The personal story that follows took courage to share and it is my privilege to write it in a manner that is respectful and honoring of the strong woman I interviewed.
My husband and I have been blessed with several neighbors, across two states, who we have formed friendships with and who have added richness to our lives. Those friendships have taken many forms through the years. Together as neighbors, we have watched children play and grow, we have laughed and celebrated, and we have supported and been supported. Not to be understated, we have been greeted with friendly faces and welcoming waves more times than we can recall.
We have also experienced the sting of not-so-nice-neighbors, so we were thrilled to meet our new neighbors after making a move back to the valley just over seven years ago, after living in Tucson for five years. In a mirror floor plan, directly across the street, lived a young family who were immediately kind and inviting. The husband, Glynn, and wife, Krissy, introduced themselves with smiles and dispositions that could brighten the cloudiest of days – smiles and attitudes that have been unwavering since our first encounter. Their young children exhibit the same cheerful outlook and loving nature that they so generously convey. Watching Glynn and Krissy’s kids play with other children in the neighborhood was reminiscent of our daughter’s carefree cul-de-sac childhood in Henderson, Nevada. Over five years of friendly hellos and farewells would have been enough to enrich our lives, but their actions went beyond those appreciated gestures. They invited us to several gatherings, including their yearly memorable Halloween celebration, complete with a bouncy house in the front yard. They are equally gracious hosts as they are kind neighbors and we always felt welcomed and energized by their positive presence. We delighted in watching them prepare and return from their many family adventures, and are forever grateful for Glynn’s willingness, without prompting, to mow our lawn when my husband was recovering from foot surgery. They model neighborly goodness and that is what made seeing their for sale sign so difficult when returning home one afternoon, over one year ago. I understand. Sometimes families need more space. We couldn’t be too upset with them, after all, we have planted six for sale signs since we were, ourselves, a young family forging friendships and then moving on to the next location.
Fortunately, our neighbors did not move too far, or at least close enough for a stop in and say hi visit. It was on one of those visits a few months ago that Krissy said something that didn’t shock my world, but I did file it away for later consideration.
When I told her, “You look great! Have you lost weight?”
“Yes, I lost thirty pounds. I stopped drinking,” she said casually.
“Oh, that’s great,” I said, as we were departing.
We drove off, happy to have reconnected with our “old” neighbors. I didn’t think much more about Krissy’s alcohol abstinence until I sat pondering: who do I know who has made a life change recently that I can learn more about, with the goal of inspiring and motivating others. I immediately thought of Krissy and her lifestyle and physical transformation. I reached out to her and she agreed to be interviewed. The conversation that followed is a reminder of you never know what other people are going through, including people with heartwarming smiles and contagious laughs.
I knew that my neighbor is a fellow Arizona native, but I wanted to learn more about the Krissy I didn’t know. I learned that she has two older brothers and that her parents are married and will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary next year. She is close with her family and they see each other often. I have many more things to learn about my neighbor, my friend, but our conversation quickly turned to her personal history and the focus of our fifty-minute discussion. Her disclosures were surprising, based on my false assumptions about someone with a radiant attitude, but they are far too familiar to many families, including my own. Krissy shared her experience of attending Al-Anon© 1 to understand and support a family member’s drinking and addiction challenges. She had been going regularly to these helpful meetings for almost two years when a conversation with her Al-Anon© sponsor revealed that, she too, might have an issue with alcohol, and that like her family member, her relationship with alcohol might also be damaging the relationships she most valued. The conversation caused Krissy to take an honest look at her own choices surrounding drinking. In doing so, she realized that she needed to make some changes, or risk permanently altering the course of her marriage, and ultimately, her life.
Krissy made the decision to stop drinking on April 22, 2018 and has been sober since. Saying no to alcohol on that day, turned into a week, then a month, then six months, then a year. She continues to say no to the substance that made her life “blurry.” Focusing on one day, sometimes, one hour at a time in the beginning of her sober journey, has brought her to a place of absolute gratitude, joy, and strengthened relationships. Krissy continued to attend her Al-Anon© meetings but had not attended an AA® 2 meeting until she reached one year of sobriety. At the one-year mark Krissy attended that meeting just to pick up a chip to mark her year milestone. It was then, after attending Al-Anon© for over two years, that she was ready to admit to herself, and others, that she wasn’t just taking a break from alcohol, she was an alcoholic and the struggles of her family member, were also her struggles.
Krissy realized that alcohol directed too many of her days and her family trips, and that those patterns were consuming her and damaging her most cherished relationship – the relationship with her loving husband, her best friend. Those habits consisted of drinking on good days and bad days, drinking to the point of blacking out, fighting about things that she never would have cared about sober, drinking excessively and embarrassing loved ones, and over-planning the drinking schedule for family vacations. Anyone who drinks or has drank to excess, even one time, can probably admit to at least one of these consequences; I certainly can. It takes someone with tremendous courage to admit when negative consequences have become habitual, and then be strong enough to seek support, before those habits erode relationships and sense of self. Krissy is someone with tremendous courage and her bravery and grace are helping others through her involvement with support groups and through the life she is living.
Gratitude is the Key to Happiness
Krissy is “genuinely happy” without alcohol in her life and she feels “like a million bucks.” She attributes the foundation of that happiness to practicing gratitude. This “key to happiness,” as she describes, is helping her stay sober, especially during difficult situations that test her sobriety.
Practicing Mindful Gratitude has allowed her to:
- Be fully present and aware
- Know tomorrow is not ruined
- Let go of the need to control situations and others
- Remember everything
- Be in control of words and actions
- Not feel shame or embarrassment
- Learn to have fun on her own
- Practice honesty and forgiveness
- Let go of resentments
- Be accepting of others and herself
- Embrace a willingness to change
- Let go and let God
- Feel God’s grace
While drinking Krissy said she didn’t think about leading with gratitude throughout her day. To hear her talk passionately about being grateful in all situations, it is hard to imagine that awareness hasn’t always been a core strength of hers. Practicing gratitude is a gift that she has extended to her family and her home reflects that awareness.
Prepare the Mind, Prepare for the Day
Like I am rediscovering every day, morning meditations provide quiet space for prayer and prepare Krissy for the remainder of her day. Praying before her day begins and leading with gratitude throughout the remainder of her day has transformed Krissy’s attitude and has given her inner peace and strength. Krissy has radiated positive light whenever we have seen her over the last seven years; now, she has been able to shine that light inward, as well as outward. Krissy has modified both when she prays and how she prays. Her transformed prayer life is now led with an accepting heart, versus an asking heart.
Motivational quotes Krissy has learned and does her best to live by each day:
“I can do this today.” “Accept things for what they are.”
“Progress not perfection.” “We heal what we reveal.
“I can help other people today.”
“I am not better than, or less than, I am equal.”
Krissy describes her turning point as a time when, “I was able to get off the elevator before I went to the bottom floor.” Krissy does not make that statement from a place of superiority. She acknowledges God’s grace in giving her the strength to make life changes before consequences became more serious and permanent. With the encouragement of an incredible husband, a loving family, supportive groups, and a strong faith, Krissy has been able to leave that descent and walk a new path – a hero’s path. She isn’t just walking a new path; she is shining a light on the path for others.
The goal of this piece is not to tell people to stop drinking, and it certainly is not Krissy’s goal. That is a personal decision. The goal of this piece is to share a story about a strong woman who had the courage to be accountable for her choices and then take the uncomfortable steps, one day at a time, toward a stronger and healthier life, for herself and her family. Her willingness and determination to do so serves as a model for others who might be following in her footsteps, or as Krissy would prefer, alongside her.
- Al-Anon© is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. Description found on the Al-Anon website. For more information, please visit https://al-anon.org/
- Alcoholics Anonymous ® (AA) is a an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. Description found on the AA website. For more information, please visit https://www.aa.org/
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