Everyone copes with stress and hardship in different ways. For Martha Lumatete, her response to a new country, corporate America, and a failing marriage was profoundly detrimental. Read how she came out on the other side of her addiction and how you can do the same.
4word: Tell us a little about yourself!
Martha: I am an implant from Kenya and have lived in Texas for almost fourteen years. I wanted to live abroad since I was in my teens, to see how the other half of the world lived. After completing high school, I was ready to pack my bags and go, but my parents (who are way wiser than I ever will be) said no. I later enrolled in law school and after graduating with my undergraduate, I made the move Texas to study International Law at SMU. I have loved living in Dallas and have been very fortunate to build a successful life that has had its share of ups and downs. Probably what I enjoy most about living here is the ability to meet all sorts of people from different countries and backgrounds, which has enriched my social life plenty! I still don’t understand why Americans put barbeque sauce on ribs or eat cold sandwiches, but have learned to adjust my palate.
4word: When you came to America, your life changed quite a bit and new challenges and stresses started to add up. How did you find yourself coping with everything?
Martha: When I made the move, I was not sure what to expect or how everything would play out. I came with an optimistic view and excitement to finally get a chance to live abroad. In my naivety, I had not truly factored in what it took to make it in a foreign country, away from family, friends, and a community I had called home. A lot of the challenges I have faced involved absorbing cultural differences. I tried to “fit in” with corporate America and navigate the corporate ladder to achieve the career dreams with which I had left Kenya.
The first year was probably one of the hardest, from a personal standpoint. Right before I left Kenya, my sister passed away, and not too long after, my paternal grandparents passed away, too. These losses hit home hard and looking back, I didn’t fully deal with the pain and carried it for many years. I started drinking late in my teens, and it’s a habit I picked up because it was fun and what everyone did. While in undergrad, we lived for the night life and time when we would get together for barbeque meat plus a good pouring of alcohol. Life in undergrad was not really stressful and a lot of the drinking was out of fun more than anything else.
Things changed when I moved to Dallas. Drinking became a coping mechanism. The only way I could handle the many changes in my life was to drink, because it calmed my nerves and relaxed my mind from the stresses of balancing work, personal life, and a new country that was not as easy to manage as I had thought it would be.
I also lost my faith. Living in America is like living in a bubble. It’s very easy to get access to material things and one does not have to be filthy rich to be comfortable. My life revolved around growing my material portfolio more than putting God as my first priority. This hunt for the latest and greatest fulfilled a lot of the wants I have as a person, and the more I added to my portfolio, the further I moved from God and the less I needed Him for anything.
4word: At what point did you realize alcohol had become something you needed to have, rather than wanted to have?
Martha: Five years ago, I was trying to understand why my career had stalled and my plan to be a C-level executive seemed to be taking way longer than I had planned. I was also struggling with managing my boss, with whom I couldn’t really see eye to eye. I didn’t know how to deal with expectations not being met, and I would go home and drink a bottle of wine, sometimes two, almost on a daily basis. Since I’d been drinking for so long, my body handled the alcohol just fine, and I functioned at work to the point where it was difficult for anyone to imagine I had an alcohol problem.
When I went out on the weekdays after work, I drank at least six or seven glasses of vodka and a few shots of tequila. I remember an incident when I had traveled to Kenya to visit and was so excited to be home. I was there for three weeks, and I drank almost every single night. Kenya serves alcohol past 2:00AM, so I would drink until six in the morning. On one of the last days of my visit, my body was so exhausted from the abuse, I was sleeping while standing but still wanted to drink. At this point my sister said enough and that we needed to go home. Drinking numbed my pain, sense of failure, and unmet expectations and provided a door from escaping the realities of life.
4word: When your alcoholism hit a peak, you had a core-shaking experience with God. Can you describe that?
Martha: My struggle with alcohol hit its peak in November last year. I had been travelling for a while after graduating with my EMBA in May 2016, trying to find my center and purpose in life. I had gone through a hard two years of fulltime work, getting an EMBA, and balancing my marriage. All those pressures had put a strain on my emotional and mental capabilities; I just did not know to what extent.
On November 13, 2016, I found myself throwing up in the bathroom toilet. My whole body was shaking and everything hurt. My head, stomach, ribs, chest, and throat were in excruciating physical pain. I had had too much to drink. I don’t remember parts of the night after the tequila shots had been downed. I have been drinking since my late teens and have typically managed to never let it get “out of control.” This night was different – I got sick in the bathroom at the last stop of night, something I have never done in the my “drinking career.” I don’t remember paying the tab, leaving the bar, or the drive home. I can vaguely recall getting out of the Uber to avoid throwing up in it.
I woke up on this morning to find myself sleeping on the covers on the bed. I had blacked out with all my clothes on except for my shoes. I rolled off the bed and stumbled into the bathroom, and that’s when I came face to face with the horror and nightmare of my struggle. My shoes and purse were on the floor. I had thrown up in one of the sinks and on the floor. I found myself rushing to the toilet as a wave of sickness overcame me and my body violently shook in a desperate attempt to get rid of the large amounts of alcohol I had consumed.
All I felt was embarrassment. The shame of being seen wasted. The shame and wariness of wondering how I let myself get here. The shame of knowing I have seen people I care about deal with this same struggle. I felt and saw the weight of the generational alcoholism shackles that have ruthlessly stolen inheritances from those before me. Shame of knowing that I am so blessed, and yet here I was, an accomplished woman, sobbing uncontrollably and holding onto the toilet bowl ripping her stomach out. It felt like a foreigner had taken residence in my being and I needed to get rid of it.
In the midst of my emotional and mental exhaustion, that’s when it happened. The still and quiet voice in my spirit, comforting and whispering, “Beloved, my beloved, I have not forsaken you. I AM is with you.” In that moment, I became completely undone, for in one of the lowest, saddest, loneliest, and most unlovable states, the Lord was sitting with me, gently wrapping His arms around me, drawing me in, and relentlessly loving me like no other. Loving my shame away, loving my pain away, loving my despair away, loving my embarrassment away and telling me, “My love, you are worthy.”
Something snapped in my spirit that morning, and I knew then it was over. The struggle with alcohol was over. The Lord’s love for me is unstoppable. He has come running after me, He has torn down walls, He has pursued me with a love so fierce it makes me cry and worship all at the same time. He has sung a song of incomparable love and captured my heart, captivated me and affected me so deeply that I can’t keep my eyes off Him.
The Lord is my North Star. He is unchanging, ever present, and deeply passionate about me, regardless of how inconsistent I am. My God is relentless with His love, compassion, holiness, kindness, grace, goodness and tender mercy. His nature is relentlessly loving and beautiful. His love calls my name, knows my name, knows my heart, knows no end, is eternal and nothing can separate me from His love. My heart is overwhelmed for my Savior, it is overflowing with joy for Christ who died so that I may live. I have entered a deep place of rest with my Father. He has clothed me in His Majesty and given me His identity as my own. (Galatians 2:20)
4word: As God has called you to share your story, how have those around you responded?
Martha: Sharing my story has not been easy. It has been vulnerable to be put in place where I’ve had to talk about very personal details regarding my life. Anyone who has known me for a long time understands that I am a deeply private person. When God asked me to share this testimony publicly, I told Him to stop joking. I think God probably smiled knowingly as I stomped my little foot like a little child, completely unable to fully grasp what glorious intentions He always has in store. I fought with Him for two weeks and cried every night because I just could not find the strength to put myself out there like that. I told Him it would be extremely embarrassing to share this with everyone who knew me and I did not know If I could survive it. He in turn affirmed that His grace is sufficient and He would give me the courage to do what was needed.
For every day I fought Him, He grew my strength and courage until finally, I broke loose and went public with the victory. What has surprised me immensely has been the reaction of those who have been using alcohol as a coping mechanism as well. I have had people reach out to me to offer support, encouragement, and to share in the victory. I did not expect this and it has left me telling God to lead me so that He can be glorified through the journey I am on with Him. I have had the opportunity to share my story with my co-workers as well and it has founded a level of trust and openness that was not there before. It is humbling in so many ways and it only makes me want to do nothing more than give God access to every single part of my life that He uses it to bring glory to His name and grow the Kingdom.
4word: You have a unique and inspiring way of viewing life’s challenges now. Would you share with our readers?
Martha: This entire process of self discovery and deepening my relationship with God has changed my perspective on how I view my circumstances. In the past, I found it easy to complain and bemoan my lot. Now I look at everything as an opportunity for God to bring forth an upgrade. Every situation is a chance to be brilliant in how I approach life.
This renewing of my mind has been driven by listening to Graham Cooke, who teaches through his own personal journey with God on how to find the brilliant perspectives in our circumstances. As a leader at work, I engage my team the same way and share that when we face unique challenges at the office, we should see them as brilliant opportunities waiting to happen. This has affected how I pray as well – In the past I would beg, cry to God to ease my burdens and release me from whatever circumstance I was facing. Now, I tell Him to walk me into these difficult situations, to take me where no one wants to go because it is the only way I will be able to fully experience the extend of His grace, goodness, mercy and unrelenting love.
I know He will never give more than I can handle so I have nothing to fear. I now walk boldly in His presence and pray extremely big prayers with the sound knowledge that no matter what I dream up, it will never compare to what He can do for His thoughts and ways are higher than mine. (Isaiah 55: 8-9) I don’t waste time thinking about the enemy, because the God I serve never plays to lose.
4word: Anything else you would like to say?
Martha: This weekend will be 90 days since I quit drinking, and a lot has changed! Without the use of alcohol as an escape, I have been learning to deal with the REAL me, and it has not been easy, pretty or fun but it is definitely empowering. This part of the process forces you to forgive yourself, get comfortable with yourself, and being around people without needing to drink. You learn to actually relax your nerves and brain without the stimulant effects of alcohol. It forces you to engage with emotions you have been numbing and begin to use parts of your brain that have been dead to your body as you heal.
What is fascinating is how God has the heart, soul, and spirit wired. They will heal themselves very well if given the right spiritual food and care. You learn to truly enjoy people, get better at being vulnerable, and your engagements with others become more valuable. Why? Because you have experienced God mending your broken soul and know that the right kind of influence can completely change another’s life for the better and all you want is to live a positive foot print.
For those struggling with something and working your way out – keep your head up. Don’t give up. Stay in the process. I promise it will get easier, for you are fighting from a place of victory with God. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
I am living testament that God changes lives and there are second chances, but more so with Him there are always more than second chances. Our weakness and vulnerability remind us we are dependent and God is sufficient. God so loves to meet us at the point of our needs and to give us deeper grace as we seek that grace moment by moment. So let’s embrace our many kinds of weakness that God’s power may be glorified. God’s grace is sufficient for all us and made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Are you struggling with something? Are you desperate for God’s grace in your life? We hope that Martha’s story gives you the strength to break free and start living a life focused on Him.
Martha M. Lumatete is a North America Director for Software Procurement in the US headquarters office of Atos, where she devotes of her time in managing a global team in the US & Mexico that is responsible for procurement of software for North America. Martha Lumatete more than 10 years of experience in Procurement, having served as the Software Sourcing Manager at Sabre GLBL Inc. for the past 3 years.
Martha lives in Dallas, Texas, is an avid mountaineer and recently summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.