Looking back at my life not so long ago, I find it hard to believe that I used to drink myself to sleep every night. I had stumbled onto a very bad path that I needed to get off of. I had to do something with my life besides drink myself to death. But what?
Descent to Alcoholism
I grew up in a Christian home but I always hated going to church. I never got anything from sitting there and, as I grew older, I stopped attending altogether. My husband was agnostic and soon his views became my views. I was just fine with that. Our two sons, Ian and Kurt, grew up without religion at all.
In December 2008, Ian, who was 13, broke his C4 vertebrae snowboarding. We were airlifted from our home in Owen Sound, Ont., to SickKids Hospital in Toronto, and we spent the next eight months at the Holland Bayview Kids Rehabilitation Centre. Despite the best efforts of the doctors and the nurses, Ian was left a quadriplegic.
This took a hard toll on our family, and life as we knew it was irrevocably changed. When I wasn't working, caring for my son took the rest of my time. Drinking became a coping mechanism for me. I spent many nights after Ian was settled, drinking myself to sleep just to numb the pain. And as time went on, I started drinking more heavily, to the point where I had to admit that I was an alcoholic.
Though I had been an agnostic for most of my life, I realized I was facing a choice between killing myself with alcohol or saving myself with faith, so I decided to try and save myself.
I accompanied a friend to his church one day. The people were nice enough but despite my best intentions, I felt as empty at this church as I had in my younger days, and I didn't return. I was reaching out to God, but where was He? Months flew by as I continued to drink myself into oblivion.
New Year, New Hope
In January 2012, I decided to attend the Salvation Army church in Owen Sound. I volunteered with the Army's kettles the Christmas before so I was aware of the good work that they were doing in the community. I also knew that it was a Christian organization with churches and pastors. The family of Ian's friend, Joey, were members of The Salvation Army, and I knew that the congregation was praying for Ian.
Despite my familiarity with the organization, I was shy so I sat in the back. But after the service, Joey saw me and his face lit up.
“Trish, I didn't know you came to this church,” he told me. “You should have sat with us.” So the following Sunday, I did.
I'd never experienced such a feeling of belonging. The congregation welcomed me with open arms and I looked forward to returning.
I had a couple of slips in February, however, and was too hung over to attend church. In March, I prayed for the strength to quit drinking and I started attending The Salvation Army on a regular basis from then on.
A Meaningful Life
Taking care of Ian is tiring. My time after work is limited and there are moments when I have felt very alone. I appreciate the congregation and the genuine care they showed in getting to know me. I was able to get involved with our church's Meals On Wheels program, and I also joined the ladies' Bible study and the knitting club. These programs have been a source of encouragement for me as I share my concerns with others.
A funny thing happened as I continued to attend the services and listen to the sermons. I realized that I had started to believe in God again. Through prayer and the love of God, who never let me go even when I had forgotten Him, I was able to kick a 20-year drinking habit that could have led to my death.
My life is still hard, but I have found new ways of coping, and new friends I can lean on. After attending The Salvation Army for more than a year now, I feel lost when I miss a Sunday service. My life has meaning and balance again. I'm on the right path now and I pray I never stray from it.