My name is Lori Payne. I’m a believer in Christ in recovery from Alcoholism.
He was the most beautiful baby in the entire world. My heart was so full, and I couldn’t imagine anything better than being his mom. Todd stood next to the hospital bed, his face wet with tears. We had been married four years and the time seemed perfect to start a family. Really everything seemed perfect at the time. Todd was working with a Christian Record Label, I had been a Flight Attendant for nine years, and we had just built a beautiful new home. Soon we would leave the hospital with Glen Cole Payne, our sweet gift from God. Life was good. I guess you could probably call this the calm before the storm. Satan hates it when God’s children smile. I had no idea at the time, but soon I would open a door, that would give him the foothold he needed, to begin his evil beating of me and my family.
I grew up in New Mexico with my mom and dad, and one older sister. I had been adopted, before I was born, from a women, that I would later find out was forty years old and suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My dad was a truck driver, and mom stayed home with me and my sister Brenda who was six years older than me. My memories of that time are really very few. I do remember living in a mobile home, and one afternoon an awful storm came through. It blew our mobile home right over on its side with me and my mom in it. I can still picture the breaking glass and my mom crawling on her bloody knees to get to me. My mom was one tough lady. I thought she could do anything.
Eventually my dad left the trucking business and we moved to Clovis, NM where he leased, and began running a gas station. It was long hours, but my mom and I stayed there most days until Brenda got out of school. Mom worked just as hard as dad did and then had to make dinner at night. Around this time, my dad also started drinking more. He would come home at night and drink beer usually until time for bed. When he drank he was verbally abusive to my mother. He would call her names, and put his finger in her face to degrade her. During this time my mom also started using my dad’s belt to discipline me. She would hit me way too hard and say mean things to me. There were many days I had red whelps on my legs. I had started first grade and we had open stalls in the girl’s bathroom. I would try to cover the marks on my legs with my arms. I felt ashamed of myself. I didn’t know why I was so bad. It seemed like I couldn’t do anything right. Looking back now I know that my mom was just taking her frustration with my dad out on me. Dad became more abusive to mom at night, and I started taking my food into my room at dinner. I wanted him to just leave. I began to develop a weight problem and therefore became an easy target for bullies at school. I cried most nights. Fear started to take over my life. I was afraid of people, places and things. When my sister turned 15, she got married and left home. I was nine years old.
Not much changed the next few years, but then at 16 I tried alcohol for the first time. I loved the way it made me feel. I felt skinny, pretty, fun, and everything I did or said was acceptable. Yes that’s the word. I finally felt accepted. Whether it was true or not, the alcohol made me feel that way, that euphoric feeling that everything was great. I continued my drinking into my college years, but with little problems other than the occasional hang over. I couldn’t decide on a career path so in 1987 at the guidance of a family friend I was hired as a Flight Attendant with a major carrier. I had started exercising and lost a lot of weight. My roommate taught me how to do my hair and makeup, and I started to have more confidence than I thought ever possible. I left college and started my Flight Attendant Career. I loved it. I quickly became friends with another Flight Attendant. She liked to drink like I did, so we got along just fine. We traveled for work, and we traveled on our days off. We had a blast. I could still put the drink down when I wanted to. I liked drinking, but if I wanted to stop, I could. This would change all too soon.
At 27 I met and married my husband Todd. He was a Christian man from a good family and treated me like a princess. I immediately fell in love. The next four years were spent working, traveling going to church, and generally just enjoying our lives together. Todd was not a drinker, nor was his family, so I cut way back myself, and I rarely drank in front of Todd. We built and moved into a new home, and when I was 30 years old our son Cole was born. As I shared earlier this was the calm before the storm.
The first few months of Coles life, I went through what I now know was Post Partum Depression. It started almost immediately when we got home from the hospital. I was sad, and crying for no reason. I thought, “What is wrong with me. This will go away, it has to. Maybe it’s just normal, you know, hormones and all that stuff.” But after several months, it still hadn’t gone away. I would hate myself for being sad. I would hear things in my head like “You are so ungrateful, you have this beautiful healthy boy, and here you are crying?” I would put on a mask when people were around, I didn’t dare let them know I was hurting inside. Somehow, that would make me a bad mom. My pride wouldn’t allow that. 1 Peter 5:5 says “You younger men accept the authority of the elders. And all of you serve each other in humility for God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” This marriage, home, motherhood, all of it was going to be great or at least acceptable, or I would die trying. That’s almost what happened. I said earlier that I opened the door for Satan, and yes I did. Instead of reaching out to God and others, I started self medicating with alcohol. It somehow calmed my tears so that things felt acceptable, and sometimes even great. It worked for me for a while, then by the age of 35 the bottom fell out, and it was no longer working. My drinking had gotten progressively worse to the point that I was hiding bottles and drinking mostly straight vodka, because someone told me you couldn’t smell it. Todd confronted me, and I went to my first treatment center. I put on that mask again and lied about my whole life. I couldn’t be an alcoholic that would mean that I couldn’t drink, ever, again…No, those people were crazy. I could just cut back. I got out of treatment and stayed sober 30 days. I got my first DUI in a church parking lot. Clearly my alcoholism had progressed. We were members of The People’s Church, so I went to see Pastor Rick White. He suggested that I start attending a 12 Step recovery program, which I did. I also got a sponsor, and said and did all the right things. I was a good student. But I would not let any of this recovery knowledge even come close to my heart. In my heart, I needed alcohol. It had become my best friend. It was the only thing I had found to calm my tears, and it had taken away the fear that had engulfed me from the time I was a child. Isaiah 54:4 says “Fear not, you will no longer live in shame. The shame of your youth, and the sorrows of your widowhood, will be remembered no more.” I was also filled with so much shame and guilt. How would I ever make up for the time I lost to be a good mother. A good mother, one who was truly present, not a mask, with a plastered on, alcohol induced smile. What I learned later was that God would carry me through all the pain, shame and guilt if I would let him. But I wasn’t there yet. I continued to go to 12 Step recovery meetings, but my drinking just got worse. I also continued to make an attempt at surrendering my will to God. For me, looking back I realize that without my complete brokenness, I would never surrender my will to Christ. So what did my complete brokenness look like? It wasn’t pretty. I went to Father Martin’s Ashley a beautiful rehab outside of Baltimore MD. This time I told the truth about my life. I shared many painful memories that seemed to tear me apart inside. I truly worked hard on my recovery, and discovered things about myself that I had stuffed deep inside for years. I came home and stayed sober again only 30 days. Here’s what I think was going on with me at the time. Father Martins had certainly given me all the tools that I needed to stay sober, but I still had my own self will to contend with. During those 30 days sober, my eyes were clear and wide open. Wide open to the truth of what I had become. The guilt and shame flooded me so strongly. My heart would start to pound, my tears would well up and a familiar voice would say “You know how to fix this”. You can’t drink Lori. I would make the mistake of trying to argue with my own self will. I would convince myself that it would only be a small amount of alcohol, just enough to stop the pain and get me through the day. I now know I should have immediately reached out for help. Once the argument started, myself will, when left alone, would always win. I needed to cry out to Jesus and others in recovery the second the thought of drinking started. Psalms 118:5 says “In anguish I cried out to the Lord, and he answered, by setting me free.” It wasn’t long until I entered my third treatment center, home 30 days and drinking again. The next 2-3 years were an absolute nightmare for me and my family. There were countless trips to the emergency room and a stay at the Parthenon Psychiatric Ward. I registered a 3.4 in the emergency room on one occasion, which was enough alcohol to kill me. I actually, in my sick mind, liked when a Dr. would treat me as a psychiatric patient. Then maybe I could be given a drug and I could eventually drink like normal people. I also felt like it took some of the blame off of me. I can’t help it; I have a mental disorder, that’s why I’m drinking. This avenue of treatment also failed, or myself won again I guess you might say. I decided to try and make my life look normal again. I hadn’t flown in quite some time, so I decided to go back to work. I flew up to New York where I am based, and gave my return to work interview. I said and did all the right things, and was cleared to go back to flying. See things, aren’t so bad. I’m still a Professional Flight Attendant based in New York City. I think I’ll have some drinks to Celebrate. My husband told me later that he tracked my credit card to TGI Fridays. I was missing in New York for 3 days. I had to return to leave of absence with the airline. I was in no way ready to fly again. By this time, Todd had enough. I really can’t imagine how he endured all these years. He told me later that he knew in his heart he would never be able to face our son one day, unless he could tell him “I did everything I could to help your mom”. In short my husband fought for me, even in the face of friends and family telling him to give up. I’m sure he would have been justified in every way, but that is not what God had planned for us. He asked me to leave our home. He could no longer trust me with our six year old son. My sponsor picked me up, and promptly took me to a homeless shelter. She had plenty of room for me in her home, but she too had to draw a boundary.
Not only was my alcoholism getting worse, so were my consequences. By this time, I was physically and mentally, addicted to alcohol. My mind was so clouded from the alcohol, and the lies it had me believing, that I couldn’t even hear God, much less listen to him. I was spiritually bankrupt. I spent three months at the homeless shelter. I left one sunny afternoon on foot searching for a drink. I found a drink. Then later a UPS man found me lying on a curb on the side of the road in downtown Nashville. He was kind enough to take me to the hospital. I went to another treatment center for 30 days. When I was released, I was going to live at a half-way house for a few months. That was the plan, but my car took a detour to the liquor store, and I got my 2nd DUI, and went promptly to jail. This time, there was no one willing to bail me out. My husband loved me, but he had to protect our family, he filed for divorce. I was alone. I sat in my jail cell broken. I was 39 years old. My hair had started to fall out, and I was hearing voices. I wanted to die. Could I tie my sheets together and just hang myself from the bunk? No I couldn’t even do that. I was afraid it would hurt. At this moment my self-will was broken. I was tired, hurting and desperate, desperate for God. I was a child again. Matthew 18:3 says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. I cried out to him in a way I never had. I knew that I was done without him. Without Jesus, I would die. I begged him to forgive me and to help me. The next thing I knew, they were calling me into some office, and asked by a man behind a desk, I still don’t know who he was, if I would like to go to a half-way house. Two women picked me up the next day and took me to a place called YANA, which stands for You Are Never Alone. These ladies didn’t know it, but I knew I wasn’t alone. It was because of Jesus that I was even out of jail and given another chance. I spent 3 months at YANA. I moved back into my home and got a sponsor. She was a very tough sponsor and just what I needed. I did have one slip a few weeks after getting home. I call it a slip because it only lasted a day, and I was really trying to stay sober. Things had changed in my heart and I was a new person. That drink on June 12th 2006 was my last drink of alcohol. Since that day, God has changed me completely from the inside out. As I write my story, it’s hard to recognize this once broken woman but yet I don’t want to ever forget her. Through her brokenness, I was reborn in Christ. Today, as long as I let him, God uses me to give hope to others who are struggling. Eventually Todd withdrew the divorce papers, and we continue to grow closer with each day. My relationship with Cole can only be called a miracle. That sweet baby boy is now 16 years old and towers over me. He stoops over to kiss me, and tells me that he doesn’t even think of the past anymore. God you are so good! I serve on the Celebrate Recovery team at my home, The People’s Church. I love my church, and I am so grateful for our leaders that see the brokenness in people like me, and choose to help instead of turn their backs. I am honored to serve with them. I have also been blessed to share a Celebrate Recovery meeting with the women at the Williamson County Jail. I know what it feels like to be right where they are. I also know what it feels like to be delivered from that place. One of the ladies that I ministered to in that facility 4 years ago is now my co-leader for the meeting in that same facility. She had 2 years of sobriety. She is a miracle. I am a miracle. Yes God is good. In 2012 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. As the saying goes “Ain’t nobody got time for this”. That’s exactly what I thought. Not now God please. I’m just now learning how to serve you. How can I serve you if I’m at home sick? I begged God to heal me, but he said no. It was his plan for me and him to work my way though Chemotherapy, Radiation, and all the pain that comes with the dreaded word cancer. God and I made it through and today I am Cancer free. I said in the beginning that I opened a door for Satan’s beating of my family. I’m grateful to say that he lost the fight.
For the new comer, I would say never, never, never give up, and never try to do recovery alone. God put us here for community and to help each other. If you reach out for help, God will meet you wherever you are. He’s always there he never leaves you, just reach out. You are a miracle waiting to happen. May God Bless You. #flyingsober
My name is Lori Payne. I’m a believer in Christ in recovery from Alcoholism.