I’ve been very excited to begin this interview series, inspiring women in recovery. However, first I had to line up some interviews. If you are a woman in recovery for anything and would like to share your story here on Recovering Women Wealth, please reach out to me. It can be wholly anonymous or not.
Without further ado, here is the story of my good friend, Shari, who tells her story of powerlessness…
Shari’s Story of Redemption
My name is Shari and I am 55 and remarried. I live in Northeast Ohio with my husband of 11 years. I have a 23-year-old son, who by the grace of God, is nothing like I was in my youth. As a child, my mother often expressed her wishes that I would someday have twins, just like me. Thank you, God, this has not happened!
On November 19th I will celebrate 20 years of continuous uninterrupted sobriety.
Even though I’ve always had a natural tendency towards budgeting and living within my means, the debt piled up as my disease progressed. I had a home with $50,000 in equity. And Boom. Just like that, it was wiped out when I refinanced as a means to dig my way out.
I eventually lost my home when I stopped working. My office was in a first-floor bedroom and I simply stopped showing up – so debilitating was my addiction.
I had restricted access to an inheritance that was put in trust by my father before he passed. The trust was created because, well, I couldn’t be trusted. My father’s intention was to safeguard it from my disease.
Ultimately my disease did get at the trust because it paid for two expensive treatments and poor financial decisions after I was sober. In 2005 I began taking a monthly stipend and as a result, I drew down a significant portion of the principle, significantly slowing and even halting its potential growth.
To date, I would say my biggest challenge in sobriety has been living with my husband who was once sober but relapsed several years ago. Not only am I powerless over my own addiction but I am powerless over his as well. Addiction affects everything and everyone who lives and interacts in close proximity to the addict.
I had a moment of clarity a few years ago when I realized that duking it with his disease was a choice. I was not a victim. It is something that I was doing voluntarily but didn’t know it until that moment.
As I began writing this interview a month ago, my family, with the help of our support group, was entertaining the idea of staging an intervention with my husband.
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the fault. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. Matthew 18:15-16
This meant writing a letter to my husband which would convey, in a loving manner, how I have been affected. As I’ve grown towards happiness amidst his addiction, I have learned to keep the focus on me and what I can change. Me. Only me. As thoughts about what I might write ruminated in my mind, my focus was by necessity, on his disease and its effects…
Loneliness. Disgust. Hurt feelings. Desperation. Resentment. Loss of hope. Deep sadness. Anger at my husband and at God.
Getting Back to Right Size
For the first time in life, I was angry with God. Yes, alcoholism and addiction leave nothing untouched, unharmed and unchallenged. As the addiction progresses so do the effects. Separating the disease from the person became increasingly difficult over time.
In the process, my God had become the size of a golf ball. However, my ego the size of the stars.
I experienced entitlement. Entitled that the man I married should once again reflect the glory of God. NOW!
To reach him I knew my message had to be honest but not scathing. It had to reflect the glory of God. Or it would never work. So I prayed. I prayed for God’s hand to have total control of the process and His timing to be perfect.
And God did what God does best. He answered. At the eleventh hour and fiftieth minute. In His time. He answered. He provided a completely unexpected opportunity. And my husband heard. On a Saturday in October at exactly 11:50 a.m. my husband walked out of our home and reported to the solution. And at noon, at a club for people like us, recovery began. God froze the lie just long enough so that he could hear the truth. The truth of his addiction. The truth of recovery. And truth of redemption.
And me? Well, I balled like a baby. I’m still crying. So great is His faithfulness!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
The most rewarding aspect of my recovery? Honoring the promise I made to God and to my husband. By staying put. Right here. Right now. Waiting. Ugh! Oh, how I have wanted to walk away. But the path I promised isn’t that easy. The good stuff rarely is. My promise from 11 years ago always came back to me: “…for better, for worse….in sickness and in health….till death do us part…according to God’s holy ordinance…”
In sickness and in health. That’s what I said. A promise that I did not take lightly.
Grow where you are planted. That’s what I’ve been told. It’s what works.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Power Over Finances
In my early 50’s I became vaguely aware of the need to do more to achieve a comfortable retirement, but I was completely clueless about how to go about it. We were saving in a 401(k) but not very much.
About a year and a half ago I was on a road trip with my good friend and author of this blog. We got talking about money. She turned on an episode of the ChooseFI podcast. It must have been The Pillars of FI episode because I remember that it got us talking about cable bills. I had recently reduced our monthly cost by downgrading our service only to be forced to upgrade shortly thereafter when the Indians were in the playoffs and my current package didn’t cover the games. I wanted to cut the cord but I didn’t know-how. The ChooseFI content resonated with me.
Deanna showed me how to use the podcast app and my journey towards reducing the spending side of the equation began. I was hooked! The ideas that are presented and the stories that are shared provide me with everything I need to take tactical action.
To date, I’ve saved thousands of dollars by implementing credit card travel rewards. In 2018 I shaved $3,600 from our annual grocery and household supply budget by recognizing that I was prey to marketing and mindless spending. I’ve reduced expenses on our cell phone, TV and internet bills. I share accounts with friends to further reduce our expenses. Every time I save it allows me to shift those dollars to pre-tax retirement accounts further saving money on our tax bill. I’ve learned to challenge myself everywhere spending is concerned.
Lack of power is my dilemma. As I waited, in a marriage where I was completely powerless, financial freedom was an area of my life where I could gain power. For the first time in a long time, I had some purpose. I was controlling what I could control.
My success in sobriety I owe to God. He is the sum of the good orderly direction that I have received from my support group. Additionally, he is the foundation of everything. He has done His best work through other people showing me the way.
Good. Orderly. Direction. G.O.D.
Of course, I didn’t get sober and begin a perfect path of righteousness. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve made mistakes. A lot of them. They are necessary. They are part of the journey. My best lessons have been those I’ve learned the hard way.
As I’ve progressed in the journey, I’ve found that I no longer need to make my own mistakes to learn and grow. I can learn from the experience of others. Again, more G.O.D.
For years now, our mortgage has been our only debt but the spiritual side of the ledger I can never repay. So each day I wake up and he blesses me so that I, in turn, can bless others. It is how this works.
Wow, Shari, wow! Thank you, Shari, for your honesty about with your story and the messiness of recovery.
I want you, readers, to know that I’ve been praying for my friend, Shari, and her family. When Shari sent me her interview, I found out about the miraculous change with her family. I joined her in crying some tears of joy.
Reader questions: What are you still holding onto? What do you have control over? And what do you not have control over?