace. It is only by the grace of a savior who is willing to crouch down on the bathroom floor with me that I am saved.

It is by His grace that I live now, one day at a time.

By: Jana Greene

“Please, Jesus…please.”

My prayer was simple and desperate, my head spinning.

Crouched down against the unfamiliar toilet – in the home of the hostess for the Christmas party where I was employed.

How did this happen again?  How did I let this happen again?  I was so careful, careful with the first drink, nursing it politely while milling awkwardly about the crowd of coworkers.  I wanted to gulp it down to ease my nerves.  I was shaking when I arrived alone at the party, because I was sober then.

Sober always meant shaking.

The second drink went down a little quicker.  But my hands slowly stopped quaking and with the warm fire of the drink came slight nausea.  Ironic that I must drink every day now – even though my body was starting to reject alcohol vehemently.

In those days, the whites of my eyes yellowed and face bloated, every day ended with a violent vomiting session.

Every day ended with the words,  “Please Jesus, please.”

Be careful, I reminded myself while I poured the third.  But I was just starting to feel “normal”,  laughing with the other partygoers…maybe even fitting in, just a little bit.  For just a few moments…joviality.  The warmest place. Then, just as always, the relaxation turned to spinning and whirling.

I worked for an elementary school that year – my coworkers were also my children’s teachers, principal and librarian.  My daughters were in Kindergarten and second grade respectively.  I had to be careful with the drinking on this occasion.  I’d been able to hide the extent of my drinking to my coworkers, friends, husband – the world. Or so I earnestly believed. I passed off hangovers as stomach bugs and headaches as minor inconveniences.  I thought I was such a clever girl.

It had been less than an hour since I’d arrived at the party, when I had my fourth drink.  I was proud that I was pacing myself so well.  But by the sixth (or seventh?) drink,  I casually wove to the guest bathroom, taking care to lock the door behind me.

And then the sick. The warmest place filling my throat and choking me.

I hate myself, I thought, shaking with another retch.  Vomit quietly! 

How did I even let this happen?

I tried to asses the situation soberly, rationally.  But I kept forgetting where I was. Worse, someone had gone in to the bathroom with me! I could feel the presence of another person,  but I couldn’t focus enough to identify who it was. I wished they’d leave!  Having someone see me at my weakest was my worst fear.  I was not alone….that much I knew.

Through the door, I can tell that voices were rising over the holiday music  in the living room.

Now, someone is knocking at the bathroom door!  I am laying on the cold tile now, convulsing in dry-heaves, but I can still hear the knocking.  I whisper to whoever is hunkered down in the bathroom with me,  “Shhhh…please, don’t open it!” Pulling myself to my knees, I can see that the  bathroom floor is a mess, the lovely white rug splattered with the evidence that I cannot control myself.

“Just a minute,” I say louder, trying to articulate the words.

Another knock, and then a woman’s voice.  “Are you okay?”

It sounds like the school’s principal. Oh no.

“Yes,” I respond, but it sounds like  “yesh.” Hot humiliation burns my face.

“Okay then….” the voice says, unconvincingly.  “Okay.”

Get up, I tell myself, pulling myself up to the counter.  Get up, damn you…. and fake sober!

I’d taken such care to prepare for this evening, having bought a new  “little black” dress, curling my hair,  and wearing just the right makeup.  But my shoes are missing….where are my shoes?

If I could pull of looking okay on the outside world, I could still be okay on some level.  And this night, while driving to the party, I had repeated a mantra:  paceyourselfpaceyourselfpaceyourself….you can do it if you try! 

This night, I promised I wouldn’t cross the line between “relaxed drunk” and obliterated, which is what always  (every single day) “happened to me,  in the privacy of my own home. As long as no other human being knew my secret,  I was safe.

Insanity is thinking that you would be just fine, as long as nobody knew – and I could find my shoes.

Now,  on the bathroom floor,  I remembered it was not only my professional reputation at stake, but my children. The party-goers were same people in the first line of defense for children, my children.  They would pity my beloved daughters at the very least, perhaps even … I cannot even imagine.  Oh, my sweet girls – how I love them.  How much better they deserve.

I raise my eyes up to the bathroom mirror, and my reflection paid homage to my dread. Eyes ringed in crimson,  makeup sloughed off with sweat.

This is the mother of my beloved daughters.

Sick.

I tried to wipe my face with a wad of toilet paper as best I could, and then kneeled back down to clean the floor.  It was difficult with the room spinning.

I hear a strangled whimper rise from my own throat and it swells to an involuntary sob.  I try to muffle it while I rummage around in the cabinet under the sink for air freshener to cover the stench of vomit, but it is not use.  The only think under the sink is a small toilet plunger and a very old bottle of White Shoulders perfume, half-full and orange with age.

I still feel whoever is in the room with me when I am misting the perfume around the bathroom. He is crouched down on the floor with me, but I still cannot discern his identity. Whoever it is, I owe him an apology. “I’m sorry,” I cry in a whisper. “I’m so sorry.”

 

 

I stand up, wobbly, and smooth my hair.

I can make slight eye contact with myself in the bathroom mirror now and hold the sad, strange gaze.  I am just beginning to feel like the un-numb version of myself again, the hiccup in my buzz was rapidly becoming the itch of sober reality,  immediately uncomfortable. Never mind, I tell myself.

Opening the door,  my boss and coworkers – my children’s teachers – are standing around casually, trying not to stare at the wreck that emerged from the bathroom.

And my thought process is simple and desperate in that moment of sickness. I have stopped politely imploring Jesus to help me, afraid that he might – and what that might mean.

Instead,  I am thinking, “I need just one drink.”   After all, I’m not the first person to get drunk at a company Christmas party. It’s practically expected. I will just pace myself.

I’ll just be extra-careful.

Clever, dying girl.

Tattooed for my Transgressions

What do you think of this image?

One of the Jesustattoo.org billboards in Texas (I'm a native Texan, by the way)
One of the Jesustattoo.org billboards in Texas (I’m a native Texan, by the way)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2452535/Tattooed-Jesus-billboard-campaign-condemned-blasphemous-Bible-Belt-residents.html
It, and others like it, is at the center of a firestorm. As evidenced by the exchange on Facebook with a total stranger, when a friend of mine posted the link and asked simply, “What do you think of tatted-up Jesus?”
Jana Greene:  I think it’s beautiful.  I think Jesus cares about the heart of a person. Our bodies are the Temple, yes – but temples can be adorned, or defaced.  It’s in the eye of the beholder (plus, there is plenty of grace to cover what society deems as blasphemous.  Just my 2 cents.
Stranger:  Ends don’t justify means. He is the Lamb without spot or blemish.
Jana Michelle Greene:  Respectfully, without spot or blemish physically? I don’t understand it that way….too surface-based.

Stranger: I appreciate your disagreement Jana, however the physical characteristics of Christ …”Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Jana Greene:  Respectfully, the spot and wrinkle – to my heart – is a reference to purity of spirit. God is such a Creative Force, I believe he appreciates art. I know we are made in His image and perfect the way we are born (to Him) but my Jesus is an “in the trenches” force of redemption. He bore our transgressions. The image of a tatted up Christ squeezes my heart, because it is a visual of Him bearing them. I used to feel the exact same way that you do about tats (piercings, etc.) but I no longer do. After struggles with many transgressions myself (including being an alcoholic in recovery) I can appreciate that skin is skin and Grace is sufficient to cover all – surface deep and spirit-deep.
He goes on to say that “there can be no compromise….”
Yikes.
I love a good debate.  Not argument, mind you – but a nice, flowing exchange of reason. And I’m grateful for the thoughtful interchange. Still … is it “letter of the law” to bicker about this?
I am not offended by tattoos, in general. But I also read The Message translation of the Bible – I am that Christian. That opinion, admittedly, has been hard-learned (see More than Many Sparrows – https://thebeggarsbakery.net/2012/04/21/more-than-many-sparrows-my-daughters-tattoo/).
But no matter what the mindful  opinion on tats, I don’t understand this campaign imagery as “blasphemous.”
When I saw it, it didn’t occur to me that an image of Jesus was desecrated. It didn’t bring to mind my Jesus going through all of the stages of tattoo-dom….., trying to choose just the right design, in just the right font and color – and then schlepping down to Ink n’ Such and going to the artist to ask for a tattoo on his arm or back.
Metaphorically, He did chose to be covered – without getting picky about the color, style, or location of the markings. He took it all.
When I first saw the image, it just broke my heart. Oh, the humanity! Oh, the Holiness! All so that we can be found without blemish to the Father.
It isn’t a debate about whether Jesus would have gotten tattoos if He were walking around in a physical body on this planet in the flesh right now (and, who’s to say that He is not walking among us from time to time?)
Tattoos are a human thing, right? He wouldn’t have marked Himself.
That’s kind of the point. It WAS humans who covered him in stripes. He WAS branded in a literal and figurative sense, by humankind.
But – GOOD NEWS! – He was also branded, marked (and, semantics notwithstanding) tatted up FOR all humankind.
You and me.
And if the sins of the people were represented by tattoos, there wouldn’t be enough ink in the world for it to be represented, and Jesus wouldn’t have had enough surface space on his body to accommodate it.
In prophesy, written long before his world-changing mere thirty-three years in flesh on this earth, it was written of him:
“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5  (NKJV)
By his blood I am healed. In the beautiful representation of all he carried to the cross – by His Ink, I compromised my shame and sorrow, and He made me whole again.
Against all reason.

Here is the campaign page, for your enjoyment: http://jesustattoo.org/

One of the Jesustattoo.org billboards in Texas (I’m a native Texan, by the way)