My friend, Belinda, is a self-professed alcoholic. For almost 21 years, she’s been sober. She says that the secret to maintaining her healthy life is to go to meetings every week, getting the support of others.

During one of our weekly walks, I asked her, “Belinda, how did you finally decide to quit drinking?”

Taking a break to stretch her legs, she responded, “I hit bottom. I knew that regardless of how much liquor I drank, I’d still be the same insecure person I was before I opened the bottle.”

She zipped up her bright yellow ski jacket, as crisp and cheerful as her confidence, adding, “I didn’t have a drinking problem. I had a thinking problem. Until I gave up the booze, I would never know who I was.”

That conversation was pivotal in my own conversion toward Christ. Like Belinda, I, too, had been drinking daily. But instead of ingesting a bottle of white wine, I had been sipping on other peoples’ opinions. If people pleasing could be bottled, I had the addiction big time.

One “What do you think?” here, two “How do I looks?” there, eventually my need for other peoples’ approval spiraled into a fierce dependence. No amount of assurance could satiate the fierce thirst I had for others’ back pats and praise. It wasn’t until I hit bottom did I realize that I, too, had a thinking problem. 

My bottom came one Thursday evening. Alone in my bed, I couldn’t sleep. My mind was whirling a thousand miles an hour and my heart was beating out of my skin. I could barely catch my breath.

My son was sleeping peacefully in his bead next door, but I could still hear his tics as if he were awake. Five times a minute, all day long, he had been coughing. The kids in his second grade class didn’t care. Parents of other children didn’t notice, and if they did, they likely thought he just had a cold. But I knew better.

I knew my son had Tourette Syndrome. I knew that incessant coughing was one of the physical manifestations of the maddening disorder. While this throat sound would go away, it would be replaced with an eye roll, or a shoulder shrug, maybe a grimace or a neck twist – likely even another kind of vocal. This knowledge left me incredibly despondent.

And angry.  

It’s not like I didn’t try everything in my power to suppress those tics, but nothing worked. Not the gluten free diet, the acupuncture, the supplements, the video gaming restrictions – nothing kept my sweet boy still.

I was scared. In my soul, I knew I had done everything possible to help my son. But my mind didn’t care. It had only one message programmed for my brain: “You have failed as a mother.”

To make matters worse, the only shows on TV were infomercials featuring either wrinkle control or beef jerky dehydrators. I can still hear that man’s voice in my head. “You just set it, and forget it!” I longingly wished that QVC was selling some gadget that would instantly turn anxiety into peace. A breakthrough pill that promised to cure wrinkles and twitches? Hell, I’d have taken a remote control fuzzy kitten. No such luck.

With no person to chat with – no distracting “think” to gulp down to numb my overactive brain – I found myself face to face with the wall of sobriety. It was time to detox at last, if only for a night. As I wrapped my blanket tighter around my body, one thing was clear: It wasn’t only my son who would be dealing with the shakes.

Leave a comment! Maybe you’ve experienced times of immense doubt? In my next post, I’ll discuss what I did that radically changed my life for the better. In the meanwhile, any parents out there worried about their marriages? Anyone struggling with their marriages or unexpected diagnoses? Let’s get the conversation started and support each other!

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