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.”

Advertisements

The 9th Step Promises

Catholic Alcoholic

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.  We will comprehend the word “serenity” and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we’ve gone, we’ll see how our experiences can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.  We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.  We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Are these extravagant promises?  We think not.  They’re being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.  They will always materialize if we work…

View original post 2 more words

Flesh and Blood

Holy-Eucharist-catholicism-133989_482_493This blog has been a saving grace for me over the last three weeks.  I’ve been confined to my home, mostly to my bed or couch because of a herniated disc in my lower back.  The pain is bad and it seems my left leg muscles are starting to atrophy a little bit from the encroached nerve and non-use.  (whine)

Blogging each day, committing to being part of  WordPress’  “post-a-day-2013” is therapeutic and an enjoyable way to pass the time. I’ve discovered wonderful Catholic blogs “out there”, as well as hope-filled sobriety ones. Funny how I have come to know many of you–your personalities, simply by reading your words every day.

Prior to this, I’d been a four or five times per week meeting maker in AA.  The meetings are key for me in helping me stay out of my own head, which eagerly waits for me to put my guard down so it can recommend a drink to ease my suffering.  So, this online world has become my temporary meeting spot..the place where I come to read the experience, strength and hope from others and share my own when appropriate.

Many thanks to these bloggers for keeping me on my 12-step toes: Bye Bye Beer, Message In A Bottle, Sober Catholic, Emotional Drinking, Running on Sober, Sober Boots, The Bubble Hour, The Miracle Is Around the Corner and many others…

And since nothing can replace actual flesh and blood, I am so grateful that my sponsor AF and her sponsor SZ brought a meeting to me, since I couldn’t make one in person.  They came to my house on Friday, drank tea with me, read from the Big Book and just talked Steps.  AF was coy to point out too that I could use this time to work on my 4th Step, which I am still procrastinating.  ha ha. Maybe I will work on it today?

I typically don’t ever have the desire to drink anymore. One of the benefits of being sober for a while (define: “for a while”) is the desire to drink pretty much disappears.  Therefore, I’ve spent the big chunk of my time in here reading not recovery but Catholic blogs.  Out in the “real world,” or at least in my real world, I don’t encounter people every day who explore their love of the faith.  So, it’s wonderful to hang out in here with you all, especially these: Biltrix, Conversion Diary, and all the blogs that branch out from Conversion Diary through Jennifer Fulwiler’s 7 Quick Takes Fridays.

But since again nothing here can replace flesh and blood, I am sad to be missing Mass, unable to receive the body and blood of Jesus.  I live a distance away from my parish so I hate to ask our pastor (who no doubt is busy tending to other more pressing matters) to bring the holy Eucharist to me; but maybe my Mom can bring me communion some time later this week.  She receives an email every time I post so she’ll be getting this request soon enough!  XOXO

 

Calix Atlanta

chaliceWe’ve got a date for the first Calix Atlanta meeting and created a web site to give people information about Calix here in Atlanta.  Here is a link to the website–quick and easy template just like this blog.

Calix Atlanta members meet monthly to practice the 11th Step in community with other local Catholics in recovery.

Calix is not Catholic AA. Calix is a lay organization approved by the bishops in the various chapters’ respective dioceses. There are chapters in 21 states in the US. Here in Atlanta, we have just begun process of getting that approval. Calix doesn’t attempt to “sober anyone up.” An alcoholic who is not sober is not ready mentally or spiritually for Calix membership.

Why Calix?

The Twelve Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is generally accepted as the best remedy for we who are afflicted with the disease of alcoholism. The Calix Society, an organization of recovering alcoholics, their friends and family, shares this view.

Why is there a Calix Society? What does it do? Answers to these questions are vital to the Catholic recovering alcoholic attempting to achieve and maintain a sober life.

We have spent a long time, often many years, developing a physical dependence on alcohol. Finally by the grace of God, we reach the point where we must change – physically, mentally and spiritually. We manage to put together a short period of sobriety by attending AA meetings and working the 12 Steps.

For Catholic alcoholics; however, sometimes something more is desired to fulfill our spiritual program of recovery. We realize that the 12-Step program advocates recourse to a “higher power,” and is necessarily non-denominational. But having been raised in the Church, rich in tradition, dogma and ritual, we begin to yearn once again for the faith we may have neglected or abandoned when we were drinking.

Through Calix, we reintroduce ourselves to our Catholic Faith, in sobriety. Some important points to consider:

  • 12 Step Programs are necessarily non-denominational and need to remain that way
  • The 12 Steps are not opposed to Catholic teaching; and Calix is not divisive of 12 Step fellowships – it is a true symbiotic relationship.
  • Calix provides an opportunity for those with resentments about the Church to explore those issues by reintroducing Catholic alcoholics to their childhood faith.
  • While it is not a forum for airing grievances against the Church, Calix meetings are a safe place for fallen away Catholic alcoholics to grow in knowledge of their faith.
  • Calix provides Catholic in recovery an opportunity to openly discuss scripture and utilize the Sacraments to enhance their 11th Step work.
  • While Calix is not a forum for airing grievances about 12 Step programs, those skeptical about specific recovery programs are welcome and encouraged in sobriety.
  • Recovery literature suggests alcoholics in recovery might do well to return to the church of their youth.
  • Recovery literature also suggests we would do well to learn about prayer and spiritual matters from clergy. Calix provides Catholic alcoholics a forum to do so.
  • Fr. Ed Dowling convinced leaders in the Catholic Church that there is nothing about the 12 Steps that was contrary to the Church’s doctrines.
  • In a letter to the Calix Society, co-founder of AA Bill Wilson wrote that he found nothing about Calix that was in conflict with AA traditions.

Amen.

Revisiting Calix

calixlogoA few years ago, when I had about 18 months of sobriety I started isolating myself from AA because of the non-denominational aspects. How ironic because it was sobriety and the gift of AA which had initially brought me closer to my faith–but it was an election year (2008); and some of the sharing in meetings felt anti-Catholic.

Election years are hard on me. I always take politics personally–the religious freedom and pro-life positions are very dear to me.

But during the fall of 2008 and winter of 2009, me and three other like-minded folks started meeting monthly in the hopes of forming a Calix chapter in Atlanta. I absolutely loved these meetings. Finally, I found people in recovery who spoke openly about loving being Catholic. After about six months, our little association fizzled before we got approval from the Archbishop to launch a chapter here.

Why did we fizzle out? I have a theory. I think it’s because we weren’t in full agreement with the mission of Calix, which is to “maintain our sobriety through affiliation with and participation in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.” We bonded because we had resentment against AA–and I even started scaling back on meetings hoping that Calix would take the place of AA for me.

That was IMHO the reason for our fizzle. The first sentence of the Calix Credo states, “Calix is an association of Catholic alcoholics who are maintaining their sobriety through affiliation with and participation in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Deep down I was hoping, I think for a “Catholic AA.” And Calix absolutely is not Catholic AA. In fact, in her literature, Calix takes great pains to insist that she is not Catholic AA, that AA is the way to get and stay sober. Calix recommends her members maintain affiliation and participation with AA. Calix sees herself more as an elaboration of and a practicing of the 11th Step: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand Him.”

As we understand Him.

So that’s where Calix comes in–in practicing the 11th Step Calix meets monthly with other AA members that understand God the same way–through their Catholic faith and Church.

Anyways, I’ve reinstated my membership in Calix (just $25 per year) and will look once again into starting a Chapter here in Atlanta. God has enlightened me by showing me the primary importance of AA in my recovery–so this time I’m not turning to Calix as a substitution, but instead an extension of my program.

As Bill W. stated in a letter to the society (copies available from the office), “This (Calix) presents no problem of A.A. Tradition at all. Of course they (A.A. members) are entitled to join Calix. Nothing is more certain about A.A. than that the principle of the individual’s freedom to practice the religion of his own choice. Our Tradition merely requests A.A. members not to link the A.A. name with other activities.”

Currently there are Calix chapters in 21 states! But there isn’t one in Georgia.

Here again I pray the 3rd Step prayer: God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and do with me as thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do your will. Take away my difficulties that victory of them may bear witness to those I would help of your Power your love and your way of life. May I do thy will always.

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

Exploring Step Three: I

AA3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of my God, as we understand God.

CA3: Every day, I surrender my free will over to God.

1704 The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit.  By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator.  By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good.  He finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good.”
Life in Christ, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1704

God gave me free will.  I can choose the patch to peace or the path to destruction.  Sometimes I choose the path to peace-eventually.  Postponing my arrival by making self-serving decisions, self-seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, discomfort, responsibility but not quite choosing destruction.  Is there a middle way—I believe there IS a middle way.  But the middle way is not the path to peace, to the light.  The middle way is more of being lost without GPS or compass, not intending to go the wrong way necessarily but certainly not being able to go the right way home.