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

Evangelical Virtues of Mary: Prudence

Virtue

Virtue (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

This is my article that ran on CatholicMom.com this week. I like to post them here, too. To view it over there, click on this link and voila!  Happy Holy Saturday!

According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with God’s help, the evangelical virtues forge character.

The ten evangelical virtues are derived from a combination of the human, moral, cardinal and theological virtues, described to us in the Catechism. They are actual qualities of Mary, the Mother of God who by her example is the epitome of evangelization: chastity, prudence, humility, faith, devotion, obedience, poverty, patience, mercy and sorrow.

In this year of faith, efforts to increase in virtue are a worthy exercise. We are called to evangelize with virtue in a variety of vocations, as a mother, a daughter, a sister, an employee, a wife. Modeling our behavior on the Blessed Virgin is an excellent way to bring others to Christ.  Who more than Mary has brought more of us to her son?

The second Evangelical Virtue of Mary is Prudence.                                           

But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

And he descended with them and went to Nazareth. And he was subordinate to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. Luke 2:51

Mary “ponders” these things in her heart. She discerns. She doesn’t react, debate or take any action right away. She simply ponders things first.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us (1806), “Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.”

The prudent woman looks where she is going. Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas. The prudent woman determines and directs her conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles without error and overcome doubts about good and evil in our everyday circumstances.

Prudence is also one of the four cardinal virtues, which means it can be practiced by anyone. The cardinal virtues are not, in themselves, the gifts of God through grace but the outgrowth of habit.

Prudence, as explained by Fr. John A. Hardon in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, is “Correct knowledge about things to be done or, more broadly, the knowledge of things that ought to be done and of thing that ought to be avoided.”

So how do we know when we’re exercising prudence and when we’re simply giving in to our own desires?

How do we know if we are acting prudently or not?  As an act of virtue, prudence involves three stages of mental operation: to take counsel carefully with oneself and from others; to judge correctly on the basis of the evidence at hand; and to direct my actions accordingly.

When faced with a dilemma, we first pray, ask God to direct our thinking.  Next we ask for advice from someone of good character, someone we can trust, of good moral character. We look at all the evidence at hand, the facts in front of us. We never rush. We ask God for his will for us. Then, finally we make a decision and act upon it.

And we must always keep in mind that the definition of prudence requires us to judge correctly. If our judgment is proved after the fact to have been incorrect, then we did not make a “prudential judgment” but an imprudent one, for which we may need to make amends.

One way to integrate these virtues into your life is by praying the Chaplet to the Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary.

7 Quick Takes Friday: Seven 7-Quick-Takes

I’m a day late. Yikes!  Here we go again with our 7 Quick Takes Friday hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary. We reciprocate links to her blog and then post 7 “quick-takes” on our blogs.

“I am invariably late for appointments.  I’ve tried to change my ways but the things that make me late are too strong, and too pleasing.”Marilyn Monroe

7quicktakesYes, I am late. In this post I’m simply going to do a synopsis of my first 7-Quick-Takes. So, (drumroll) voila!:

1. Seven Role Models for Catholic Alcoholics

In this post, I list seven incredible people, Catholic clergy and religious, who have overcome their alcoholism and went on to help others:  Sister “Molly Monahan,” Father Joseph Martin, Father Emmerich Vogt, Father Ralph Pfau, Father Francis Canavan, Father Jim McKenna, and of course the Venerable Matt Talbott.

2. Seven Greetings of “Happy Woman’s Day” from a Politically Incorrect Full-Blooded American Woman

In this post, I am a little cheeky about how old school feminists have hi-jacked what it means to be a woman. I don’t relate to them at all and I write about how these feminists have in essence actually hurt women.

3. Seven Reasons I Like Alcoholics Anonymous

In this post, I wrote about how to the traditional, practicing Catholic, AA might seem a little too non-denominational and new agey, but by finally overcoming my uncomfortability with AA I was able to accept help from other women in the meetings—women that God had sent to me to walk me through the 12 Steps.

4. Seven Things I Do NOT Miss Now That I am Sober

In this post, I painfully recalled some not so graceful moments from my past and used wisdom from the saints, Scripture and theologians to hit home the message that sobriety is key for me.

5. My Seven Favorite Saints

In this post, I wrote about these seven saints: Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Philip Neri, Saint Therese de Lisieux, Saint Bernadette, Saint Mary Magdalen, Saint Catherine of Siena, and my own mother–future Saint Claire of Brooklyn.

6. Seven Pilgrimage Sites in the Southeast

In this post, I detailed seven pilgrimage sites within driving distance from Atlanta: Monastery of the Holy Spirit, The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (where Husband and I got married!), The Shrine of Saint John Berchmans, Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, Ave Maria Grotto and my favorite, the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche.

7. Seven Non-Alcoholic Drinks to Celebrate the Season

In this post, in the middle of the Christmas parties, I gave yummy recipes for non-alcoholic drinks we can concoct to take part in the festivities without losing consciousness.

Motel 6 and the US Catholic Church: “We’ll Leave the Light on For Ya”

Do y’all (“y’all” is in the dictionary, I promise) remember the television advertisement for Motel 6?

Thomas Edward “Tom” Bodett  is an American author, voice actor and radio host. He was the spokesman for the hotel chain Motel 6, whose commercials end with the phrase,

“I’m Tom Bodett for Motel 6, and we’ll leave the light on for ya.”

light-is-on-for-you-color-large-webWell, somebody in marketing for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came up with a similarly memorable slogan for a campaign to get us back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which immediately made me think of Motel 6:

“The Light is on for You.”

For many of us Catholics, both those brought up in the Church since childhood and those formerly of Protestant or non-Christian faiths, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can seem a bit frightening. Perhaps it has been a long time since we’ve made a confession. Perhaps we struggle with disbelief, with despair, with human weakness, with addictions, or with lingering resentment or grief. And yet, how wonderful it would be to be freed from these chains!

Here in Atlanta, the Archdiocese is participating in this USCCB nationwide “campaign.” In addition to the regular parish penance services, the Archdiocese of Atlanta is promoting a Lenten Day of Reconciliation: Friday, March 22nd from 3pm-7pm. All Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Atlanta will provide an opportunity to celebrate the sacrament of penance. Catholics, especially those who have been away from the Church or the sacrament, are invited to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington has put together wonderful resources for their parishes they’ve made available to all parishes across the country, which includes homily assists, graphics, flyers, downloadable marketing pieces.  “The Light is on for You” is not actually a “campaign.”  It’s an invitation.  It’s an invitation mainly sent to those who have been away from the Sacrament for years and want to come back.

Here is a 3 minute video the Archdiocese of Washington  put together to explain what this effort it’s all about.  Here is a link to an Examination of Conscience we can use to prepare for the Sacrament.

I know I will be sure to get to the Sacrament before Good Friday but today, during this Light is on for You campaign isn’t going to work with my schedule.  If this nationwide effort brings even one fallen away Catholic back it will be so worth it!

Here are “general intercessions” from the Archdiocese of Washington concerning this effort:

  • The Lord desires that all be saved through his life, Passion, and Death. May we all take advantage of his forgiveness and mercy by availing ourselves of the Sacrament of Penance this Lenten season . . .
  • Lord, you did not condemn the woman caught in adultery but sent her away forgiven and in peace. Help us not to fear your justice but instead to come to you in humility to seek your mercy and healing love
  • Lord, your Cross has redeemed us, your Death has given us new life, and your Resurrection raises us to glory with you. Help us to seek your healing love this Lenten season by availing ourselves of the Sacrament of Penance . . .
  • That we all may be attentive to God’s Word, confess our sins, and receive his forgiveness this Lenten season . . .
  • Lord, we often feel heavily burdened with the difficulties of life and our sins. Help us to find the grace to return to you and to receive your peace in the Sacrament of Penance this Lenten season . . .
  • That we might have the grace and power to turn to Christ, Our Savior, and to confess our sins with humble hearts, that we might be cleansed from all that separates us from him . . .
  • Father, you know our sinfulness and many weaknesses. May we reach out with joy to grasp your hand and walk more readily in your ways this Lenten season and always . . .

The New Evangelization: Facebook and Love Being Catholic

imageAbout a year ago, one of my sisters had become so frustrated with the anti-Catholic bias in the media that she felt convicted to counter this by being publicly, enthusiastically Catholic in all areas of her life.

The two year campaign of the election competition, the atrocity of the HHS mandate which diminishes religious freedom for Christians in this country, and the so-called “war on women” nonsense of the Planned Parenthood and NARAL money machines really took its toll on us regular, practicing Catholics.

Our faith was mocked not only at the highest levels of our government but throughout the news media, the entertainment industry and of course the social networks. Putting a bumper sticker on her car just wasn’t enough for my sister.

It’s funny how when we let the bad guys bully us into silence, the bad guys win. And when we, in my own case, let the shame of being an alcoholic silence me into anonymity—shame wins.  I believe strongly this is the devil at work. And we can’t let him win.

She started a Facebook page called, “Love Being Catholic.”  And quickly collecting 100 “fans,” she was very pleased and it sort of became for her a way to confirm our Faith.

With the blessed Mother by her side, my sister crushed the serpent and went overtly public with her love of faith. This, in our social circles wasn’t easy. And she lost a few “friends” over this, including a couple of relatives who didn’t like how faithfully she professed her love of Church teachings particularly on abortion, gay marriage and the HHS mandate.

So–flash forward to today.

She and I had lunch yesterday and were talking about how her Facebook page had almost reached 10,000 fans–with a “reach” of over 700,000! We were laughing and were amazed, but also so in awe of the holy spirit. We talked about how each of us can participate in this New Evangelization in our own ways.

This morning I woke to an email with the screen shot of her page showing 10,000 fans.  I couldn’t wait to share. I was so proud of my sister and so happy that I too “Love Being Catholic!”

There’s is a great article in the Catholic Sun today about Pope Francis by one of my most favorite Catholic theologians and authors George Weigel. His new book called Evangelical Catholicism hit the newsstands last month. I have all of his other books and will buy this one for myself for Easter.  In his article today, Weigel says, “The new pope played a significant role in shaping the Latin American bishops’ 2007 “Aparecida Document,” which embraced the New Evangelization and put it at the center of the Church’s life.”

Like Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI before him, Pope Francis absolutely understands how important it is to counter, as Weigel calls it, “the acids of secularism.”

So, rise up Catholics and be not afraid. Wear your faith on your sleeve. Preach the Gospel to all and if necessary, use (social media) words.

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Wife, Mother, Catholic, Alcoholic

fall in north georgiaI submitted this to another Catholic forum and wanted to post it here too. Click here to read this article on Catholic Mom.

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I’m a Catholic mother who loves my Faith, my husband and my children more than anything else in the world. I pray the Rosary every day. I visit Christ in Adoration. My children attend a wonderful Catholic school. I volunteer, play tennis, help with school parties, and drive carpool.

Oh, and by the way, I’m an alcoholic.

I never would have admitted that when I was still drinking. But now that I have been sober for a while and am in recovery I have found that admitting I’m an alcoholic helps me hit back at the shame that can cripple me if I let it.

And if I’m lucky, being somewhat public about my problem might help another woman face hers.

Shame goes hand-in-hand with being an alcoholic mother. Shame is awful, sneaky. And it’s not of God.

The stigma of being an alcoholic can keep some moms from getting help earlier, says Ann-Marie Loose, LSW, a clinical supervisor at Caron Treatment Centers based in Wernersville, PA.  “You try to have the perfect home, be the perfect mom and wife,” said Loose. “And you look completely under control to the outside world, but alcohol is slowing destroying your life.”

And, Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C. author of, Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, said “It is as though the image of the “mother” and that of the “alcoholic” seem contradictory.” However, alcoholism does not discriminate and there are definitely good mothers who are also alcoholic.

My “problem” affected my marriage and my children, and it separated me from God. It wasn’t just about me anymore. As a Catholic mom it was imperative I tackle this truthfully, and in light of my Faith—without saddling myself with shame.

To be honest, I always knew there was something different about my drinking. I seemed to really love it. Everyone else could take it or leave it. Where other people had a couple of drinks to loosen up or wind down, I had a couple of drinks to “get going.” I eventually crossed the line from being a social drinker to being an alcoholic.

How did I know?  For me, I came to accept that I had a problem because of two things: God and my children. I came to recognize my dependence on alcohol was affecting my relationship as a daughter of Christ and as a mother to my children. So I became committed to seeking help.

The desire to mature in my relationship with God and the desire to be the mother I knew I could be were finally enough to get me to admit my problem and seek help. This was a very humbling endeavor, one I am so grateful to God for walking me through.

I think for each of us facing the facts about our drinking is a process, sometimes a long process. Sometimes that process is helped along a little bit by a DUI or an embarrassing episode. But for the most part, it’s something we come to accept through our relationship with God and with our families.

Experts offer these signs that our drinking might be out of control:

  • We start making mistakes, forgetting our child’s sporting event, missing appointments.
  • We start drinking before a social activity.
  • We begin to avoid situations where alcohol will be present because we have difficulty controlling how much we drink—we wanted to protect our reputations.
  • Once we start drinking we have trouble stopping.
  • The time between drinking binges gets less and less.
  • We might experience “blackouts,” which are simply periods of time we are unable to remember what took place when we were drinking.
  • We behave in ways that are uncharacteristic of our sober selves. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

If you think you might have a drinking problem, or you love someone who does, I encourage you to talk it over with your Confessor. I found great strength and courage from admitting my problem first in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

A few Lents ago, in the homily at Mass Father Frank challenged us to determine that “one thing” in our lives that was separating us from having a more intimate relationship with God.  For me, I knew right away what that one thing was.  I thought about this a lot. And then, finally, I gave up the alcohol.  And in doing so, my whole family benefited.

The Cloud of the Unknowing, Cafeteria Catholics and Pope Francis

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene--OlsenOne of my favorite spiritual works–I haven’t read it in its entirety but as I do with most of my God books I read bits and pieces and skip around—is The Cloud of the Unknowing.

The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the 14th century. It is a spiritual guide on Catholic contemplative prayer. It proposes the only way to truly “know” God is to abandon all preconceived notions and beliefs or “knowledge” about God and be courageous enough to surrender your mind and ego to the realm of “unknowingness,” at which point, you begin to glimpse the true nature of God.

With the election of Pope Francis it seems a new era has swarmed into the Church. I am careful not to say a “better” era. I felt Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a brilliant pope who left us beautiful epistles, wonderful homilies and made great strides in uniting certain facets of Christians with the Church.  Also, he held fast to supporting the Church’s moral truths which are under attack in the secular world, therefore our very Catholic selves are under attack.  I loved him, looked at him as a true shepherd of our Church, guided by God to shepherd the whole Church.

What I mean by this new era is how Pope Francis is able to appeal to the other Catholics, ex-Catholics and the ones who might be more cafeteria-style in their Catholic morality but who nonetheless want to know, love and serve God. Unable to grasp the importance of God’s moral truths in following Him, they still want to follow Him.

And Francis opens that door, without compromising on the Church’s moral truths. By his humility, his meekness, his imperative and primary call to serve the poor, these Catholics fall silent–in a good way, silent. They stop attacking temporarily. They perceive a pope they might actually be able to relate to. This is the God they know and love, the God who serves the poor and the God who loves all of us, even those of us who can’t—-by nature of our ignorance and pride, which we all have to some extent in different capacities—come to accept moral truths.

I’ve listened to the commentary and have been impressed with comments like “breath of fresh air in the Church,” and “guarded hopefulness.”  As for me, it’s funny because the Church has ALWAYS been about social justice–at least in my lifetime. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were tremendous champions of the poor and the vulnerable.  So why couldn’t these other Catholics see it? And why do they see Pope Francis as a breath of fresh air?

I can only guess it’s because these types of Catholics abhor authority, hierarchy, pomp, Catholic morality?  I don’t have a problem with authority, hierarchy, pomp (beauty!) and theological morality. So, I saw the Church’s grand social justice network as part of a whole, not a separate thing.

Anyways, for those cafeteria and ex-Catholics who might entertain coming back to the fold because of Pope Francis, welcome! And yay! You don’t have to have a perfect understanding (I say “understanding” because if these Catholics truly understood Catholic morality they would embrace it) of morality in order to be welcomed in the Church.  Just come back. Your understanding of the necessity of her moral teachings will come more readily once you’re here for a while.  So come back and let the Church and the Holy Spirit transform you.

The most important moral teaching, the foundation of it all, is the Church teaching on the dignity of the human person. Thank God for her stubborn insistence on condemning abortion. Pro-life in all circumstances, it is my prayer that Catholics who support a “woman’s right to choose abortion” will come to understand the love behind the Church’s teaching on this.

I’ve been thinking about the things that appeal to more liberal Catholics–and in addition to social justice, to me they seem to be more existential in nature. I’m making a big generalization here but it’s also an invitation.

where-only-love-can-go-30-days-with-john-kirvan-paperback-cover-artCheck out the Cloud of the Unknowing. A contemplative myself, this is a great entry point for those looking for the softer side of the Faith. Softer as in—it’s all about “love”— and not morality.  But this spiritual classic is not for beginners who wish to dabble in spirituality and new ageness. This spirituality is deeply rooted in Jesus, in forgetting everything about the world and getting to know God without distraction.

The Cloud of the Unknowing is written in middle English and for me is very difficult to read. I have to read every sentence three times to get it. So books like the one by John Kirvan, “Where Only Love Can Go,” are excellent tools for me to embrace this spiritual classic.  Where Only Love Can Go is a thirty day trip through The Cloud of the Unknowing, in modern language.  Here is an excerpt:

My dear friend in the Spirit, up until now you have lived a good but ordinary Christian life, not very different from your friends. But apparently God is calling you to something more. Because of the love in his heart, which he has had for you from the moment of your creation, he is not going to leave you alone, not about to let you off so easily. You are beginning to experience in  a special way God’s everlasting love, which you were brought out of nothingness and redeemed at the price of his blood. You can no longer be content to live at a distance from God. In his great grace he has kindled a desire in your heart to be more closely united to him.”

Kirwan notes that the anonymous author of The Cloud of the Unknowing instructs its reader that this is a book and a journey, which requires serious attention. He goes on to say, “The Cloud of the Unknowing is not for those who are tempted to “dip into” spirituality, to play around the edges of contemplation, presuming that the journey to God is a trip into warm fuzziness and uninterrupted serenity.”

So, in conclusion here I’m excited that ex-Catholics and “cafeteria” Catholics are looking at Pope Francis fondly and therefore looking more fondly at our Church. If only they would stop criticizing her for a minute and simply experience her in all her beauty and complexity, they will come to love her as I do. The Cloud of the Unknowing, a very Catholic spiritual work, might be a good place to start. And eventually, their understanding of God’s moral truths will come—and they will see the moral truths are there not to punish or condemn us but to free us and perfect us to closer union with our Creator.

Grumpy Today

imageSo much to be grateful for but I am grumpy today. Normally I could blame this on hormones but its not it. I’m restless, irritable and discontent. And tired. And my back hurts.

And I’m picking fights with strangers. Maybe it’s because Husband is drinking again and I’m jealous. He’s not an alcoholic so no worries there. But he was my drinking buddy. He quit to support me. Oh well. It’s not his problem, it’s mine. Sooooo…

Gratitude list?

1. I’m grateful for the rain that is taking away the new pollen.

2. I’m grateful for all kinds of people, whether I agree with them or not. I do have that weird eternity kind of love for all people. Does that make sense?

3. I’m grateful Husband refrained from drinking for so long just to support and “suffer with” me

4. Grateful I can go to the women’s meeting tomorrow at 11:30 to see my peeps.

5. I’m grateful it’s almost bed time.

Good night! I feel better already. Nothing like a gratitude list to cure a bout of self-pity. Plus I found this awesome picture of the Samaritan woman listening at the feet of Jesus.  He offers her (and me) his living water.

Dear God

deargod insecureDear God,

Hi. Good morning. Just thinking about things, up before everyone else in the house. I love this time of the day,the early morning with my coffee and my runaway dog Gypsy.

I’m a little conflicted as you know, God, about this blogging thing. I told you in the beginning when you and I decided it was okay and time for me to go “public” with my alcoholism and this blog that it was a risk because of my scruples. After a couple of years of just writing for myself and you, I have since early January been writing for a third person now. I have the reader in mind. I edit what I write. I re-word things that might sound controversial or stupid.

I told you I was worried this would happen, that I would care too much how or even if I’m perceived by others. You know this is one of my faults. Sometimes I call it vanity. But still you encouraged me to do this.  Why?  I’ve lost my time with you in the mornings. I’ve lost the intimacy you and I shared. My mornings used to be 45 minutes of sitting in my prayer chair, reading, praying, listening to you.

Now the first thing I do in the morning—well, I do make myself say the Rosary before I get out of bed, but it’s rushed and I can’t wait to finish it in order to get up for coffee and to check my blog.  Did anybody read what I wrote yesterday? Comment? Do I have a new follower overnight? Where did my traffic come from? What search words do strangers use to find my blog? How interesting it all is to me!  And although this information shows me that you and I are on the right track with this, I don’t like how my focus has shifted from you to me.

I just wanted to talk about this blogging thing, this public alcoholism I’m engaged in. What about all the people in my life, my professional life and my Facebook/personal life—my Facebook life is filled with people I’ve met along the way all the way back to elementary school!  What will they think if they find out I’m an alcoholic?  My blog posts are showing up in SEO, in Google.

What about those girls from high school and college, you know the perfect ones?  What will they think of me?  What about my sister, the one who is more private than I am.

You know, that’s the thing that’s bothering me the most right now.  The sister who may not be comfortable with me being publicly alcoholic.  I try to summon up the courage to not worry about this but it does make me question myself and your plan for me.  Maybe I should just be a quiet, non-wave-maker, mother and wife. I have that scruples thing, not all the time and not with everybody but with some people. But the love is there. Definitely the love is there

Should I be sharing these personal things about my life?  Shouldn’t I be more careful about what I put “out there” on the internet?  Why am I even doing this blog? It’s not like I’m blogging about arts and crafts, cooking, motherhood, something respectable. I’m blogging about alcoholism and how it has affected me and my family.  Maybe I should be more private about things, especially these things?

Even though I’m INFP on the Myers Briggs personality thing, I do have a way about me that sort of barrels through life. I don’t take  precautions, and I usually just go for it, do things. I’ve always been this way. I’m always like, “Okay, sure. Let’s do it.”  I was a gymnast and a diver in my youth, and I’ve always had a lot of courage–or maybe some would call me a “risk-taker,” which is actually one of the qualities the experts say is evident in every alcoholic.  A risk-taker. My coach would show me a difficult thing in the gymnastics book and I would say sure, I’ll try it.  So I guess my point here is how does me doing this blog affect the people I love? Am I being selfish here, risking more than just my own reputation? By having this blog am I hurting the reputation of those I love, too? Will my children be embarrassed one day when they’re old enough to know the difference?

Anyways, I”m not making ANY sense. I sound like such a victim here which is not how I feel at all.  Just wanted you to know that part of my fear and reservation about going public with my alcoholism and this blog. All of this could be in my head.  All of this, I suppose unfortunately IS in my head. ugh.

Back to you.

Dear God, I’m just asking you this morning two things. Well, of course the normal things like bless and take care of Husband and the children, my parents, Husband’s parents and all of my siblings and their families. Of course that.  But the two things I’m asking for in addition to the regular things are:

1. Bring me back to you in my mornings. I am loving blogging and writing, but I think of Wormwood in the Screwtape Letters, how satan is a master manipulator and uses the things we love to separate us from you. So help me give my mornings back to you, in my prayer chair, with my journal and my Lectio Divina, my Magnificat subscription, My Daily Bread book…  I want to be with you in the mornings again.

2. Release me from my attachment to pleasing anyone but you. Help me not worry about what I think people think of me.  I’m not the kind of person anymore that worries about what everybody thinks—but I guess I do still worry too much about what “certain” people think.  So, can you release me from that?

3. oh and three. I know I said it was just two. But three, can you reveal what it is exactly you want me to do with this blog?  It’s all for you, you know?

Love, Regina

5 Reasons Pope Francis is a Great Choice for Alcoholics

ignatius.trinity5 Reasons Pope Francis is a Wonderful Choice by the Holy Spirit for Alcoholics

1.       A Jesuit, Pope Francis embraces Ignatian spirituality

The spirituality of Saint Ignatius in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is undeniable. Bill W., the “co-founder” of AA did not rely on Ignatius’ teachings in drafting the Steps; however, he developed a devoted friendship with Father Ed Dowling, a Jesuit priest who was the first to notice the presence of Ignatian spirituality in the Steps.

A gentle, charming man, Fr. Dowling sought Bill Wilson out and introduced him to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. It is said the Bill Wilson took his 5th Step with Father Dowling. The similarities between the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and the 12 Steps hint at why the Steps have survived intact over the years. The principles of the Steps are based in ancient Christian principles.

ignatiusspirituality projectA remarkable Chicago-based Jesuit ministry which offers retreats to those who are homeless and seeking recovery from alcoholism and addiction is the Ignatian Spirituality Project. This ministry helps them find meaning and purpose as they reclaim their lives. The Ignatian Spirituality Project also trains the formerly homeless to assist in giving retreats.

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis no doubt is familiar with and practices these Spiritual Exercises, which would foster an empathetic understanding of the plight of the alcoholic and the recovering individual.

2.       Choosing the name “Francis” and the Prayer of Saint Francis for Alcoholics

In Alcoholics Anonymous’ companion book, the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,” Bill Wilson offered the Prayer of Saint Francis to alcoholics as a way of practicing the 11th Step. This prayer is typically noted as the 11th Step Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

What practicing, active alcoholic is not focused on self?  By design alcoholics put the drink before all else. We may call ourselves “functioning alcoholics,” but are we really?  Are we really present in the lives of our loved ones or are we seeking to be understood, loved? Aren’t we in the end in despair and lacking in hope?

By choosing the name Francis, this pope is reaching out to all of us to let us know that the key to peace, the keys to the kingdom are in serving others and thinking less often of ourselves and our needs, which also happens to be the foundational principles of 12 Step programs.

3.       Pope Francis and the “War on Drugs” in Latin America

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, then Cardinal Bergoglio was familiar with alcohol and drug addiction and its impact on families, cultures and parishes.

In 2011, in the annual Mass for Education he spoke to more than 5 thousand students about fighting drug trafficking in the schools. “We are giving future generations a culture of death and darkness,” adding that, “drugs and alcohol kill.”  On Apr 23, 2009, he exhorted thousands of students present not to be trapped by “the proposal of the easy shortcut, instant gratification, alcohol or drugs, because that is darkness.”

He urged, “Open your hearts to the light even though it is hard, do not allow yourselves to be enslaved by the promises that seem to be freedom but are in reality oppression, the promises of vain happiness, the promises of darkness.”

To the same group in 2008, he spoke about the children of alcoholic parents, of the boys and girls who are “abandoned of love, meaningful conversation, joy and who do not know what it is to play with Mom and Dad because their parents have succumb to the proposal of alcohol or drugs, which,” he says, “is darkness.”

An alcoholic mother myself, I appreciate Pope Francis’ focus on the perspectives of our children and how family alcoholism affects them.

in 2008, on Holy Thursday he washed the feet of 12 recovering drug addicts at a rehabilitation center in Buenos Aires.

4.       Pope Francis and Humility—the hallmark of recovery

One of the first things we discovered about our new Pope Francis was his apparent humility. From asking the crowd to pray for him to the stories of him washing the feet of AIDS patients, this Pope has already been identified to us as a very humble man.

ignatius2In Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the guiding principles behind the 12 Steps, and especially steps 2, 5 and 7 is humility. The word “humility” occurs 52 times in the first 164 pages of the “Big Book” and the “12&12.”  An alcoholic who fails to capture the essence of humility in her heart—not just in her mind—has a difficult road of recovery.

In speaking to the necessity for Step 7, Bill W writes in the 12&12, “That basic ingredient of all humility, a desire to seek and do God’s will, was missing.”

In speaking of taking Step 2, Bill writes on page 33 of the 12&12, “True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.”

And to Step 5, it says in the 12&12 on p.58, “Therefore, our first practical move toward humility must consist of recognizing our deficiencies.”

Fr. Joseph A. Tetlow, S.J., who became a Jesuit in 1947 and has served as a professor of history and dean of arts and sciences at Loyola University, writes in Making Choices for Christ,

“True humility does not attract many in this new age of self-realization. We tend to equate humility with self-abasement, but such “humility” would attract only the mentally ill. Christian humility, properly understood, requires a strong sense of self, and the greater the humility, the stronger the sense of self. For as more than one saint has remarked, humility is seeing and acknowledging the truth about yourself and your world.”

By practicing such a deep and obvious humility Pope Francis will show the way to those of us in recovery hoping to do the same.

5.       12th Step Work and the then-Cardinal Bergoglia’s call for a new evangelization in Latin America

Pope Francis, as Cardinal and head of the Church in Argentina, has shown a committed focus to the new evangelization, which is key for Catholic alcoholics.

Last May, along with the Latin American Bishops at their convention, then Cardinal Bergoglio, presented the Aparecida Document, which is the comprehensive document proposing a new evangelization. Pope Benedict gave his blessing to the Document. Our new Pope Francis spent a great deal of effort through this Document insisting the way to bring others back to Christ is by evangelizing through our actions. We normally might think of “evangelism” as intrusive and salesy. But this is not what is meant here. We are to evangelize by our example.

According to 12 Step texts, alcoholics are initially spiritually bankrupt; but many find their way back to God through practicing the principles of the 12 Steps.

The 12th Step calls us to “carry this message to other alcoholics.”  We are to “evangelize.”  We are, through our actions and example, to show active alcoholics how good life can be without alcohol.  We never insist or compel. We don’t force interventions. We can only be an example. We are to “evangelize” other alcoholics not with words but by our actions.

Taking the 12th Step a bit further, the Catholic alcoholic is in a position to be an example of how Christ transforms us.

Alcoholism has driven many away from the Church. In AA meetings I sit beside many “ex-Catholics.”  These ex-Catholics have found their way back to God, yet have not found their way back to their Church.  How do we evangelize them?

This is delicate but important 12 Step work. And I believe in addition to participating in communities like the Calix Society, the best way is by our example. Like Pope Francis’ example of forgoing the palace and the limo, our example of living our Catholic faith joyfully in recovery will lead ex-Catholics home. The New Evangelization called forth in this Latin American Aparecide Document, in the Year of Faith is in essence “12 Step work” for the Church.