Philadelphia Calix Society Has It Goin’ On

cardinal rigaliWe’re only in the beginning stages of launching a Calix Society chapter here in Atlanta, but I’ve been so impressed with the Philadelphia “Philly”  Calix because of how active they are. Here is a link to their web site to learn more.

Below is an excerpt taken from the Philly Calix website. I was excited to read this as this is what I would love for to one day happen in Atlanta–a conference on addiction supported by our Archdiocese. But I can’t get ahead of myself, as here in Atlanta Calix is just a zygote.

The conference referenced below was actually held in the Fall of 2010, when Cardinal Rigali was still the Archbishop of Philadelphia.

Today, Cardinal Rigali is one of the Cardinals entering conclave on Tuesday to elect our next Pope!

Here is an article from last month where Cardinal Rigali talks about the qualities he would like to see in the next Pope.  I tend to agree wholeheartedly with him.

Here is a link to the book Cardinal Rigali wrote in 2010 about breaking free from addiction.

From the Philly Calix web site:

Cardinal Rigali’s Conference on Addictions

On Friday November 5th (2010) Cardinal Rigali, (the then) Archbishop of Philadelphia, held a one-day conference on addictions. The conference was titled the same as his book published this year on addictions, “Let the Oppressed Go Free: Breaking the Bonds of Addiction”. Approximately 375 people attended the conference including seven from the Philly Calix units. We had a table set up with a nice display of Calix information. Almost all of those that stopped by the table had never heard of Calix and were excited to learn about our society.

The conference was covered by the archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard & Times. The November 11th edition had a front page article on the conference. In the online version they included a link for addiction recovery resources and that contained a link to an article written by our own Amy N. about Calix. We also found a link to Cardinal Rigali’s homily at the closing Mass published in the print version of the CS&T.

The Philadelphia Calix Society chapter is a model for the rest of the country, with four different groups that meet more than once per month to practice the 11th Step with other Catholics in recovery.

Book Review: Recovery Rosary for Alcoholics and Addicts

Book Review: Recovery Rosary-Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts
By Paul Sofranko,
Published: April 01, 2012, Words: 12,824, English, ISBN: 9781476307558
Review:  A+

RosaryCoverWhen I first started to be “public” with this blog–yeah, I was a little nervous about being openly alcoholic–I surfed around for kindred spirits before “coming out.”  I found one in Paul Sofranko (Paulaholic) via his resourceful blog Sober Catholic.

My New Year’s resolution was to pray the Rosary every day.  When I discovered he had written a book, Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts, I naturally purchased it on the spot.  Impulsivity is one of my character defects, but in this case it boded well for me! The eBook version for my iPad mini was only $3.99, so I wasn’t taking much of a risk.

It’s simply wonderful!

From the Smashwords description: “The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts” helps people to reflect on their recovery and relationships with others, and ultimately with Jesus Himself. Whether people are still struggling with their addictions, or have been clean and sober for a few weeks, months, or years, the reflections will lead them to meditate on the spiritual growth they have achieved so far.”

Loving the Rosary as I do, I was pleased Sofranko strikes the delicate balance between protecting and honoring the format and mysteries of this most holy spiritual practice, but at the same time providing a fresh take for recovering alcoholics to meditate alongside Jesus and Mary.

Contrary to popular belief, the Rosary is not about the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is about Jesus. Catholics believe Mary points the way to Jesus; and through Mary we are able to develop an even closer relationship with our Savior.  What was it like to give birth and raise the Son of God? Luke 2:1-7.  How happy must Mary have been when she and Joseph found the child Jesus praying in the Temple after having lost him for three days? Luke 2:41-52.  What’s the mother-son dynamic at play during Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana? John 2:1-11. What would it have felt like for Jesus when he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? Matthew 26:36-45. Why was it so important to Jesus to give us his mother before he died on the cross?  John 19:25-27.

All these things we ponder as we meditate on the holy Scripture passages while fingering the delicate beads and repeating the Hail Mary prayer over and over..  Through the Rosary, we go deep into the life of Jesus and contemplate these things.

And Sofranko points out to us, “The Rosary is Twelve-Step-friendly.”

The 11th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous states:

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.”

As we understand Him.”

Sofranko continues, “You want to know God’s will for you?  The Bible is a good place to start looking. You want a great role model for following the will of God?  His own Mother is a perfect example. By praying the Rosary you will be meditating on the Scriptural passages that each section (mystery) is based. You can nicely combine Mary’s submission to God’s will with direction from Sacred Scripture.”

Jesus in the Temple Luke 2:46-50In the Introduction, the author explains to the unfamiliar exactly what the Rosary is and what it means–in simple terms even non-Catholics can understand.  He clears up some common misconceptions as he explains how Biblically based and how in line with 12 Step Recovery the Rosary truly is.

As he takes us through each of the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous mysteries, Sofranko explains a mystery, “is something divine that we cannot fully understand with our limited human intellect.”  He then for our reference provides precise Bible verses where each mystery is highlighted in the Word of God. At the end of each chapter he offers a meditation for the recovering person, suggesting we consider each of his meditations in light of where each is in his or her recovery walk. He explains that the meditations are meant to be personalized for the individual in order that the reader ponders his or her own step on the path.

rosary1I wholeheartedly recommend Recovery Rosary certainly for all Catholics in recovery, but even for all Christians who wish to expand their meditation practice of the 11th Step to include the Scriptural passages and the life of Jesus.

To purchase (seriously guys–just $3.99!), please visit the order page on Sofranko’s blog here.  Or, you can find it in all the major online booksellers:

on Amazon
on Smashwords
at Createspace

I look forward in this time of Lent especially to diving into Paul’s second book, “The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics.”  Thank you Paulaholic for these recovery treasures!

Check out this other review of Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts on the Phoenix Diocese newspaper:
The Catholic Sun

Book Review: “Catholic Alcoholic: A Witness to Addiction and Redemption”

Book Review: “Catholic Alcoholic: A Witness to Addiction and Redemption“, by Annetta Sanow Sutton

Grade:  B-

Review:  Wonderful, Tragic, Disappointing

books____by_krzysztofwojtczakOne can imagine my excitement when I discovered this book Catholic Alcoholic by Annetta Sanow Sutton published just last year (2012)by Beaver’s Pond Press.  The book has the same name as my blog. I purchased it immediately on my Nook and couldn’t wait to dive into it.  After the boys were in bed last night, I read for 3 ½ hours straight and finished the book.

I decided to write a review of the book here and have had lots of thoughts over the last twelve hours about what I read.  I prayed God would guide me in my review because it’s always best when He guides my thinking and my writing.  His guidance unfortunately won’t make my review perfect or holy or truth—but His guidance will no doubt temper some of my shortcomings and presumptions.

Here goes:


  • A wonderful memoir of Sutton’s life, beautifully written, touchingly told family stories of growing up influenced by alcoholism and Catholicism in North Dakota
  • The stories of her mother, father and sisters were told with so much detail and memory, which made me feel a kinship with and a closeness to her “characters” and to her!
  • She loves her Catholic faith as I do; and this is evident in her writing and in her life story—it takes courage in today’s political and cultural climate to “love” being Catholic, and I appreciate and wholeheartedly commend Sutton for that
  • The author is a strong woman, an absolutely amazing mother/sister/daughter/friend/Catholic.  She has come through so many trials and relied on her faith in God to carry her through life.  I admire and “love” her so much just by knowing her story.
  • The author is incredibly qualified and knowledgable about the Catholic faith and about 12 Step Recovery, which are two of my five most favorite topics. Certainly, she is way more qualified and educated than I in these matters!


  • So many people in her life died tragic, horrible deaths. Her grandfather was killed when he was hit by a train, his legs severed.  Her father died of a heart attack when she was little. Her grandmother died from an infection during childbirth. Her sister died from the same infection two generations later contracted during childbirth.  Her other sister was killed, hit by a drunk driver at age 21.  Her brother died too young, from alcoholism. Much of the story was taken up by these deaths, their eulogies and the impact these deaths had on her life and understanding of her faith and alcoholism. Absolutely moved me to tears.
  • Sutton was married to an abusive alcoholic and after the divorce she struggled to raise their five children alone.  This must have been so difficult but it seems she rose to the challenge beautifully and gracefully. Her children are grown and their lives lovely!
  • She was raped.  An absolutely awful turn of events in this author’s life and in her book was the description of her rape, her attacker, the trial and conviction afterwards, and her almost immediate forgiveness.
  • One of the most tragic themes in the book was her relationship with her mother.  Her mother seemed to disapprove of Sutton her whole life — not necessarily of her actions but of her dignity as a person, it seemed to me. The author’s mother-daughter relationship was strained and painful. I found this especially heartbreaking; and it brought me to tears.  Tragic.


  • The author is not an alcoholic. The title of the book is a little misleading IMHO. This disappointed me because I was hoping to relate to her journey and hoped I would find strength and hope for my own Catholic sobriety.  Like me, she is a big supporter of the 12 Steps—she works now as a spiritual advisor for Hazeldon which is the top 12 Step recovery organization in the world. Her 12 Step creds are impeccable.  But still, reading her write, “My name is Annetta and I’m a ‘family-member’ (Al-anon Member) just isn’t the same as if she was an actual alcoholic herself.  I highly recommend this book to Al-Anon people, though!
  • Sutton misunderstands the purpose of Vatican II which is very common for women of her generation (baby boomers who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s).  Some Catholics longed for Vatican II to be about the sexual revolution, when it clearly was not.  Still, these Catholics hope to change the Church “from within.”  When I read their words (a good example of this type of Catholic is Caroline Kennedy, as well as the editors of National Catholic Reporter)—when I read their words I sometimes cringe, “Get behind me Satan!”  Certainly they’re not Satan. That’s not what I mean.  But I just want to run away before they corrupt me into their way of thinking—the moral relativism that is so pervasive in the world and in the Church today.  Their way of thinking is so enticing.
  • The author makes the mistake that unfortunately many politically liberal-leaning Catholics make—in order to deflect their opposition to the Church’s Catholic moral teaching they instead put a wedge between fellow Catholics by being hyper-focused on Catholic social teaching.  The implication is that we who faithfully believe the Church’s moral teachings don’t care about Catholic social teaching, social justice, helping the poor and disadvantaged in our worlds. It seems obvious to me we all agree we need to serve the poor. The dispute lies in whether the government should implement this through higher taxes and government programs. The government can’t provide programs with love and through Christ. The Church can.
  • It seems to the author the Church is at best loving and accepting and at worst homophobic, anti-women and sexually repressive.  I don’t get her perspective; but unfortunately many believe this to be true, which is sad. I suppose since the Church teaches the sanctity of marriage between and man and woman that causes some to see homophobia?  And because the Church fights cultural abortion attitudes and won’t “let” women be priests or “let” priests marry some see the church as anti-women?  I’m not usually surprised by these views, which are common. But it saddens me when people within the Church hold these views.  But it is what it is.

I almost stopped reading when on the first page of the book she stated she was not an alcoholic.  But then she stated she loved alcoholics so I kept reading. And, my experience with the Church is somewhat different than hers.  Sure I love the same things she loves.  But when I have had my disappointment with individual priests or members of the Church I don’t question the authority and absolute moral truths of the whole Church. I just see the humanity and sin in her individual members.

Anyways, writing these things disturbs me. I really adore the author and at the same time have fundamental differences of opinion with her on crucial matters of our common faith. I didn’t mean to focus so much here on our differences but I guess that’s the way things go.

I don’t hope to “change the Church from within.”  I look to the Church to change ME from within

One of the many good things about the book for me and my journey/enlightenment is that before reading this book I confess I was ignorant that pro-choice people could actually also be devout, practicing Catholics.  The author is NO DOUBT a devout, practicing Catholic who loves our common faith.  Her book has opened my eyes to look with love on the misguided ones who seek to change the Church to make everyone feel good. Their motives are indeed pure even if their understanding of Catholic theology on some matters of faith is mistaken.

That’s all for today—so many deep thoughts! LOL

(Book) Sister Ignatia, Angel of AA

Sister Ignatia: Angel of AA by Mary C Darrah

Book Description

Release Date: August 31, 2001
Sister Mary Ignatia Gavin epitomized the spirit of love, service, and honesty that today are the hallmarks of Alcoholics Anonymous. As a hospital admissions officer in the 1930s in Akron, Ohio, Sr. Ignatia befriended Dr. Bob Smith, co-founder of AA, and courageously arranged for the hospitalization of alcoholics at a time when alcoholism was viewed as a character weakness rather than a disease.


COUV_1211_US_001I’m certain I’ve said this before but serendipity is one of my favorite words.  I remember being very young, learning the meaning: the accidental discovery of something valuable. 

This morning I was perusing a few of my favorite morning prayer books for inspiration. With the cold and the rain and other stuff, my mood–I admit even though it’s Christmas Eve!–is a little blah.  The “whys” of my blah are not important, but they are there.  What is important is what I hear in meetings: stay in the solution.

Staying in the solution I wandered through Magnificat and stumbled on an article by Heather King.  Her name sounded familiar–so I grabbed my journal and opened it to a page I had torn and saved from the November issue, another article by Heather King.

I had torn and kept this article for two reasons. One, it was refreshing that Magnificat had chosen an essay by a “regular” person and not some professor of this or that big wig Catholic theologian.  Two, because she talked about being sober in it.

The article today was about Christmas, and I liked it.  The article I’d saved from last month was about Zaccheaus grace.  I loved it.  “Zacchaeus, the puny publican who climbed the sycamore to get a glimpse of Jesus (LK 19:1-10): willing to make a fool out of myself, to be enthusiastic.” Other parts I’d underlined from King’s essay on Zacchaeus were, “I’ll live in a whole different way.  I’ll quit the job I hate and, though scared senseless, start doing the work I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”

I was happy that Magnificat published the name of Heather’s blog this time.  I checked it out and am now following it.

Serendipity is a grace.  And as I contemplate this coming out as an alcoholic with this blog I second guess myself, going back and forth making my blog private and then making it public.  The people who MATTER in my life love that I’m sober.  The people who don’t matter in my life can think what they want; and its none of my business.  And then there’s the people who matter in my life that think it’s not proper or ladylike or respectable to put myself out there like this, all vulnerable and raw.  But if this is what God wants me to do (is it?) then I’ll be like Zacchaeus and be “willing to make a fool out of myself.”

Seeing Heather King’s writings in Magnificat, discovering she is publicly sober and uses her experiences to write and speak and help others–this gives me courage to keep my blog public, for now.  Thank you God. You’re the best.  XO

Simply Surrender

83125I received a very special gift. A little book Simply Surrender  by series Editor John Kirvan of “30 Days with a Great Spiritual Teacher.” The writer walks me through 30 days of meditations and prayers from St Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography Story of a Soul.

St Therese of Lisieux is such a perfect patron saint for alcoholics. Since we are often prone to grandiosity, her “Little Way” can be very helpful for us.

Born in Alencon, france in 1873, Therese was the youngest of five sisters and entered the Carmel at Lisieux when she was fiften.  Nine anonymous years later, she was dead. There was no indication her reputation for holiness had spread beyond her cloistered walls—no one but her immediate family and Carmelite sisters knew of her existence.

But within a few years after her death, she was a household name, the object of an extraordinary worldwide following.  She was called “The Little Flower.”  She was keeping her deathbed promise that she would spend her heaven doing good on earth. In 1925, less than thirty years after her death, she was canonized saint of the universal Church. Today she is one of the most popular and best-loved saints of the faithful.

From the forward, “What shattered her anonymity was the publication of her autobiography, written in several stages under obedience to her religious superiors. It’s enormous impact was from the extraordinary spiritual insight she brought to a life which was by all means ordinary…All over the world people began to recognize, accept and devlelop their potential for sanctity by adopting what she termed her “Little Way.”  In our relationship with God, we are very small children. We always will be. There is no need to be anything else. On the contrary, it is essential that we never try to be anything else.”

In every other aspect of my life–work, health, caring for my family, making a living—my willpower and self-reliance are assets.  But not in my relationship with God.  I develop a rich relationship with God by surrendering my will, giving God the power.  And then that power greater than myself can restore me to sanity.

Excerpt from My favorite morning prayer book "My Daily Bread"

Chapter 60, Man’s True Glory, page 361

My Child, let worldly men seek their success and glory from one another.  I want you to seek your glory from Me alone.  All human glory, all worldly honor, all earthly splendor—these are empty and bare when compared with the heavenly glory, honor and splendor which I have prepared for My loyal followers.

True greatness is not in the man who is satisfied with himself.  It is only in those with whom I am satisfied.  My standards for judging people are not like the standards of this world.  I shall not estimate your merits by your knowledge, nor by your position among men, nor by your having visions and consolations.  I shall estimate your worth by your humility and by your charity.  I shall look to see whether you think too much of yourself, or whether you prefer My will.  I shall consider whether you seek My honor and glory in your daily activities, or whether you seek your own advantage and honor.

Your highest perfection and glory lie in loving My truth above all else, in forgeting self to the point of being humbled and despised for My sake.  Do not consider your strength, nor even your lack of strength.  Fix your attention on My boundless power, wisdom and love.

If you love My truth, you will praise My name, not yours.  You will esteem and honor My will, not your puny human accomplishments. You will bless Me in all things, and you will refuse to let the praises of people turn your head.

The Problem is Two-Fold in Nature

grand coteauPage 355 in the AA Big Book

The explanation that alcoholism was a disease of a two-fold nature, an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind, cleared up a number of puzzling questions for me.  The allergy we could do nothing about.  Somehow our bodies had reached the point where we could no longer absorb alcohol in our systems.  The why is not important; the fact is that one drink will set up a reaction in our systems that requires more, that one drink is too much and a hundred are not enough.

The obsession of the mind was a little harder to understand, and yet everyone has obsessions of various kinds.  The alcoholic has them to an exaggerated degree.  Over a period of time he has built up self-pity and resentments toward anyone or anything that interferes with his drinking.  Dishonest thinking, prejudice, ego, antagonism toward anyone and everyone who dares to cross him, vanity, and a critical attitude are character defects that gradually creep in and become part of his life.  Living with fear and tension inevitably results in wanting to ease that tension, which alcohol seems to do temporarily.

The 12 Steps of AA were designed to help correct these defects of character and so help remove the obsession to drink.  The 12 Steps, which to me are a spiritual way of living, soon meant honest thinking, not wishful thinking; open mindedness, a willingness to try and a faith to accept.  They meant patience, tolerance and humility and above all the belief that a Power greater than myself could help.  That power I chose to call God.


I often hear in meetings people sharing about page 417 in the Big Book as the solution to basically everything we have to face in life.  Of course, Christ is the solution to everything we face in life.  And this excerpt from the AA writers ties in with God’s teachings through Jesus.  This is what it says:

page 417, AA Big Book
And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation — some fact of my life unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

That pretty much sums it up!  I must look at what needs to be changed in me.  And if it isn’t within me then I can change it and can only give it to God and accept the results as God’s will for  my life or others’ lives.

I'm Jittery and Alone

“We know what you are thinking.  You are saying to yourself, ‘I’m jittery and alone.  I couldn’t do that.’ But you can.  You forget that you have now just tapped a power much greater than yourself.  To duplicate, with such backing, what we have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience and labor.”
AA Big Book, A Vision for You page 163

Willingness:  to will, to desire, to want (it’s a program for those who “want” it)
Patience: the capacity or habit of bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint, forbearance despite provocation
Labor: expenditure of physical or mental effort, especially when difficult in order to achieve an objective