Strong Drink is Not for Princes or Kings: Proverbs 31:4-7

It is not for kings, Lemuel,

not for kings to drink wine;

strong drink is not for princes,

5Lest in drinking they forget what has been decreed,

and violate the rights of any who are in need.

6Give strong drink to anyone who is perishing,

and wine to the embittered;

7When they drink, they will forget their misery,

and think no more of their troubles.

My Thoughts on Why AA Can Be Difficult for Traditional, Practicing Catholics

split_pixel_personality__by_monsters_scare_you-d4yv6f7Because of this forum, I hear often from Catholics who are hesitant to go to AA. Certainly, AA isn’t for everybody. And there are more ways to get sober than Alcoholics Anonymous. What I hope to do is talk about the reasons why it was process for me to fully embrace the “program.” But, I’m glad that I did.  Maybe some of this resonates with you guys.

The Big Book
I like the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I do. It makes a lot of sense, outlines a program of action and provides stories of alcoholics who have recovered using the program’s 12 Steps.  I do, however, still get uncomfortable when members of AA seem to treat the Big Book like the Bible.  This turns me off very much. Since AA is a spiritual program, it sometimes feels like some people worship the Big Book, quoting portions of it as if it is Gospel. This uncomfortability kept me from embracing parts of AA that would help me.

Finally, a friend told me the Big Book is not the “Bible” of AA, it’s just the “textbook.”  This helped me tremendously!  Looking at the Big Book as a text-book, I was able to read it without feeling threatened, or like I was being sacrilegious.  AA is not a religion, like Catholicism or Judaism. Some members do take it to that level; but if I’m able to look beyond this I can get a lot of insight and help from reading the Big Book.

My spiritual life is guided by the Church, not by AA.  So, as long as I can consider the Big Book the “text-book,” I am ok.  If I start quoting it like it’s the Bible, then I’m probably in trouble.

Community “Spirituality” with Non-Catholics
We Catholics have a lot of other spiritual practices, Sacraments, Mass, saints, devotions, the Rosary, Mary, priests, the Pope, etc… AA is not a Catholic devotion or Catholic spiritual practice. So, it’s uncomfortable for us to be in a spirituality-type meeting other than authentically Catholic ones.

In AA, in the beginning we’re encouraged to go to 90 meetings in 90 days. This was VERY helpful for me. The meetings were/are key for me–I hear other people getting through life sober and it gives me the strength to do so. Plus, my heart opens up to these people in a way that was impossible when I was isolating in alcohol.

But going one hour a day every day seems to me a lot like “worship.”  It seems a lot like “daily church.”  It seems like I’m starting to spend a lot of my time sitting with people whose faith and spirituality are much likely much different from mine–and none of it is Catholic.

Wouldn’t it be better if I go to daily Mass for 90 days instead of AA meetings for 90 days?  Certainly there’d be more grace!  But while going to daily Mass would be amazing, it’s still important to attend the meetings for me. In AA we focus on the problem we’re trying to overcome–alcohol.  There are all kinds of spiritual persuasions, but a strong Catholic can look beyond other’s ways of doing things and focus on the common problem: alcohol dependency.

12 Steps
Why would the Steps be problematic for traditional, practicing Catholics?  They’re a pretty simple, straightforward, action plan of turning my alcohol problem and my life to God. But they’re not Catholic.  I know I keep saying this, but for devout Catholics, we feel we already have the Steps. Turning our will over to God, surrendering, profession of Faith, examination of conscience, confession, reconciliation, penance, giving back to others through service.

So, why would I need AA and why would I need to work the Steps, as they say?

I’ve struggled with this one a lot. I’ve discovered that for we Catholics who already have all the resources of the Church it’s still important we sit down with another alcoholic, one-on-one and work through each Step, as it relates to our drinking.  Something about spending time with another alcoholic and working the Steps as they are written actually ends up making us better Catholics, more inclined to the Sacraments.

Sponsorship
I don’t need a sponsor. I already have a spiritual advisor or confessor.  My sponsor isn’t Catholic. How could she help me? This was my thinking when I first began to attend meetings and participate in AA.

However, I’ve learned sponsorship is key. This is the one person that you actually confide most of your bad drinking behavior too.  They listen and don’t judge; all they do is encourage you in the Steps. They tell you how they did it, how you too can just not drink one day at a time. Sponsors come in all sorts of varieties, but if you get one like mine, you’re blessed. Getting and staying sober is tough. Sponsors are there to guide us through the Steps because they’ve done them before. Also, in order for them to stay sober they have to help others get sober.

Tolerance vs Fear of Influence
This might not be an issue for every one but for me, someone who had previously been pretty susceptible to peer pressure, who avoids conflict and prefers everybody to be happy and get along–for me, I struggled with tolerance vs fear of influence.

What do I mean by this–I’ve always been and am tolerant of everybody, all religions, races, sexes, political-leanings, sizes, colors of people–I can “live and let live” pretty well.  But, I do prefer to stay closest to the people who are like me, or that are the way that I want to be. Because I am easily influenced by others. If you’re funny, I gravitate to you. So, I worried I would be influenced away from Catholicism if I got too involved in AA.  I worried I would lose my Faith.

That didn’t happen.  In fact, being a part of it actually made me a better Catholic, a better person even.  It’s hard to explain. But I really was pretty on guard at first.  Worried I would be infected with heretic points of view (ha ha–sounds lame). But in the meetings everybody respects (for the most part) everybody else’s faiths (or no faith).

So, these are my thoughts. Feel free to share yours or tell me why I’m wrong 🙂  XOXO

Number 9

The Fix Interviews Co-Chairs of the Congressional Addiction, Recovery and Treatment Caucus

the fix logoOne of my favorite magazines is The Fix, “addiction and recovery straight-up.”  For those of us interested in this kind of thing there are a lot of great articles published each week.  Here is one which highlights an interview The Fix did with the two co-chairs of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus.

In this piece there is information about a possible “Americans In Recovery” Act.  Also, there is a discussion about how policy needs to address early intervention and prevention. Most policies and treatments are affective after the fact, but preventing our children from becoming addicted in the first place is so important to me. As a parent, I just can’t leave this disease to genetics when it comes to my children.

Here is the intro… read the full article here:

It’s been said that addiction and recovery don’t get enough attention in Washington, DC—a result of the stigma attached to the disease, as well as the reluctance of some sober people to speak out about what they and their families have been through. And the latter is precisely what is needed to push forward a positive legislative agenda on addiction and recovery, according to Rep. Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, who co-chairs the 62-member Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus alongside Rep. John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana, who is a physician.

Read the full article HERE.

Bishop arrested for drunken driving

Priests are people, too.

I just read this breaking news that Bishop Robert J. McManus, head of the Diocese of Worcester, was arrested for driving under the influence this weekend after police stopped him in Narragansett, R.I., police said.

McManus was arrested at 10:32 p.m. Saturday on charges of drunken driving, leaving the scene of an accident, and refusing a chemical test, Narragansett Police Captain Sean Coorigan said. McManus is to be arraigned Tuesday in district court in Wakefield, R.I.

In a meeting the other day, people were sharing about how many times they drove drunk and didn’t get stopped. Hundreds of times. When you think about it, this is very scary. When we are driving our families around at night, we may very well cross paths with drunk drivers. I did it. It’s horrible.

So, now a Bishop has been arrested for drunk driving. He should know better right? We ALL should know better.

Just don’t do it.

35 More to 50

photoHusband and I are not very good communicators. Whomever invented texting saved my marriage because although we aren’t good telling each other how we feel or even talking about the budget, we are good at texting. And we flirt via text.

When Monsignor Richard Lopez married us 15 1/2 years ago, we thought marriage would be easy. At least I did. I thought certainly it would be easier than dating–and we could live in the same house.

But these last couple of years have been hard. Like, really hard. Financially, emotionally, miscarriage, alcohol, relationally, just hard.

Sometimes I stop and think about how grateful I am that we were married in the Church, that we had a nuptial Mass and were surrounded by all of our family and friends. I am grateful our marriage is so blessed. Because it takes supernatural grace to sustain marriages through hard times. God is definitely responsible for these 15 years.

I thought about this and texted Husband a little bit ago. I wrote, “15 Years is a long time.” And he made my day when he wrote back, “35 more to 50.”

I think about the debate going on right now in this country regarding gay “marriage.” It doesn’t make sense to me that two people of the same sex could be married. But I think it’s only a matter of time before it’s the law of the land. Just like contraception and abortion. These things change society. Whole cultures change based on these types of things.

But for me, and for my family, we’re Catholic first.

Spring 2013 Issue of Twelve-Step Review: Christian Friendship

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward to taking my kids to Opening Night of this Movie

MovieStills_CoryBrand1My boys are aware of the effects alcoholism has on families. As middle schoolers they’re mature enough to understand the themes and relate to the recovery and redemption message of Home Run, which opens in theatres across America this weekend.

Supporters/sponsors of the film include Celebrate Recovery (a Christian-based excellent recovery program), Iron Sharpens Iron, Fathers.com, and the National Fatherhood Initiative.  Gotta love THAT.

I’m all about boys and baseball. And I’m all about responsible and modeling fatherhood.  And any Christian messages that are mixed in will be icing on the cake!  Can’t WAIT to see this.

Here is a teaser from the presser. I’ll review on Saturday, of course:

HOME RUN

Freedom is Possible

Baseball all-star Cory Brand knows what it takes to win in the big leagues. But off the field, with memories of his past haunting him, his life is spiraling out of control.

Hoping to save her client’s career and reputation after a DUI and a team suspension, Cory’s agent sends him back to the small town where he grew up. Forced to coach the local youth baseball team and spend eight weeks in the only recovery program in town, Cory can’t wait to return to his old life as quickly as possible.

As his young players help him experience the joy of the game, Cory discovers his need to find freedom from his past and hope for his future … and win back the love he left behind.  With this unexpected second chance, Cory finds himself on a powerful journey of transformation and redemption.

Based on thousands of true stories, HOME RUN is a powerful reminder that with God, it’s never too late … because freedom is possible.

Sober Sundays vol. 3

sober sundaysThis “Sober Sundays” link-up is party time. And you’re invited to the party. There are 2 ways to participate, so CLICK HERE for instructions or just click on the funny frog face below and figure it out. Feel free to add more than one link.

Sweet Sundays. Sundays are days of rest. Real rest. Not the recovering-from-a-hangover type of rest. Many of us made promises to ourselves and others on Sundays–we would quit drinking, the result of having too much on Saturday nights.

Let’s make a weekly collection of links to great posts that might just help the newly sober or trying to get sober alcoholic. Let’s share our experience, strength and hope with each other and the newcomer as we’re all in this together.

“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



Lots of Bars and Lots of Churches

life-on-the-beachThe interview went well. I really liked the Publisher, the paper and the community. My assignment now is to write a few faux hard news articles to submit for review and then hopefully interview again in a couple of weeks.  We found a house we like which is only two blocks from the Catholic school. How cool is that?!

There are two Catholic schools here that seem to be the “good” ones.  The very best one is so beautiful and seems to be top rated in academics, as well.  I like the second best one better though because according to their school calendar online they take the students to Mass every Friday, like we do at our current school in Atlanta.

The other school it seems only takes the students to Mass once per month–well, it appears they alternate classes for Mass so one Friday the 8th graders go and another Friday the 3rd graders, etc..  I’m sure it’s “fine” that way, but it tells me a little about a school’s heart if they make Mass equal in priority to everything else at the school.

And I found a Church nearby on the first day we were here. That’s how I roll. Before I do anything else, I check out the Catholic churches. I drove right over there to take a look at it and noticed it is very traditional, which I love. And there was a Mary statue outside, a beautiful one of Mary in her blue mantle, stepping on the serpent.

I Googled the pastor and get this: he is a recovering alcoholic! A Monsignor–that’s the awful (and wonderful) thing about Google. I was just trying to get a feel for him—I wanted to make sure he wasn’t a “progressive” pastor, you know? I wanted to make sure the Eucharist is kept behind the altar and there is Eucharistic adoration at the Church. And there is.

When I Googled the Monsignor I saw he had been arrested for DUI in 2009 and that’s how I figured out he was in recovery. There was another story that led me to another story that explained how he had gone away for treatment after the DUI.  This made me like him A LOT. I love recovering alcoholics. They’re some of my most favorite people.  Drunk alcoholics, not so much.

Speaking of Googling…I noticed now that I have this blog and I write for a couple of other blogs, mainly Catholicmom.com that my name and “Catholic Alcoholic” comes up, as well.  Not a great thing for me going through a job search!  What’s the first thing prospective employers do when they receive an interesting resume? Exactly. They Google.

Oh well.  Nothing I can do about that now.  It’s now part of my “permanent record,” out there in cyberspace that I am in fact an alcoholic.  I suppose there are worse things I could be?

So….

Now what? I have noticed there are a lot of bars down here.  A lot of bars. And churches. ha ha. that’s funny.  And tattoo parlors.  Yes,  a LOT of bars.

Buy the Book: Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics

stations-cross-for-alcoholics-paul-sofranko-paperback-cover-artJust in time for Good Friday, I’ve discovered, The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics by Paul Sofranko, a terrific e-book written by my friend who blogs over at ‘Sober Catholic.’

Sofranko also wrote, The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics. You can read my review of that book here.

From the Catholic Sun, “Sofranko, a recovering alcoholic himself, has added one more element to the whole scheme of fighting addiction — hope. While many or even most self-help books suggest that we are the only ones capable of fixing our brokenness simply by reading the book, Sofranko elevates the place of prayer in the healing process and reminds readers of the necessity of relying on God for the grace to overcome our addictions.”

At our parish and I expect in most parishes the stations of the cross are offered every Friday during Lent. I usually only do them on Good Friday, though; and I like to do them alone. I know God likes us to worship Him in community with others—and I do that, of course—-but when I really want to experience grace, I like to have Him all to myself.

So, I’ll take my children through them and then later come back and do them by myself.

Good Friday is one of my most meaningful and spiritual days of the year.  More than Christmas. More than Easter! I love how in our Catholic faith, I can go into Church and by myself walk around the stations, pray, kneel, sit, read—and nobody bothers me. Ha ha!  I am not being anti-social, I just want to hang out with God in His house by myself. Nobody comes up to me and says, “Are you okay?”

Before I was married, and my parents lived in another state, I would spend Easters alone. Three years in a row I went to Stone Mountain after Mass on Easter Sunday just to climb the mountain and sit there.  I think normal people might feel sorry for me, spending Easter alone, but I LOVED IT.  I was not alone at all.  I was completely enveloped in the Alleluia and the risen Lord. The last thing I wanted, ha ha ha, was to be with other people.  I’m so weird!

Back to the book, and from the publisher:

The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics is a book that is rooted in an ancient Catholic devotion. It is intended to assist Catholics and other Christians find deeper meaning in their struggles with alcoholism, by connecting the oftentimes hard road of sobriety with Jesus’ suffering road to His Crucifixion. The reader sees that their old alcoholic ‘self’ is being led to the Cross and the joy of eventual resurrection of a new sober self can follow. Whether they are still drinking and struggling, or have been sober for many years and still have difficulties coping with sobriety, this book should help readers maintain that sobriety.

I particularly like “Jesus falls for the third time.” What a lesson on life that is! If God came down here to show us that it’s okay to fall again and again as long as we pick ourselves back up and keep going, keep carrying our crosses–then those of us who have fallen a few times can take comfort. Who cares if the world thinks I’m a loser. Get back up. Keep going. He’s right there with me.

I still feel a little weird walking into Church with my iPad…even though my readings are on my tablet and many of my prayers…it still feels weird–but this Friday, I’ll be doing just that as I take the Stations of the Cross with this e-book by Paul Sofranko.  It’s only a matter of time before we all have tablets in the pews, right?

My oldest son came home from school last week after having done the Stations with the whole school community. The eighth graders acted out the stations and gave running commentary for the rest of the younger children. Ben was telling me about this and reminded me, “Mom, it’s not always a good thing to go along with the crowd. The crowd is who killed Jesus.”

The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics by Paul Sofranko is just $2.99:

But The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics on Amazon

Buy it on iTunes

Buy it for your Nook

The Way of the Cross is not only a great testimony to an inner depth and maturity, but it is in fact a school for interiority and consolation. It is also a school for the examination of conscience, for conversion, for inner transformation and compassion — not as sentimentality, as a mere feeling, but as a disturbing experience that knocks on the door of my heart, that obliges me to know myself and to become a better person.”  – Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI