The first step to solving a problem…

…is being able to admit that you have one.  

I’ve always loved the name Jacob and I finally figured out why on a plane ride back to Rhode Island from San Diego when a particular bible story came to my attention.  The dude was a total joke until he finally owned who he was. And to this I say…better late than never my friend!  

If you’re not familiar with the story of Jacob in Genesis here’s a quick recap: He goes throughout a good portion of his life always faking who he is in order to win his fathers affection and be better than his brother Esau.  In fact, there’s even this part in his story where he pretends to be his older brother to obtain a family inheritance and succeeds.  And it really only brings him a bunch of heartache until he finally has this phenomenal wrestling match with a mysterious man. (Whether or not this man is supposed to represent God, I don’t know, but from my perspective I think he does.) 

After an exhausting night the mysterious man exclaims that the dawn is breaking and that Jacob must let him go.  Suprisingly Jacob refuses and says he won’t let the man go until he blesses him.  The next part is absolutely awe inspiring.  The man who has been wrestling with him all night simply asks Jacob what his name is and he replies “Jacob.”  Seems like an appropriate answer.  But then once Jacob finally owns who he is, God changes his name to Israel. After this point Jacob just starts getting rained on with blessings, including reconciling with his older brother.  

I love this story because it depicts perfectly that we can’t fake our authenticity with God.  Actually, it may be one of my all time favorite bible stories.  It’s certainly up there.  And if you don’t believe me, please pick up a bible and read Genesis 32:22-32.  So here’s where I am going with this… Jacob’s wrestling match brings me to the topic of being vulnerable. (Gasp, squirm, cringe…I know! People hate to be vulnerable!)

It finally hit me after one of my recent EMDR sessions as to why I have such a problem when people don’t own who they are.  For years I longed to hear my Mom admit she had an addiction to alcohol.  To have gone back and processed that precious conversation has been life changing for me. 

I felt as though I lived in this ongoing conflict of a young woman who wanted to scream at the tops of her lungs, owning the dysfunction of her family, but in actuality was being told to sweep such problems under the rug.  The truth is alcoholic families struggle with having a lack of boundaries and if you don’t learn to sort them out it can be absolutely debilitating.  My experience with this disease heightened after my sister moved away for college.  My older sister wasn’t there to shield me anymore so when alcohol was being used in my house I became profoundly more aware of it. From ages 14 to 25, I experienced many intense circumstances that I hope most people never have to go through.  Sometimes I wished my Mom was an overbearing parent during my teenage years, but if that had been the case, I suppose I would have struggled from another type of lack in boundaries.

At this very moment I see a glaring problem in society and a lot of it has to do with social media. We live in a world of constant comparison, superficial highlight reels, filtered photos and facades. It drives me crazy. Seriously. Not to mention the fact that people are becoming socially stupid (but that’s another topic for another day probably twenty years from now.) Everything is a competition to have the best vacation photo, the best engagement photo, the best caption.  And all I see is fakeness.  Short lived ego boosts that don’t depict real life.

So I just want to say this; being able to be vulnerable has altered the course of my life forever.  After my mother passed away, I realized that there was one thing I couldn’t be fearless about; alcohol.  I have not picked up a drink in almost two years and although I’m not an alcoholic there is this glaring fact in my life that I will not ignore; I have an overwhelming genetic predisposition to become one! (I own that. I will happily own that.)

When I decided to be sober for the rest of my life, I worried my friends would think of me differently or that I would be considered weird.  After all, alcohol is everywhere and at the time there were very few people that I knew who didn’t drink.  To not drink is vulnerable, it’s a little out there, it’s not the norm.

And here’s what I concluded…I do not care what people think of me when it comes to my not drinking. I’ll repeat it. I Do Not Care. And here’s why; I watched a woman who I admired and loved struggle with it for two decades and despite having a loving family and a wonderful support system, the addiction to alcohol still took her down.  Genetically, I’m half her.  (Thank God, because I am so proud to have been one of her two kids.). 

Being half her from a genetic standpoint, the fact is: The odds of me not becoming an alcoholic if I continued drinking are not in my favor.  While I’m being vulnerable, based on my former drinking patterns while in college and my years immediately after college, I’d actually say the odds of me becoming an alcoholic if I continued drinking would be “ever in my favor.” (Yes, if I continued drinking my life may in fact resemble the Hunger Games!)  

All that said, if someone is going to judge me for not drinking, or dub me socially awkward for refraining from that social pastime then that’s really not my problem.  And here’s the kicker, something happened when I made peace with that vulnerability.  Not drinking became easy.  Not drinking became one of the most natural things I have ever done. 

Here’s the thing about vulnerability, you think that showing weakness won’t make you strong but the reality is it does.  I think that’s why I so thoroughly enjoyed the last conversation I ever had with my Mom.  She was so unpolished, raw, and VULNERABLE.  So to the people out there who still struggle with addiction day in and day out whether it’s drugs, alcohol, porn, gambling etc…and you’re trying to walk around like you have it all together, guess what?  God knows you’re trying to fool yourself and Him.

For children of alcoholics out there:

As far as the healing process goes…I used to be really angry. I mean who do you know who wouldn’t be angry after losing a beloved parent to an addiction?  I used to be angry.  I used to fear repeating her mistakes.  I used to think I was never good enough.  I used to think I was all alone in these experiences, that there were no other people out there who grew up in environments in which addiction was a very tangible thing.  With the right resources, counseling and perhaps a touch of faith you can start saying “I used to” as well.  

God will meet you in that space and place of deep processing and self examination.  You just have to have the courage to go there. 

Being vulnerable can save your life.  Being vulnerable saved mine. 

***

“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional.  Our only choice is a question of engagement.  Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”

 —Daring Greatly by Brene Brown 

“I’m in repair. I’m not together but I’m getting there.”—In Repair by John Mayer

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; 

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”—Theodore Roosevelt 

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