well, mercy me

18763MercyHeroWell, mercy me!

I heart mercy.

Pope Francis established this Jubilee Year of Mercy—and I am thrilled. “Mercy” is one of my most favorite words, a borrowed word in English derived from the Old French word “merci,” which derives from the Medieval Latin word “merces,” meaning to pay, to recompense, or to hire.

I prefer mercy over justice all day long. Justice is like tough love. Ugh. No me gusta tough love. From what I’ve read, tough love has been the most practiced way to deal with alcoholics and addicts dating back to Nancy Reagan’s, “War on Drugs.”

Ostracize, abandon, “don’t enable!”, give up on, don’t help, let them help themselves, shun, shame, avoid, forced rehab, jail-time, unfriend, roll your eyes, look down on, judge, etc… tough love. The theory is then, and only then, the alcoholic/addict will start helping themselves. (hogwash)

Prior to THAT, I think we were mainly handled with PITY. Poor you. Sucks to be you. Glad it’s you, not me. I will pray for you. Go to AA and don’t tell me anything about it. I don’t wanna know.

And, prior to that, pre-AA, with EXASPERATION and hospitalization– psych hospitals. The odds of an alcoholic sobering up were so bad, that loved ones would lock us up– either in jails or psych wards. I have a good friend whose mother died in an insane asylum in Milledgeville, Georgia because she was an alcoholic and deemed “insane.”  While it is insane to continue drinking despite all of the consequences we inflict on ourselves and others, the sanity returns once the alcohol or drug is removed. But these types of hospitals will turn us into crazy people. I’m terrified to ever go back to one.

Now, thankfully, the tides are changing so therapists and the recovery community are starting to deal with alcoholics and addicts with MERCY (and medicine).  Not “ignorant/sunny skies mercy,” but REAL mercy. Mercy which can only be offered by a few in an alcoholic’s circle…those closest to her…in order for it to be received. That’s when the mercy has impact.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” This means to obtain mercy, we must BE merciful. We receive mercy by giving mercy to others.  And the more mercy we receive, the more mercy we give! It’s a beautiful circle.

The Urban Dictionary defines, “Well, mercy me,” as meaning: “Well, I’ll be damned, wow!” A surprised kind of thing. ha. Urban dictionary, my friends is tongue in cheek so don’t freak out. I’ll be damned is just part of our lexicon.  But “mercy” is a surprising, humble sort of gift. “Wow. Thanks. I didn’t expect or deserve that. Thanks so much.” The kind of gift that changes hearts over time.

I felt mercy through my Mom. That’s probably why it’s easier for me to accept God’s mercy. Mercy is unconditional love, no matter what—the way we love our own children—the prodigal son is still welcomed back into the fold and thrown a party. (no alcohol served at this party, tho.)

Last month my sister gave me the book, Beautiful Mercy, by the organization Dynamic Catholic. The sub-title is, “Experiencing God’s Unconditional Love So We Can Share It With Others.”  The book claims (and I tend to agree!) it is the “perfect companion for the Year of Mercy.”

I’ll add that IMHO I believe people who offer the most mercy are people who have a sense they have received a lot of mercy. People who are very grounded in humility, in who they truly are at the foot of the cross.

If I had been dealt with by JUSTICE then I’d be dead, in jail or in a mental institution. I’m not saying that to be funny. I’m saying that because I have DUIs and should be dead or harmed others on the road and been jailed…the crazy things I did while under the influence and the effect of alcohol on my brain should have landed me in a psych ward long-term. So, MERCY is awesome. Please keep it coming. And offer it lavishly to others. You just may need it yourself one day.

i am truly shocked

1391840837323789383shocked-face-mdNow I’m back to blogging I was trolling around eating up all the recovery blogs out there again. I came across a site The Recovery Revolution which led me to After Party Magazine which led me to their post “The 20 Best Recovery Blogs,” which I started to read and follow/subscribe to all of them…

and then I got to #20 on the list and i got chills.  How stupid is that ha! chills, but seriously i did.

The girl (Danielle Stewart) put MY BLOG as #20.  Ok. I’m done writing for today. Seriously, not in league with the other 19, but going through the rest of the day on a pink cloud fer shurr. Holy crap.

This is what they said about my blog:

20) Catholic Alcoholic

Although Catholic Alkie herself hasn’t posted since June, I had to include her on this list because she is seriously hilarious. Having grown up in Boston, America’s birthplace of Catholicism and alcoholism, I find it refreshing to hear from a practicing Catholic who doesn’t feel that drinking until she pisses her pants is part of her religion. Although she is a proud Southerner, the sharp wit of the Northeast Catholics (usually Irish) I have known isn’t lost on Regina, as her posts are a somewhat perfect balance of sincerity and humor. Case in point, her tagline boasts, “4 out of 5 of her personalities recommend this blog.” Catch my drift? This site is an excellent resource for recovering alcoholics who are also practicing Catholics or perhaps Jews like me who aren’t bothered by her constant quoting of the Bible or the fact that she happens to be pro-life.

mellow is fine

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I need to reprogram my brain to like mellow/peace/fine again. I used to prefer that state of mind, but now I crave the crazy. I guess not the “crazy,” per se, but the “fun.” I guess it’s not really “fun” exactly. ha. I don’t know what it is, but mellow is what I’m feeling today; and mellow SHOULD BE a pretty darn desirable way to live the rest of my life.

My desires/instincts are out of whack from the days of drinking and focusing on my own self.

So, let’s meditate with the Rosary and my favorite, “The Memorare,” and get used to this sober state of mind.

KISS by Prince just came up on my playlist and i didn’t automatically start dancing, like I normally would.

I hope the dancing will come back soon. I like to dance—but only when I’m by myself, alone in my apartment or in the car. ha. No! I also always dance when I’m around my boys. They make me happy, and i feel like dancing when I’m with them. But that bugs them. Teenage boys aren’t too thrilled when their middle-aged mom does the PUT YOUR HANDS UP DANCE in the car…

I guess I actually am sort of bouncing a little bit in this chair.

There’s hope!

The Power of ONE

One-Logo

Finishing up day ONE. All day I had to bombard my thoughts with prayer and affirmations, and I smashed any random craving thoughts that zipped through my brain without my permission. Around midday, one of those pesky thoughts wouldn’t go away! I was so annoyed—I had to get a little mentally violent with it, actually. lol. And it finally relented.

There is power in getting through another day ONE.  Day one, and I’ve had many unfortunately, takes a tremendous mind-shift. An all hands on deck mentality. An, “Okay, let’s DO this already.” I’m actually pretty mentally exhausted.

It’ll be nice not to bug my friend with drinking emails tonight. Living amends. No more emails. It’ll be nice to wake up tomorrow morning early, not hungover. Journal-time. Yay.

The marriage separation, while sad, is necessary. I had mixed support at home for sobriety. I happen to be married to a human, just like everybody else I know. A human who is quite as imperfect as me, with his own battles to fight. While my sobriety is absolutely and ultimately up to me, I’m giving myself a better chance by separating, at least temporarily. I have a hard time with the “idea” of divorce. It may happen. My focus has to be on sobriety first. First things first.

And I have to remember this every single frickin’ day. Even on the lonely days, the broke days, the hard days. I can’t forget to think of sobriety first. ONE DAY AT A FRICKIN TIME. I have a powerful forgetter. And I have a high-tolerance for unmanageability. When you’re married to your drinking buddy for 18 years, it’s easy to turn to alcohol to let go and enjoy each other. No matter how badly he wants me sober, he’d still love it if I could drink just “once a week.”

Topped day ONE off with a massage. Going to watch some Netflix episodes of Homeland and call it a day. Hit the pillow sober. Nite, y’all.

Relapse Toolbox for Catholic Alcoholics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

2 More Patron Saints for Alcoholics: St Therese of Lisieux and St Dymphna

St Therese of Lisieux - the LIttle Flower

St Therese of Lisieux – the LIttle Flower

These are not officially patron saints for Alcoholics, but I think they could be. Saint Therese of Lisieux and Saint Dymphna.

The first is St Therese of Lisieux – the Little Flower:

St Therese’ story is disarmingly simple. She was born in Alencon, France in 1873 the youngest of five sisters. She was only fifteen when she entered the Carmelite Order in Lisieux where she was known as Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy face. Nine anonymous years later she died, with no indication that her reputation for holiness had spread beyond the cloister walls.

But within a very few more years she was a household name in Catholic European circles, the object of an extraordinary worldwide following. She had then become “The Little flower.” Less than 30 years after her death, she was canonized saint of the universal Church, without question the most popular and best-loved saints of the twentieth century—an extraordinarily influential force in the spiritual lives of millions of ordinary people.

Her deathbed promise was to spend her heaven doing good on earth.

Alcoholics desire God. It is a rare alcoholic that doesn’t wish to be closer to her Creator. St Therese always desired to become a saint, but in comparing herself with the saints she felt she was as far removed from them as was a “grain of sand trampled underfoot to a mountain.”  Instead of feeling discouraged by such reflections, she concluded that God would not inspire a wish which could not be realized. And that, in spite of her “littleness” she might aim at being a saint.

Many alcoholics strive for sobriety but struggle to attain it. St. Therese instructs us that “the striving” for God is pleasing in His eyes. He knows our imperfections and limitations. I offer there is not one more “little” in one’s own mind than the alcoholic, full of shame and remorse wishing he were a better person.

The second saint I believe would be great for alcoholics to have recourse to is Saint Dymphna.

Saint Dymphna

Saint Dymphna

Saint Dymphna, another saint who died at a very young age, is “officially” the patron saint of mental illness. Science has established that alcoholic is a “disease of the mind.”  Alcoholism affects the deep recesses of our brains, the limbic system, which controls pleasure, reward, survival, spirituality. Over time, with persons pre-disposed to this, alcohol changes our brains and makes it very difficult for us to recover absent miracles.

So, alcoholism is a mental illness which is treated with the latest medication, therapy and 12 step programs – Saint Dymphna has a special love for those of us hindered by brain/mental diseases as her father was “mad.”  She fled her home with the assistance of a local priest in order to escape her father’s desire to marry her to replace the loss of his wife/her mother. She fled into the hills and became a hermit. But her father found her and beheaded her and her friend.

Centuries later, the tombs were discovered and the name “Dymphna” was written on a brick found on the coffin of the young girl. As the remains were reinterred in a tomb, miraculous healings of those suffering from mental illness were reported in the immediate area. The bishop of Cambrai commissioned a text of the life of Saint Dymphna and the tomb became a pilgrimage site for those suffering.

By the end of the thirteenth century a hospital was built near her tomb for the treatment of nervous and mental disorders. today, Gheel remains a world-renowned hospital center, offering the most enlightened methods in treating the mentally ill.

I have a special love for these two young saints and often pray they intercede for me and for my loved ones who suffer from alcoholism.

I Miss God.

iStock_000005641615XSmallSounds like a weird thing to say, I know. Logically, I know He’s right there. Right here. But I miss Him.  I miss the intimacy we used to have. Part of me thinks I’ll never have that intimacy with Him again, that it was just a honeymoon phase, pink cloud, idealistic thing of my youth. But another part of me knows that isn’t true–I guess that’s the glimmer of hope in me that still shines even if dimly.

I “know” He’s there, here. I know this, the way I know this computer is here.  I don’t question it. I know He is performing miracles, showering us all with His grace, loving us unconditionally beyond our understanding.  I know He’s provided me all the tools in the world to find Him, reach Him, connect with Him–Mass, the Sacraments, the Saints, the Rosary, Scripture, His Son, His Mother. These “tools” have brought me closer to Him in the past and I know they will again-hopefully. I miss the closeness, the idealistic way we used to have a relationship – the way that gave me all the confidence in the world that He would protect me, nurture me, love me. I miss this.

Don’t laugh but I used to be idealistic about politics too, until last year’s general election here in the US. After that election I lost my idealistic view of believing in people in general, in politics specifically.  It’s sort of like this.  The let down was so greatly felt for me that I stopped paying attention, caring, hoping, doing the things I normally would do to try to participate and cooperate with my political beliefs.

When I relapsed last spring, God was still there. But when I got the DUI in June I lost Him. It’s like I felt those consequences – of my own actions, certainly – so greatly that I stopped paying attention to God, stopped caring, hoping, doing the things I normally would do to try to participate and cooperate with God’s grace. 

When the lawyer in September called and told me I had to go to either jail or treatment for 30 days as part of my sentence, I was overwhelmed. I had recently launched my business and I would have to leave that and my family for a month. These consequences felt too great for me. Without health insurance, I worried I wouldn’t be able to find a treatment center I could afford and would have to go to jail. I remembered the 2 days I spent in jail in June and this really scared me. We finally did find a treatment center in South Georgia that was fairly inexpensive and my brothers helped me pay for it so I wouldn’t have to go to jail.

I had a little hope that I might find God again while I was in treatment– I know the drill. Treatment is usually a spiritual thing. And the treatment center we found appeared to be run by devoutly  Catholic people. The pictures on the walls were all Catholic. There was a big stained glass window at the front of the house of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Rosaries everywhere! Mary statues and crucifixes and a small chapel with a kneeler. So, even though I was beaten down about having to go, I did have a little bit of hope that me and God would reconnect and make up. My sister was even jealous, assuming I’d have a month to pray and be with God – ha!

Well, things didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. For the first time in my life, I met people who went to Mass every Sunday, gave out communion, seemed to be very Catholic on the outside; but they were anything but in real life. The owner and the main counselor were both Catholic. But they lied, manipulated, gossiped, were rude, sarcastic, petty and narcissitic. There were nine of us women in treatment and we were purposely turned against one another, diminished, brought down, shamed and neglected. During “group,” the counselors would bring out the worst of us, things discussed in private counseling sessions, in front of the whole group and success was found in breaking us down, making us cry.

I reason since it was a long term treatment center for hard core drug addicts that maybe they had to do this, break the women down to get to their/our core or something. But I left there, much more broken and jaded than when I arrived.  I was encouraged to talk things through with the other women and with the counselors. I was chastised for stealing quiet time alone to try to be with God – I was told I was isolating. I was unable to connect with God there as I connect with God in private, not in group.

I did leave at the end of the 30 days with a compassionate love for the other eight women and their struggles. I keep up with them on Facebook and have learned that four of the eight left shortly after I did. This surprised me because they were all in for long-term treatment. One was kicked out. And the other three left, saying the owner is “crazy.”  One is actually filing a Hippa complaint against the facility, which I’m not really sure what that is?

Anyways, I “know” God is there, right here.  I just can’t seem to connect.  If you’re reading this, please understand I’m not looking for advice at all. In AA meetings, we would call advice-giving “cross-talk.” And the reason it’s discouraged in AA meetings is because most people don’t want advice, they just want to speak. In meetings we share our own experience, strength and hope and refrain from giving each other advice on how to live or fix our problems.  I guess I say this because I know I have a lot of caring, compassionate readers out there and I just ask for your prayers, that’s all.  I’m really fine. Just a little jaded. I just wanted to get it out here on the blog – maybe somebody else has felt this way, too.

I read this poem in my Magnificat subscription this morning which is probably all I need: Humility

“Humility”

Humility is to be still
under the weathers of God’s will.
It is to have no hurt surprise
when morning’s ruddy promise dies,
when wind and drought destroy, or sweet
spring rains apostatize in sleet,
or when the mind and month remark
a superfluity of dark.
It is to have no troubled care
for human weathers anywhere.
And yet it is to take the good
with the warm hands of gratitude.
Humility is to have place
deep in the secret of God’s face
where one can know, past all surmise,
that God’s great will alone  is wise,
where one is loved, where one can trust
a strength not circumscribed by dust.
It is to have a place to hide
when all is hurricane outside

poem by JESSICA POWERS – Jessica Powers (+1988) was a Carmelite nun, sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit.

Father Emmerich’s 12 Step Review new issue Out!

photo 1And this one is a doozy.  Anger and Fear. Man oh man how anger and fear drive the alcoholic into our cups. I am one to think I am never angry. I don’t even hardly ever feel angry. Cut me off in traffic? Oh, you’re probably on your way to an emergency. Cancel your ad at the last minute? Crap. But I get it. Things come up.

But when Fr Emmerich talks about Saint Thomas Aquinas (whom is awesome) take on anger: ” St Thomas Aquinas teaches that one can sin with regard to anger in two ways, by excess or by defect: by excess when we act out of the anger in a sinful way; by defect when we stuff the anger and become depressed instead of allowing the anger to express itself in a good and holy way.”

I’m a stuffer.

I cringe and get annoyed by those who express anger “by excess!” Those who go crazy, cuzz, freak out and make a scene causing everybody to feel so uncomfortable— aka my husband 🙂

But I’ve learned in recovery this is such a true Truth: “You spot it you got it.”  So, if I spot this awfulness expression of anger by excess do I have this in ME?  oh my goodness grose!  Please God no. I don’t have this awful anger thing, right?

Right?  Wrong.  I have what Saint Thomas Aquinas describes as anger “by defect,” where I stuff it and get depressed.  So, I can be all high and mighty that I’m not an “angry” person but damn straight I actually am.  I just handle my anger differently. I stuff it and deny it.  Either way, the sin is just as bad.

To see all of Father Emmerich’s 12 STep newsletters, check out www.12-step-review.org

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Letting Go of Our Attachments is Key to Loving God

magnetsI’ve said this before but one of my most favorite daily prayer books is “My Daily Bread” by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, published in 1956.  Here is an excerpt from it regarding “attachments,” from pages 192 -194, Chapter 98:

1. My child, as you go through life your heart tends to attach itself to many things. If these attachments become too strong they will make you their slave. You will eventually sin because of them. True, your natural likes and dislikes are not decided by an act of the will. You can, however, control them with the help of prayer, mortifications, and My Sacraments.

2. Purify your love for all earthly things by using them wisely according to My will. Only with a pure love like this can you escape the slavery of earthly attachments. You will never again be too troubled at the possibility of losing something, be it a friend or a cherished possession. Nor is this a form of misguided selfishness. You are simply choosing first things first, God before creatures.

3. Refuse to be a slave of anything on earth. Love Me and My Will more than all else. You are still disturbed and displeased when matters go against your wishes and desires. You still fail to understand the passing nature of earthly things.

4. Let no human being nor earthly satisfaction mean so much to you that you would sin for them. If you love anything that much, your love is misguided and foolish. You are preferring a reflection of God to God Himself.

5. If you want true joy and real greatness, be attached to Me above every person and thing in your earthly life. Let your desires and love be guided by My wisdom, and they will never lead you into folly.