New issue of 12 Step Review on LOVE and FEAR

IMG_0641New Issue of The Twelve Step Review (Spring 2016) came in the mail this week. This quarterly newsletter is a publication of the Western Dominican Province and produced by Father Emmerich Vogt. Learn more at 12-step-review.org or call them 800-556-6177. They’re based in Vancouver, Washington.

This issue discusses LOVE. The product of love is peace and joy. But we have to be free from the slavery to sin (and addiction) before we are able to love rightly.

Father Emmerich instructs us the 4th Step is basically an inventory of the Seven Deadly Sins in our hearts and minds. If we’re a slave to any of these sins, we are unable to find peace, to love ourselves or others well.

He goes on to say if we don’t root out our (sins) character defects then we are ruled by fear. Fear in all forms, a “soul-sickness in its own right, for these fears are the termites that ceaselessly devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build.” {p49, AA, Big Book}

I find this to be true. Before I started working the steps I only thought fear was being afraid of snakes or roaches. But the fear the Big Book is talking about is more pervasive. A “soul-sickness.” Fear of things that don’t necessarily put us in physical danger, but spiritual or emotional danger.

FEAR robs us of our relationships with God and other people, and prevents us from reaching our full potential. Fears can usually be classified into three categories – afraid of losing what we have, afraid of not getting what we want, and afraid of being discovered for who we really are.

A really great acronym for the word fear is “false evidence appearing real”.  Barefoots World (a web site with lots of help for working the Steps) has provided a Fear Inventory Prompt Sheet to help us with identifying our fears.

My biggest lesson in how damaging this kind of FEAR can be for me came last September. I won’t go into all the details but it had to do with a psych hospital and huge trust broken in my marriage. I was in a state of “fight or flight” for a little over two weeks. Fight or flight is an instinct we all have to protect us from true danger. The danger I felt was psychological, spiritual, emotional, and REAL…and it felt like I might physically die from it.  So, the physiological response I had to this very real/perceived danger lasted long enough and was consistent enough and strong enough…that it may have changed me. I felt something in my brain change. My mind tried to protect me by heightening my senses, speeding my reflexes, increasing adrenaline…this is only meant to be a short-term, temporary reaction of the mind on our body in the face of physical danger. But my experience lasted more than two weeks. This caused tremendous anxiety and physical illness.

TMI.

All I’m saying is this kind of fear is REAL and debilitating. The Fear inventory in the 4th Step is important–I’m amazed the founders of AA even came up with it!

Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”

Quotes from Saint Pope John Paul II on FEAR: (yesterday would have been his 96th birthday!)

Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

“I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
― Saint Pope John Paul II

And this one doesn’t have to do with fear but I liked it:

“The ethos of redemption is realized in self-mastery, by means of temperance, that is, continence of desires.”
― Pope John Paul II, Blessed Are the Pure of Heart

That’s all I’ve got for today folks. Night.

Number 9

 

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searching

hippoThe other day on the drive home from school, my younger son said hippos were one of the most dangerous land animals on the planet.

I was incredulous, “What?! Hippos?! No way. Hippos are those cute fat animals that splash around and play with their young.”

The most logical next step of any modern family disagreement was to, “Google it.”  So, we Googled it. And he was right. In fact, hippos are actually pretty darn aggressive. I gave him a dollar.

Laughing, my oldest son asked how old I was when I started using the internet. He looked stunned when I told him I was 25.  It was one of those, “I had to WALK FIVE MILES to school in 8 FEET OF SNOW,” conversations we have with our kids to let them know how easy they have it compared to, “When I was your age!”

I told him if we wanted to find out about hippos, we’d have to get our parents to take us to the library, hope the specific volume of encyclopedia wasn’t already in use, and look up hippopotamuses…then find the specific section and passage which mentioned their temperaments. We’d have to take notes if we wanted to take the information home with us because we weren’t allowed to check out reference books.

By the look on his face, I think he actually felt sorry for me. (Mission accomplished, ha!)

What’s my point? Sometimes I annoy myself because I take way too long to get to my point when i write. SEARCHING. Searching is my point. We are all searching for answers…either to academic questions, trivia, lyrics to our favorite songs, or the meaning of the universe. So, we Google it. 

Since I hadn’t blogged in such a long time, I checked the stats on the backend. Even when I wasn’t posting anything, I had thousands of visitors per month coming to my blog. WTF? So, I dug deeper. WordPress gives us the exact “search terms” that are most often used to find us.

Here they are…this is what people are SEARCHING for when they find Catholic Alcoholic through Google:

  • catholic alcoholic
  • alcoholic from a catholic perspective
  • patron saints for alcoholics
  • prayer for alcoholic
  • my husband is an alcoholic, catholic view
  • stop drinking catholic
  • catholic aa
  • help for catholic to stop drinking
  • catholic and can’t do aa
  • is there something other than aa for catholic alcoholic
  • alcoholism catholic view
  • prayers for my son alcoholic
  • catholic addiction recovery
  • catholic alternatives to aa

So, there you have it. We’re all searching. Searching for something, whether it’s why hippos are so angry all the time, what time is the Braves game tonight, or help me I’m Catholic and can’t stop drinking…. We don’t have to call a hotline and speak with anybody. We can do an anonymous Google search to hopefully find what we’re looking for.

Fortunately, questions about hippos have easy, definitive answers. Deeper questions, those that relate to recovery from alcoholism or helping a loved one with an addiction…those answers aren’t solved by Googling. Wouldn’t that be great, tho? If there was ONE right answer.

This blog post is sort of making me sad. I have no answers. I guess all I’d say is never give up, never stop searching. Giving up is NOT an option. Keep trying. Each day is a new beginning. Who CARES what “they” say? You’re worth it. Keep searching.

AA is a big part of my recovery equation. But don’t feel hopeless if you can’t do AA. Please. Keep searching. I can see from these search terms that there are thousands of alcoholics that really want help but can’t do AA. I get it. You are NOT ALONE. I’m not here to sell anybody on my way. One of my dear friends has been sober three years by daily recitation of the Rosary. Another by daily Mass and a commitment to weekly Reconciliation. I wish that was my story. I need all the help I can get. So that’s sort of why I started this blog to begin with…because I felt strange…i needed a Catholic slant to my recovery. I just did. It’s who I am. So, anyways, good night. This post isn’t making sense even to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the Oppressed Go Free

imageI 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.

When Will Things Get Easier?

tazmanian devilMaybe life isn’t going to be easy. Maybe it never was? But I seem to remember a time when things were more peaceful, more in synch with God and the universe, or something.

Or, maybe I’m fooling myself? Like the grandparents that say their generation wasn’t as awful as the next generation…. maybe, like forgetting the pain of childbirth, I forget that things never were ever that easy?

I don’t know. Certainly, my problems are all of my own making — well, actually, except the miscarriage, and actually except the economy wrecking the real estate market.  True, the miscarriage wasn’t my fault. The economy going in the tank wasn’t my fault.  But everything else was.  No, the bankruptcy wasn’t “technically” my fault – that was his fault.  But I went along with all of the decisions that led up to it.  I enabled it all.  It’s not like I haven’t tried.  An entrepreneur, I’m naturally an optimist.  I keep trying to “figure it out.”  I keep trying new things, working hard, coming up with new ideas and plans.  I think of my mother’s voice saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  Maybe she never even said that, but it seems like something she would say.

I have always had good intentions.  I really have intended to get spiritually and physically fit, sober forever, be a good wife and mother, create beautiful successful magazines that the local communities would enjoy.  Create a nice home for my family.  Lose weight, for goodness sakes — how long am I going to carry around these extra 30 pounds and pretend it doesn’t bother me?

How am I supposed to do all of this without a driver license for ten years?  Yes— the DUI last June and a crappy expensive lawyer; and now I’ve lost my license for ten years.  I just can’t accept this. And everybody is admonishing me (everybody who cares about me, anyways) for driving on a suspended license.  I’m not driving very much. I had to drive the boys to tennis practice and guitar lessons — the lady I traded an ad with to drive me places always gets migraines at the last minute.  So, my children have missed their activities.  The kids have been through enough — I’m not going to cancel tennis and guitar, too.

And all the relapses.  Man how I hate that word, “relapse.”  It makes me feel like such a failure.  All of the shame that’s piled up in my amygdala in the last five years. I relapsed last April and before that I relapsed in October of 2009.  And who knows if I’ll relapse again — I don’t have any faith in my ability to stay sober. And I’m supposed to give it to God and He will keep me sober– if I “do the work.”  I guess, to be honest — and aren’t I allowed to be honest here — I guess I don’t trust Him.  He’s given me more than I can handle and I always thought He said he wouldn’t do that?

So, when life happens, which is every frickin day, when life happens, then what?  Sometimes I just don’t want to be strong.  Sometimes I just want to say forget it and throw my cares to the wind, escape from it all just for about five hours.  But I can’t.

So, here you go — instead of “relapsing,” I’ll just dump all my authentic garbage on my anonymous blogger friends.  I’d rather relapse.  But I won’t.

I don’t ever do this.  I don’t like to complain. I hate (I hate the word hate but it fits here) to think of myself as a complainer and somebody that pours all my problems out on everybody.  And please don’t freak out on me and offer a lot of advice — here is where I make all my excuses for myself — I’m really fine.  Really, I am really fine. Please don’t worry or freak out. Just some days — even on absolutely beautiful sunny days like today, I feel hopeless.  As always, I logically know God is there. I know everything.  And that’s probably my problem.

The image of the Tazmanian Devil is my “logo” (I’m a brand/marketing girl at heart) for my alcoholism.  This little devil is the imagery I use in my head for my alcoholic personality. I picture a locked caged with this crazy spaztic Tazmanian Devil banging on the cage, begging me to get out, let him loose, just for a minute… But I have to, have to, have to keep him locked up; because if I let him out, even for “just a minute” (or, just five hours!) then I may never be able to get him back into the cage.

Book Review: Anonymous Disciple by Gerard E Goggins

untitledAnonymous Disciple, copyright 1995, is written by an author who not only did his research and is an excellent writer, but by someone who knows what he’s talking about. I can always tell when a book or a work is written by someone who has walked the walk with us.  The understanding is there. Reading this book was often like sitting in an AA meeting listening to a fellow alcoholic speak of his experience, strength and hope.  I highly recommend this book to anybody who wants a better understanding of our plight and how God’s healing miracle can be performed in the heart of an alcoholic.

It’s written like a novel – but it’s actually a biography of a Catholic priest who suffered from alcoholism and whose life was transformed by God into a beautiful thing.  Father Jim, the book explains was a disgrace to his fellow Jesuit priests, couldn’t stay away from the bottle and was admitted into the psychiatric ward of the hospital as a hopeless case.  This is what they used to do with alcoholics, put them in psychiatric wards because they were obviously insane.

There was no other way to keep them safe—from themselves and others.

Insanity. What else could the diagnosis be? A person who drinks themselves to oblivion every day, causes all sorts of trouble and disgrace to those who love him and whose own mother told him at age 50 to never come home again; yet he still continues to drink.  This wasn’t his first stay in a hospital either. He had been numerous times; but each time he was released with a little bit of health he went right back to the bottle or the bar.

A person with “so much potential.”  The alcoholic is mind-boggling to the “normal” person. Why can’t he just quit? Why would he drink again?

The author describes how to an alcoholic in this dilemma, this insane thinking is commonplace. We think alcohol is the solution to our problems, our only solace. Alcohol becomes the problem and the solution.  We get to the point we can’t imagine life with or without alcohol.  So we keep trying to drink the next time and hope for no consequences.

Father Jim and Father Fred drank together. Father Fred visited his friend in the hospital one last time before traveling to Detroit to “get sober” at Guest House, a rehab for alcoholic priests.  A few months later, Father Jim joins him at Guest House and the book walks the reader through their experience at Guest House and their miraculous lives afterwards.

Both Father Jim and Father Fred devoted their lives to AA, sobriety and helping other alcoholics. God turned disgraced lives into saintly ones.  A must read for every Catholic alcoholic and every Catholic who loves an alcoholic.

Guest House is still doing great work today.  http://www.guesthouse.org

Their mission is to provide the information, education, treatment and care needed to assure that clergy, men and women religious and seminarians suffering from alcoholism, addictions and other behavioral health conditions have the best opportunity for quality recovery and overall health and wellness.

Now located in a beautiful setting in Lake Orion, Michigan, Guest House continues to do God’s work helping their clients return to active, faith-filled ministry in the Church. A lay ministry of Guest House is the National Catholic Council on Addictions.

I Miss God.

iStock_000005641615XSmallSounds like a weird thing to say, I know. Logically, I know He’s right there. Right here. But I miss Him.  I miss the intimacy we used to have. Part of me thinks I’ll never have that intimacy with Him again, that it was just a honeymoon phase, pink cloud, idealistic thing of my youth. But another part of me knows that isn’t true–I guess that’s the glimmer of hope in me that still shines even if dimly.

I “know” He’s there, here. I know this, the way I know this computer is here.  I don’t question it. I know He is performing miracles, showering us all with His grace, loving us unconditionally beyond our understanding.  I know He’s provided me all the tools in the world to find Him, reach Him, connect with Him–Mass, the Sacraments, the Saints, the Rosary, Scripture, His Son, His Mother. These “tools” have brought me closer to Him in the past and I know they will again-hopefully. I miss the closeness, the idealistic way we used to have a relationship – the way that gave me all the confidence in the world that He would protect me, nurture me, love me. I miss this.

Don’t laugh but I used to be idealistic about politics too, until last year’s general election here in the US. After that election I lost my idealistic view of believing in people in general, in politics specifically.  It’s sort of like this.  The let down was so greatly felt for me that I stopped paying attention, caring, hoping, doing the things I normally would do to try to participate and cooperate with my political beliefs.

When I relapsed last spring, God was still there. But when I got the DUI in June I lost Him. It’s like I felt those consequences – of my own actions, certainly – so greatly that I stopped paying attention to God, stopped caring, hoping, doing the things I normally would do to try to participate and cooperate with God’s grace. 

When the lawyer in September called and told me I had to go to either jail or treatment for 30 days as part of my sentence, I was overwhelmed. I had recently launched my business and I would have to leave that and my family for a month. These consequences felt too great for me. Without health insurance, I worried I wouldn’t be able to find a treatment center I could afford and would have to go to jail. I remembered the 2 days I spent in jail in June and this really scared me. We finally did find a treatment center in South Georgia that was fairly inexpensive and my brothers helped me pay for it so I wouldn’t have to go to jail.

I had a little hope that I might find God again while I was in treatment– I know the drill. Treatment is usually a spiritual thing. And the treatment center we found appeared to be run by devoutly  Catholic people. The pictures on the walls were all Catholic. There was a big stained glass window at the front of the house of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Rosaries everywhere! Mary statues and crucifixes and a small chapel with a kneeler. So, even though I was beaten down about having to go, I did have a little bit of hope that me and God would reconnect and make up. My sister was even jealous, assuming I’d have a month to pray and be with God – ha!

Well, things didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. For the first time in my life, I met people who went to Mass every Sunday, gave out communion, seemed to be very Catholic on the outside; but they were anything but in real life. The owner and the main counselor were both Catholic. But they lied, manipulated, gossiped, were rude, sarcastic, petty and narcissitic. There were nine of us women in treatment and we were purposely turned against one another, diminished, brought down, shamed and neglected. During “group,” the counselors would bring out the worst of us, things discussed in private counseling sessions, in front of the whole group and success was found in breaking us down, making us cry.

I reason since it was a long term treatment center for hard core drug addicts that maybe they had to do this, break the women down to get to their/our core or something. But I left there, much more broken and jaded than when I arrived.  I was encouraged to talk things through with the other women and with the counselors. I was chastised for stealing quiet time alone to try to be with God – I was told I was isolating. I was unable to connect with God there as I connect with God in private, not in group.

I did leave at the end of the 30 days with a compassionate love for the other eight women and their struggles. I keep up with them on Facebook and have learned that four of the eight left shortly after I did. This surprised me because they were all in for long-term treatment. One was kicked out. And the other three left, saying the owner is “crazy.”  One is actually filing a Hippa complaint against the facility, which I’m not really sure what that is?

Anyways, I “know” God is there, right here.  I just can’t seem to connect.  If you’re reading this, please understand I’m not looking for advice at all. In AA meetings, we would call advice-giving “cross-talk.” And the reason it’s discouraged in AA meetings is because most people don’t want advice, they just want to speak. In meetings we share our own experience, strength and hope and refrain from giving each other advice on how to live or fix our problems.  I guess I say this because I know I have a lot of caring, compassionate readers out there and I just ask for your prayers, that’s all.  I’m really fine. Just a little jaded. I just wanted to get it out here on the blog – maybe somebody else has felt this way, too.

I read this poem in my Magnificat subscription this morning which is probably all I need: Humility

“Humility”

Humility is to be still
under the weathers of God’s will.
It is to have no hurt surprise
when morning’s ruddy promise dies,
when wind and drought destroy, or sweet
spring rains apostatize in sleet,
or when the mind and month remark
a superfluity of dark.
It is to have no troubled care
for human weathers anywhere.
And yet it is to take the good
with the warm hands of gratitude.
Humility is to have place
deep in the secret of God’s face
where one can know, past all surmise,
that God’s great will alone  is wise,
where one is loved, where one can trust
a strength not circumscribed by dust.
It is to have a place to hide
when all is hurricane outside

poem by JESSICA POWERS – Jessica Powers (+1988) was a Carmelite nun, sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit.

For the Alcoholics

I really enjoyed this post today by Tom Stringham at Virtuous Society. Love the photo, too!

Virtuous Society

There is a plague that has become more real to me over the last few years, as I have met more and more people who have been affected by alcohol dependence. According to the World Health Organization, 6.1% of men and 2.8% of women in the US were dependent on alcohol in 2004. In the United Kingdom, 7.5% of men and 2.1% of women were dependent. There was no data for Canada, but if alcohol consumption is a guide, then its rates are comparable. At an adult population of about 25 million in Canada, we can guess reasonably that around a million people in Canada are dependent on alcohol. Something like 10 million Americans and 2 million Britons are affected.

The figures are staggering. When numbers become this large, it is impossible to directly comprehend their size. What the data implies statistically, however, is the virtual certainty that you know…

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