By Reba Phelps
Summertime is supposed to be hot, sunny and filled with all of the relaxation, fun and frolicking that you can possibly handle. Long days riding on the river. Lazy days at a swimming pool. There are also the fresh vegetables, shucking of corn and shelling of purple hull peas. And, absolutely nothing beats the aromatic smell of a good summertime rain followed by a rainbow.
With many family reunions popularly scheduled during the summer there is never a shortage of recreational activities or cookouts to be had during this season.
Most of my summers throughout my life resembled this ideal summer picture with the exception of the summer of 2017. It will forever be called, “my dark, deplorable, super bad, and awful summer.”
This was the summer that my newly graduated daughter moved out and my divorce proceedings began. Looking back, I may have been able to handle one or the other but both at the same time seemed like an impossible mountain to climb with a terrain in which I was not trained. Never having experienced this kind of deep pain I did the only thing my weak soul knew to do.
I turned to a strict regimen of self-medication.
The self-medication method I chose seemed to be innocent enough at first. I became a self-proclaimed weekend baker. I would pick an intricate cake (meaning more ingredients than the standard three required by the boxed variety) and invite friends over after it was baked. They were always willing to oblige until about the fourth week of consuming the extra calories.
Being a baker did not fill the void so I kicked it up a notch and decided to consume most of my calories in the liquid format. The calories were shaped just like margaritas, wine, craft beer, and experimenting with martinis. I told myself I was only trying to relax but after excessive drinks every single weekend, lots of headaches and other side effects that accompany this type of behavior I knew I needed to move on.
The next type of self-medication involved both of the aforementioned and this time I included people. Lots and lots of people. For some unknown reason I had convinced myself that I could not be alone. I had friends spend the night with me when my youngest daughter was gone. I spent the night with friends and even left town every chance I got so I did not have to face the loneliness that was found at my residence without my entire family present.
By the end of the summer I finally came to the conclusion that I could not eat, bake, drink and socialize my feelings away with my friends. My liver was suffering as well as the scales. I just knew that I had no peace and I could not bare to even look in the mirror.
On occasion, I tend to be a quitter when it comes to myself. At the time I always put my kids first, then work, then friends, and if anything was left it would be for me. I just knew that I was at a crucial point in my life and I had to take action.
Otherwise, I would be baking and drinking my way to a nervous breakdown.
This is when a dear friend pointed me in the direction of a Christian support group in Shreveport called, “Divorce Care”. The class was held at Word of God Ministries and targeted the newly separated or divorced. The course was the perfect blend of therapy and theology. They did not neglect the mental health aspect nor the Biblical aspect.
Every single week for seven weeks I drove the seventy-seven mile journey in hopes of finding healing for my soul that would hopefully in turn help heal my daughters as well. The weekly drive alone soon became my personal meditation time.
During this voyage I met twelve different ladies with twelve very different stories. I watched them week in and week out… we all became stronger as each class rolled by. Every single one of us shared our stories and grew from it. Some ladies came in weak, broken, and completely unable to care for themselves much less their children.
Little by little, you could see the improvement in our countenance, our hearts weren’t as hard and we were all on our way to recovery.
In some respects I do believe God let me experience the pain in their stories because every single class was a humbling experience that is almost too complicated to explain.
I will always feel immeasurable blessed because of this experience. I always have people comment on the fact that my ex-husband and I get along so well that we are able to sit through a church service on the same pew. I credit this to the Divorce Care classes. It hasn’t always been that way. It took a lot of work and dedication and remembering that we love the same two daughters.
After letting the weeks of healing words from the Bible and my class mates soak in, I surrendered to the knowledge that only one thing could fill our voids….my dark summer son turned into a fabulous Fall, then to a wonderful Winter and then on to a sparkling Spring.
“You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts restless until they find rest in you”
“For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things”