I'm honored to introduce you to Heather Kopp, a woman I love and admire. Heather is one of the editors working with me on my book and her honesty, vulnerability and keen insight into the human condition inspire me to write courageously. Heather's new book, Sober Mercies: how love caught up with a Christian drunk, tells the heartbreaking, hilarious and poignant story of her alcoholism and recovery. Heather is generously offering a copy of her book to TWO of my readers. Please leave a comment below. I hope you enjoy Heather's story as much as I have. xo. EE.
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I’m so grateful to Elizabeth for this chance to introduce myself to you! I’m a wife, a mother, an author, a blogger, and a Jesus-follower.
I’m also an alcoholic in recovery who used to be a secret drunk. Unlike the I-used-to-drink-and-drug, then-I-got-religion stories you’ve heard, I was a long-time Christian before I started drinking myself stupid.
By day, I wrote books about parenting and prayer. By night, I supplemented wine at dinner with extra—lots of it—from my secret stash.
For twelve years, I was caught in an endless cycle of shame and remorse, determined to keep the truth of the real extent of my drinking from Dave, our mostly grown kids, and the rest of the world.
In the winter of 2006, as our Colorado town got buried in one blizzard after another, my alcoholism took me to new lows. I drank to blackout almost every night. Many mornings, I woke up in the guest room with no memory of how I got there. Obviously, my husband and I must have had another “dumb drunk Heather fight,” as Dave had come to call them. But whatever was it about?
Stumbling into the bathroom, I'd pause and look at myself in the mirror. Staring at my puffy face, swollen eyes, and sleep-mashed hair, my heart would fill with hate for myself. Right up to the end, I held onto the twisted hope that I could hate myself sober.
Of course, it didn’t work. And neither had it worked when I tried to pull myself up by my spiritual bootstraps, praying and repenting until I was blue in the face. Even as I watched my oldest son begin his own descent into alcoholism, I couldn’t stop drinking long enough to help him.
Now and then the thought of seeking treatment occurred to me, only to get quickly beaten back by my furious, frightened ego. I wasn’t about to admit to anyone something so shameful as being an alcoholic. I was a Christian. What would people think?
Spring came early in 2007. By mid-March, daffodils bloomed in profusion and the fat robins strutted proudly about our yard. I desperately wished that I could share their optimism, but I couldn’t find so much as a single twig on which to hang my hope.
I had no idea that the darkest days of my life were about to give way to the brightest.
It happened one ordinary morning, seemingly out of nowhere. I had awakened feeling hung-over, filled with self-loathing and dread—nothing unusual there.
But I hadn’t been out of bed for long when something inside of me—it felt like a wall of resistance—broke. I fell to my knees next to my bed, crying. Not just regular I’m-so-sorry, I-hate-my-life crying, but the wailing-like-somebody-died sobbing.
I’m not sure now what I prayed, or if it even involved words. I only know that I begged God for rescue in a way that made all my previous attempts at surrender seem half-hearted.
When it was over, I felt strangely calm. I got up off my knees and blew my nose. I drank my coffee. I walked the dog. Then I got on the phone to our insurance company to ask about coverage for treatment.
Two weeks later, I parked my car outside a bleak looking treatment center. Which was the moment I started having panic attacks. For the longest time, I just sat there, heart racing, mind in overdrive. I couldn’t image being separated from my bottles for a single evening, much less weeks. I wanted with every nerve and fiber of my being to turn back.
Instead, I walked inside that building and my life changed forever.
Maybe that’s why I feel this funny ache in my chest every spring when the anniversary of that day draws near. It’s scary to remember how close I came to turning back—to losing my marriage and maybe my life, to missing the miracle.
When you lay death and life right next to each other like that, the way spring does, you see it more clearly: how violent God's love can be, how risky his timing, and how close on the heels of despair hope starts rising.
Of course, you don’t have to be an addict to keep secrets, feel shame, or hide from the truth. But I’m coming to believe that God holds out to all of us those mysterious, grace-filled invitations to hope and change more often than we think.
I hope you accept one soon.
Heather’s book, Sober Mercies: how love caught up with a Christian drunk is available here. Visit Heather at HeatherKopp.com.
P.S. Eight months after I got sober, my son Noah began his own journey of recovery.
To win a copy of Heather's book, please leave a comment. One comment per person, please. Comments close on Wednesday, May 22nd at 5pm, PST. Two winners will be chosen.