I didn’t know what an alcoholic was until my mother checked herself into rehab. I was 15. Just weeks before I had been sitting in a funeral for my best friend, now I was checking my mother into an inpatient program. Suddenly the Rolodex of my life flipped through my mind, dots began connecting, and for the first time I realized my loss and pain.
Walking through the hospital, the priest asked, “May I pray?” I cussed! My father promptly apologized, but the priest, he just said, “It’s ok.”
Suddenly this anger I didn’t even know I held came rushing out of me and I cussed them all until nothing else would come out. And then I cried. I cried and cried and cried. I wouldn’t let anyone console me. I wanted to feel everything I’d been denying was wrong in my life. Defeated, my broken mother stood there vacantly while my father tried desperately to control the situation. His eyes pleaded with me not to embarrass our family further.
My awareness shifted to the room in which we had arrived, where we would leave my mother, going home without her. Silence crept over us, slowing time as we all accepted what was. She was finally saying, “I know I have a problem, I believe I am not beyond help.”
A slow motion awareness of a big idea crept in, “Everything is falling apart!” I was being told my mother was an alcoholic… I was grieving the loss of my best friend…
I would soon be alone in the car with my father who was not happy with my outburst. I wasn’t just feeling like something was terribly wrong, it actually was that bad! My 15-year-old brain was flooding in all this pain! I would love to say this was the only overwhelming moment in my life.
Sadly, it was really just the first time I was couldn’t get around my pain. I was going to have to go through it instead. As a counselor I walk with people hour by hour in the scariest of places - their own deepest pain. It is an honor, a privilege, to sit in such a sacred space with another person, as with God’s strength we both just try to hold the ceiling up and breathe.
My father and I regularly participated in my mother’s therapy over the next several months. Throughout that time I started getting to know my mom. I heard about her pain, and her loss, and her addictions. She was starting to find strength, and her faith in God’s redemptive power was growing.
I began to understand she was a person, human just like me. I had never seen her that way. This was brand new. Through her healing we developed a relationship, and I received mothering, like a salve to a long infected wound.
One night, overwhelmed in my room, God took me back to the day I was saved. The little church I attended with a neighbor sang a chorus 19 times that day – each time I made a deal with God, “One more and I’ll walk the aisle, just one more Lord and I’ll do it.” Finally God moved me to approach the altar to receive Christ as my Savior.
This reminder came as I grieved: God said He had always loved me, Jesus said I was worth waiting for, and the Holy Spirit delivered a promise that He would show me how to use my pain. I didn’t know what that meant then, but for some reason I accepted His word in my heart. “I will use your pain.”
His promise opened my heart to be willing to allow painful circumstances to become opportunities. Each time I have been in a trial since then I remember to look for how God will be able to use my pain. Even now as a therapist God is still using my pain.
1 Peter 4:19 “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
I’m thankful I had a sober mother. I’m thankful God redeems time and broken relationships. I’m thankful God uses my pain.
My prayer for each of you who find this is: God have mercy on my brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as those who have not yet come home. Bring us back to you through our pain! Show us that You are bottling up our tears in heaven! Help us to cry out! Allow every tear to become fuel in the forging of the swords that Your angels will yield on our behalf! Love them so mightily, so gloriously, so mercifully, that their pain melts into the folds of your robe. Give each of us a willingness to use our pain to Your glory. We don’t understand it Father, and it hurts, so help us reach out to others and be a salve! No human knows the pain You and Jesus have known. Walk closely with us and send us reminders Father, that we are safe even in our deepest pain.
In Jesus Name, Amen.
Shannon is married to Chad Strader and they have 3 children. She is also an LPC and owner of Strader Christian Counseling in Magnolia TX.