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When I fall, You raise me up – Eleanor’s Story (Part 2)

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This is the second part of Eleanor’s story and her struggle with addiction. It’s yet another example of how God can use unlikely circumstances and situations to grab our attention and remind us that He is in control. It’s then, that we realize, He can do anything to help us. We just have to be willing to listen to His voice and respond to His promptings in our lives. 

In April 2006, I quit smoking. Unfortunately, when I quit smoking, I started drinking more. It’s definitely in my genes — my mother was an alcoholic as was her father (my grandfather). During my childhood, I remember doctors coming to our house and explaining to us that my mother was going to a nursing home to “dry out”. She was in and out many times. It was very sad.

Everyone used to tell me what a beautiful woman she was and how when she walked into a room, people would turn around and look at her. When you are going through something like that with someone, it’s hard to see beauty in it. She wasn’t beautiful when she was drinking. She died when I was 16 years old.

Because of my mother’s addiction, we didn’t have alcohol in our house growing up. We would have a drink when we went out with friends or if there was a party, but we didn’t drink at home. I really didn’t drink by myself at all until years later when I was alone.

After my first husband and I divorced, I moved into a quiet, beautiful condo. I remember coming home from work and making myself a drink, lighting a cigarette and turning on the news. I thought I had died and gone to heaven — that’s really the way it felt to me. The height of luxury.

My second husband and I would have a cocktail together and smoke every night. At the time, it seemed like fun. He passed away a few years later and that’s when I really started drinking heavily. It became a daily ritual that was a big part of my life. Then, out of the blue, something happened that changed everything.

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In June 2010, I was over at the beach with my cousin, Jean, and her daughter, Kim. Jean’s mother, my aunt, was my mother’s sister and also an alcoholic.

I remember Kim mentioning that she was going to have a glass of wine and I went ahead and made myself a drink. I drank about half of it, but it didn’t even taste good to me. Later, we went out to eat and when I came home and got into bed that night, my legs hurt so badly. At the time, I was taking Xanax to sleep. When you mix that with alcohol, it’s like the atomic bomb. I would go to bed after having five or six drinks, take a Xanax, pass out and then wake up in three hours. When I woke up this time, I took a few Aleve tablets and finally went to sleep.

The next day, I didn’t go down to the beach at all. I took a shower and went to put makeup on, but my hand was shaking violently. I couldn’t even put my eyebrow pencil on. Eventually, it subsided.

At dinner that night, I had a glass of wine, but I knew something was wrong. I really didn’t feel well and I had an upset stomach. We came home and I got into bed. The room I was sleeping in had a high bed with it’s own bathroom and lanai. I went to sleep, but woke up because I had to go to the bathroom. When I got out of bed, it was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything and it was like I didn’t have any legs. I felt like I was having a seizure and was reaching for something, anything, to hang on to. I ended up finding the the curtain and grabbing a hold of it — that was the first thing I touched. Everything else was like air. As I grabbed a hold of it, I started to fall backwards and hit my head on the sliding glass door. When I fell, my back landed right on the corner of a marble ledge. I screamed, but no one could hear me. I just sat on the floor and tried to catch my breath. I had to go to the bathroom so badly when I first tried to get out of bed, but it was like I didn’t even have to go to the bathroom anymore. So, I grabbed a hold of the sheets and the mattress pad, and pulled myself up and back into bed. As I was laying there I said, “God —this has happened for a reason. Why?” He said, “I think you need to stop drinking.” And I said, “I know. Is that what you want me to do?” “Yes.” The closer I get to God, the more I hear him when he speaks to me. He’s repetitious. I don’t usually get it the first time, but this time, I did.

It’s been almost six years since I’ve had a taste of alcohol. Every once in a while, a glass of wine sounds tempting, but I would never, ever touch a drop of alcohol with the help of the Lord because addictions stay with you — they never leave. I learned that from smoking. I wouldn’t chance it with alcohol because I wouldn’t want to go through it again. I knew someone who was an alcoholic, but hadn’t had a drink in 12 years. She had a weak moment at one point and ended up turning into a raging alcoholic which ultimately killed her. It’s not worth it.

After I stopped drinking, my cousin, Dicky (who is also an alcoholic), suggested I go to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with him. He said, “Cousin, you really should go to AA.” And I said, “Dicky, I could get up there one time and tell them my story — that God did it for me. I did nothing. He did it for me. It was His grace.” As far I’m concerned, that’s the only way anything gets done.

When I call, You answer — Eleanor’s Story (Part 1)

This story is one that’s close to my heart for many reasons. I love that we can have a constant dialogue with God. The best part is it’s not one-sided. He answers our calls. He responds to our pleas. But in His timing and not our own, and according to His will and not our own. It’s so difficult to wait, but if we are patient and persevere, we will experience His faithfulness. 

One of the most profound ways God has worked in my life is through my struggle with addictions. It’s something I could never have “quit” on my own — In fact, I tried to do it on my own many times and failed. In His own timing and by His own grace, He answered my prayers.

feather2When I was 16 years old, I started smoking cigarettes. It’s a very addictive thing. I smoked while my children were growing up and continued far beyond that. It was something I enjoyed and looked forward to each day.

About 13 years ago, one of my friend’s was diagnosed with cancer. She was young — in her early 50’s — but her cancer was terminal and she was dying. I remember she would occasionally drink at parties, but never smoked in her life. She was a very healthy person and her cancer had nothing to do with how she took care of her body.

Throughout the course of her treatment, I attended a healing ministry with her at a local church and also drove her to doctor’s appointments. She had optic neuropathy, which impaired her vision, so she couldn’t drive herself. Before we drove to our destination, she would always say to me, “Would you like to have a cigarette before we get in the car? It would be okay.” It made me feel so awful. I had come to a point where I really didn’t enjoy smoking, but I was addicted to the nicotine.

Around this time, I started praying at night before I went to sleep. I would get in bed and say, “Dear God, please, when I wake up in the morning, take away my desire to have a cigarette.” Having a cigarette was the first thing I thought of each day. In fact, the need for nicotine woke me up.

Every morning, I had my routine. I would go make my coffee, sit down to read my Bible, and light a cigarette. I’m embarrassed to say that I read my Bible while smoking. It was pretty bad.

My poor friend would give anything just to be able to live and here I am and I can’t stop smoking. I continued to pray each night, “God — you know me. I have no will power to do this myself. I need your help.” I knew God’s timing was not my own and I never gave up because I knew if it was going to happen, it was going to have to be through Him.

I had tried so many times to quit smoking on my own and nothing worked. I would be out with someone and maybe hadn’t had a cigarette in two months and thought, “That just smells so good. Can I just have one of those?” Then I went, “Oh, that wasn’t bad. I had one cigarette, I don’t need to have another one.” But, I’d get up the next morning and by later in the afternoon, I thought, “Well, if I could just get by with one or two a day, I’ll be fine.” Then I would go out and buy a pack of cigarettes. Well, within a week, I was smoking two packs a day. It’s so insidious.

One morning, about three years after I started praying, I woke up and began my normal routine. I made my coffee, lit a cigarette, and started having this pain in my chest. I smoked the whole cigarette and went and took a Maalox because I thought it might be indigestion. I went back and got my coffee, lit another cigarette, and smoked about half of it, but the pain continued to intensify. I knew I had to call an ambulance, but for some reason, I couldn’t do it myself. I called my daughter who ended up calling 911 and the paramedics were here in a couple minutes. They did an EKG at my house and one of my sons (an emergency medicine physician) came over and took a look at it and said it was pretty good, but I should probably head to the hospital and have everything checked out. So I went in the ambulance to the hospital and one of the paramedics gave me a shot of nitroglycerin and it stopped the pain. By the time I got to the hospital, I felt just fine. I was admitted and they did blood work and ran tests. The test results revealed that I suffered a minor heart attack. The interesting thing was, as the hours went by, I never thought about a cigarette. I was actually comfortable and the pain had stopped. I ended up staying in the hospital for five days and never once thought about a cigarette.

When I was discharged from the hospital, I came home and remember walking into my kitchen. My beautiful gold cigarette case was there on the counter. I just picked it up and threw it in the trash. It was almost an unconscious effort because, by then, cigarettes weren’t even in my mind. It was like I had just picked up a piece of garbage and was throwing it away. I kept a carton of cigarettes in my kitchen cabinet for a year for no other reason except I guess it felt good not to want them.

I remember I used to smoke a lot when I golfed. 35 years before I quit, I was golfing with this girl and lighting up a cigarette and she said, “You know I quit smoking.” and I said, “ You did? How did you do that?” She said, “I don’t know — it was like a miracle. I just woke up one morning and didn’t want to smoke anymore.” And I said, “Oh, that’s what I want.” It kind of went out of my ear.

Now, it’s been almost 10 years to the day since I stopped smoking. I truly believe that anything is possible with God, and nothing is possible without him. That, for me, has spilled over into all of the areas of my life. I am so grateful.

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