Audio Resources for Catholic Alcoholics

7deadyI plan to invest in these CDs over time. I’ve purchased too many Nook books lately, so I need to wait a few weeks to make more money. After having read the book The Freedom to Love by Father Emmerich Vogt (which incorporates the 7 deadly sins into our experience of recovery), I am comfortable recommending his CDs because he teaches an authentic Faith and has 30 years of experience working with the 12 Steps.

Once I purchase and listen to these I will review here, but for now I wanted to share:

The Eleventh Step and the Spiritual Life
In this series of lectures and homilies, the eleventh step (Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God) is framed in terms of developing our catholic spiritual life through prayer, meditation and sacrifice. Father Emmerich uses clear and sometimes humorous examples of how to take disasters and change them into truly good, life changing and worthwhile experiences, both with others, and in our interior relationship with God. Set of 5 CDs, $35.00.

The Power of the Holy Spirit and the 12 Steps
A five CD set consisting of conferences and homilies given to a live congregation at CASA MARIA retreat house in Irondale, Alabama. 5 CD’s – $35.00.

The Spirituality of the 12 Steps
In this set of nine conferences Fr. Emmerich grounds each of the Steps in classical Gospel spirituality, and brings in the teachings of the saints. Each conference is about one hour-long. $65.00 for 9 CDs.

 

7 Quick-takes: 7 Reasons I Like Alcoholics Anonymous

aa-logo2Here 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.

7 Reasons Why I Like Alcoholics  Anonymous

1. Meetings

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I was always an A/B student. There are plenty of folks much smarter than I, especially probably psychiatrists and counselors. But for some reason, every time I’ve ever gone to a therapist I’ve found myself figuring out what it was she wanted me to say, then saying that.

I’m certain the therapist saw right through me.

I’d try to impress her by how introspective I was, while at the same time try to get her to like me by pretending I had all this self-awareness. If I had been honest and open to the process, I could have learned a thing or two and been truly helped. I believe in therapy, but I never did it right.

I assumed AA meetings were group therapy for drunk people, so I stayed away because “therapy didn’t work for me, right?”  Once I checked it out, though I found it is not like therapy. I am absolutely unable to get away with my bull-crap. I have to be painfully honest, in a way at first I didn’t know how to be, because inevitably the truths that come out during a meeting are so real that saying anything other than the God’s honest truth is obvious to all.  Common phrase in AA is, “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.” It’s quite refreshing, actually!

2. Fellowship

The last thing I wanted was new friends, especially with all these sober women. I had five sisters who were my best friends plus a non-family BFF, plus two kids, a husband, a house and a business to run. Understanding that any new friendships I made would take time, take me away from my already filled priorities, I decided I wouldn’t reach out to make new friends.

Plus, the word ‘fellowship” bugged me. That seemed like a thing Protestants did on Wednesday nights. It wasn’t a Catholic thing. And slogans like, “You Are Not Alone” rubbed me the wrong way because I wanted to be left alone. I was quite independent, thank you very much, so maybe you guys need fellowship but not me.

7quicktakesAfter sitting in the meetings for months, I found that I really liked these sober women.  I learned their stories, their struggles and mostly admired their courage in facing life on life’s terms.  But still I didn’t reach out.

It wasn’t until I relapsed and found that I couldn’t get back to my sober life without help, that I reached out in desperation.  And, immediately these women I had kept at arm’s length came to my rescue. And ever since then I’ve discovered the (evolving) fellowship is one of my favorite things.

3. “Sharing”

AA, like any other “organization” has developed its own lingo.  “Sharing” is when you raise your hand talk for three to five minutes in a meeting.  Initially sharing terrified me. And the more I tried to sound smart and evolved when I shared the more I was left feeling like a goof.

For example, in the beginning I would share something like this: “It’s so hard for me to stop drinking because I am married to my drinking buddy. Every day I come home to the one person I love to drink with the most. If only he would stop drinking too then I would be able to stay sober.”

Uh-uh.  This just wasn’t “honest.”  Sure it would have worked in a therapy session. Perhaps the therapist and I would have spent $100 discussing whether or not my husband was an alcoholic (he is not, btw!) or how I can separate from him for a few months while I get this sobriety thing down.

Not in an AA meeting.  And nothing was said to me, except maybe by my sponsor after the meeting—there was no real progress until I was able to share, “My husband was my drinking buddy, but his drinking has nothing to do with me. All I can do is focus on my own behavior, turn my dishonest will over to God and not drink one day at a time. I can’t control him nor should I try to.”

4. 12 Steps

It was very easy for me to like the 12 Steps because they were all very familiar to me. After Bill W, Dr Bob and the pioneers of AA wrote their book and developed the 12 Steps, a Catholic priest named Father Dowling had a meeting with Bill W to find out if he had used the principles of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola to come up with them. He had not. But the similarities were startling and there began a life-long friendship between the two men.

Turning my will over to God, doing an examination of conscience, confessing my sins, making amends, all these things are part of my beloved faith already so it was easy to like the 12 Steps.

5. Every one in positions of authority in the Church seemed to recommend AA to Catholic alcoholics.  

Believe me, I searched for a reason to believe that AA’s “higher power” and her “spirituality” contradicted the Church. But priest after priest recommend the program. In the confessional I would say, “But there are so many anti-Catholics in the meetings (which wasn’t true but that’s what I wanted to see).” And my confessor would without hesitation say, “There is nothing contrary to the Church in Alcoholics Anonymous.”

6. There are so many X-Catholics in  AA

Why would this be one of my reasons for liking the program?  I’ll tell you.  It’s wonderful, actually. Many times I’ve watched as x-Catholics come back to the Faith after working the Steps.  Apparently, after developing a way of life based on the Steps, these x-Catholics discover the Church had it right all along!  Many re-conversions are the direct result of x-Catholics getting sober in Alcoholics Anonymous.

7. My Sponsor

My sponsor, AF stuck by me when I picked up enough white chips to wallpaper my kitchen with. She never judged me, gave up on me nor told me what to do. She simply made herself available for whenever I was ready. It took a while, but once I was truly ready to live this way of life again she was there to show me the way through the Steps. The neat thing about sponsorship in AA is, when done right, sponsors are completely detached from the results of their work with another alcoholic. Helping another alcoholic is the work that helps the sponsor stay sober. They do it for themselves and that’s how it works. So, if a sponsee drinks or relapses, the sponsor doesn’t judge or take it personally. True sponsorship in AA is done with a spirit of healthy detachment and a desire to be useful, to help another person struggling. Sponsors do the work of sponsorship, but they leave the results to God.

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

Morning Meditations

rosary_balloonsIn meetings and in the steps it seems there is an intended difference between “prayer” and “meditation.”  Step 10-Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God. For me, one of the benefits of growing up Catholic is the learned mixing of the two.

Praying by talking to God about my day, praying for others, praying for my family, prayers before meals and bedtimes. And another form of Catholic prayer that I love is Lectio Divina, which is praying with the Scriptures.  Of course, the Mass is one big community prayer. But when I think of Catholic meditation I think of the Rosary. And Novenas.

For me, meditation isn’t sitting on the floor with my eyes closed focusing on my breath, chanting a centering word over and over.  I definitely see the benefit there and enjoyed it when we did these sessions in treatment. Focusing on my breath brings me into the present. Blocking all distractions from my mind using one word or phrase really does help me get centered–out of my own head so to speak. But it doesn’t feel like a God thing to me.

The ultimate form of meditation is the Rosary. The repetition of the memorized prayers centers my mind. The fingering of the beads gives me that element of touch. Lifting my thoughts to God by remembering the stories of the Bible–the mysteries of our faith.  On Mondays and Saturdays the recommendation is to Joyful Mysteries: Anunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation and the Finding at the Temple.  I can get teary-eyed on the fifth joyful mystery, imagining what Mary felt like after searching for Jesus for three days finally finding him in the Temple. As a mother of sons I can completely relate to Jesus’ response to his mother, “Where else would I be?”

Mom, why do you have to be so dramatic?

Remembering to breathe. Focusing on the present moment. Blocking out distractions. All good.  In fact, that might be the best way to prepare myself for praying the Rosary.  But that isn’t always convenient in a life of wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, business-owner, old-house owner, daugher-in-law. Me? I need to be able to grab my Rosary off my rearview mirror in the  middle of bumper to bumper Atlanta traffic and meditate on the mysteries of my Faith anytime, anywhere.

“The rosary contributes in a privileged way to prolong communion with Christ, and it educates us to live keeping our hearts’ gaze fixed upon him to radiate on everyone and everything his merciful love.”  Pope Benedict XVI

Step 12 Prayer

STEP 12 Prayer

Dear God,
My spiritual awakening continues to unfold. The help I have received I shall pass on & give to others, both in & out of the Fellowship. For this opportunity I am grateful. I pray most humbly to continue walking day by day on the road of spiritual progress. I pray for the inner strength & wisdom to practice the principles of this way of life in all I do & say. I need You, my friends, & the program every hour of every day. This is a better way to live.

11th Step Prayer

STEP 11 Prayer

Higher Power, as I understand You, I pray to keep my connection with You open & clear from the confusion of daily life. through my prayers & meditation I ask especially for freedom from self-will, rationalization, & wishful thinking.I pray for the guidance of correct thought & positive action.
Your will Higher Power, not mine, be done.

10th Step Prayer

STEP 10 Prayer

I pray I may continue: to grow in understanding & effectiveness; to take daily spot check inventories of myself; to correct mistakes when I make them; to take responsibility for my actions; to be ever aware of my negative & self-defeating attitudes & behaviors; to keep my willfulness in check; to always remember I need Your help; to keep love & tolerance of others as my code; & to continue in daily prayer how I can best serve You,
My Higher Power.