I have a bookshelf, well, actually it’s more like a couple of drawers full, of books that have and are helping me through my alcoholic journey. As a Catholic alcoholic, or maybe just the way my contemplative/mystical brain works makes this so, I don’t gravitate towards Louis Hay and her affirmations – or even the AA books- when I’m feeling squirrely and in need of help. I don’t “call someone.” I don’t “go to a meeting.” Instead I retreat into my world of Catholic books…with the Church, Her wisdom and guidance, Her help. The saints, the Sacraments, Mass. Confession. Adoration.
These things fill me up. The other things just don’t “do it for me” when I’m in the most need. The company of others helps when I’m happy and content. But when I am struggling, all I want is God.
So, I go into a place by myself, a place only me and God exist – other people would just distract me, no matter how well-meaning they are. Being around others all the time exhausts me, drains me. As an ambivert (look it up) I do like other people a lot. I like to get out and talk to people and be social or bounce ideas off of others. But this also wears me out, leaves me tired and often confused. My best friends in the rooms of recovery are not Catholic. And the rooms aren’t Catholic. So, while all of this camaraderie and all of the meetings do me a world of good for staying on track, they’re the last thing I look to when I find myself getting off track.
That’s when I turn inward. In order to refresh my soul. I retreat into my world of Catholic books and my little quiet spaces with God. Maybe that’s how Jesus felt when he sometimes went off to find a quiet place to pray. Being around other people all the time makes me tired. Then I crave my quiet time with God, the same way I’d crave a drink.
Soooo…. I just took three paragraphs to explain myself! Why so many explanations — I guess because in the rooms, I’d be told I was “isolating.” Or, I’d be told to “call someone.” As if my desire to be alone was a bad character trait that will make me relapse. In treatment, when I really wanted to walk the grounds, rosary in hand, and simply be by myself – I was accused of not caring enough about others, of not opening up and talking with the other women. In treatment they had a whole “group session” of the other women telling me I don’t care enough to open up and talk to them.
Come to think of it, it’s been this way my whole life – I was an ambivert in high school, too. And so, although I had a lot of friends and was involved in lots of activities, often I just wanted/needed to be by myself. Collect my thoughts, not be around people. I was accused of being a “snob” on numerous occasions. And I remember thinking, “God if you only KNEW how insecure I was?!” I’d think, “If you only knew that I’m the furthest thing from a snob – that I think you are so comfortable and happy and I am so uncomfortable and awkward!” I’d think, “All I want is to be alone, just me and God for a little bit; and then I promise I’ll be back.”
And so I feel a little insecure about my desire to retreat. Nobody else seems to do this. At least not the people that are staying sober. They do the “we” thing. I completely second guess myself. What if I was better at being a social being, wanted to be in community with others more? Maybe then I would be “doing this right.”
I know other people need their quiet time with God too. Of course. That’s not what I’m referring to here. I need that each morning too. What I’m talking about is needing days of this! Needing to step away from the world for days and recuperate from all this togetherness. My need for retreat seems to be exaggerated. After too much time with people, I pull away and HAVE to have it. And so I’m sometimes not a very good friend. At least in my own head, I’m not.
There’s a woman in the meetings, a new friend — she’s AWESOME. Wonderful, caring, loving, faithful (not in a Catholic way but in a very wonderful Jesus loving way) and she really likes me. She’s helped me with rides and stays in touch with me. So, I feel guilty pulling away but it’s exhausting me. And so again I lose a friend – or at least I lose the intensity with which she wanted to be my friend. Her feelings appear to be hurt and I feel badly about this.
And my point is….
My point is, I’m doing this now. I’m in a retreat. Actually, creating my own little “retreat” with all of my wonderful books. I’ve been reading the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola — a tough read, but I love it! And my Magnificat, of course. And my book “In Conversation With God,” by Francis Fernandez. And my 30 day series of books with the Saints —namely St Teresa of Avila, St Teresa the Little Flower and the Cloud of the Unknowing. And I found a little book I bought last year called “Let the Oppressed Go Free” by Cardinal Rigali. And THAT’s what I wanted to talk about today!
This little book should be in the hands of every Catholic alcoholic and family member who loves one of us. It’s from “The Shepherd’s Voice Series,” published by Basilca Press. Let the Oppressed Go Free: Breaking the Bonds of Addiction.
Cardinal Rigali writes perfectly for me. He explains the nature of addiction and how the Church can help addicts so simply and eloquently — I wonder if he is a Dominican? I usually am drawn to Dominicans. My thoughts are so rambly today, sorry! I can’t even give a good review of this book because my head is swirling with too many thoughts. So, I’ll spare you dear reader and close.
I’ll review the book tomorrow or something.