When I was eight, I made a promise to myself: Never in my life would a single drop of death’s favorite liquid pass my lips.
You see, I was keenly aware of the damage this drink could bring. I had watched on the sidelines as two of my best friends suffered the fatal impact of alcohol. Alcoholism ran in the family—both mom’s and dad’s sides.
And there I was, at eight-years-old, making a huge choice: I didn’t want to be the next casualty, and I didn’t ever want to hurt my family by traversing the same slippery slope.
Thus, for the next 13 years of my life, alcohol became a distant foe, a vacuum for the pain of losing my loved ones, and a really tragic symbol for death.
And sadly, the stuff just kept killing.
Then, last week, I turned 21.
In the months preceding this day, I had begun to question myself. Was 8-year-old me overly ambitious about the lifetime ban? Had I proven my point? Why was I so adamant after all this time? Would it be a sin to even taste the stuff? I mean, we’re talking that I almost rejected communion at church when I realized it was real wine. That’s how serious I was about this promise. Alcohol would not own me.
After many conversations with friends and loved ones, people who understand me on levels I can’t even describe, I made the choice about six months ago that I would try alcohol on my birthday. As the weeks drew nearer, I polled friends about what to try. My mom event got in on the fun and searched the internet for all the fruity drinks a girl could desire. I bought a wine glass at Goodwill (and drank Koolaid out of it that night).
Then, just like that, it was March 23, and I had been 21 for about 12 hours. My mom, dad and I were walking into the restaurant when a wave of crippling fear came over me. I told my parents about my apprehension, and they were so encouraging. “You don’t have to get a drink, Nikki,” my mom said, her voice soothing my fears.
And so, you see, I chickened out.
After all, you don’t spend 13 years dedicated to a promise, clinging onto its life-or-death power, just to give it up like it was an old DVR recording. I can’t do this, I thought to myself. I can’t drink it. I can’t. It would break little me’s heart. It would shatter every bit of effort I’ve ever put into this. It will make me a fraud.
It will let down my heroes.
When the waitress handed us the drink menu, I decided to sit it next to me. And then I decided to open it, just to see. But I couldn’t order anything. Back and forth I went, before a rush of freedom came to me, and I realized it was now or never. Because after all the years of being laughed at for my stance on drinking, after all the years of being told I wouldn’t make it, after all the years of being told I’d forget about it one day, it hit me: in my attempts to thwart the heartache I experienced as a child, I faced an entirely different challenge. Had alcohol gained power over me without me having ever taken a sip?
And so, I un-chickened out. I ordered a dragon berry mojito. And what do you know, but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking at all. I drank less than half of it, tried a sip of my dad’s Jack and Coke (bad, very bad), and then we went home.
Later that night, sitting in my apartment with my mom, the reality of my enduring promise hit me like a Mack truck. I sopped up my tears and tried to put words to my emotions. In the end, all I could come up with was that I had experienced a moment of redemption and resurrection in that fruity drink. Yes, I decided, Jesus had shown up in my alcohol.
For 13 years, I fought a battle with the world, the enemy, and even my own self, to redeem what seemed to be only heartache.
I watched my loved ones die, and I decided that I never wanted them to look down at me in fear of the decisions I was making. I held strong. I kept my promise.
And on the 23rd day of March, 2018, Satan was defeated in a really strong way in my life.
He does not get to have my grief anymore.
He does not get to have my fear anymore.
He does not get to have me anymore.
As crazy as it sounds, a mojito taught me that I have the power to win wars. I have the power to overcome spiritual warfare. And, yes, I now have the power to responsibly choose to drink or not to drink, because alcohol doesn’t own me, my grief, or my fears anymore.