On Sharing our Stories

When I started this blog, roughly one month ago, I made the conscious decision to tell my stories on my own terms. As a survivor, that is my right: whether or not I share my experience, how I do so, and with whom. 

For a longtime, I kept my stories close to my heart. But then, last summer, I met a woman. My neighbor, as it was. I spent that summer watching a woman my own age self-destruct through the tragedy that is alcoholism. It would have been all too easy to distance myself from the drunk gal next door… But I felt called into friendship with her. So that’s exactly what happened. 

Over the course of our short friendship, I learned she had been abused. Much like I had. I learned that her go-to coping strategy– alcohol–had cost her a marriage and custody of her two young daughters. She hated herself. She had made numerous suicide attempts, and believed that she just couldn’t die. That she wasn’t allowed to escape her torment. 

It was on a Sunday morning in July,  sitting in a church pew with my husband and kiddos, when I heard the sirens. I felt this sinking in the pit of my stomach when I did. Sure enough, on our way home from church, an ambulance was parked outside of her home. Lights off. Accompanied by a squad car. We saw her boyfriend signing paperwork outside with the Sheriff. I turned to my husband, a law enforcement officer himself, and read from his face that someone was dead.

My neighbor died from chronic alcohol abuse. At the age of 34. 

I hope that our friendship brought some comfort to her during her last days. But, I’ll never know. 

It struck me how similar our stories were, and yet, how very different we were. I could have become like her. ‘But for the grace of God go I.’

That’s when I decided I would no longer lock up my stories. If even one person could  identify with the sharing of my experience, and find hope in the realization that they were not alone and that there was hope for escape –then share my stories I must. 

I don’t know exactly why I was able to escape the kind of toxic shame my friend drowned in. I don’t know why some people find themselves encountering such deep hurt in this life. What I do know is this: our hurt and our shame do not have to define us. As long as we are living, there is hope for escaping our inner torments.

Sharing our stories can help pull others up and out of hopelessness. There in lies their true value. Locking them away can take its toll on us as human beings. We were made for community. To share our life together, learn from each other, and strengthen each other in hard times. 

No matter what you may have encountered in this life, there is someone  that has walked the same path you traverse. And there are many more that could learn much from hearing your stories– when, where, how, and with whomever you choose to share– they are meant to be told. 

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9 thoughts on “On Sharing our Stories

  1. This is sad but all too real. My dad destroyed his life with alcohol. Now here I am, tormented by abuse but not grabbing alcohol. However, am I coping well? I don’t feel like it. I have dreams about the church. I feel angry. I try to read my bible and I just remember the things they told me, the advice they gave and it triggers those feelings again. How do I get past that? I blog about it too but I fear I am much too angry for the average person to read what I say. Maybe that’s ok. I am writing. I try to not have so much down time to think about it because it hurts. Still. I hope I don’t become your neighbor but I am not so vain to think I can’t. Sometimes I get tired of the fight every single day of surviving and trying to be happy. Why can’t I just be happy without all the work?

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    1. “Why can’t I just be happy without the work?”
      WORD.
      Because… Making our joy complete is Christ’s purpose in our pain. It’s such a paradox– that by entering fully into our hurt, we ultimately find something that transcends happiness: Joy.
      In our western culture, obsessed with momentary happiness, we’ve lost the art of lament. Lament is the sacred sorrow where we angrily cry out to God, and grieve the state of the world. And the state of the Church. And our own plight being a part of both.
      It may not feel like it to you right now, but there is holiness in the process you are struggling through. It’s in this beautiful freedom and trust in God, that He is indeed what we suspect He is– caring, long-suffering, patient and kind–that we find the ground of our humanity. And we find it in rejecting the lies and manipulation of the world and religion.
      Our anger is so helpful in this process, because it forces us outside of our hand-me down certainties and thrusts us ever closer to Truth.
      It’s the most difficult journey I’ve ever taken. But it is so worth it.
      I didn’t cope well. I don’t know if it’s possible to cope well when lamenting. It just needs to be seen through.
      Keep fighting through this. I promise you, it’s worth the work. It’s worth the anger and heartache. Because on the other side is something better than mere religion has to offer– there is true humility before God and new spiritual eyes to guide us to seeing His hand in everything around us.
      Much love to you!!

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      1. Oh, and when I say ‘true humility’, I’m not talking about the kind of submissive, self-denigrating attitude that passes for humility in some Christian circles. I’m talking about the place where we realize how wholly dependent we truly are upon God, and instead of requiring that we grovel, He lifts us up out of our helplessness. REAL humility is something entirely different than churches often teach us it is. You recognize it by the hallmark experienced of being in total, abject awe of God’s goodness.

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  2. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, but smiled when I read that her story helped you to unlock parts of your own and that you’re embracing bravery! I’ve been on that road lately myself! A friend of mine once told me that when we keep our shameful stories hidden that they (and Satan) have power over us, but when we bring them to light the shame minimizes (it doesn’t grow as we feared) and in actuality, like you mentioned, inevitable our stories touch the heart of another. Stories are best when told, not hidden! I look forward to reading whatever stories you’re ready to share!
    Blessings to you,
    Karyn

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    1. Karyn– you speak so much wisdom here! It is so very true that the shame we feared would multiply actually dissipates. Telling our stories puts them outside of ourselves. I’m glad you are finding yourself on the same path! All too often victims take upon themselves the burden of silence. We don’t have to! The ugliness happened TO us, it IS NOT who we are!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story. Please keep sharing it!

    Our stories are powerful! They are wisdom won through hard-earned life experiences and bear witness to God’s faithfulness through many hardhips.

    People need to hear that…yes, life events are sometimes horrific…and no, there are no easy answers or magic cures. Yet, somehow, someway, in the midst of the chaos, mess, tears, sorrow and pain…God comes alongside and remains faithful.

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