Alcohol + Alcoholic = Death, RIP My Sweet Friend

This Scripture must be talking about alcohol and alcoholism:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

The crazy thing is that alcohol in and of itself will not kill and destroy. It will only kill and destroy the alcoholic—and I suppose anyone who is unlucky enough to be in the path of a drunk driver.

Most people can have a drink or two at the end of the day or at a wedding and nothing changes. But an alcoholic who takes that first drink immediately changes. Something in the brain and the body changes and the alcoholic (like these mice in laboratory experiments) will continue to take more and more despite the negative consequences to relationships, health and life.

A dear friend of mine passed away last weekend because of her alcoholism. She was a beautiful girl, 36 years old and a single mother. She has been in my meetings for the last year and a half.

She WANTED sobriety.

She had a beautiful soul—knew the goodness of sobriety was within her reach and she kept trying to get it.

She loved beer and football. She was always smiling and shining her light—unless she was crying and recovering from another relapse. She shared in many meetings that she had reached her limit and was going to stay sober. But then she would always drink again—usually because she liked to have fun. I completely relate to her on this.

At one point back in November, she had made a bigger attempt at sobriety than she had in the past. She was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober this time. She and I had/have the same sponsor. She started working the steps–like me, getting hung up on the 4th Step–and even attended a women’s sobriety weekend retreat.

She was a morning person and she and I would text at 5am when we were each talking to God–she would send me Bible verses and when sober she was filled with the holy spirit. But she couldn’t ever get more than about 30 days of sobriety.

And her alcoholism wore her down. Eventually she stopped trying as hard—after giving it her all over and over and still not being able to stay sober, she sort of resigned to her fate–she kept trying, but her periods of sobriety by this past Spring were mere days–she apparently began to add pills to her drinking.

And she passed away in her sleep a week ago—just like that. She didn’t wake up.

Below is an email from Stacey last November talking about how happy she was as well as a poem she wrote after that retreat:
—–Original Message—–
From: Anonymous <@gmail.com>
Sent: Tue, Nov 13, 2012 8:49 pm
Glad you enjoyed the poem. Writing is one of my most cherished passions that in being sober I am able to tap back into. 🙂 Got my 30 day chip today! So happy!

 

Victorious
by Anonymous
What an amazing place to be
In a place where I am faced to face me
There is no place I’d rather be
Than the here and the now
Looking back at my life
I can’t help but to think wow!
It all seems so surreal
I’m having to face how I feel
About all of the things that have been said
And all of the things that have been done
It’s surreal to be 36
And to feel my life has just begun
What a blessing it is
The gift of a new beginning
Right now, today, I feel like I am winning
Thanks to my God
For never leaving my side
I now have the courage
To no longer hide
The closer I get to Him
The more that I find
That all my life’s hardships
I seem to not mind
God is teaching me so much
But mostly about perception
To not dwell on the past as hindrance
But to embrace it as lessons
They say when the student is ready
The teacher will appear
These lessons I’m learning from Him
Are slowly ridding me of my fears
I’ve been shedding many tears
Not even sure of why they’re there
Whatever the reason is
I don’t even care
They’re obviously meant to be shed
So therefore I let them fall
And when they are done streaming
I thank my God for them all
This program of AA
Was truly God-sent my way
And each and every passing day
More gratitude sets in
The serenity I feel within
I can now accept as my friend
My prayer to my God
Is to never let it end
Serenity is not the only friend
That has come into my life
My new friends are all of you

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:8

You will be deeply missed, my friend. Look out for the rest of us please?

7 Quick-takes: 7 Reasons I Like Alcoholics Anonymous

aa-logo2Here we go again with our 7 Quick Takes Friday hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary. We reciprocate links to her blog and then post 7 “quick-takes” on our blogs.

7 Reasons Why I Like Alcoholics  Anonymous

1. Meetings

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I was always an A/B student. There are plenty of folks much smarter than I, especially probably psychiatrists and counselors. But for some reason, every time I’ve ever gone to a therapist I’ve found myself figuring out what it was she wanted me to say, then saying that.

I’m certain the therapist saw right through me.

I’d try to impress her by how introspective I was, while at the same time try to get her to like me by pretending I had all this self-awareness. If I had been honest and open to the process, I could have learned a thing or two and been truly helped. I believe in therapy, but I never did it right.

I assumed AA meetings were group therapy for drunk people, so I stayed away because “therapy didn’t work for me, right?”  Once I checked it out, though I found it is not like therapy. I am absolutely unable to get away with my bull-crap. I have to be painfully honest, in a way at first I didn’t know how to be, because inevitably the truths that come out during a meeting are so real that saying anything other than the God’s honest truth is obvious to all.  Common phrase in AA is, “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.” It’s quite refreshing, actually!

2. Fellowship

The last thing I wanted was new friends, especially with all these sober women. I had five sisters who were my best friends plus a non-family BFF, plus two kids, a husband, a house and a business to run. Understanding that any new friendships I made would take time, take me away from my already filled priorities, I decided I wouldn’t reach out to make new friends.

Plus, the word ‘fellowship” bugged me. That seemed like a thing Protestants did on Wednesday nights. It wasn’t a Catholic thing. And slogans like, “You Are Not Alone” rubbed me the wrong way because I wanted to be left alone. I was quite independent, thank you very much, so maybe you guys need fellowship but not me.

7quicktakesAfter sitting in the meetings for months, I found that I really liked these sober women.  I learned their stories, their struggles and mostly admired their courage in facing life on life’s terms.  But still I didn’t reach out.

It wasn’t until I relapsed and found that I couldn’t get back to my sober life without help, that I reached out in desperation.  And, immediately these women I had kept at arm’s length came to my rescue. And ever since then I’ve discovered the (evolving) fellowship is one of my favorite things.

3. “Sharing”

AA, like any other “organization” has developed its own lingo.  “Sharing” is when you raise your hand talk for three to five minutes in a meeting.  Initially sharing terrified me. And the more I tried to sound smart and evolved when I shared the more I was left feeling like a goof.

For example, in the beginning I would share something like this: “It’s so hard for me to stop drinking because I am married to my drinking buddy. Every day I come home to the one person I love to drink with the most. If only he would stop drinking too then I would be able to stay sober.”

Uh-uh.  This just wasn’t “honest.”  Sure it would have worked in a therapy session. Perhaps the therapist and I would have spent $100 discussing whether or not my husband was an alcoholic (he is not, btw!) or how I can separate from him for a few months while I get this sobriety thing down.

Not in an AA meeting.  And nothing was said to me, except maybe by my sponsor after the meeting—there was no real progress until I was able to share, “My husband was my drinking buddy, but his drinking has nothing to do with me. All I can do is focus on my own behavior, turn my dishonest will over to God and not drink one day at a time. I can’t control him nor should I try to.”

4. 12 Steps

It was very easy for me to like the 12 Steps because they were all very familiar to me. After Bill W, Dr Bob and the pioneers of AA wrote their book and developed the 12 Steps, a Catholic priest named Father Dowling had a meeting with Bill W to find out if he had used the principles of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola to come up with them. He had not. But the similarities were startling and there began a life-long friendship between the two men.

Turning my will over to God, doing an examination of conscience, confessing my sins, making amends, all these things are part of my beloved faith already so it was easy to like the 12 Steps.

5. Every one in positions of authority in the Church seemed to recommend AA to Catholic alcoholics.  

Believe me, I searched for a reason to believe that AA’s “higher power” and her “spirituality” contradicted the Church. But priest after priest recommend the program. In the confessional I would say, “But there are so many anti-Catholics in the meetings (which wasn’t true but that’s what I wanted to see).” And my confessor would without hesitation say, “There is nothing contrary to the Church in Alcoholics Anonymous.”

6. There are so many X-Catholics in  AA

Why would this be one of my reasons for liking the program?  I’ll tell you.  It’s wonderful, actually. Many times I’ve watched as x-Catholics come back to the Faith after working the Steps.  Apparently, after developing a way of life based on the Steps, these x-Catholics discover the Church had it right all along!  Many re-conversions are the direct result of x-Catholics getting sober in Alcoholics Anonymous.

7. My Sponsor

My sponsor, AF stuck by me when I picked up enough white chips to wallpaper my kitchen with. She never judged me, gave up on me nor told me what to do. She simply made herself available for whenever I was ready. It took a while, but once I was truly ready to live this way of life again she was there to show me the way through the Steps. The neat thing about sponsorship in AA is, when done right, sponsors are completely detached from the results of their work with another alcoholic. Helping another alcoholic is the work that helps the sponsor stay sober. They do it for themselves and that’s how it works. So, if a sponsee drinks or relapses, the sponsor doesn’t judge or take it personally. True sponsorship in AA is done with a spirit of healthy detachment and a desire to be useful, to help another person struggling. Sponsors do the work of sponsorship, but they leave the results to God.

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

 

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.

Sweet Home Alpharetta

So glad to be back home. It’s funny because every time we go to Florida we fantasize about moving to the beach.  The boys get involved in the fantasy, as well.  Ben wants to buy a boat and take surfing lessons.  Brian wants to fish, swim and have warm weather all the time.  They want to be homeschooled. I look for inexpensive beach houses that we could fix up. Most trips we even actually look at houses with a realtor.  This time though we used the Trulia iPad app which is actually more efficient.

orlando1

family photo at the capital one bowl game 1/1/2013

Our big plan now is to fix up the house we live in, sell it next August and move to the beach.  It’s unanimous we prefer the Gulf Coast, probably Pensacola or Perdido Key.  We’ve looked at Catholic schools there and it’s a big enough city for Husband to get steady work. This plan probably won’t happen. But we can dream.

And now that we’re back home I’m reminded of how much I love it here–even though it is cold.  I grew up in Alpharetta. Our house is cute and small; and we have horses and cattle on all sides of the neighboring properties.  It’s OUR home and we can be ourselves, without worrying about imposing on others.  This trip wasn’t very relaxing for me because we stayed with other families–Husband’s biological relatives in Tampa and my sister’s family in Orlando.  While both families were spectacular in hospitality, I sometimes felt like we’re imposing.

cousins scootering in orlando

cousins scootering in orlando

Truth be told, Husband, the boys and I are very, very lazy on vacation. We don’t do theme parks or big special outings.  (although we did go to the Capital One Bowl game this trip) We usually simply enjoy one another, hang out at the beach or the pool, read, dream and chill.  They wrestle in the middle of the living room, watch action TV and go fishing.  I piddle around on my iPad, read the latest Baldacci book, watch them wrestle and fish and sleep.

The highlight of the trip was seeing my sister!  It was so nice to have coffee together in the mornings and listen to her talk. My mornings at home are so quiet– it’s just me and God.

me in orlando 1/1/2013 with 2 of my 5 sistahs

me in orlando 1/1/2013 with 2 of my 5 sistahs

So, I enjoyed having her there to talk about the day.  Plus, she’s so good for me!  She convinced me to ride her bike and be active again.  She eats healthy and hardly ever drinks.  So being around her makes me healthier by osmosis.

And then my other sister came in town for the day from Jacksonville–so we had sister time on New Years Day! I HEART my sistahs.  We call ourselves (my mom and her six daughters) the “goddesses” and although that’s not very Catholic, it fits.

me and Husband at the game DAWGS WON woo hoo!  45-31 (or something like that)

me and Husband at the game DAWGS WON woo hoo! 45-31 (or something like that)

But it’s good to be home.  My bed. My things. My dog. My kitchen table. My habits and quirks.  And my meetings.  I went to the 11:30 meeting yesterday at the Alpharetta Club and it was SO GOOD to be back.  This might sound crazy but I try to go to a meeting every day. It keeps me grounded listening to all these other women share about their lives.  And it keeps me out of my own head.

we missed our GYPSY girl.

we missed our GYPSY girl.

And since I know their stories, it feels like home.  It just wasn’t the same going to a meeting in Orlando.  The meeting format was different enough to bug me.  The people were nice but I didn’t know their stories.  Husband went with me, though and that was a plus!

Glad to be home. But still fantasizing about living at the beach.  Here is a link to a lot I want to buy and build a house to live in.

Joy in the Mundane

I “chaired” the 11:30am women’s meeting today. I feel like I never make any sense but the main objective was just to start the meeting on time, follow the format, and end the meeting on time.  I said a few words about finding joy in the mundane routines of life: cooking, cleaning, paying bills, doing laundry.  All things that were made much more fascinating in the past accompanied by a couple or five drinks.

It was a good meeting, with a lot of people sharing. One lady at the end took up fifteen minutes, which was way too long.  But I felt like she needed to keep sharing plus who am I to tell her to stop? I have faith in the process and don’t worry much over stuff like that.  Some people share too long, some share too often, some share off-topic, etc..  but it all works out.  Everything gets back on track by the end.

I’m getting sick :(.  I feel like it’s bronchitis or pnuemonia or a brain tumor or something.  Or the flu.  Whatever it is, I feel like crap.

The boys went with friends to go see The Hobbit–and Husband is picking them up afterwards. I’m thinking I won’t have to make dinner because he’ll probably stop and pick them up something on the way home.  Yay. That’s good because I’m going back to bed.

Catholic Alcoholic

Father Peter Scott writes, “It is certainly true that the religious content of the 12-step A.A. meetings is abominably liberal and indifferentist, and that it will always shock and disturb a traditional Catholic with strong convictions. However, it cannot be denied that these meetings truly do work, and that they really do help alcoholics to acknowledge, confront, and come to terms with their personalities and drinking problems. It is the only easy, common way which truly does work.”

***

Serendipity led me to create this Catholic Alcoholic blog.  Who knows? Maybe it will help somebody else.  I’ll import most of my posts from my other blog and give this a go with some background already in place.

This pretty much sums me up.  Catholic—and everything that means in the full sense of the faith and word–and Alcoholic.  Some people might think putting these two words together is redundant. I see their point. So many people in my meetings “used to be” Catholic. It was important to me I seek out the ones who still love and practice our faith. These people made it possible for me to feel comfortable in their fellowship. Working the Steps and attending a lot of meetings have made me a better Catholic.  And for that I will always be grateful!

Experiencing God’s grace through the Sacraments and life of the Church and through my enthusiastic participation in a 12 Step fellowship, I’ll explore here my mind meanderings as it relates to both.  I have no idea what I want to write here right now. I’m so tired I’m just going to take a quick nap before the boys get home from school.

(3rd Step Prayer) Dear God, I offer myself to Thee–to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory of them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always.

And when I struggle with caring what other people think, I can read this from My Daily Bread.