Buy the Book: Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics

stations-cross-for-alcoholics-paul-sofranko-paperback-cover-artJust in time for Good Friday, I’ve discovered, The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics by Paul Sofranko, a terrific e-book written by my friend who blogs over at ‘Sober Catholic.’

Sofranko also wrote, The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics. You can read my review of that book here.

From the Catholic Sun, “Sofranko, a recovering alcoholic himself, has added one more element to the whole scheme of fighting addiction — hope. While many or even most self-help books suggest that we are the only ones capable of fixing our brokenness simply by reading the book, Sofranko elevates the place of prayer in the healing process and reminds readers of the necessity of relying on God for the grace to overcome our addictions.”

At our parish and I expect in most parishes the stations of the cross are offered every Friday during Lent. I usually only do them on Good Friday, though; and I like to do them alone. I know God likes us to worship Him in community with others—and I do that, of course—-but when I really want to experience grace, I like to have Him all to myself.

So, I’ll take my children through them and then later come back and do them by myself.

Good Friday is one of my most meaningful and spiritual days of the year.  More than Christmas. More than Easter! I love how in our Catholic faith, I can go into Church and by myself walk around the stations, pray, kneel, sit, read—and nobody bothers me. Ha ha!  I am not being anti-social, I just want to hang out with God in His house by myself. Nobody comes up to me and says, “Are you okay?”

Before I was married, and my parents lived in another state, I would spend Easters alone. Three years in a row I went to Stone Mountain after Mass on Easter Sunday just to climb the mountain and sit there.  I think normal people might feel sorry for me, spending Easter alone, but I LOVED IT.  I was not alone at all.  I was completely enveloped in the Alleluia and the risen Lord. The last thing I wanted, ha ha ha, was to be with other people.  I’m so weird!

Back to the book, and from the publisher:

The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics is a book that is rooted in an ancient Catholic devotion. It is intended to assist Catholics and other Christians find deeper meaning in their struggles with alcoholism, by connecting the oftentimes hard road of sobriety with Jesus’ suffering road to His Crucifixion. The reader sees that their old alcoholic ‘self’ is being led to the Cross and the joy of eventual resurrection of a new sober self can follow. Whether they are still drinking and struggling, or have been sober for many years and still have difficulties coping with sobriety, this book should help readers maintain that sobriety.

I particularly like “Jesus falls for the third time.” What a lesson on life that is! If God came down here to show us that it’s okay to fall again and again as long as we pick ourselves back up and keep going, keep carrying our crosses–then those of us who have fallen a few times can take comfort. Who cares if the world thinks I’m a loser. Get back up. Keep going. He’s right there with me.

I still feel a little weird walking into Church with my iPad…even though my readings are on my tablet and many of my prayers…it still feels weird–but this Friday, I’ll be doing just that as I take the Stations of the Cross with this e-book by Paul Sofranko.  It’s only a matter of time before we all have tablets in the pews, right?

My oldest son came home from school last week after having done the Stations with the whole school community. The eighth graders acted out the stations and gave running commentary for the rest of the younger children. Ben was telling me about this and reminded me, “Mom, it’s not always a good thing to go along with the crowd. The crowd is who killed Jesus.”

The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics by Paul Sofranko is just $2.99:

But The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics on Amazon

Buy it on iTunes

Buy it for your Nook

The Way of the Cross is not only a great testimony to an inner depth and maturity, but it is in fact a school for interiority and consolation. It is also a school for the examination of conscience, for conversion, for inner transformation and compassion — not as sentimentality, as a mere feeling, but as a disturbing experience that knocks on the door of my heart, that obliges me to know myself and to become a better person.”  - Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI

Wife, Mother, Catholic, Alcoholic

fall in north georgiaI submitted this to another Catholic forum and wanted to post it here too. Click here to read this article on Catholic Mom.

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I’m a Catholic mother who loves my Faith, my husband and my children more than anything else in the world. I pray the Rosary every day. I visit Christ in Adoration. My children attend a wonderful Catholic school. I volunteer, play tennis, help with school parties, and drive carpool.

Oh, and by the way, I’m an alcoholic.

I never would have admitted that when I was still drinking. But now that I have been sober for a while and am in recovery I have found that admitting I’m an alcoholic helps me hit back at the shame that can cripple me if I let it.

And if I’m lucky, being somewhat public about my problem might help another woman face hers.

Shame goes hand-in-hand with being an alcoholic mother. Shame is awful, sneaky. And it’s not of God.

The stigma of being an alcoholic can keep some moms from getting help earlier, says Ann-Marie Loose, LSW, a clinical supervisor at Caron Treatment Centers based in Wernersville, PA.  “You try to have the perfect home, be the perfect mom and wife,” said Loose. “And you look completely under control to the outside world, but alcohol is slowing destroying your life.”

And, Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C. author of, Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, said “It is as though the image of the “mother” and that of the “alcoholic” seem contradictory.” However, alcoholism does not discriminate and there are definitely good mothers who are also alcoholic.

My “problem” affected my marriage and my children, and it separated me from God. It wasn’t just about me anymore. As a Catholic mom it was imperative I tackle this truthfully, and in light of my Faith—without saddling myself with shame.

To be honest, I always knew there was something different about my drinking. I seemed to really love it. Everyone else could take it or leave it. Where other people had a couple of drinks to loosen up or wind down, I had a couple of drinks to “get going.” I eventually crossed the line from being a social drinker to being an alcoholic.

How did I know?  For me, I came to accept that I had a problem because of two things: God and my children. I came to recognize my dependence on alcohol was affecting my relationship as a daughter of Christ and as a mother to my children. So I became committed to seeking help.

The desire to mature in my relationship with God and the desire to be the mother I knew I could be were finally enough to get me to admit my problem and seek help. This was a very humbling endeavor, one I am so grateful to God for walking me through.

I think for each of us facing the facts about our drinking is a process, sometimes a long process. Sometimes that process is helped along a little bit by a DUI or an embarrassing episode. But for the most part, it’s something we come to accept through our relationship with God and with our families.

Experts offer these signs that our drinking might be out of control:

  • We start making mistakes, forgetting our child’s sporting event, missing appointments.
  • We start drinking before a social activity.
  • We begin to avoid situations where alcohol will be present because we have difficulty controlling how much we drink—we wanted to protect our reputations.
  • Once we start drinking we have trouble stopping.
  • The time between drinking binges gets less and less.
  • We might experience “blackouts,” which are simply periods of time we are unable to remember what took place when we were drinking.
  • We behave in ways that are uncharacteristic of our sober selves. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

If you think you might have a drinking problem, or you love someone who does, I encourage you to talk it over with your Confessor. I found great strength and courage from admitting my problem first in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

A few Lents ago, in the homily at Mass Father Frank challenged us to determine that “one thing” in our lives that was separating us from having a more intimate relationship with God.  For me, I knew right away what that one thing was.  I thought about this a lot. And then, finally, I gave up the alcohol.  And in doing so, my whole family benefited.

Prayer for the Addicted

prayer guyPRAYER FOR THE ADDICTED

God of mercy, we bless you in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who ministered to all who come to Him. Give your strength to (name of the one I am praying for), who is bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold him/her in your love and restore him/her to freedom through your grace.

Lord, look with compassion on all those who have lost their health and have broken relationships because of their attachment to the object of their addiction. Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy, and strengthen them in the work of recovery. To those who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres.

Lord, in your servant, Venerable Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give (name of the one I am praying for) courage to take up his/her cross and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Father, we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Different Kinds of Saints

sisters at sunriseSister Weekend 2013 is coming to a close.  We were all up this morning though to see the sunrise–and there were dolphins!  All bundled up and with blankets, we laughed and told stories and huddled close while the humongous perfectly round orange sun rose into the clear sky.

Mom and I were up at 5am first, saying our prayers.  We got into a discussion about how different people pray in different ways.  She prays for others.  My Mom has a list of people she prays for every day.  This list is SO LONG.  And some of the people on her list are people she’s heard about on the news or gotten a prayer request about long ago–and she doesn’t even know if they’re better yet, but she keeps praying for them. But the majority of her prayers are for her eleven children, their spouses and children, and Dad.

One person on her list is a child who was smushed by an elevator—but she doesn’t know how he is doing today or if he even survived.

Mom has all these saints and prayer cards and typed meditations in her little prayer bag—she has a third or fourth degree relic for Padre Pio, something that touched another Padre Pio relic.  My mom loves to pray through Padre Pio, Saint Faustina, Infant of Prague.  She has a prayer for priests, a prayer for religious liberty, a prayer for the Pope, a 30 day prayer she says for all of her children.  She was showing me, “I pray this prayer for you and your sister, this prayer for that person, this prayer for this person, this one for the sons-in-law, this one for Paul’s back troubles…

me and jennyI was so impressed.

In my prayers, I read/pray and meditate on the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, Mother Theresa, Saint Therese the Little Flower, and lately I’ve been praying on the Cloud of the Unknowing.

And then (full disclosure here) I “remember” to pray for everybody else.  It’s like an after thought for me to pray for others during my morning prayers.  I pray for my loved ones throughout the day as their struggles come to mind, but unlike my Mom I do not have a list and a persistence to my prayers for others.

I find what she does is truly remarkable. I’ve thought about this before–like is my way is a little selfish?  I’ve wished I prayed better for others.

And then my Mom this morning commented she wished she could pray more like me.  She’s actually taking a Lectio Divina class at Church with Daddy to learn how to do this better.

She said she has trouble connecting directly to God, having an intimate relationship with him. I said that’s all I do, is connect intimately with God—but it’s all about me!  lol

I was floored.  So, is my way of praying “okay?” If my Mom thinks it is okay, then it must be okay because my Mom is a living saint.  I am thinking about this now.

Last week’s Gospel reading at Mass explained how we each have different spiritual gifts but we’re all of the same body. And there are hundreds and hundreds of saints given to us by the Church to show us there are different ways of approaching God, living our vocations, praying.

I’m drawn to the mystics because they pray like I do:  read, reflect, meditate and pray.  My Mom is drawn to other types of saints, who do acts of service and pray for others.  Because they’re more like her. Like Saint Faustina whose whole big thick diary is filled with praying that others receive divine Mercy.

Anyways, these are thoughts I think of today.  We are all different parts of the same body.

7 Quick-takes: 7 Reasons I Like Alcoholics Anonymous

aa-logo2Here we go again with our 7 Quick Takes Friday hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary. We reciprocate links to her blog and then post 7 “quick-takes” on our blogs.

7 Reasons Why I Like Alcoholics  Anonymous

1. Meetings

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I was always an A/B student. There are plenty of folks much smarter than I, especially probably psychiatrists and counselors. But for some reason, every time I’ve ever gone to a therapist I’ve found myself figuring out what it was she wanted me to say, then saying that.

I’m certain the therapist saw right through me.

I’d try to impress her by how introspective I was, while at the same time try to get her to like me by pretending I had all this self-awareness. If I had been honest and open to the process, I could have learned a thing or two and been truly helped. I believe in therapy, but I never did it right.

I assumed AA meetings were group therapy for drunk people, so I stayed away because “therapy didn’t work for me, right?”  Once I checked it out, though I found it is not like therapy. I am absolutely unable to get away with my bull-crap. I have to be painfully honest, in a way at first I didn’t know how to be, because inevitably the truths that come out during a meeting are so real that saying anything other than the God’s honest truth is obvious to all.  Common phrase in AA is, “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.” It’s quite refreshing, actually!

2. Fellowship

The last thing I wanted was new friends, especially with all these sober women. I had five sisters who were my best friends plus a non-family BFF, plus two kids, a husband, a house and a business to run. Understanding that any new friendships I made would take time, take me away from my already filled priorities, I decided I wouldn’t reach out to make new friends.

Plus, the word ‘fellowship” bugged me. That seemed like a thing Protestants did on Wednesday nights. It wasn’t a Catholic thing. And slogans like, “You Are Not Alone” rubbed me the wrong way because I wanted to be left alone. I was quite independent, thank you very much, so maybe you guys need fellowship but not me.

7quicktakesAfter sitting in the meetings for months, I found that I really liked these sober women.  I learned their stories, their struggles and mostly admired their courage in facing life on life’s terms.  But still I didn’t reach out.

It wasn’t until I relapsed and found that I couldn’t get back to my sober life without help, that I reached out in desperation.  And, immediately these women I had kept at arm’s length came to my rescue. And ever since then I’ve discovered the (evolving) fellowship is one of my favorite things.

3. “Sharing”

AA, like any other “organization” has developed its own lingo.  “Sharing” is when you raise your hand talk for three to five minutes in a meeting.  Initially sharing terrified me. And the more I tried to sound smart and evolved when I shared the more I was left feeling like a goof.

For example, in the beginning I would share something like this: “It’s so hard for me to stop drinking because I am married to my drinking buddy. Every day I come home to the one person I love to drink with the most. If only he would stop drinking too then I would be able to stay sober.”

Uh-uh.  This just wasn’t “honest.”  Sure it would have worked in a therapy session. Perhaps the therapist and I would have spent $100 discussing whether or not my husband was an alcoholic (he is not, btw!) or how I can separate from him for a few months while I get this sobriety thing down.

Not in an AA meeting.  And nothing was said to me, except maybe by my sponsor after the meeting—there was no real progress until I was able to share, “My husband was my drinking buddy, but his drinking has nothing to do with me. All I can do is focus on my own behavior, turn my dishonest will over to God and not drink one day at a time. I can’t control him nor should I try to.”

4. 12 Steps

It was very easy for me to like the 12 Steps because they were all very familiar to me. After Bill W, Dr Bob and the pioneers of AA wrote their book and developed the 12 Steps, a Catholic priest named Father Dowling had a meeting with Bill W to find out if he had used the principles of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola to come up with them. He had not. But the similarities were startling and there began a life-long friendship between the two men.

Turning my will over to God, doing an examination of conscience, confessing my sins, making amends, all these things are part of my beloved faith already so it was easy to like the 12 Steps.

5. Every one in positions of authority in the Church seemed to recommend AA to Catholic alcoholics.  

Believe me, I searched for a reason to believe that AA’s “higher power” and her “spirituality” contradicted the Church. But priest after priest recommend the program. In the confessional I would say, “But there are so many anti-Catholics in the meetings (which wasn’t true but that’s what I wanted to see).” And my confessor would without hesitation say, “There is nothing contrary to the Church in Alcoholics Anonymous.”

6. There are so many X-Catholics in  AA

Why would this be one of my reasons for liking the program?  I’ll tell you.  It’s wonderful, actually. Many times I’ve watched as x-Catholics come back to the Faith after working the Steps.  Apparently, after developing a way of life based on the Steps, these x-Catholics discover the Church had it right all along!  Many re-conversions are the direct result of x-Catholics getting sober in Alcoholics Anonymous.

7. My Sponsor

My sponsor, AF stuck by me when I picked up enough white chips to wallpaper my kitchen with. She never judged me, gave up on me nor told me what to do. She simply made herself available for whenever I was ready. It took a while, but once I was truly ready to live this way of life again she was there to show me the way through the Steps. The neat thing about sponsorship in AA is, when done right, sponsors are completely detached from the results of their work with another alcoholic. Helping another alcoholic is the work that helps the sponsor stay sober. They do it for themselves and that’s how it works. So, if a sponsee drinks or relapses, the sponsor doesn’t judge or take it personally. True sponsorship in AA is done with a spirit of healthy detachment and a desire to be useful, to help another person struggling. Sponsors do the work of sponsorship, but they leave the results to God.

Pope Today: The Tempter Is Subtle, Pushing Us To a False Good

pope-benedict-1-sizedOver one-hundred thousand faithful prayed this morning with Pope Benedict XVI in the penultimate Angelus of his pontificate. The Pope thanked people for their prayers, support and spiritual closeness, “in these particular days for the Church and for [himself].”

Commenting on the Gospel of Jesus’ temptations in the desert, proclaimed on this first Sunday of Lent, Pope Benedict said,

“The tempter is subtle: he does not push us directly toward evil, but to a false good.”

Each of us has his or her individual definition of what this “false good” may be.  For alcoholics, we are tempted by what we perceive to be the good parts of drinking…the conviviality, the relaxation, camaraderie.

The Holy Father went on to explain that, ultimately, what is at stake in the temptations is faith.

“In the decisive moments of life, but, if we look closely, in every moment, we are at a crossroads: do we want to follow the self, or God?” Jesus took temptations from us in order to give us the victory. We do not fear the fight against the spirit of evil. The important thing is that we battle together with him, with God who is the victor.”

The Angelus
V
. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the power of Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to your Word.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
V. And the Word was made flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Glory be…

Morning Meditations

rosary_balloonsIn meetings and in the steps it seems there is an intended difference between “prayer” and “meditation.”  Step 10-Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God. For me, one of the benefits of growing up Catholic is the learned mixing of the two.

Praying by talking to God about my day, praying for others, praying for my family, prayers before meals and bedtimes. And another form of Catholic prayer that I love is Lectio Divina, which is praying with the Scriptures.  Of course, the Mass is one big community prayer. But when I think of Catholic meditation I think of the Rosary. And Novenas.

For me, meditation isn’t sitting on the floor with my eyes closed focusing on my breath, chanting a centering word over and over.  I definitely see the benefit there and enjoyed it when we did these sessions in treatment. Focusing on my breath brings me into the present. Blocking all distractions from my mind using one word or phrase really does help me get centered–out of my own head so to speak. But it doesn’t feel like a God thing to me.

The ultimate form of meditation is the Rosary. The repetition of the memorized prayers centers my mind. The fingering of the beads gives me that element of touch. Lifting my thoughts to God by remembering the stories of the Bible–the mysteries of our faith.  On Mondays and Saturdays the recommendation is to Joyful Mysteries: Anunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation and the Finding at the Temple.  I can get teary-eyed on the fifth joyful mystery, imagining what Mary felt like after searching for Jesus for three days finally finding him in the Temple. As a mother of sons I can completely relate to Jesus’ response to his mother, “Where else would I be?”

Mom, why do you have to be so dramatic?

Remembering to breathe. Focusing on the present moment. Blocking out distractions. All good.  In fact, that might be the best way to prepare myself for praying the Rosary.  But that isn’t always convenient in a life of wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, business-owner, old-house owner, daugher-in-law. Me? I need to be able to grab my Rosary off my rearview mirror in the  middle of bumper to bumper Atlanta traffic and meditate on the mysteries of my Faith anytime, anywhere.

“The rosary contributes in a privileged way to prolong communion with Christ, and it educates us to live keeping our hearts’ gaze fixed upon him to radiate on everyone and everything his merciful love.”  Pope Benedict XVI

Pray for the one I Hate

Hate is such a strong word, and I don’t even allow it in my home.  If my children say they hate someone or something, I immediately stop them in their tracks and have them re-phrase their feelings.  To me, hate is everything to do with satan and nothing to do with the light of God.

Yet, as I pondered the title of this post, that was the only word that fit.  I guess I “hate” this person.  I definitely resent the hell out of her and wish her pain and misery for the rest of her life!

Semantics aside, it was suggested to me through the sharing of another at a meeting to read page 552 of the Big Book if there is a resentment that I just can’t get past.  If there is anger I am holding on to, tightly and refuse to or am unable to let go, then do what it says on page 552.  I started this last night.  Can’t say that I feel any better but I will commit to it.  This is what it says:

Page 552, AA Big Book
He said, in effect: “If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person that you resent, you will be free.  If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free.  Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free.  Even when you don’t really want it for them and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway.  Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.”

Last night I prayed that God give her, this woman, everything I want for myself.  This woman, who manipulated my husband (with his consent) back into her life while I was away in treatment. This woman who is also sober and part of the AA fellowship, who selfishly disregarded her friendship with me and who disregarded her program of honesty with herself and within her own marriage in order to capture the love and attention my husband had for her in college.  Yes, this woman.  Last night I prayed God give her continued sobriety, good health, happiness and a peaceful wonderful blessed family and marriage.

I’ll commit to pray for her for 2 weeks.  And if the resentment isn’t lifted by then, then I’ll continue the prayers until she doesn’t haunt my thoughts and steal my peace of mind anymore.