There is a Story to Tell

7:01 PM Edit This 14 Comments »
So. Here's a picture of me with a sign. Not just any old sign. But THE sign. In 2006, I was a youth director for a big Lutheran church here in Sioux Falls. I'd been a youth director at a big Lutheran church in Des Moines for seven years previously. I took a break and ran group homes for awhile, and turns out that wasn't my thing. But in the meantime, I met The Dead Guy and we moved to NC, where I did group counseling with 4 and 5 year olds diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disorders. But youth directoring was in my soul, so when it came time to move back to the Midwest, I put my application out there and Boom! There you go. There were not a whole lot of youth directors that had been in the field for as long as I was. The average tenure of a youth director is 8 months. Go figure. Stressful and soul sucking. But I was an alcoholic who tended to drink it all away. I claim that as my key to longevity in the ministry.

In 2006, I took 100 teenagers and adults to the International ELCA youth convention in San Antonio, TX. Jason had died a mere eight months earlier. I was trying my best to pull myself together and be responsible, but I just couldn't do it. After three days on the road, intense heat and well - 100 teenagers. Hello?! I gave in to my alcoholism. I drank. And I didn't just have a few. I had a whole bunch. I told the pastor that I was going to have a quiet dinner and then go to bed. Everyone knew that I needed a bit of alone time in order to function best, and so he let me go. There were 10 other adults on the trip, so I didn't feel the slightest bit guilty for going off on my own. Only I didn't know that the monster that is addiction was going to attack. I went to a bar. An Irish bar. I ordered a salad. There was live music. I smoked a half pack of cigarettes because I was finally alone and in the midst of contemplating the debilitating bus ride home, I ordered a rum and coke. Not my drink. Jason's drink. But that's what I ordered. And then I proceeded to eat my salad and order about 10 more. I have no idea how many I drank. But I do know that I went back to the hotel and talked to some of the kids. And I was horribly drunk. I didn't think so at the time, but when I think back on it now, I am ashamed. Suffice it to say, I was asked to leave my position when I got home. I started going to meetings of Drunks Like Me, but I didn't get sober until four months later, when I couldn't imagine living anymore. Much less, living as I was.

I wasn't sure how I'd feel going back to the scene of the crime. People asked me if I was having troubling memories and frankly, I was. And on Thursday, as we were woefully trying to work off the misery that is a 24 hour bus ride, I saw it. I had no idea what the name was. I had no idea WHERE it was. I just knew it was on the Riverwalk. And when I saw the door and then the sign, I knew. I just knew. And I shouted at Miss M, "This is it! This is where it all happened!" And so they all stopped and they took my picture. And well? I am still ashamed. Not so much that it fills my soul with hatred, but I am so sad that any of it happened, I guess.
I went to a meeting last night and tried to describe the feeling I had when I found it. And all I could come up with is the fact that I am no longer that woman that got drunk and lost her job. I resemble her not in the least. I am a vibrant and loving human being. I like who I am. I may have some things to work on - mainly being held back by being shy, but I am not her. In no WAY, am I her. And whereas I sometimes miss my life with The Dead Guy, I know that I could never have been with him today, had he stayed alive. Because my reality doesn't fit that picture anymore.

Look at the bridges. The beauty of their construction.
And the outdoor theater that was once a church courtyard and the hurricane clouds in the background.
The people. The sheer number of PEOPLE who came with a purpose. And that is recovery from alcoholism.
The art.
The fun and silliness that is me today.
The dancing. And knowing that I'm good at it.
The water. Oh, how the water flowed.
And who I am today. The woman that drops everything and crouches under a tree just because it's pretty. The one that lives her life without regret. The one where shame doesn't drive me anymore. The woman that five years ago, did not even exist. And I thank God for that. Every single day. Because I was dead inside. And I'm finally coming back to my senses.





14 comments:

clearness said...

Love the photos! Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

Meigan said...

Great post, Kate. Great story, too. I am so happy you are the woman you are today! And that I get to see you in just a few days!!!

The Good Cook said...

Your post made me cry a little. For you. For me. For anyone who has ever lived with regret. Such a waste of human energy.

Remember:

You did the best that you knew how. When you knew better, you did better.

THAT is what living is. Always learning, always moving forward. Everything that happens to us and for us and by us gets us to where we are today. And YIPPEE! It is a better place than yesterday.

Love the pictures of you. In the immortal words of Billy Crystal, "You look marvelous!"

Shelley said...

I love that you were able to return to the "scene of the crime" so to speak - revisiting your past is hard. I think most of us look back with regret on certain events or times of our lives, but the important thing is how we've moved forward. Wonderful post - thank you so much for sharing your story.

Holly said...

Few of us have the chance to revisit the place that changes our life again. I feel that there was a definite reason you found it - so you could, once again, realize how far you have come.

I'm looking forward to seeing you!

justme said...

oh, thank god for that. you are such a gift.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

This is really, really amazing, Kate. For you to be able to so proudly visit the town where you visited when you were at your lowest ... and to now be soaring so high. It really is remarkable. And so are you!

melissalion said...

That's a great story, I'm sorry that it happened, but I'm glad you're better now.

It was probably a good lesson to those kids too. Nothing like seeing alcoholism up close and personal to scare the beejeezus out of you.

Todd said...

'But I was an alcoholic who tended to drink it all away. I claim that as my key to longevity in the ministry.'

Kate, God bless you and your humor and craziness....i make no apologies....i love this quote!
and i loved reading the one below too!!!! ha! excellent!

'And who I am today. The woman that drops everything and crouches under a tree just because it's pretty. The one that lives her life without regret. The one where shame doesn't drive me anymore. The woman that five years ago, did not even exist. And I thank God for that. Every single day. Because I was dead inside. And I'm finally coming back to my senses.'

artemisia said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. You are doing so wonderfully well! I am very proud of you.

carrster said...

Kate! What an awesome story. I'm so proud of you for how you've lived this journey & come to where you are today!! And I get to SEE YOU & foist my offspring on you in a mere TWO DAYS - whohoo!! Love you, Kate. So happy you're 'back.'

kilax said...

Thanks for sharing your amazing story! You are inspiring :)

Lemon Gloria said...

Wow, Kate. That's a very powerful story. Thank you for sharing it. You're a beautiful, strong person.

my33people said...

Wow, I can see now why you had so many doubts about this trip. But you did it! And it was great! Yay!