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.

A Ring, A Robe and a Party

imagePhew! My spiritual breakthrough finally!   I had been angry at God for about two weeks! Or maybe, no, it was just a week; but it felt like two weeks.
After I took DUI school I thought I would get a hardship license; so I was sort of riding on that hope. When it didn’t happen–they wouldn’t grant me a hardship license– I crashed and spent the next week being so mad at God! Isn’t that funny I’m mad at Him for all this? I blame him for my relapse last April (I had had 6 months sober then and thought it would last forever) and felt the DUI was more than I could handle. And didn’t God say He would never give us more than we could handle?
Meanwhile He is sending ALL these people to help me! Mom, Andraya, Sally, my new sponsor Patricia! They drive me places, give me support and love — And I just keep thumbing my nose at Him being ungrateful in my heart for my lot in life, poor me. But Wednesday, after my Mom left, I was supposed to work all afternoon designing ads and invoicing. Instead I happened to pick up a book we got at Church free at Christmas that I’d never opened: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. It was written in simple enough language to penetrate even my hard heart.
After reading about having a daily scheduled routine of prayer/quiet time with God, I realized I had stopped doing that. And then reading about intentionality and continual improvement making small steps to God, and then reading about how God just waits for us to turn back to Him… my heart softened; and I put the book down and prayed…told God how SORRY I was for being such an ungrateful little brat, acknowledging finally all the blessings in my life and begged His forgiveness.
Just then His peace and warmth came back over me and He was back!!!!! And my whole attitude that I’ve had for the past week vanished, and I could start over with a clean slate and the Love of my Creator!
He was there the whole time just waiting for my return, with a ring and a robe and a party!!!

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.

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.

Zaccheaus the Crazy Tax Collector and Rehab

166_turtle-tattoo-vector-l

I was very proud of my little tramp stamp turtle tattoo in rehab even though the other ladies had more elaborate beautiful tattoos…

I liked yesterday’s Gospel explaining how Zaccheus climbed the Sycamore tree to see Jesus walk by. And rather than walking by, it’s as if Jesus senses Zaccheus desire to “see” Him and calls out to him to come down from the tree. Jesus wants to stay at the home of a sinner, which must have been shocking not only to the crowd but to Zaccheus himself. Zaccheus was probably used to being disliked by every one. As the tax collector, collaborator with Rome and the town sinner, perhaps he simply resigned to the fact that he wouldn’t have any friends, isolated with his addiction to riches.

Living in isolation from the community is something we alcoholics are familiar with. Isolating is one of my favorite character defects! I say, “I just need space.” Or, “I need peace–I want to be alone.” And I believe myself. When I’m living a lie, of course I separate myself from God and others in order to be able to continue in my comfortable way. The last thing I want is the discomfort of coming into the light and accountability of sharing my life with God and those around me.

But what does Jesus do? He senses the isolation, senses the little bit of desire in our hearts to see Him, and then He announces He wants to stay in our house.

That’s always His way. He initiates the contact through His grace and the power of the Advocate – the holy spirit.  And then He waits for us to answer. The ball is in our court.  And the easiest thing in the world to say – like Mary – is YES!  Yes, come stay in my house, Jesus! YES! And, please never leave!

Saint Catherine of Siena’s quote: “God brought you into this world without your cooperation and will not save you without your cooperation.” And Saint Augustine had a similar quote when he wrote, “God willed you without you and will not save you without you.”

All that is required of is our “yes.”  And then God takes care of the rest, one day at a time of course – as long as we say yes every single day. In the morning. That is key for me. 

The Third Step of AA is to be practiced daily, as well. “We made the decision to turn our wills (thinking) and our lives (actions) over to God (today).

My six week relapse last April and May ended as I said with a DUI in early June while on vacation in Florida.  That DUI sobered me up really quickly but I allowed it to separate me from God – I was so angry at the consequences. I was so angry that God would let something as bad as a DUI happen to me. Of course I knew the Truth, that I caused my own consequences, that it could have been much, much worse, and God is there to help me recover from my own mess; but my Pride was so huge that I couldn’t see God’s plan. It’s funny how I can “know” the Truth but still not let it penetrate me because I am happy sitting in my Pride.  ugh. gross!!!

So, I launched a magazine this summer, sober, and became a workaholic with that.  Didn’t do meetings and didn’t connect with my God but stayed sober.  In early September when my lawyer informed me I would have to do 30 days in jail or 30 days in rehab, I was angry again. So I said screw it and drank for the three weeks leading up to rehab, knowing I’d have to quit anyways so why bother.  I got out of rehab on October 28th and have been home a week. Rehab in itself was crappy. I’m sure I’ll be writing about my experiences there but what matters is I am home now and need to get myself into the routine of meetings and talking with my sponsor. I’m meeting with her today at 10am to go over step 6.  The one good thing that came from rehab is I got through my fourth step FINALLY!

Relapse and Consequences and Bottoms

Goodness. It’s been a helluva year. When I started this blog three years ago, I kept it private only for me. I used it sort of as an online private journal of sorts. I wonder now what my motives were? Why not just put my journal in an online word document? Why blog my private journal? Thinking back, I guess I have always had –as most creative types do – an ambition to have my words live on after me. Why my words would matter or be interesting to anybody after I’m gone I don’t know..but creative types like me have a deep sense of purpose–even in the midst of our despair–as if what we think, feel, and have to share matters to somebody someday some where? Who knows? It’s like an ego maniac with an inferiority complex. Nobody cares what I have to say. What I have to say is so deep and important. Maybe it will mean something to somebody? ha ha ha.. not.

So, here I am. blogging again. sober again. I had been sober for a while but relapsed in April on Spring Break. I just wanted to “have fun” lol. Have fun. Two months later of “having fun” got me more consequences, a horrible bottom, a DUI, the threat of the loss of my family… In just two months after a casual uneventful “relapse,” my whole world crashed around me. We think, “Oh I’ve been sober so long I don’t have a problem anymore.” Or, “I can handle it. It won’t get that bad this time.” la la la

So, the casual, “I’ll just have one glass of wine on spring break,” turned into daily drinking within weeks. It’s insane! Sometimes I get so angry with God-why me? Why can’t I have a drink or two at parties or with dinner? And He says this is my cross. This is what He has given me to help me, my family and others. God gave me alcoholism—and yes, I am clearly an “alcoholic”- in order to help myself and help others.

I’m back. I’m back here blogging. And oh I have stories to tell lol! Warm prayers and love to all of you,

Reg

Alcohol + Alcoholic = Death, RIP My Sweet Friend

Catholic Alcoholic

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…

View original post 730 more words

Darn it.

Darn it. I’m behind on posting and I just got all caught up over on my Living Sober Through the Psalms blog and realized I posted all the drafts in this blog on accident.  So, I’ll fix it all in the morning.  I hope y’all are doing well out there!  I’ve been good. But not balanced. I’ve been very one-sided in my focus lately and I want to get back to balance, which always starts with getting back to my morning ritual of prayer and meditations.

But for now, I’m pooped. Good night.

Number 9

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?