My Trick for Living One Day at a Time

dailyI have often found it difficult to accept and fully grasp the whole “one day at a time” thing. I “get” it; but sometimes it feels like a punishment to not be able to live and dream and plan my future experiences. Also, if I’d say, “I have 100 days!” or “5 years!”  —My best friends in the program would respond with, “You have just TODAY.”  It always felt like a buzz-killer. I’m thinking, “Why do you want to crush my spirit?”  Let me be excited!

Or,  “I want to be sober for the rest of my life!” And friends remind me that I don’t know if I will drink again so focus on not drinking just TODAY.

But I figured out that they are right. Today is all I have.  Tomorrow is never promised and yesterday is gone.  God wants us to live this way. Every morning, He gives us a fresh slate. Whatever happened yesterday is wiped away and we get to begin again.  Early morning is my favorite time to connect with God and “hang out” with Him. I journal, read my daily prayers, sit there and think of all the things I’m grateful for, most importantly SOBRIETY. Without sobriety, none of all the other things I’m grateful for would be possible!

God knows that JOY is only found in the present. He wants us to experience joy; so He wants us to live in today.  AA was wise to grasp onto this as it relates to not drinking “just for today.” But even beyond that, beyond not drinking today (especially when that doesn’t seem that difficult to do) what about the rest of my life? It’s important I live the rest of my life just for today, too.

I wanted to share a quick trick I use when I’m finding it difficult to stay in the day, in the present.  I use this little trick a lot, actually… with the AA prayers and my other prayers—-I change them up a bit:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change today, the courage today to change the things I can, and the wisdom today to know the difference.

Just by consciously adding the word “today” to each line, it helps me.  When I think about ALL the things I cannot change in my life, it’s a little overwhelming…that’s a lot to think about! But, if I just focus on and think about the things I cannot change TODAY (whether or not our house will sell, what my employee will think when I let him know I can’t give him a raise, whether any checks come in from clients, etc…) then it’s more manageable for me in my brain.third step prayer

1. I admit I am powerless over alcohol TODAY, that my life is unmanageable (without God’s help) TODAY.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than myself would restore me to sanity today.
3. Turned my will and my life over to God, today.
4. Made an inventory of my day at the end of the day, on the things I did or didn’t do –  today.
5. Admitted to God, to myself — an another person – the nature of the wrongs I did today.
6. Became entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character today.
7. Humbly asked him to do so, today.
8. Made a list of people I have harmed today, and became willing to make amends to them, today.
9. Made direct amends today to those people, today.
10. (same as 4 thru 9) Took personal inventory today and when I am wrong today, promptly admit it.
11. Seek through prayer and meditation today for God’s will for me TODAY and the power to carry that out today.
12. After having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, I will try to practice these principles in all of my affairs today.

And I also do this with the Third Step Prayer:

God, I offer myself to you today, to build with me and do with me as Thou will today. Relieve me today of the bondage of self and take away my difficulties today so that victory of them may bear witness to those I would help today of your power your love and your way of life.

Have a great day, y’all!

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Father Emmerich’s 12 Step Review new issue Out!

photo 1And this one is a doozy.  Anger and Fear. Man oh man how anger and fear drive the alcoholic into our cups. I am one to think I am never angry. I don’t even hardly ever feel angry. Cut me off in traffic? Oh, you’re probably on your way to an emergency. Cancel your ad at the last minute? Crap. But I get it. Things come up.

But when Fr Emmerich talks about Saint Thomas Aquinas (whom is awesome) take on anger: ” St Thomas Aquinas teaches that one can sin with regard to anger in two ways, by excess or by defect: by excess when we act out of the anger in a sinful way; by defect when we stuff the anger and become depressed instead of allowing the anger to express itself in a good and holy way.”

I’m a stuffer.

I cringe and get annoyed by those who express anger “by excess!” Those who go crazy, cuzz, freak out and make a scene causing everybody to feel so uncomfortable— aka my husband 🙂

But I’ve learned in recovery this is such a true Truth: “You spot it you got it.”  So, if I spot this awfulness expression of anger by excess do I have this in ME?  oh my goodness grose!  Please God no. I don’t have this awful anger thing, right?

Right?  Wrong.  I have what Saint Thomas Aquinas describes as anger “by defect,” where I stuff it and get depressed.  So, I can be all high and mighty that I’m not an “angry” person but damn straight I actually am.  I just handle my anger differently. I stuff it and deny it.  Either way, the sin is just as bad.

To see all of Father Emmerich’s 12 STep newsletters, check out www.12-step-review.org

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Catholic Priests, Nuns and Religious Recover from Alcoholism through Guest House

00000000000000000000000000I just received this email from my affiliation with Guest House.

Guest House is an essential/vital /necessary/absolutely wonderful mission that helps Catholic priests, nuns and religious start the road to recovery from alcoholism. Worthy, worthy, worth charity. Please help out if you are financially able.  Here is the letter I just received from them promoting their new e-learning project, and I couldn’t wait to share so I am sharing verbatim:

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Guest House is North America’s founding behavioral health and addiction program for Catholic clergy and religious.  Since 1956, we’ve provided personalized clinical treatment with a spiritual emphasis.  Our goal is focused:  To successfully return men and women to their mission.  Our accredited full time clinical staff provides these services at our tranquil, private residential facilities.

To provide such important treatment, education and recovery to more than 8,000 clients since our inception, we’ve constantly sought out new and innovative ways to treat, reach, educate, serve and follow-up with our clients.  As part of our mission to the Church, we have recognized that the valuable information compiled in our field is crucial to all servants of the Church, and all advocates of education, prevention, intervention, treatment and lifelong sobriety, including:

  • Key decision makers within Orders and Dioceses
  • Hospitals, health systems and other agencies who provide behavioral health services
  • Therapists, social workers and others who must maintain Continuing Education Units (CEU’s)
  • Our alumni and alumnae
  • Family members
  • Parishioners
  • Students
  • Seminarians
  • Donors
  • Volunteers
  • Our dedicated staff
  • Teachers and educators

I’m pleased to tell you of  a significant new Guest House initiative.

Education is a critical part of awareness for the many and varied audiences we serve.  Debuting in April, 2013 is a Guest House and NCCA (National Catholic Council on Addictions) comprehensive e-learning educational library. Offerings are made possible through an affiliation with  Essential Learning, LLC., a corporation that offers online learning, staff compliance training and continuing education for behavioral health, mental health, addiction treatment, community health, developmental disability, community action and child welfare organizations.  The cost for users runs from $8.00 for some individual courses to a high of $99.00 for a series of online lessons.

  • Available exclusively on-line via http://www.guesthouse.org/education
  • Catalogue incorporates nearly 500 course selections
  • More than 800 training hours available using the most contemporary digital techniques
  • No other Catholic addiction treatment facility has such extensive content available to you
  • Library is designed for everyone from Church leadership through medical and addiction   treatment  professionals; CEU units are available
  • Courses from adolescents to aging; ethics, risk management and leadership techniques

As always, thanks to so many of you for your ongoing support of Guest House and NCCA in our critical endeavors. Whether we are providing Catholic clergy and religious addiction treatment and prevention, education or recovery, always remember, “Guest House Heals!”  Find out more and follow our Blog at guesthouse.org.

Justice and Mercy and the 5th Step

First off, I need to say, “Happy Birthday, Mom!”

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I did “part” of my 5th Step yesterday with my sponsor AF.  I have been putting off finishing the 4th for so long that she finally said, “Let’s just meet and do what you’ve done so far?”  So, that’s what we did. And it was good.

rembrant_prodigueAF is like that “perfect sponsor.”  She has maybe five or six sponsees and tailors her sponsorship of each according to their own needs and personalities.  For me, that means she pretty much leaves me alone, ha ha.  Not really true.  We communicate via email every single day. She sends out a “daily inspiration” each morning, as well as a separate email with her gratitude list of five things she’s grateful for today. She cc’s all her sponsees and we each “reply all” back with our own gratitude list of five things.

And I text her a lot.

But she doesn’t make me “call” her all the time.  That’s just not me.  One of her other sponsees calls her twice a day but refuses to participate in the emails.  So we’re each just different animals.

And yesterday, she just listened, as I read her my list of “resentments” and “why.”  (those of you in 12 Step programs understand what I’m talking about here.) And then she helped me see my part in things and pointed out some of my apparent assets and liabilities, since this is a moral inventory.

When I worked at $3 Cafe (a popular chicken wing establishment in Atlanta which boasted over 125 different types of beer, foreign and domestic) to put myself through college and pay for my long-distance phone calls to a stupid boyfriend, I remember my sister (the Manager) would take an inventory of all the beer each week.

The big trucks would arrive and deliver boxes of beer; and she would spend hours counting the beers and taking inventory of what she had enough of, what she needed to order more of and what was just right. Then she’d place the order with the beer companies for more of what was dificient.

Wouldn’t it be great if a “moral” inventory (the 4th Step) was that simple?  We make a list of things we have enough of (honesty, generosity, loyalty, discipline), a list of things we have too much of (dependency, laziness, self-pity, grandiosity), and then a list of things we’re deficient in (obedience, holiness, commitment, self-care)— and then we place an order of God for more of what we lack. Then we’re done!

We get the order via UPS or Fedex the next day from our “Higher Power” and we’re all set until we do another inventory of it all over again next week.

I titled this post “justice and mercy” because I meant to talk about justice and mercy, but I got off track.  My point is that during my time with AF yesterday doing part of my 5th Step of part of my 4th Step, I discussed with her how I do well with justice as long as it’s tempered with a lot of mercy.

There have been people in my life that I’ve received justice from…yeah, I deserved it.  But the people that didn’t temper their justice with mercy are no longer in my life–I don’t cultivate relationships with people that only deal in justice.  I don’t experience love that way.

And when I love others, I am pretty low on the justice thing and really high on the mercy. When I love others, I love with 100% mercy first.  Justice second.  How does God love us? How does God love you?  How does God love me?

How’s that for a hump day all over the place post?  Have a great day y’all!  Moving to the beach is getting closer…  about 90% chance.  Going back this weekend for another interview (not the editor job, though–a different one).

Spring 2013 Issue of Twelve-Step Review: Christian Friendship

12A wonderful, and under-marketed project by Father Emmerich Vogt, OP is the Twelve Step Review. He writes and sends out a quarterly newsletter on topics relevant to Catholic alcoholics and also provides CDs and DVDs of his talks about recovery. Father Vogt has published a book The Freedom to Love on the subject of adapting the 12 Steps to a serious understanding of the Seven Deadly Sins.

This issue of the Twelve Step Review covers Christian Friendship, inspirational quotes from Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, as well as information on Father Vogt’s most recent talks and recordings.

Here is a quote from the newsletter and the book of Sirach on Christian friendship:

A faithful friend is a strong defense. He that has found him has found a treasure. Nothing can be compared to a faithful friend and no weight of gold and silver can countervail the goodness of his fidelity. A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality. The book of Sirach 6:5-17

The emphasis here seems to be on the “faithful” friend.  We all know there are many other kinds of friends (Facebook “friends,” acquaintances, business contacts) but the “faithful” friend is a treasure.  Let’s hope we each have one or two of these types of friends in our lives!  I do, thank you God.

Audio Resources for Catholic Alcoholics

7deadyI plan to invest in these CDs over time. I’ve purchased too many Nook books lately, so I need to wait a few weeks to make more money. After having read the book The Freedom to Love by Father Emmerich Vogt (which incorporates the 7 deadly sins into our experience of recovery), I am comfortable recommending his CDs because he teaches an authentic Faith and has 30 years of experience working with the 12 Steps.

Once I purchase and listen to these I will review here, but for now I wanted to share:

The Eleventh Step and the Spiritual Life
In this series of lectures and homilies, the eleventh step (Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God) is framed in terms of developing our catholic spiritual life through prayer, meditation and sacrifice. Father Emmerich uses clear and sometimes humorous examples of how to take disasters and change them into truly good, life changing and worthwhile experiences, both with others, and in our interior relationship with God. Set of 5 CDs, $35.00.

The Power of the Holy Spirit and the 12 Steps
A five CD set consisting of conferences and homilies given to a live congregation at CASA MARIA retreat house in Irondale, Alabama. 5 CD’s – $35.00.

The Spirituality of the 12 Steps
In this set of nine conferences Fr. Emmerich grounds each of the Steps in classical Gospel spirituality, and brings in the teachings of the saints. Each conference is about one hour-long. $65.00 for 9 CDs.

 

Book Review: The Freedom to Love by Father Emmerich Vogt,O.P.

freedom to loveBook Review: The Freedom to Love by Emmerich Vogt, O.P.

BN ID: 2940014633703, Publisher: Mill City Press, date: 4/24/2012, Pages: 158

Verdict: A

It’s funny when I experience something, I sometimes make the mistake of thinking I am special, that I am the first to ponder these things and the one to share my findings. And then the more I delve into and explore my ideas I inevitably discover this has all be done before.  No need to re-invent the wheel here.

In my quest to reconcile the 12 Step Program (of which I am an enthusiastic participant) with my Catholic faith, I have often found myself alone, isolated. I’m not comfortable nor would it be appropriate to explore my Christianity in recovery meetings. These meetings and the 12 Step Program are necessarily non-denominational.

And I have checked out “Celebrate Recovery,” which is a terrific Christian-based recovery program started by Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in California. Celebrate Recovery pulls from the 12 Steps but is based on their 8 Principals rooted in the Beatitudes. I have enjoyed the CR meetings I’ve attended; but I longed for a Catholic Christian version.  We have our own lingo, the saints, the traditions, Mary and established Catholic moral teachings passed down to us over the last 2000 years to study.  So, although I see the value of CR, it didn’t draw me in as much as regular AA meetings did/do.

Also, since I am basically a Catholic “activist” I am unfortunately aware of the ex-Catholic leanings of many members and leaders within Saddleback and in many of her offshoots.  For reference, check this out and this.  So, even though I did like CR, it just didn’t sit right with me, like regular AA meetings did.

So, where do I look for answers and consolation–certainly I look to the 12 Steps but I have to go beyond the 12 Steps into my faith in order to have a complete “design for living” as it promises in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Gratefully, I’m not unique, after all.  Many have gone before me and have shared truly amazing resources and faith-based guides for me to follow.  Thank goodness for Google (or Bing, if I’m feeling counter-cultural)

Father Emmerich Vogt, OP published a book last year called The Freedom to Love.  It may very well become part of my repertoire and my design for living.  It’s that good. And it speaks my language (Catholic Christianity) so well that I immediately felt connected to the author in our common understanding of taking the 12 Step Program just a little bit further into living Christian principles.

In our Catholic faith tradition, I don’t think we’d ever (never say never?) create a “Catholic Program of Recovery.”  12 Step Programs work well for the Catholic alcoholic, are basically free and widely available throughout the world–thousands of convenient meetings every single day.  So, no, there’s really no need for a “Catholic AA.”

But there is a need–at least for me and since I’m  not unique most likely others have the same desire as I do—-for us to take the 12 Steps a little bit further and incorporate our Catholic faith into our design for living.

That’s what this book does well!  Vogt takes the reader through the Steps by putting a Catholic understanding to them.  It’s splendid (and I love that word, “splendid!”).

On to the book:

From the Publisher:

Addicted persons are unable to choose to really love themselves and others without being grounded in sound moral values. The founders of AA in the Big Book encouraged the recovering alcoholic to inventory the seven deadly sins in preparation for the 4th Step because recovery meant – not simply giving up drinking – but embracing a moral lifestyle.

As a priest who has worked with the 12-step program for over thirty years, Fr. Emmerich combines traditional Christian spiritual principles with the wisdom of the Steps. An understanding of the moral virtues, and the extremes that set a person up to become an addict, is addressed in this book.

For centuries Western culture has provided a moral sense of the deadliness of sin.  However, modern culture has dropped this wisdom, which the author believes has led to an  increased vulnerability to addiction.

The seven deadly sins are shown to be destructive of the love of God and neighbor. Uncovering these character defects in our lives should guide the Christians actions. A very real and profound moral disorder is found in the un-recovered person. The person who abuses himself and others through addiction and codependency does not love himself and cannot love others. There is nothing so beautiful and salvific as the revelation of God’s love, which alone makes man fully alive. We communicate this love by His grace, which heals the wounds of addiction and sets us free to love.

This book (eBook version is just $9.99 at bn.com) explains how relevant it is to look at how the seven deadly sins manifest themselves in our lives. And then it shows how the virtues (as presented in the Catechism) can be an excellent tool for us to redirect our sins to a higher calling.

Modern Psychology, with all her wonderfulness and contributions to understanding the emotional and psychological workings of our brains and relationships, has perhaps unintentionally caused misunderstanding of what used to be common vocabulary. Words like “sin” and “morals” and “guilt” have become four-letter words. To me, those words have meaning and help me grow towards my quest for an intimate relationship with my Creator.

So, we can’t let these words (sin, morality, virtue, confession, redemption) used throughout the book scare us.  In Catholic culture, those words are just part of our lingo and they make sense.

And finally, a wonderful resource for the Catholic alcoholic looking to blend their recovery with the Faith, the author of this book Father Vogt maintains the web site and ministry The 12 Step Review at 12-step-review.com.

Great book.