July 31 – Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Spiritual Exercises and the Twelve Steps   

Saint-Ignatius-Loyola1

I have the book: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I’d tried to read it, study it, and bounce around in it. Then I’d put it away, not ever able to really “get into” it like I’d hoped. I purchased it years ago hoping to get inspiration and understanding about myself and my relationship with God. But the book was over my head.  I couldn’t sustain my interest long enough to really incorporate the exercises into my life in any meaningful way.

I remember thinking, “I wish there was a “Spiritual Exercises” for Dummies book I could read.  I laughed at this thought when I considered that’s basically what the 12 Steps are. I know, not really but sort of Spiritual Exercises for Dummies.

But that didn’t satisfy me either. The 12 Steps were too simplified. And truthfully, they relate only to a small part of the vast Exercises. I wanted the meat of what St Ignatius of Loyola taught but not so simplified it watered down the most important aspects of devotion to Christ and life in the Church.

I am “working the steps” again. In AA. It is called “working the steps,” the same way I suppose St. Ignatius called it “practicing” the Spiritual Exercises. Both are intended to be a “way of life,” if practiced daily promised to improve our relationships with God and other people. I don’t believe my salvation (my sobriety, yes but not my salvation) lies in the 12 Steps, as some swear. I believe I’ve indirectly practiced the Steps my whole life through my Catholic Faith. But by intensely directing these principles and practices at my alcoholism, however, I’ve been able to arrest the destruction and trajectory of my life, turn away from alcohol and to God.  A micro-conversion of sorts. I didn’t need to be converted to believe in God; but I needed to apply this conversion principle specifically to my alcoholism.

My 17-year-old son attends Catholic school and came home a couple of months ago with a homework assignment comparing the 12 Steps “process” of Alcoholics Anonymous to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I was giddy excited about this and asked him if I could have a copy of it and mention in in my blog. He said, “Sure.”

These were my son’s answers:

  1. Step 1: Sorry for sin and realizing we have done wrong.
  2. Step 2: Realizing God is merciful
  3. Step 3: Contrition
  4. Step 4: Examination of conscience
  5. Step 5: Confessing our sins
  6. Step 6: Going to confession
  7. Step 7: The Act of confessing our sins
  8. Step 8: Atonement and satisfaction
  9. Step 9: Penance
  10. Step 10: Daily Examination of conscience
  11. Step 11: Engaging in prayer to overcome our problems
  12. Sept 12: Seeking to help others

Fr. Edward Dowling, a Jesuit and friend of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was convinced that the Spiritual Exercises influenced the 12 Steps. Bill Wilson said he had never heard of Ignatius or the Exercises. He said he sat down at his kitchen table one day and wrote out the 12 Steps in about 20 minutes. The principles of the Spiritual Exercises were the same principles that inspired Bill Wilson to write the Steps, but there is no direct connection apparently.

AA was about five years old when Bill W. met Father Dowling. Bill was depressed and had thoughts of giving up. Father Dowling had heard of AA and saw similarities between the 12 Steps and the Spiritual Exercises; and he set out to meet Bill to learn more. Bill writes this meeting re-inspired him and gave him the grace he needed to persevere. His depression lifted. When their initial meeting together was over, Father Dowling told Bill W. if ever Bill grew impatient, or angry at God’s way of doing things, if ever he forgot to be grateful for being alive right here and now, he, Father Ed Dowling, would make the trip all the way from St. Louis to “wallop him over the head with his good Irish stick.”

Father Ed did give Bill a copy of the Spiritual Exercises in 1952, underlining the “Two Standards” meditation. Father Ed reminded Bill of the place he had bottomed out and surrendered to a “higher power.”  Father Ed believed that this was the place where humiliations led to humility and then to all other blessings. In saying this, he paraphrased Ignatius’s closing prayer of the “Two Standards” meditations. This was where AA became most like the Exercises.

When we forget to hold God as the center, something else will surely take God’s place. When we take our focus off God—pushing love, humility, and service to the side—something insidious creeps into us, turning our passion into poison. Sometimes we create our own demons without even knowing it. The Two Standards meditation isn’t a choice between the good and evil that’s out in the world—it’s a choice that lies within one’s own heart.

After the death of Father Dowling, Bill Wilson wrote, “Father Ed, an early and wonderful friend of AA, was the greatest and most gentle soul to walk this planet. I was closer to him than to any other human being on earth.”

 

Prayer for the Intercession of our Blessed Mother for those in Recovery

I found this prayer in the Spring 2017 issue of The 12 Step Review online4967. I love it and wanted to share with you!

Oh Blessed Mother, heart of love and mercy, hear my prayer. I am comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your intercession. We trust those in recovery from alcohol who are sick, lonely or hurting to your gentle heart. Help us all, Holy Mother in the recovery from the burden of our sins until we may share eternal life with you in the kingdom of your son, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen

Getting Down on My Knees

jesus-mary-magdaleneI get emails from people who wonder if it’s possible to be a practicing Catholic and a full-participant and “member” of AA. To them, I emphatically say, “Heck yeah it is!” One of my FAVORITE practices (traditions) in AA stems from Step 11, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for the knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out.”

“As we (individually) understand God…”
This gives me the freedom to use the tools and the fellowship in AA to help me stay sober each day, without compromising any of my own Catholic beliefs.

Most people in meetings truly live this practice—most evident when we “share.” Sharing in a meeting is when someone takes three to five minutes to talk about their own experience with a certain topic or subject. In sharing their experience, strength and hope with others, it helps us each see how we too can get through life’s circumstances without drinking.

Phrases like these included in our shares really help:  “for me, what I do, what’s worked for me, what I find helpful, I can’t speak for anybody else but for me I….”

Sharing like this is an important, unwritten rule (tradition) passed down from the 75 years of alcoholics meeting and sharing with one another.  Never give advice. Never tell someone what they “should” do. Never “judge” another’s way of relating to God. Love and tolerance is our code, we say.

If you’re like me, you hear the word “tolerance” and immediately cringe – uh oh. Tolerance. That’s what is preached politically to mean anything goes, and I can live my life however I want. You must accept it. Change all the laws to accommodate my way of living. There is no moral law. Everything is relative.

This is NOT at all what is meant in this AA practice of only speaking for oneself, in my opinion (ha! See? “in my opinion lol).

God gave me and you free will, so He must think it wise to “allow” us to choose His will or not. He “allows” us to be wrong. He “allows” us to follow the wrong paths, sin, even spend years looking everywhere but to Him for our solutions. I’d say God is pretty tolerant in this regard. He is constantly drawing us to the Truth, but He doesn’t punish us, turn his back on us, strike us down or judge us too harshly for getting off track. He is there when we finally come home to Him, our Father. He is waiting with a fatted calf and a ring!

So, unlike the political understanding of “tolerance,” in AA we all have a God-like understanding of tolerance, which has nothing to do with whether abortion or gay marriage are legal. Each person has the right to be wrong. We trust each other to find our way because the program is built upon the premise that doing God’s will is our goal each day. God’s will for us first and foremost is SOBRIETY.  That we all agree on!  Without sobriety, people like us couldn’t possibly ascertain God’s will. It’s hard enough when we’re sober! So, as we help each other stay sober, we love each other unconditionally, which is the ONLY environment in which one can be safe to explore their character defects (sins) in front of others. We leave all political (and other) topics outside the doors.

And there is a rule we call, “No Crosstalk.” This means we do NOT comment on what the previous person just shared. We just share our own truth. We don’t even really acknowledge the other person’s share, which feels kind of odd at first. Even if that person was crying over something sad during their share, we don’t comment or coddle or speak sympathy or give advice. We keep going.  It’s really beautiful when practiced well.

If I shared my vulnerabilities then people gave me advice on how to “fix” it, I’d be so annoyed. I would never share if I thought I was going to get bombarded with advice from other people. Even though these “other people” have become my friends, I’m not looking for advice. Nobody pretends to be better than anyone else. Nobody knows what someone else “should” do.

Does this make sense? Sometimes I talk in circles, but I feel like this is important for people unfamiliar with AA to know. It’s OK to be Catholic – or Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Agnostic, even atheistic — in AA. Everybody has the right to be wrong.

I’ll try to think of an example of how I shared in a meeting, which shows how I can be Catholic and a participating member of AA.  Let me think of one…

OK, the other day the topic was “humility.” People shared about when they weren’t very humble and how they work on being humbler in our daily lives. Humility is the principal behind the 7th Step. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. A couple of people shared something passed down over the years in AA— the practice of GETTING ON OUR KNEES to pray.  The act of getting on our knees to pray is a recognition of humility before God. He is God and I am not.

So, when it was my turn to share, I said this:

“My name is ______,  and I’m an alcoholic. I love all the talk about the importance of “getting on my knees” in the morning and at night when I pray. It makes sense and I’m going to start doing this now! Funny, I’ve been doing this my whole life at Church — people even joke about Catholics standing up and kneeling and standing up and kneeling. And I’d never thought of “why” we kneel. But hearing others talk today about getting on their knees to pray makes me recognize that getting on my knees is an outward, physically expression of my inner humility. An outward sign of my inner love for God as my King. I’m not just “thinking” about humility. I’m physically humbling myself before God. Now I have a better understanding of why we did that so much at growing up. Thank you for letting me share.”

And that was that.  I sometimes work my Faith into my shares if my experience on a certain topic is better explained through the eyes of my Catholic faith. This is as the 11th Step instructs, “as I understand God.” And nobody feels threatened by me because I share it all from the perspective of what works for me, how I understand this topic. And then I actively listen when they share their own experience, strength and hope.

The person after me shared about being agnostic and not feeling comfortable about getting on their knees. The person after him shared about how adding this one practice of getting down on their knees first thing in the morning when she gets out of bed, makes all the difference in her day.  She puts her phone under their bed at night so she remembers to get down on her knees first thing when she wakes up (to retrieve her phone!) While she’s down there, she prays.

Nobody gives advice. If they did, I’d probably never go back. I certainly wouldn’t love it as much as I do. Everybody listens. Everybody is safe. Including me, a freakin’ practicing Catholic. I feel safe to fully live my Faith in AA. As long as I remember to speak only for me, no one else.

Will, Willingness, Free Will, Free Willy lol

Warren-Wiersbe-Quote-Will-of-GodHeylo. I don’t really have a lot to say this morning; but I woke up with an understanding I wanted to share! I’ve had too much coffee so my title to this post is goofy, but who cares?

The will of God is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? I remember in high school, in Father Dominic’s “Catholic Catechism” class first learning about the “will of God.” I remember being fascinated with this. It made sense to me, intellectually. While all of my peers were just getting through the class to pass, I was enthralled with the material.  It was my favorite class in all of high school, ha! I’m such a dork.

Years later sitting in my seat in AA meetings, all the talk of doing the “will of God” was familiar to me. I knew instinctively this is something to aspire to.  I trusted AA because it was based on this Truth.  And I eventually came to realize how safe it is in meetings to explore “my” Truth—which is all found in the Catholic Faith. Nobody in AA tries to get me to do their idea of Truth. It’s all about me and my God.

So, this morning— before I grabbed my phone and got out of bed (yes, I sleep with my phone lol)—I stopped and asked God to direct my thinking and my actions today.  A form of the 3rd Step, turning my will and my life over to the care of God.  If only I could remember to do this every day!?

And I said to Him, “Thank you for the miracle of sobriety, the gifts of obedience, detachment and forgiveness. I recognize I’m in a more perfect state of obedience to Your will right now, God, so please take advantage of this! I know it will pass. I wish it would last forever, but I know from experience that my human nature and self-will eventually takes back over. It’s a lifelong journey, an ebb and flow, a push and pull with you, God…surrendering and taking back control and then surrendering again. Today, I’m all yours.”

I asked God before I got out of bed, to please take full advantage of me today! Be productive with me! I’m here to do your will. Use me.

I hope He does. Let’s see how the day unfolds.

Happy Fourth, y’all!

Obedience & Freedom

19424044_10213039011391472_7126129926460239037_nI have been walking around with so much anger—or as we say in AA, “resentment.”

AA has its own lingo I learned through attending so many meetings. Like the aversion to the word “sin.”  AA softened that word to “character defects.” The word “sin” has too much of a religious undertone to it, which doesn’t sit well with my AA spiritually high-minded friends.  Lol.  Sorry, I love my AA friends but that doesn’t mean I can’t make fun of their religious bias.

But back to my anger.  It’s been simmering. And lately it’s gone into full-blown horribleness affecting my days, moods and interactions even with the innocent.  And my anger went hand-in-hand with blame.  So much blame.

I think this bothered me so much because it is the opposite of how I see myself, of how I try to live my life. It is the thing I dislike most in others (blame) so seeing it in myself was unbearable for my conscience. Or perhaps it is teaching me that once again I am no better than anyone else. We all have those moral lines, don’t we? The ones we wouldn’t cross? And we can accidentally use our own moral lines to tell ourselves we are better. “I would NEVER do THAT.”

The tolerance of a recovered alcoholic is pretty high. We understand each other, how human nature works and how we can sometimes do bad things.  This dynamic is one of the reasons why I’ve found so much healing in AA, the ability to share my filth without fear of judgment.  We get it.  But still, even the most tolerant among us has lines we think we would never cross.

In my life, I kept having to move my lines.  That’s when you know something is wrong, when you start breaking your own rules! My experience proves the phrase “never say never” has a lot of truth to it.

Long story short: I was in a pretty crappy marriage and over the last few years of it became a shell of a person.  People who love me tell me there was emotional, mental and spiritual abuse going on. I find it tough to use the word “abuse” (I’m a word girl) because there were no physical signs on my body. In my case, the weird thing was I started abusing MYSELF physically in the end. Weird.  Maybe one day I will understand what happened, but that’s for another post.

After the divorce was final, I drank a bottle of wine and took a bunch of pills of whatever I could find in my house—knocked me out for two days and I woke up in the hospital a little confused about what had happened. My sister was there and I later found of she had a local priest come by to give me the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Looking back, I 100% believe the sanctifying grace from that sacrament saved me spiritually and put me on a path the healing I never would have achieved without it. Grace is one thing, but SANCTIFYING grace is one whole other miracle making serum!

But, I’m walking around almost nine months later with all this anger—-my ex-husband and I are getting along okay but it’s really confusing. He says he regrets divorce, which make me happy, of course. But his actions don’t really indicate he regrets it, thus my confusion and anger.  Soooo… what’s my point? Ugh.

My point is I could not forgive.  When he is nice, I feel like I forgive him and I have peace. But my anger was still directed at his parents, his sister, his college girlfriend, his college other woman friend and his other woman friend.  Lol. Usually when I talk about them I put very degrading, explicit adjectives in front of their names, but I’m getting better.

And angry at him for how mean he was, trying to get full custody of the children and in the end getting the house, cars, money but gave me 50% of the physical custody of the boys.  I didn’t have the money his parents had to keep fighting and truly all that really mattered to me was the boys. But, now I find I’m pissed he got the house and money and cars. Asshole.

So, forgiveness.

I’m up at Lake James in Nebo, NC. It’s so beautiful, peaceful. God is loud here.  So loud.  A friend of mine let me use his lake house for a few days, so I took the boys up here to chill.  I do have to work while I’m here; but I decided when I got here I was going to get really close to God and work on forgiveness. It’s really affecting my life, so I have to do something about it.

And I think I’m on to something!  God, in his great mercy has given me insight, or I guess He would call it “wisdom.” And I feel like I’ve struck gold so I had to share!

I don’t have to feel forgiveness. I don’t have to understand it. I don’t have to want it or believe anybody deserves it.  I just have to do it because God says so.  All I have to do it be obedient to God.  Do what he says, even if I don’t understand it or want to. Like a loving parent, He only asks me to forgive because it is in my best interest. He knows I must forgive in order to have peace and move on. I knew this intellectually. Logically, I already knew this, but my feelings were getting in the way. Like a little child who doesn’t want to do her chores…  “I don’t FEEL like it.”

The thing about God (like my parents) is He is trustworthy. Like, 100% trustworthy. Questioning His direction obviously only hurts me. Obedience to His trustworthy direction is giving me freedom.  And I’m now FEELING it. Ha ha. So, the good feelings of forgiveness come AFTER I do it.  I don’t have to have the feeling first. The feeling comes afterwards.  All I have to do it obey God. Easy peasy, right?

So I got this wisdom. My next hurdle was, “Ok God I get it but HOW?”  I “hate” these people.  They are truly awful, horrible, evil people (lol) and I can’t forgive them!  But you say I must, so you’re going to have to help me here. I have the willingness to do it, but only because you say so.

And that was God’s opening into my heart: my willingness.  My willingness to forgive even though I didn’t want to. That was the door God walked through to give me His power to do what I couldn’t do. And two days later, I’m sitting here in freedom for the first time in months. Shocked. I have claw marks on my past, not wanting to let go or forgive. But with willingness, God walked in and performed a miracle in my mind/heart.

He even put in my readings yesterday morning the one about the woman caught in adultery and Jesus instructing the one without sin to cast the first stone. I laughed at this one—ok God, yes, I am a sinner, so how can I condemn these others?  I’m putting my stone down and walking away from the fight.

I forgive only because it pleases God.  I want so badly to please God. He has given me so many good things. He deserves my obedience. I trust whatever He wants me to do is ALL for my good. So, I step out on faith. I pray. I am honest with God, telling him I want this only because He wants it for me.  I am willing to forgive because it pleases you, God. I want to be obedient to God even if I don’t understand it or feel like it.

And voila! Freedom. Obedience equals freedom. And the good feelings that follow forgiveness are overflowing in me right now.  Thank you, again God.  Why do I fight you so hard? Can it really be this easy?

Saint Monica: another patron saint for alcoholics

st-monicaI looked at my blog stats yesterday. I hadn’t looked at them in so long but what has always stood out to me when I do is the posts that get the most traffic. This one from 2013 is ALWAYS in the top five of the posts people read or come across when they search for something Catholic alcoholic related on google.  This post about Saint Monica.

So many of us must be seeking help (whether for ourselves or for a loved one) and who better than Saint Monica to ask for prayers from? Heck, if her prayers were strong enough to convert Saint Augustine then certainly they’ll be strong enough to help me, right?  And seeing now she is also the patron saint of difficult marriages, victims of unfaithfulness, and victims of verbal abuse…my devotion to her has taken on another new meaning.  Here you go:

Saint Monica is patron saint of married women, alcoholics, difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse.

Saint Monica was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo. She is honoured in the Roman Catholic Church where she is remembered and venerated for her outstanding Christian virtues, particularly the suffering against the adultery of her husband, and a prayerful life dedicated to the reformation of her son, who wrote extensively of her pious acts and life with her in his Confessions. Popular Christian legends recall Saint Monica to have wept every night for her son Augustine.

Monica was born a Christian at Thagaste, North Africa, around the year 331, the daughter of devout parents who educated her in the faith. Augustine gives only one incident from her youth, obviously relayed to him by Monica herself, of how she was in danger of becoming a wine bibber, but was corrected when her secret sips in the wine cellar were discovered and a maid, in a moment of anger, called her a “drunkard.” This stinging rebuke prompted her to change her behavior and develop perseverence. Perhaps this is why recovering alcoholics are among the many groups who intercede to Saint Monica.

Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Monica
Dear St. Monica,
Troubled wife and mother, many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime. Yet, you never despaired or lost faith. With confidence, persistence, and profound faith, you prayed daily for the conversion of your beloved husband, Patricius, and your beloved son, Augustine; your prayers were answered. Grant me that same fortitude, patience,and trust in the Lord. Intercede for me, dear St. Monica, that God may favorably hear my plea for (Mention your intention here.) and grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

She was married early in life to Patritius, who held an official position in Tagaste, He was a pagan, his temper was violent, and he appears to have had bad behavior outside the marriage. Consequently Monica’s married life was far from being a happy one. Her mother-in-law was as bad as her husband. Her habits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence.

Monica had three children: Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter, Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children, and she experienced much grief when Augustine fell ill. She asked Patritius to allow Augustine to be baptized; Patritius agreed, but on the boy’s recovery withdrew his consent.

Eventually her husband became a Christian but died shortly afterwards. She decided not to remarry.

All Monica’s anxiety now centered in Augustine; he was promiscuous and partied all the time. And, as he himself tells us, he was lazy. Augustine had become a Manichean and when on his return home he shared his views regarding Manichaeism Monica drove him away from her home. However, she is said to have experienced a strange vision that convinced her to reconcile with her son.

It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of those tears shall never perish.” Monica followed her wayward son to Rome, where he had gone secretly. She met St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine convert to Christianity, after seventeen years of resistance.

In his book Confessions, Augustine wrote of a peculiar practice of his mother in which she “brought to certain oratories, erected in the memory of the saints, offerings of porridge, bread, and wine.” When she moved to Milan, the bishop Ambrose forbade her to use the offering of wine, since “it might be an occasion of gluttony for those who were already given to drink”. So, Augustine wrote of her:

In place of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor – so that the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned.

— Confessions 6.2.2

Mother and son spent six months of true peace and then he was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan.

At the port of Ostia, Monica fell ill. She knew that her work had been accomplished and that life would soon be over. She had such a joyful disposition that her sons were unaware of the approach of death. As Monica’s strength failed, she said to Augustine: “I do not know what there is left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. All I wished for was that I might see you a Catholic and a child of Heaven. God granted me even more than this in making you despise earthly felicity and consecrate yourself to His service.”

The finest pages of Augustine’s Confessions were written as the result of the emotion he experienced after his mother’s death.

The “weeping” springs outside Santa Monica, California were named for Saint Monica.

Scaredy Cat

scaredy-catIn meetings we talk about things that “real” people don’t usually talk about. Sometimes I have to redefine words used a lot in the 12 Step program because my definition doesn’t fit. In order to fully grasp the message of the meeting, I need to see some words from a different perspective.

One of those words is, “Fear.” Fear with a capital “F.”  In the AA text book, we are told Fear is pervasive and runs throughout all aspects of an alcoholic’s life.  That was difficult for me to grasp at first because to me Fear was what happens when I find out my brother’s snake is loose in our house or when seeing a scorpion in my bathroom.

The Fear we talk about in meetings is subtler. It’s in our minds. It’s future-based. And, it’s more than mere “worry.”

The founders of AA felt so strongly about Fear that they even made it its own category/column in the 4th Step.  We inventory not only our resentments but also our Fear. If we don’t “conquer Fear” we may drink again to escape it.  I’m on the 4th Step again right now, so this topic (at yesterday’s meeting) was really pertinent for me.

There are some acronyms—AA loves acronyms, I guess because we aren’t smart enough to remember things without them.

FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real
FEAR = Face Everything And Recover

Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it’s good when we come across a bear in the woods and we need to act.  But our minds trick us into thinking emotional stuff is like a big bear in our heads.  Do we fight or flight?  When I am walking into a room with people I know don’t like me/are judging me, my brain creates this huge black bear that I am supposed to be afraid of.  Do I fight it or escape?

Escape. All my life I’ve chosen escape in the face of Fear. Drink. Liquid courage. And then walk into the room. No Fear. Now that I’m sober (again) the Fear is back and I’m having to deal with it head on. I’m told to “walk through the Fear.” I do that, but not very well. I tippy toe around it hoping it won’t see me. I make a lot of crazy noise hoping it won’t attack me. I fall into self-pity, hoping it will feel sorry for me and walk away to find another target. But in the end, as long as I don’t drink, I eventually HAVE to face and feel and deal with my Fear.

It’s funny, I used to choose escape/drink/flight—and now I find myself choosing to fight and get angry. The pendulum is swinging the other way, I guess intending to balance itself out eventually. So, this anger I feel at my ex-husband, his “lovers,” his parents, his sister… all that anger is surfacing and it’s troubling me. It’s all still Fear and I still need to walk through it. The Fourth Step is supposed to help me with this. I’m hopeful.

One way to deal with Fear is by talking to other people about it.  That’s what we do in meetings. When we talk about our Fear the thing we are afraid of gets a lot smaller, more manageable to face.

People like me—who think we don’t need help, don’t need advice or need to talk to anyone to solve my problems, who think we can do everything on our own— we do sometimes rely on God but we forget that God send us people to stand in for him and help us, too. That’s one thing AA has REALLY helped me with—asking for help, seeing I need help, acknowledging and discovering that I need people.

So, even if I don’t yet call someone and talk about my current Fear, I do share in meetings. For some reason, sharing in meetings feels less personal than calling someone up and asking them to listen to me talk.  What if they’re busy? What if I’m annoying? What if they are rolling their eyes on the other end of the line? What if they think I’m stupid?

In meetings, that’s what we’re there for. We sit there and listen to people “share.” So, I don’t feel like I’m putting anybody out or being a burden or annoying. And I get it out of my head and into the room, in the hands of people that “get it.”  And the Fear subsides a little.

The scariest Fear for me is the one that grips me and immobilizes me.  Perhaps everyone has something like this? Perhaps not? I do.  And it’s always relationship based—intimate relationship based. It’s usually my (ex) husband or family members that can evoke this type of visceral, gripping Fear. And it’s all in my head. It’s usually based on something subconscious I can’t control, like fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, stuff like that. Something imagined, but very real to me.

And so I panic. And that feels like I’m dying. And I know from experience that a drink will fix that. In those moments, I feel like I am going to die if I have to continue feeling. It really feels like if I don’t make this feeling go away then I will die.  So, drinking fixes that and I never truly face or walk through that subconscious Fear and get to the other side of it. I would just drink and feel better and all would be right with the world! Until I did something awful while drinking and then the Fear and shame were increased.

I’m rambling this morning but I just wanted to get back into blogging.  It’s good for me.  It’s good for my sobriety. Today I choose to walk through my Fear, even the gripping awful Fear I feel when I deal with my ex-husband and think too much about my future. As long as I just DON’T DRINK then I’ll eventually (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly) get to the other side of the Fear and realize I didn’t die. I felt it and didn’t die.

I’m told the opposite of Fear is Faith. I’m told Fear and Faith cannot co-exist in a person’s mind. I’m either in fear or have faith. If I’m in Fear, I’m not trusting God that He’s got me. I’m not trusting God will take care of me. God gives me only the burdens and blessings and grace needed for these 24 hours. He won’t give me more than that. I can face anything that comes my way today. Tomorrow He will give me what I need to deal with tomorrow. As long as I stay in the present, not worry about what may or may not happen in the future—what is my life going to look like a year from now? Will I be lonely and old? Maybe, maybe not.

I choose Faith. Trust God and have Faith that everything will work out for good. It will either work out or it will work out.

2 Timothy, 1:7
“God did not give us a spirit of FEAR, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control.”