Relapse Toolbox for Catholic Alcoholics

FYI. This is what happens when we relapse: another DUI, divorce filing from our spouse, living alone in an apartment away from our children, losing trust with homegroup friends, interlock device in our cars, more therapy, more medicine, more white chips, more disappointed faces of loved ones, more pain for everybody—least of all ourselves. But ourselves is all we think about when we’re in the midst of it all.  Not worth the buzz, I promise.

I’m gathering my Catholic tools to make another go at it. Yes, another. It’s worth it, I know. You know how I know? You know how I know it’s worth it?

I’ve had it. I had sobriety. I touched it, lived it, experienced it, loved it. I relished it, appreciated it, was grateful for it, humbled by it, in awe of it. Witnessed the dynamics-change within my family. Then, I took it for granted and lost it.

I have my reasons/excuses. But are there really any valid reasons for giving up the gift of sobriety? Not this gift. This gift is precious, priceless. Special. Something non-alcoholics will never understand. The gift of sobriety in the life of a true blood alcoholic is priceless.

It truly must be ONE. DAY. AT. A. TIME. A cliche I’ve always disliked because I am an enthusiastic dreamer of future dreams. Entrepreneur. Optimist. An “anything is possible” person. But I’ve met my match. The liar of lies finds our weaknesses and beats us down. That’s when God’s gift of humility can open our eyes to new lives.

Here’s to a(nother) new life, friends.

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All of my Catholic alcoholic tools to embark back on the path of sobriety are rooted in the love of Christ and Christ’s special love of sinners:

Rosary: I was broke but paid $100 for this Rosary because I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, it was handmade by a local very elderly woman who carefully chose each bead and prayed as she made it.

Matt Talbot medal: Venerable Matt Talbott, still in waiting for official sainthood. Patron of alcoholics. He’s been there with us in the fight.

Brown scapular: my sister gave me this after my first relapse and I wore it for two months. Now it hangs from my rear view mirror in my car. I never asked her if she wanted it back. I know that was selfish of me but it is so beautiful to me because it’s worn and not brand-new looking.

Prayer card to Saint Jude, patron saint of impossible causes: None other than the alcoholic can understand the utter impossibleness of recovery.

Prayer card of Saint Mary Magdalen: I think that Mary Magdalen isn’t the Mary who was saved from adultery or the demons or at the well…but I still think of her this way when I ask her to intercede for me with her Lord. I believe Mary Magdalen is actually the one at the feet of Jesus listening to him talk while her sister Martha is doing the dishes. That would totally be me lol. If any of y’all smarter than me can educate me on the real Mary Magdalen please do?

White chip: my Aa white chip. Seriously. I KNOW recovery is possible without AA. But not for me. I need AA. And I need daily AA. Not trying to offend any Catholic purists out there. Just speaking my own truth here.

Sacred Heart badge: the ORIGINAL white chip, sister Ignatia (friends with  Bill W and Doctor Bob) would give this sacred heart badge to each alcoholic who left the hospital after detox and told them they must return it to her if they drank again.

My one-year medallion– one of my most prized possessions. I picked this up on September 18, 2007 in the presence of my mother and my five sisters who flew into town for the occasion.

“Lord what do you want me to do with my life?” prayer card: One of my most favorite Irish priests, father Brian Higgins, was head of seminarians in the early 2000s here in Atlanta. He was also a priest at my parish. He gave the best and most convicted pro-life sermon i’d ever heard. He gave these prayer cards out and I kept two. Over ten years ago but it’s always been in my fridge since. Great question to ask myself each morning right?

Saint Michael the Archangel prayer card: i also  have his medal on my key chain. who better to fight for us than the angel who fought satan himself. Defend us in battle against this disease.

Our Lady of Knots: i like this title of Mary, the untier of knots. She calls on her son for us to untie the knots in our hearts and minds that keep us from coming into closer relationship with Him.

If you happen to come across this post out there, then add your own tools that help you in your recovery path!




49 thoughts on “Relapse Toolbox for Catholic Alcoholics

  1. Wow! I wish I had your faith! I believe in you, and you are helping me to believe in me. More than you will ever know. Love and HUGS and INRI, Sally

  2. I’m still trying to process all you’ve been through. My heart breaks for you, your ENTIRE family, friends and those who follow you through this blog. i found this blog, i suppose right before you quit writing. So, so many things I can/ could relate to. I wanted more, but not at this expense. I love you – a stranger in B’ham,, but your sister in Christ who understands – and is so very thankful – for every word you write! You are not alone. #5

  3. This scares me a bit to read this, because we are so fragile and I know you tried so hard. Then I think to myself – I lost sobriety twice now and I’m on my third stint of 3 years without a drink, but I see how fragile we all are and it scares me that it can be so easy to tip the other way again. I literally have days where I think – I’ve had it and I need a drink, but the only thing that keeps me from that drink now is 1) Remembering how horribly physically ill I get for two days after each night of drinking – think about that, it just compounds on top of itself. Try recovering for two days when you drink every night, you can’t get caught up and I picture that and it makes me ill to think of it happening again. 2) Remembering it got so bad once that my body shutdown and I ended up in the emergency room, I was so out of it that I thought I was going to die and I kept thinking what a horrible state of a person I was to die then and present myself to God as a wretch that wasted His gifts on me. 3) My son is an alcoholic and finally quit after 10 years and I don’t want him see me relapse and then have him think to himself – “why not start again, dad did”, I can’t do that to him when he’s been sober for 3 years now. These are mine things that keep me going, that and literally spending every day praying and reading Holy material and Scripture – and lots of Church!

    You were kind enough to email me on my second relapse and understood and helped me. You’re now added to my list of people I pray for daily. Hang in there. May God bless you and your family always.

    • God bless you. i mean that. I don’t typically say stuff like God bless you because it sound so trite. I mean it. I’m so happy you are sober. I know what sober feels like. Don’t ever give it up. It’s a gift that when returned is difficult to receive again.

      • Thanks Number 9. I was very fortunate, because I’m Orthodox and we went into the Nativity and for us thats a strict fast for 40+ days and I just didn’t want to have to go to confession every week saying that I broke the fast with my alcoholism again. I limped through that Nativity season, but that 40 days was my kick start and fortunately Lent wasn’t far behind and thats 40+ days of strict fasting as well and by the end of the two seasons I had enough strength from God to keep going. Now I see the importance of fasting in a whole different way. Anyway thanks for listening and thanks again for you kind comments. You’ll do good, I know you will 🙂

    • I really liked what you had to say and your personal reasons for staying sober. Do you go to AA? I have not found AA helpful here in my city, but surprisingly, I have found the LDS 12 Step Addiction Recovery Program extremely helpful, inspiring, and uplifting. If you have one in your area and are religiously inclined, you might want to check it out. They have their own version of the 12 Steps, with the Atonement of Jesus Christ at the heart, which I think, even though I am a practicing Catholic, is a good thing.

  4. Hi,

    If this email goes to number 9, I would love to chat with you sometime this week….

    Prayers for your recovery!!

    Christine 314-578-5949

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Beloved. Good morning. I am not sure exactly how to write to you. You are blessed and your are cursed. Frankly, I don’t think I have read something so tragic and beautiful at the same time, at least if one is Catholic. I could go on and on about the depth of your spiritual knowledge, but that would so easily distract us from the real work before you. This is of course very serious business. One of the best things someone said to me in the midst of my alcoholic self delusion, was how I could describe my condition so well, yet be so casual, emotionally, and detached from the normal fear one would experience surrounded by the horrendous risks I was taking, at THE BODY level of your being. QUIT DREAMING. I pray that you touch the wounds of Jesus, touch the wounds in your own sacred heart, and rest in God’s unending love for you, love for you. Bath in it, be cleansed of this evil thing in you that is killing all the life you have given, and more importantly been given to you, to date. CHOOSE LIFE! Please, choose life. Now walk with Jesus every god damn step! You have much to give this world. I know this. You are meant for something very important. I am here to tell you this. But you cannot take another drink for the rest of your life. A life awaits you that will every day feel like Freedom and Resurrection. Love will be restored, healing will occur, joy will be shared. You will truly be happy in ways you cannot imagine. All this is possible, but it is up to you, if you can actually touch your pain.

    • Oh Ric what a beautiful perfect comment thank you! You are so right how one of my ways of coping with the tragedy and reality of my alcoholism is by minimizing. You nailed it. And your suggestion to dig deep and touch the wounds of Christ to understand what I’m facing is exactly what I need to hear. Thank you so much.

  6. Dear Number9. Thank you for the bottom of my heart for writing this wonderful blog and for being here for us. My story is similar. I have followed you for several months but today I feel compelled to reach out. Twice over the last 25 years I have managed several years of sobriety. But after my last relapse 5 years ago I am struggling big time and can’t go more than a couple of days without caving in. I, too, am Catholic born and raised. I pray daily to Jesus and His Blessed Mother along with Novenas to St. Jude, St. Anthony and St. Paul to free me from this bondage of alcohol. My husband and I had the privilege to visit the Holy Land earlier this year which was incredible! I got to walk where Jesus walked and carried His cross. We sailed the Sea of Galilee. I touched the very place where Jesus was born in Bethlehem. And touched Calvary and visited the tomb of the Resurrection. All the time praying for my mind to be transformed and for the compulsion to drink to be lifted. But for whatever reason it didn’t happen. I continued to drink every night back at our hotel in Israel and still do now at home. I guess God has other plans for me. But I am not giving up! Tomorrow is a new day and I begin another bible study at my parish. I will be praying for you. Please pray for me. Thank you again! Please keep posting! You got some really great feedback. I am so grateful to everyone who commented. God bless!

    • Can’t write now but will later tonight. You and I are the same. I’m in day one. Prayers we both make it through day one! Then day two!

    • This is quite inspirational. Thank you. I am a practicing Catholic and deal with a daily addiction: kratom. Thankfully as of October 1st it will be illegal to purchase in the USA. I daily pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and study the Rule of St. Benedict, and actually immerse myself in the teachings of Holy Mother Church. Recently St. Augustine’s “Confessions”, specifically Book 8, has been especially touching and inspiring—perhaps I will post on it tomorrow. (I had thought about posting it today, but it will no doubt be a lengthier post, and I wanted to be fresh in the morning after prayer.) But I wanted everyone here to know we are not alone in our journeys. Please continue to share your uplifting comments. May our Lord and Lady bless you. Sobriety is a gift, and as we recite the Act of Hope daily, let us place all our trust in Jesus.

  7. Thank you!! Forgot to add that I visit our Adoration Chapel often and sit there crying. Have also experienced some dreaded disastrous Confessions…feel better afterwards….only for my resolve to go …well you know 😦

  8. You remain on my Divine Mercy Chaplet prayer list. Recently I had a priest ask me in Confession, “What do you want from God?” My only answer was “to be free.” It is possible and that is our Hope. So good to see you back and fighting for freedom. God love you, Cindy

  9. And then, instead of a mere higher power we have Jesus Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Alter. What more could we ask?

  10. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I’m sorry that things have not been easy and that there are some hard things ahead for you, but I know and believe and pray that you can do this. You’ve done it before, and you’ll manage it again. Keep going, keep trusting. God’s got you in His hands, so you’ve got this. Xxx

  11. I pray the Rosary every day. Morning and evening prayers from a 1957 Saint Joseph Daily Missal, the Angelus 3 times a day. Prayer to Saint Michael and Saint Monica. All this and I talk to our Lord in personal prayer. I no longer attend AA, it’s not for me but when I left I didn’t burn any bridges.

    • Keep on in God’s love and persevere. Remember the story of the importunate widow. Let us never cease blessing God, thanking Him for our Faith, and ask to be set free from our chains of bondage. He is sure to hear and respond.

  12. I am just venturing on my second long-term (meaning for more than just Lent) period of sobriety, which hopefully will be for the rest of my life. Thanks to the Lord, and the intercession of Our Lady and many, many saints, I had been sober for more than two years, when I met my now ex-husband. He was an alcoholic (I realized too late) and he convinced me that it was okay for me to drink again. Obviously, this could not end well and didn’t. He was a terrible husband and I was miserable.

    Recently, when I mentioned to my parents that I was thinking about attending AA meetings, they looked at me as if I were crazy. I had to explain to them that, although I may appear normal, when I allowed myself to imbibe (weekends mostly), it would take over my thoughts. What would I drink? Where would I go? How would I keep my drinks cold? How would I get home? Thankfully, they had no idea what I was talking about. God is good.

    In sum, I want to thank you so much for this blog. I never went to AA, and I have been sober for three months now, but there have been some trying moments. This weekend, with family visiting, my parents shared a number of drinks with everyone. I felt left out. Started thinking, “Well, if I am just drinking at the house, what’s the harm?” I had to keep reminding myself of how much better I feel when I abstain and that alcohol (at least for me) acts as a barrier between myself and God…an unacceptable situation. I am thinking of coming up with a moniker such as the Devil’s Tool, and imagining the devil’s face on a bottle or something….to really drive it home when the time comes that I think I can control it again.

    Anyway, I really needed support this weekend, and discovering this blog was a blessing. Thank you.

  13. I’m Robert recovering alcoholic. 5 months sober and very much grateful for all that I have only through aa is it possible for me to stay sober.a day at a time. Hail hail.

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