Gratitude: Wanting what you have

In the rooms of AA, I’ve learned that gratitude means “wanting what you have.” At first I had thought this was silly and trite. Of course, I “want what I have!” But upon further thinking it became obvious the trite phrase has a deeper meaning.

In our alcoholism, one drink was never enough. The idea of just having one rarely enjoyed consideration. If one is good, then ten is awesome! Only ten?

And so we eventually found out the detrimental side effects of this attitude. If you’re an alcoholic, you know what those are.

But if you’re in recovery, even for a long while, a type of addictive thinking can still affect you. You may be dissatisfied with your material possessions. What you have isn’t enough. A better car, bigger residence, nicer computer, a smartphone with more bells and whistles, whatever, what you own that actually serves your needs somehow is no longer satisfying.

I think this is still a residual addiction. Although you no longer drink, the addictive side of your personality still craves something more. Not satisfied, it comes up with justifications for wanting more.

Many times in meetings you hear the phrase, “Stick with the winners.” It is good advice for newcomers; they are told to seek out those in sobriety who “have what they want,” namely a good, sustained quality of sobriety. Unfortunately, some use the trappings of materialism to determine that good sobriety. The idea is that after you’ve been sober for a while, you begin to recover many things that were lost, including material wealth. If you never had it, then you’ll get it. It is even inferred in the so-called “Twelve Promises,” found on Page 83 of AA’s “Big Book.” (See the online version at Alcoholics Anonymous. It is available as a PDF.)

Somewhere I’ve heard that to determine who’s a “winner,” you check out the vehicles people drive away from meetings in. The better, the more “successful.” There are other ways of determining material success, of course.

To me, the only real manner in which a person should be judges on their sobriety, how much of a “winner” they are, is how long have they been sober? Do they take life in stride? Have they been the target of a lot of “stuff” that life throws at them? Do they bear their Crosses well?

Although I’ve typically loathed discussions on ‘”gratitude” during meetings, I have now come to realize that gratitude is an essential tool in recovery, for it helps to retard or curtail “addictive thinking” elsewhere, and especially the draw of materialism. In my previous post, Be transformed!, I quoted Jesus’ saying “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”

Indeed!

It is not enough to just maintain sobriety, one also has to express gratitude for it, but also for everything else one has in life. If you are truly grateful for what you have, and your needs are consistently supplied, then you will have little desire for the “wants,” as they are rarely what you “need.”

Focusing on your “wants” is an addictive thought process: it means you are not satisfied with your needs, and you want more. Just as “one drink” was never enough, whatever you have in life now may not be enough, even though it adequately supplies your needs.

Think about it. Sometime ago, you got some “things.” They were fine and supplied your needs. Then they no longer did, or so it seemed, and so you got “more things.” After a while, it happened again; they no longer seemed sufficient and you went out and got “still more things.”

Really? Was all that necessary? What was different between the time you had just the “things” and then “more things,” and so on to “still more things?” What changed? Did they really not satisfy your needs, or was the accumulation just serving your “wants?” On Page 559 of AA’s “Big Book” there’s a line that says something like “our needs, which are always satisfied; and our wants, which never are.” I think that is the core. Our “wants” never are satisfied and so we desire “more.” Even though our needs were taken care of. That’s addictive thinking. One drink isn’t enough. Another is needed. And another. And so it is with material possessions. The car we drive isn’t good enough. (Yes it is, we just don’t want to see it. We see people in AA meetings drive better ones and we have to show our success in sobriety and get a newer one.) The computer we have isn’t powerful or fast enough. (Yes it is, we just feel self-conscious when we don’t have the latest Mac or Windows PC. That machine is from 2006???)

I am just putting this out there for consideration and discernment. Just an admonishment towards those who do see success in material terms. I do notice many people in recovery have a more relaxed attitude towards material possessions and are truly grateful for what they have. After all, there’s a reason why “gratitude” is a popular topic in meetings. We need to hear it, perhaps there’s an understanding of the danger in not being grateful for what we have. Especially since many have lost so much.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

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Be transformed!

The Second Reading from Today’s Mass of the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time has one of my favorite Scripture passages, and the first one I ever attempted to memorize. To me, it is at the heart of being a person in recovery:

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

In recovery, we are essentially becoming transformed. We live by the principles of our recovery program (be it Twelve Step or something else) and if we are Christian, we seek out what the Church has to offer people struggling with their addictions. And one key thing, and this is something I’ve stressed from time to time: you don’t conform to this age, you do not seek value in the so-called “morals” of the World. They do not offer anything of substance and certainly they do not offer anything good for your salvation.

In this “transformation” and our “renewal” we gain the capacity to discern what is the will of God, “what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

How to discern the Will of God? Reading Sacred Scripture is one way. In the Gospel Reading for today’s Mass, Jesus tells His disciples:

Matthew 16:24-27 “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Mass Readings via USCCB.

Again, “taking up the Cross” is essential to our recovery. We do not seek to run away from our troubles, all of the problems, big or small, that life throws at us daily. That is what we did while drinking. Everyone has troubles, it is a fact of human existence. We now have to tools to effectively deal with them, and perhaps even people around us who can assist us.

But it’s more than that. It’s building a new life in recovery, and becoming a better follower of Jesus Christ! Our lives today are better than when drinking. And even better than before we first picked up a drink due to our “renewal” and “transformation.”

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

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The “Page 552 Prayer to End Resentments”

On Page 552 of the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous (their basic text), there is a very helpful suggestion on how to rid yourself of resentments towards a person.

You pray for them every day for two weeks.

According to the writer of that Big Book chapter, they had held a deep resentment towards someone. They were seeking a way rid themselves of it when they chanced upon a magazine article. In this article a preacher wrote that if one holds a resentment towards someone or something (like a place, maybe), you pray for them every day for two weeks. You pray for their health, happiness and prosperity.

It doesn’t matter if you mean it or not, if it is “just words;” you do it anyway. You will find that by the end of the two weeks, you will come to mean it. This transformation will end the resentment towards that person.

A resentment, as we have learned, means to “re-feel” something; a negative sentiment is maintained, relived and nurtured over time. There’s a pretty good chance that if you are praying daily for their health, happiness and prosperity, this old, negative “sentiment” will erode and disappear.

I tried it and so far it is working. Being the person I am, I may have to do it again concerning this acutely annoying person. But I can attest to the fact that by the end of the two weeks, I genuinely desired “health, happiness and prosperity” for this person.

The writer didn’t give the words to the prayer, just describing the instructions. My prayer went as follows:

“Dear God in Heaven, if it be your holy will, look with favor upon the health, happiness and prosperity of …N…. . I ask You this in the Name of Jesus, the Lord.” (“N” being the name of the person you are praying for.)

That’s all. Simple and to the point. No complicated formula, nothing but a simple request. Although the target is the person you are praying for, in actuality you are praying for the removal of a resentment. Why not just pray for that? “Dear God in Heaven, if it be your holy will, please remove my resentment towards …N… . I ask You this in the Name of Jesus, the Lord.” You could do that. But I think the “Page 552 Prayer” is harder for us as we are doing something difficult. Someone hurt us and now we want good things for them? Sure, God can remove our resentment if we specifically ask for that; but recall the words at the end of the “Lord’s Prayer,”

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive the trespasses against us.”

In praying for the person that hurt us, we are forgiving them. And thus we are forgiven for anything we might have done to them. The emotional tie is broken, the resentment ceases.

Unless we stoke the fires of it again, so vigilance is needed. Let it rest. Easy, if the person is out of our lives and exists in the past. It is certainly harder if they are not, are still annoying and “things happen” to make the resentment flare up again. If that is the case, just pray harder when you are aware of situations arising that involve them; otherwise avoid them, if possible.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

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The Delayed Fatima Apparition of August 13

The Fatima Apparition of August 13, 1917 did not occur when it was supposed to. The three seers of Fatima: Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, had been essentially taken “hostage” by the local government administrator just prior to the Apparition. As a result they were not present, but were miles away being threatened with torture (being boiled in oil) if they did not reveal the “Secret” that the Blessed Virgin Mary had shared with them earlier (a vision of Hell, amongst other things).

Nevertheless, Mary was not about to be upstaged or thwarted by a mere bureaucrat. Our Lady did appear to the shepherd children on August 19th.

During this Apparition, our Lady requested that the seers continue to return on the 13th of the month and to continue praying the Rosary.

Lucia asked her as to what they should do with the money that was beginning to be donated. Mary replied that two “litters” (like stretchers to carry someone) are to be made, one to be carried by Lucia, Jacinta and some girls, the other by Francisco and some boys, for the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Money left over is to be used for the construction of a chapel to be built on the site.

Mary concluded with, “Pray, pray a lot and offer sacrifices for the sinners. You know that many souls go the hell because there is none who pray for them.”

As I have said previously, I plan on blogging about these Apparitions in hopes that Catholics in recovery can find some additional tools to pack in their spiritual toolkit for fighting addictions. Every month from May through October, on or about the 13th, I shall post something on that month’s Apparition through the 100th Anniversary in 2017. Initially I’ll be very basic, but when the anniversaries approach again up through 2017, I hope to delve deeper. I am still beginning my journey of exploring the spiritual wealth of Fatima, and the more I read, the more I am coming to regard Fatima as an essential devotion to any Catholic in recovery from addictions.

You can keep up with Sober Catholic’s blogging on Fatima at this link: All the Fatima Posts.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

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St. Monica Novena

Mike, over at What Does Mike Think?, reminded me that tomorrow, August 18th, is the start of a Novena to St. Monica. She was the mother of St. Augustine. St. Monica is the Patron Saint of “Alcoholics, Married women, Mothers, Wives and Difficult Marriages.”

My friend Number 9, over at Catholic Alcoholic, reports on why she is considered a patron saint of alcoholics:

“Augustine gives only one incident from her youth, obviously relayed to him by Monica herself, of how she was in danger of becoming a wine bibber, but was corrected when her secret sips in the wine cellar were discovered and a maid, in a moment of anger, called her a “drunkard.” This stinging rebuke prompted her to change her behavior and develop perseverance. Perhaps this is why recovering alcoholics are among the many groups who intercede to Saint Monica.”

via Saint Monica: Another Patron Saint for Alcoholics.

I’m thinking that she could also be a patron of those who suffer from someone else’s alcoholism or addiction. How many people have “difficult marriages” due to addiction? She also is most famous for praying for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine, daily for 18 years. How many parents are estranged from their children over alcoholism and addictions? How many children are lost to the seductions of worldly pleasures, as Augustine had been? You get the idea.

St. Monica is most assuredly someone every alcoholic and addict should become acquainted with.

The novena is here: St. Monica Novena.

The site which has the novena is Pray More Novenas, a “Novena Prayer Reminder.” Sign up with an email address for notifications about upcoming novenas and you can participate in them all year round!

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Get inspiration delivered to your mailbox! Click here for details: Lighthouse Catholic Media

It’s time for “Second Lent” again

Reblogged from last year:

“Second Lent” is upon us again!”

For the past few years I have been announcing what I like to call “Second Lent,” an highly unadvertised and unannounced additional penitential period that the Church offers. It begins on the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6th) and end on the Feast of the Exaltation (or Triumph) of the Cross on September 15th.

The link in the first sentence takes you to an earlier blogpost that talks about it more; that post itself has links about ANOTHER penitential period that is a Franciscan devotion, known as “St. Michael’s Lent.”

I love the Church. She gives us so many opportunities to find our way down the narrow path.

So, as always, if your regular Lent wasn’t satisfying, you have TWO opportunities coming to make up for it!

I plan to blog a lot through Psalm 119. Not sure how successful I’ll be, but that is the plan.

Blogger’s Note UPDATED : I didn’t blog at all through Psalm 119, as I had planned. So, I may try again this year. (the Update: I haven’t and probably won’t during this “Second Lent.” Eventually!

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Get inspiration delivered to your mailbox! Click here for details: Lighthouse Catholic Media

St. Maximilian Kolbe Novena for Alcoholics and Addicts begins again

It is early August and that means that it is trime for the annual novena through St. Maximilian Kolbe for alcoholics and addicts.

It starts August 6th and ends on his Feast day, August 14th. Although some sources begin it today, the 5th.

Here are links to two prior blog posts on the Novena, the first one contains links to all nine days of the novena that I wrote in 2007, the second one is a much shorter one.

St. Maximilian Kolbe Novena for Alcoholics and Addicts (links to all nine days).

St. Maximilian Kolbe Novena for Alcoholics and Addicts (a shorter one).

For the complete archive of Kolbe posts: St. Maximilian Kolbe Archives at Sober Catholic.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Get inspiration delivered to your mailbox! Click here for details: Lighthouse Catholic Media

Twitter update for @sobercatholic

I recently found out that Twitter has a follow limit of 2,000. That’s the maximum number of accounts that you can follow. So I decided to review who or what I’m following and “cull the herd,” so to speak.

I chose to trim my “recovery” list. As I am not a recovery professional, I decided to unfollow almost every treatment facility/detox center and the like. I have nothing against such places, they do great work with people. But if I were to make use of Twitter in the manner I’d prefer to use it, I’d just follow and interact with individuals. And so my recovery list is now filled with fellow people in recovery, with some exceptions for Catholic organizations and recovery media accounts. I know that I can add accounts to a list and not follow them, but there’s already too much noise and clutter online. Again, facilities do great work and are a critical need, but I cannot read everything that comes across a feed or timeline and so some restrictions are in order. Having multiple Twitter accounts only multiplies the problem.

I will look at other lists that I have used to organize my Twitter follows, and trim those as well. I may limit my Twitter follows to just people in recovery, writers of any stripe, (but preferably Catholic or involved in recovery), pro-lifers and those few people I consider online friends but I know only through Twitter (or perhaps elsewhere, but Twitter is an additional way to keep in touch with them).

I don’t have much personal use for Twitter; it exists mostly to promote the posts I write for this blog, and to a lesser extent, to connect with other people. The fact that Twitter limits you to 140 characters for any post renders the latter somewhat less than useful. I’m a writer and blogger, what can I do with 140 characters? Its user interface isn’t to me very helpful, anything that happened much longer than a few hours ago is basically lost to history. Twitter power users might point out that the use of lists can help along those lines, but due to what I said above, I have little interest in being a “power user.” I do make use of lists as I’ve indicated above, and they do help matters, but still, the limited nature of 140 characters dissuades me from making much use of the network. The 140 lends itself to shorter online attention spans, oh look! my cats are doing something cute.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Get inspiration delivered to your mailbox! Click here for details: Lighthouse Catholic Media

Five First Saturday Devotions

For several generations faithful Catholics have had in their spiritual toolkit another devotional practice focusing on the Blessed Virgin Mary (which, as all Marian devotions do, leads one closer to Jesus).

The “Five First Saturdays” were instituted at the request of Mary in 1925, during an Apparition to Lucia, one of the then only surviving seers of Fatima.

Our Lady requested that the faithful, on the first Saturday of the month for five consecutive months:

  • Go to Confession
  • Receive Holy Communion
  • and pray the Rosary for fifteen minutes, all the while meditating on the fifteen mysteries in a spirit of reparation

Communion can be received in the usual ways: either at Mass, such as a Saturday morning daily Mass or the Saturday Evening Vigil Mass, or from a priest or Eucharistic Minister, or during a Communion Service. Many parishes may have such a service to assist people in fulfilling the requirements. Check around your locale at Mass Times for parishes.

Why five Saturdays? Our Lady requested that for the following reasons:

Five first Saturdays of reparation were requested to atone for the five ways in which people offend the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

  1. attacks upon Mary’s Immaculate Conception
  2. attacks against her Perpetual Virginity
  3. attacks upon her Divine Maternity and the refusal to accept her as the Mother of all mankind
  4. for those who try to publicly implant in children’s hearts indifference, contempt and even hatred of this Immaculate Mother
  5. for those who insult her directly in her sacred images.

I am posting this now as tomorrow, August 2nd, is Saturday, and the first one of the month. It’ll be a good time to start as there are only five calendar months remaining in the year, so it’s easy to remember. When I did this devotion, I usually selected November through March, as they are the five full (or nearly full) months without any Major League Baseball regular season games. I’ve never heard of anyone selecting any particular months to do this (any five will do, as long as they are consecutive.) But in my opinion, try five that will be easy to remember to complete the devotion. The first five months of the year, or the last five, or if your favorite sport has a five month-long offseason, or something else entirely, whatever works! ;-)

Why consecutive? I don’t know, probably to link them all in a continuity.

For more information, please visit here: Immaculate Heart of Mary and here.

The Five First Saturdays devotion is a part of the Fatima series of posts, found here.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Get inspiration delivered to your mailbox! Click here for details: Lighthouse Catholic Media

Fatima Apparition of July 13, 1917 and Praying for Peace

The third Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the three little shepherd children occurred on July 13, 1917. In this appearance, Our Lady asked that the seers pray the Rosary every day for world peace and for a “end to the war.” World War I was raging at the time.

This call to pray the Rosary for world peace is just as urgent now as it was in 1917, perhaps even more so. Considering the continued existence of nuclear weapons, terror threats and the increasing persecution of Christians world-wide (but especially in Africa and the Middle East/Southwest Asia), we need to use all of the spiritual weapons at our disposal to combat the evil spreading about the world.

The oldest of the three seers, Lucia, asked her as to who she was. Mary replied that she will identify herself in October, and also will provide a miracle so that all will believe.

It was also during this Apparition that Our Lady provided the seers with a vision of Hell. I’ll refrain from writing about that, this year. I do have to spread things out as I have three more years (God-willing) in which to work on these Fatima posts. I have to save some things for later. ;-)

For those of you who recite the Rosary, it was also during this Apparition that Mary requested that the phrase “Oh My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Your Mercy” be added to the end of each decade of the Rosary.

So, that is it for this month’s post on the Fatima Apparitions. As I have said before, I plan on blogging about these Apparitions in hopes that Catholics in recovery can find some additional tools to pack in their spiritual toolkit for fighting addictions. Every month from May through October, on or within a week or so of the 13th, I shall post something on Fatima through the 100th Anniversary of the Apparitions in 2017.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Get inspiration delivered to your mailbox! Click here for details: Lighthouse Catholic Media