Plastered on the Front Pew (Part 2)

Please note: If you’ve missed reading Plastered on the Front Row Part 1, I highly recommend you start there to have the complete story. You can find part one by scrolling down or clicking here: Plastered Part 1

“No matter how far I run

I run into Your love

And when I’m falling apart

You won’t let me go.”

By: Elevation Worship

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In darkness

Part 2:

In my life, the dawn of alcoholism started with darkness, as if a light switch flipped off inside me. After an intense fight with my husband, I announced I was done with our marriage. I shook my fist at God, “And you know what God, I’m done with You too. You are not who I thought you were. You didn’t come through for me like You promised. I. Am. Done!”

Then, aloud I said to Satan, “Alright let’s do this.”

The next morning, one thought bombarded me, ‘I think I want to drink some wine.’ For the first time in my adult life, I drove to a store and bought the biggest bottle of cheap, red wine I could find. So cheap, it had a twist-off cap.

I parked in the garage, and in my minivan gulped down the “red demon juice” (as I’d heard many Baptist call it) After another swig, I felt the warm goodness wash over me, removing the depth of my despair. It seduced me.

Afterwards, I drank wine, beer, and hard liquor every day. It provided my escape. However, while my self-medicating might have buried the pain, it enslaved me.

Darkness always brings bondage.

I’d left my husband and children, moved far away from them, and sought counsel from a church where no one knew of my situation. My brother allowed me to live with him, but I had to get a job to support myself. One evening, I applied for a waitress position at a beach restaurant and stayed to enjoy a seafood dinner and a couple of margaritas. After dinner, I drove out of the parking lot and within seconds heard police sirens and noticed the flashing lights behind me.

The officer approached my window. “Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No sir, was I swerving? I’m having to use my phone GPS because I’m new to the area and don’t know my way around.”

“Your headlights were off. Have you had anything to drink tonight?”

My heart raced and I hesitated before answering, “Yes.”

After a series of field sobriety tests, he arrested me. Handcuffed in the back of the police car, I counted the cost of my alcoholism. DUI. Jail. Record. Accusations assaulted my mind, ‘You’ve ruined your life. You left your children to get better, but your worse now than you were before. You are hopeless!’

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My mug shot

Plastered on the front pew—so to speak—was my mug shot. It humiliated my children as their “friends” snapped it all over social media. Throughout my family’s Christian community, “Pastor’s wife arrested for drunk driving” spread like wildfire. My children already devastated by the separation, now had to endure the shame of my bondage. My daughter, Faith spent several days bawling in her bed unable to face anyone at school. My abuse of alcohol caused more pain than I’ll ever know or be able to make up for. That’s the problem with pain left untreated…it becomes infected and damages everything and everyone surrounding it.

 

I needed help! The spiritual and emotional pain demanded relief. Running from the very God I’d loved and served majority of my life because He was not who I thought He was made life miserable—just as it has with so many like me.

After seven dark years, one day I had a “But God” divine appointment. I heard Him whisper into my shattered soul…

“Liz, you know the night you shook your fist at me and stated you were done with me too?”

“Yes, God, I remember it like it was yesterday,” I sobbed.

“You were right Liz, you needed to be done with that god…because that’s not who I Am. Don’t you know by now, I Am Grace? I Am your Healer. Will you let me Rescue you, hold you in My arms and Restore you? I will Resurrect your dead heart and Redeem your pain.”

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I confessed. “Yes Lord, I’m miserable and feel helpless. I need you to rescue me; please do it. You are the only One who can.”

Brutal truth? I would’ve remained in pain, plastered on the front pew, still abusing alcohol and running in darkness…

But God.

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Last summer, my husband Rob and I exchanged our vows again at Ana Maria Island.

Only God could discern the depth of my distress. Only God could demolish the delusion of my legalistic view of Him. He allowed me to make a mess of my life, to the point I thought there was no way I could be called His own again. God destroyed the bondage of my despair. He set me free from the darkness, took away my pain, and filled me with real joy. The kind of true joy not found in a bottle.

Even now, I don’t blame alcohol for my pain or my problem. I’m not condemning it or calling drinking a sin. In my situation, when it wasn’t alcohol, I used some other vice. You may wonder if I’m anti-alcohol now, the answer is “no.” But, I don’t need it anymore, Jesus made sure of that. Now, instead of being plastered on the front pew, I’m praising Him with a purpose. Telling those in pain, there is a real remedy. The enemy used alcohol to enslave me…my God used Love and Grace to free me.

“You intended to harm me, But God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 (New International Version)

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My family restored.

Elizabeth Hammond is a contributing writer at the Hallelujah House.In her free time she loves to bake, read, and lounge on the beach which is in her opinion is the closest thing to heaven. Elizabeth’s passion is ministering to others out of her own God-story where He’s rescued her life and continues to restore her family. She desires to fulfill God’s purpose in her life in encouraging women by sharing her own story, through Bible study, and intimate friendships.

Elizabeth can be contacted at elizabethhammond8@gmail.com.

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Plastered on the Front Pew

“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony,. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love.” Psalms 6:2-4 New International Version

 

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Reeking of gin, one Sunday morning, I stumbled past the usher with glazed eyes. “If I had to be at church then it’s going to require some ‘liquid courage,”’ I thought.  I didn’t care if anyone could tell. A part of me dared them to confront me. I would have thought someone would’ve smelled it on my breath or at least felt something was off and ask, “What in Heaven’s name is going on Liz?” But no one did. Can you believe that? Furthermore, what makes this more ludicrous…

I am the pastor’s wife.

Picture it… the pastor’s wife plastered on the front pew.

Numerous times I’ve showed up for my son or daughter’s high school sport’s games with my “to-go-cup” of wine or tequila and lemonade. Alone, I’d sat in the bleachers and got sauced. My husband was also the principal of the private Christian school they attended. My behavior begged someone…anyone… to care enough to help me by noticing my shocking shenanigans. I wouldn’t have admitted it then, but I can now.

You’re probably wondering, why would a pastor’s wife behave this way? It can be summed up in one word.

Pain.

Some people can handle drinking out of pleasure, but I couldn’t. I felt so much pain. I drank to numb it. You heard the old cliché, “when it rains, it pours,” well, I’d change that to when it “pains it pours”.  I suffered from childhood sexual abuse, a failing marriage, two miscarriages, and feeling abandoned by God. It left me reeling. While life poured on the pain, I poured another drink.

“Be very careful, then how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:15-18 New International Version.

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Crazy thing, I wasn’t a drinker. My early forties introduced me to alcohol. Prior to that, I relieved my pain by doing all the “right things,” to please God. In evangelical circles this is called Legalism. Legalism is following rules to please God without having a “real relationship” with Him. Legalism wrapped its tentacles around my view of God, choking out the truth of His grace. The false doctrine states, it’s up to you whether you’ll receive God’s blessings; it is contingent on your obedience. Those who disobey receive only God’s wrath, leading them to question their own salvation.

I fed the beast with performing, trying hard to be a good Christian girl, by reading and studying my Bible, forgiving the unforgivable, never questioning what the church taught about God, and a whole-hearted trust if I did these things, God would come through for me. I believed God would bless my deeds with my desires and take away my pain. I banked my life on it. Yet, after 15 years of begging God for joy, the pain continued to pour. Over and over, Legalism twisted truth until it enslaved me within its coils. Its constant hissing blocked the voice of Truth and Grace with taunts like, “Aren’t you done trying to please God? God’s not who you think He is. You might as well give up.”

The enemy, Satan, crafted a plan to use pain to steal my joy in living an abundant life, to kill hope that my circumstances would change, and ultimately to destroy my faith in God. None are exempt from Satan’s attempt to deceive and destroy.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

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Yesterday, I called a high school friend named Jason. These days, we keep up on Facebook; but I wanted to talk about his life-long struggle with alcohol and opioid addiction, and I knew he could shed light on the subject. Jason’s parents worked in ministry, so at times he sat plastered in the pew as well. Around 18 years old, he attended a beach getaway that included church friends, and for the first time, drank until he passed out.

“Alcohol was my escape,” he said. “It was like an elixir that made me open up. It fit like a glove, a second skin; and it became like my shadow.” Within the first year of binge drinking, Jason was charged with a DUI. He admitted to using alcohol to numb the pain. “Since middle school, I was bombarded with suicidal thoughts; I hoped that the Lord would take me in the middle of the night. Every night, I would ritually recite the Lord’s prayer just before bed.”

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Jason Umidi

In high school, while playing quarterback on the football team, Jason suffered a back injury requiring a few surgeries. After one surgery failed, he began washing down his opioids with alcohol to relieve himself of the constant physical and emotional pain. While enjoying success as an actor/model in NYC, his hometown girlfriend announced she was pregnant, so he returned home to do the “right thing” and marry her. He hoped that by doing so, it would bring blessings from God.  They gave birth to a daughter diagnosed with a rare disease which left her wheelchair bound.

“The constant stress coupled with my addictions became too much for my young wife and I to bear, so we separated and divorced,” he’d said.

Within ten years, Jason suffered five critical back surgeries, a divorce, a bankruptcy, and losing his home. Furthermore, he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, and suicidal ideation. “I felt like I had no purpose anymore, I became completely isolated and very angry with God.  My life had fallen apart; If I had died during my addiction, so be it!” Jason heard that same hissing voice as I. The enemy’s message spat doom, failure, enduring pain, and pointed accusations to a God who refused to rescue.

“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him. But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalms 3:1-3 NIV

But as I listened to his story, I had to know what was the last straw that led to his sobriety, so I asked him.

“The last straw was me landing in NYC, so inebriated I couldn’t find my way out of the airport. That night somehow, I managed to get into an Uber and on the ride home texted my Dad and said, ‘I’m an alcoholic. I need help. I’m going to rehab.’”

“The next day I checked myself into detox. Internally, I knew this was it; it’s now or never. My time had come. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Jason has been sober for three years. Through the intensive inpatient program, he gained the tools which enabled him to battle through one full month of rehab, then attended 45 AA meetings in 45 days. For the last three years, he’s been grinding it out every day to stay sober. He shared his source of strength is found in Jesus. A true miracle took place as each new day God gave Jason an attitude of gratitude. Where he used to feel self-condemnation, loathing, shame, and anger over making bad decisions, he now experiences grace and gratefulness.

“I’m thankful to have a job, a roof over my head, a home for my family, a family who stuck by me, for being sober, and for being alive. I’m grateful God did not abandon me, and I can honestly say that I am thankful for the struggle, for where I am today, and for the grace and protection of God. He has given me real joy that is only found in Jesus and it’s a joy that can’t be taken away.” Jason credits the tools and habits he learned through AA and finds peace in reciting the serenity prayer multiple times a day. He feels that he has a new calling on his life, and is in the process of becoming a nationally certified recovery coach.

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But God,

God had not abandoned Jason. And He never left me alone either.

In fact, God pursued me.

Read part 2 tomorrow to find out how…

 

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Introducing Elizabeth Hammond a contributing writer at The Hallelujah House. Elizabeth’s passion is ministering to others out of her own God-story where He’s rescued her life and continues to restore her family. She desires to fulfill God’s purpose in her life in encouraging women by sharing her own story, through Bible study, and intimate friendships. You can read the rest of her bio at the top of the homepage by clicking the word “Team

Elizabeth can be contacted at elizabethhammond8@gmail.com.

Note: Thank you to Jason Umidi for agreeing to be interviewed for this story. If. you’d like to leave Jason a comment you can find him on Facebook.