Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God’s Beautiful Design for Women, Day 14

Leslie Basham: A young woman named Laurie grew up in a nice, church-going family while trying to hide a problem with alcohol.

Laurie: There were times I definitely just was ashamed of who I was and what I had done—what I had become. A lot of people maybe didn’t see me that way. I did try to hide a lot of things. You eventually become numb to those feelings if you continue in that sin and you just desire to do that sin. You become numb to God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Thursday, February 23, 2017.

Don’t be a slave to wine. The apostle Paul offered this counsel to women in the book of Titus. Earlier this week, Nancy began unpacking what this principle means for us today. I think you'll find Nancy's teaching balanced and practical. If you missed any of the programs, you can hear them at ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll continue on that theme today by hearing from a woman who knows first hand the pain of addictions.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: One of our production team heard yesterday that I was teaching on the whole issue of addictions and alcohol. He said, “Do you know Laurie?”

We’ve connected before, and I know some of your family but didn’t know about your background and some of your story. He said that you would be real open to share that. You said you would be open to share a little bit about your life message in this area.

Tell us a little bit about the family you grew up in. When did you have your first exposure to alcohol? Do you remember that?

Laurie: Yes, yes, I do. Well, I grew up in a family first of all that believed in Christ and professed Christianity. We were raised in a Baptist church. They took me to church faithfully every Sunday. Most all the times that the doors were open we were there.

As far as when was I exposed to alcohol, my parents both would drink but not on a regular basis. There was wine in the house. Probably not when I was a younger child, but as I got into my teenage years it was just a little bit more available. They were more social drinkers though.

Nancy: So did they talk to you about drinking? Did they say you should or shouldn’t or it just didn’t come up?

Laurie: It was probably, yes, discussed and said, no, you don’t need to drink. Yet they did at times. They tried to just not be real blatant with it all the time.

Nancy: So when did you find yourself first trying alcohol?

Laurie: Well, just peer pressure situations when I was a sophomore in high school. I have always been a real shy person. I found that as a way to help me, I guess, get through that shyness with the social situations with my peers at the time.

Nancy: So would this have been at parties?

Laurie: At a party, yes.

Nancy: Do you remember the first time you tasted it?

Laurie: Yes, yes.

Nancy: Where were you?

Laurie: At a party, a high school weekend party after a football game. I had been dating someone. He drank a lot, so I became involved in this group of people that partied on the weekends. That’s where I succumbed, I guess, to drinking.

Nancy: Did you like it? Did you like alcohol?

Laurie: I did. It made me feel yucky that first time—sick. At the same time I thought, Oooh, I like this feeling. It was like I could say what I wanted to say. But then there were times when I thought I’m saying things I probably don’t need to be saying either—so just that loss of control also. As time went on I learned how to manage that to where I would rather have the alcohol and not worry as much about if I said something that I’d be ashamed of later.

Nancy: Did you ever tell yourself, “I really shouldn’t be doing this”?

Laurie: Yes.

Nancy: Did it bother you at all?

Laurie: It did. I mean, yes, there were times it led me to start doing things that I never thought that I would do.

Nancy: What kind of things?

Laurie: Well, sexual immorality was one of the biggest things as a young teenager with a boyfriend.

Nancy: When you say it led you to do those kinds of things, connect the dots.

Laurie: The more of those opportunities that you become drunk and you’re with someone that’s pressuring you into doing something, eventually you give in and you do it because you’ve let down your guard with alcohol because it took control over those decisions that I would have made differently without the alcohol influence.

Nancy: The next day after drinking, immorality, what were you thinking? What were you feeling?

Laurie: I had guilt. I did have guilt, especially in the beginning. I do believe that God gave me those feelings of guilt. But then it was like, "Well, but everybody else is doing this and everybody else is okay with this." So I just put those in the back of my mind as time went on and decided, "I think I like this better than doing what God would want me to do."

Nancy: Did you find that you needed more of the alcohol to get the same level of satisfaction?

Laurie:Yes, yes. Probably by the time I was a senior in high school, I was able to obtain a fake I.D. using my sister’s birth certificate. I’m sure you can’t do that anymore, but I was able to. I would go buy my own alcohol, and I would drink before I would go to a party. Then if I had any left I would drink more when I got home. That became a habit real quickly and in college as well.

Nancy: Did you ever hate the lifestyle? Did you ever think, This is disgusting; I want to get out of this? Or was it just the way it was for you?

Laurie: Yes, there were times I definitely was ashamed of who I was and what I had done—what I’d become. A lot of people maybe didn’t see me that way. I did try to hide a lot of things. But you eventually become numb to those feelings if you continue in that sin, and you just desire to do that sin. You become numb to God.

Nancy: Did you know you were drunk? Would you have acknowledged that you were drunk?

Laurie: There were times that I probably was drunk where I would say I was not drunk. Then there were times I knew I was really drunk.

Nancy: Did you think of yourself as addicted or an alcoholic?

Laurie: Not until in college when I had my own apartment and I would drink by myself and the drinking just became even more and more excessive.

Nancy: What was happening spiritually in your life through this period? Had you just put all that on a back burner of your life?

Laurie: I had. There were times that I was really hurting and I would open up my Bible and read. I would pray to God, and I would ask for Him to help me. I was very confused and very lost. But I never did go to anyone else—a loved one or anyone in the church—and say, "I want help. I want God’s direction."

There were definitely times when my mother came to me. She saw the empty bottles of alcohol that she pulled out from under my bed and was very concerned and talked to me about it. Actually, she made me go to an out-patient rehab center, but I was still thinking I don’t have a problem with this.

I mean deep down I knew this behavior was not the best, but at the same time I had brainwashed myself to think that I was okay and that I was independent. I could handle it on my own. I didn’t want to accept the help from my parents. Especially at that age, you really want to become your own person. So I was really fighting my mother against that.

Nancy: When did you meet Clayton?

Laurie: Well, we knew each other in high school, but we ran into each other after I had finished college and moved back home to Little Rock, and he had also finished college. We just ran into each other out one night. We were out at a bar actually. Then he called me the next day and asked me out on a date. We were married eight months later.

Nancy: During your dating relationship was drinking a part of that?

Laurie: Yes, it was. It was for both of us. He didn’t know the extent of my drinking until after we got married. But there was drinking with both of us.

Nancy: So you got married and there was drinking for both of you. Were you drinking heavily?

Laurie: Yes, I had experimented throughout college with other drugs—I guess recreational-type drugs that people would have in college. Anytime there was that kind of thing available, I wanted it. I never went an sought it out. I had also taken these little pills called mini-thins. It was something you could buy at a gas station. It was kind-of like a diet pill. It didn't have caffeine in it, but it was something else that gave you that type of rush. I would take those in the morning.

I was also a smoker. I just did everything you can imagine that was horrible for you.

Nancy: Why were you taking the mini-thins?

Laurie: I started taking them in college because of the times I had taken other drugs with other friends. There were some people who took those—several at a time—and it would give you a bit of a buzz. It was just something different than alcohol. It affected me differently without drinking. So I would take those in the morning sometimes. Then I would start drinking in the early afternoons all through the evening. It was a very vicious cycle. It was just one think after another.

Nancy: So you are trying to get a buzz, trying to get some feeling, some satisfaction. Was it making you happy? Were you enjoying your life at this stage?

Laurie: I was pretty miserable. I thought I was happy because I was living my life that way I wanted to live it. But I was not a happy person.

Nancy: Did the alcohol have a negative affect in your marriage or in your relationship?

Laurie: It did. It did because of those times that Clayton would say, “Laurie, I think we’ve had enough to drink. We don’t need anything else tonight, or let’s not drink today.” I didn’t like that because I wanted to. I would do it anyway. Of course, then he would be upset and wonder why didn’t I respect his desires for that day or whatever it was.

So that caused tension in our marriage. There were lots of things that we were dealing with at the beginning of our marriage too, just from past relationships I had been involved in.

Nancy: Was there a point at which you bottomed out, like a moment of desperation?

Laurie: There were several of those. I mean God was so gracious to give me several of those moments, but I continued in my rebellion. I had a DUI two times. My parents were able to bail me out of that. The times I think that I lost all control over my emotions with people that had hurt me and things that I said and how I lashed out with words and anger because something didn’t go the way I had expected it to.

There was a moment when I had taken a trip to New Orleans with my friends—it was Mardi Gras—and everything went wrong. Every single possible thing went wrong that weekend. As I look back, I know God allowed one disappointment and one bad thing happen to me over and over again to tell me, “Stop this, Laurie. Stop this. You’re going way down the wrong . . .” Because I was spiraling down into the depths of darkness and that weekend especially.

There was someone on the street even that came up to me and confronted me. He was a Christian. They were witnessing to people on the streets of New Orleans. That moment I told that person I know Christ and I’m just fine with God. Everything’s okay with me and God. That hurts to think how I just slammed the door on God once again after He was continuing to show me mercy and grace, but that’s just who I was—a sinner.

Nancy: So how did you come to the end of yourself and find your heart really starting to turn to Christ?

Laurie: Well, I was able to get to a point of brokenness to where I went to a rehab center. I spent a week there and then I was sober for eight months during that time. We had started going to church on a regular basis and was being convicted by the Word of God during that time.

Yet at the same time God was working on my heart, but I still wasn’t for sure that I really had a problem with alcohol. I was still angry at God because I thought I don’t want this for my life. I want to be free to be able to have a drink or whatever and do what I want to do. So I was still just thinking about myself and not about God at that point.

So eight months later—they call it relapsing—I decided I wanted to drink again. I started drinking and just went on a binge of drinking for a couple of days. That happened two or three times within about a three-week period. Then I told my husband. After him pleading with me to get help again, I said, “Okay. I’m willing to do it.”

I went into another rehab center. That’s where the Lord brought me to my knees. I went out to this place and there were all kinds of drug addicts. It was in California. When I got there, I called my husband. I was still mad. I was real conflicted about the whole thing. I said I don’t belong here with all these people. But in fact I did, of course. I was no different than any other lost sinner.

I went to my knees about the second day that I was there and prayed and prayed and read from the Psalms. My mother-in-law had given me a devotional book to read, and I read through that. I knew that I needed Christ. I knew that I was a sinner. There’s no way that you can live this life and be free from addiction to alcohol and drugs without knowing Him.

So that’s when the Lord really broke me to the point where I knew how much I needed Him and I couldn’t continue without Him. All the time up to that point, I was trying to do it myself.

Nancy: Once you really came to repentance and faith in Christ, was the process then of getting free from the addiction a pretty quick thing or was that a long, hard process? How would you describe that?

Laurie: Well, I can look back and say He took the desire away for me. There were times when I was afraid. I thought I still could go and get something to drink if I really wanted to. So it was a process of just daily trusting in Him and having the people who loved me around me—their accountability.

Then immediately God placed me in Bible Study Fellowship so I was in His Word immediately. It was the book of John that we studied. That’s where God just . . . It was freedom. It was true freedom finally. The food that I needed and the drink.

Everything that you said about this so far just describes exactly what Christ has done for me as far as the living water. I no longer had to drink something else to satisfy my emptiness. He had given me that water and new life that satisfied my soul, so it was just a new joy and a peace that I had never known before.

So there was all of that going on in the first year. I was going to AA meetings for the first year. After I had started my second year in Bible study, I realized that I just wanted to continue to stay involved with my church and with Bible study because that’s where God was growing me and changing me and having the support of Christians around me.

Nancy: Now there was a point—Was it several years later?—where you got out of Bible study and found yourself vulnerable.

Laurie: Yes, it was after I’d had my fourth child and my husband had started a new job and was working a lot. He had a lot more demands on him and was away from home more. We had lots of pain medicine in the cabinets from just times when I had had children before. It had never been a temptation to me until after the fourth child. This child was older as well before I was really tempted with it.

I had some neck pains and I had headaches, and I just tried to justify my need for taking that for the bad crick in my neck. I started taking them more often for those reasons and was thinking in my mind this is okay because it’s for medical reasons.

I was not in Bible study at the time. I had some bitterness probably because I was at home more with the children by myself and it was hard. I was home schooling my first child for the first time.

I realized though, okay, this is dangerous. This is not right. This is getting just into the same thing that I did with alcohol. So I stopped taking it. I never had told my husband this at all. Never had told anyone.

Then some time passed on and I was tempted to that again and realized, okay, I’m going down a slippery slope and this is not what God wants me to be doing. I had just started back in Bible study again and was so convicted. Praise God that He is not going to let me go.

I was able to go to my husband and confess it to him and tell him what I had done. It was wrong and all. God was gracious to deliver me from that and for me to stop that.

Nancy: I think it illustrates too the power that secrecy can give to sin in our lives and how part of breaking that bondage is the willingness to step out into the light. Not only with the Lord but with your husband, with others, and to say, “I can’t do this by myself.”

Laurie: God was just very gracious to surround me with people that I knew I could share this with because it’s hard. It’s hard to just open yourself up and expose that to someone again when you know that that was part of your past that was so horrible. But it was a process that God used to grow me and to grow me closer to Him and show me that I have to be on guard with every thought that I have and everything that I do.

I have to bring those thoughts captive to Him and know that if I do this, is this going to be any profit? Is this going to be a benefit to me or is this going to hurt me or someone else? Is it going to hurt my relationship that I have with God? That was the worst part about it was that when you’re in a sin like that, there’s not that intimacy there with God.

Nancy: Do you ever get to the place so far where you feel confident that you’re past being able to be drawn into those kinds of various types of substance abuse, like you're past that?

Laurie: I’ve thought that several times and especially when I found myself being tempted with the prescription drugs. I thought I’ll never, ever have a problem with this again and thankful that God has taken those desires away from me and filled me with His joy and peace and His Spirit. Anything’s possible.

At the same time I have to trust that God is going to protect me and He is going to keep me and all I have to do is just spend time with Him and be in His Word and be careful with what are my desires—all the things that you’ve talked about that could lead me astray from Him. Then it could eventually bring you to a point to where you wouldn’t want to be again. But I do feel that my confidence just has to be in the Lord with that.

Nancy: Have you and your husband talked about what you will teach your children about alcohol given your past and both of your struggles with that in the past? How do you plan to approach that with your children?

Laurie: Thankfully, our family and our extended family as well, the majority do not drink alcohol. So we have always told them that drinking alcohol can lead to things that are not godly and would not please the Lord. It’s better to not even take a drink just because of what it had done to our lives.

Nancy: One of the definitions of social drinking is that it’s something you do to help relate to people in social settings. There was a period of time in which your parties and your relationships were dependent on the alcohol to kind of grease the conversation and relationships. Has it been a challenge for you once you stopped drinking to be able to be in conversation, social gatherings, and to relate to people without the crutch of the alcohol?

Laurie: It was very difficult for me in the beginning because I was very fearful. Fearful of what other people would think because of so many of my friends and even extended family who still would drink. I would feel uncomfortable not having anything to drink. Yes, I was fearful of just being in a social setting without having that because I had had it for so long.

But at the same time having Christ and His Spirit in me was much greater than that fear and He was able to help me overcome that. There might be times that I still think what are they thinking of me because I’m not drinking or whatever. But I’m very grateful that God has helped me with that.

Nancy: As far as you know, were there any people who prayed for you through this period that as you look back this made a difference in your life?

Laurie: Yes, I know my mother and my father both prayed for me. I don't know about people from our church. We became a little bit dis-associated with our church during those years that were more difficult. And I’m sure that one of my grandmothers prayed a lot for me too that I didn’t realize. So I have been very, very thankful for the people who prayed for me, which I know my mother prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. God worked through her. I know He did. So I’m thankful for that.

Nancy: Take heart, mothers and grandmothers. Don’t stop praying.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with a woman named Laurie about the darkness of addiction and the power of prayer. This week’s programs have provided a nice balance between understanding solid biblical principles on alcohol and stories that illustrate those principles.

Nancy, that’s an approach you really believe in here on Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy: Yes, Leslie. I believe in the importance of teaching God’s Word. I never want to veer from that. But I also believe in showing women how to live out that teaching right here and right now in 2017. In fact, often in my teaching notes, I'll make a little indication MIP. That means: Make It Personal. Or, TIH—Take It Home. We always want to start with God’s Word and solid truth. Then we want to make it personal and practical to everyday life.

If you appreciate that kind of approach and if God has used this teaching to be a blessing in your life, would you be willing to help this ministry in 2017? When you support Revive Our Hearts this month, we want to say "thank you" by sending you my brand new book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together.

Be sure to ask for the new book when you call with a donation of any size. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or you can donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, even if you’ve never tasted a drop of alcohol, you still need to watch out. There are more subtle addictions that could cause you problems. We’ll talk about it tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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