A fortnight of years in sobriety

Today marks my 14th anniversary of my last drunk. I sort of remember it, although for years I couldn’t recall the exact time (as in hour/minute) I took my last drink. I still can’t. I won’t bother with the details of my last drunk as I’ve written about them before.

Question: “How’d I do it?” Answer: “One day at a time!!” Well, there’s more to it than that, but in essence the twelve step practice of taking each day as it comes does help.

Sometimes I have to take each hour as it comes.

Speaking of the Twelve Steps, yes, they are useful. A wonderful lifeline when other things are absent or insufficient. (Absent or insufficient because they have not been developed enough as a response to external factors that may create a desire to drink.)

My Catholic Faith was and is more useful. I do know that if I had to rely solely upon the spirituality of the Twelve Steps and meeting attendance, I’d be one of those poster children for relapses; “those people” you see who enter the program, “get it” for a while, and then go back out.

Once in a while there are stressors. Anxiety, isolation, economic concerns and so forth well up and I think, “Just one drink to take the edge off.” But no, I don’t. I get through it (“One hour at a time, one minute at a time…”) and move on.

At times like those I also grab my AA literature (the Big Book or 12 & 12) and get help that way. Sometimes I feel the need for a meeting, but don’t bother (I seriously am NOT a meeting person. Never was, never will be. Online recovery works for me. I visit In the Rooms a lot.)

Sometimes when I feel that way, that my Faith and other personal means to maintain sobriety aren’t working, and I feel the need to fall back on traditional fixes like “going to a meeting” or “calling a sponsor” then I assess the state of my Faith. Sincerely, the Faith is all one should need.

Jesus came to heal the broken and wounded. The sick. We are all that and so His Church and the sacraments and devotions should work. They have, for me and for others that I’ve run across over the years. But at times they seem to be “not enough.”

But that isn’t an indictment of the Faith, or possibly not even my practice of it. There’s a list of saints very long who have gone through frequent periods of spiritual dryness, times when the Faith “wasn’t there.” They persevered and discerned that it was God’s way of drawing them closer. It is a path of spiritual growth and development (see St. Teresa of Jesus, a/k/a St. Teresa of Avila.) We feel distant and therefore we persevere and strive on, or we abandon the path.

I stay on the path. (This must be why images and symbols of “the path,” “the road,” “the way,” “the journey” resonate with me.)

I have come to feel that in those times when I feel the urge to drink is strong, and I need to respond in a traditional twelve step way, that I need to work on my Faith. I need to make a Spiritual Communion, or meditate on the Holy Spirit and His indwelling in me, or talk to the Blessed Mother. If this sounds selfish to you who are avid and devoted Twelve-Steppers, so be it. For the most part, my experience with AA has been at variance with the common conception of a “fellowship.” It’s just one more organization where I am a misfit, despite trying.

To me, AA and meeting attendance are training wheels or a crib. Eventually you outgrow them. You learn to ride on your own without the help of training wheels, and you move out of the crib. Useful to understand alcoholism and get the basics of Twelve Step spirituality and how to change your way of thinking and responding to situations, but after a fashion, one should learn what the Faith has to offer.

We were created by God. We exist to love Him and serve Him in this life and to be united and happy with Him forever in the next life (Heaven.) To get through this life He has established a Church to guide us.

We are obligated and we owe Him the duty to fully explore that Church and the Faith that springs up around Her. This does not mean leaving AA, if that suits your sobriety and you really enjoy it, then fine. It can be considered a work of mercy. Perhaps even a source for friendships.

But working within a Twelve Step program shouldn’t come at the expense of your Catholic Faith; that is like continuing to eat pureed baby food when the bread of life is readily available.

That’s all I have to say! I’ve just been very reflective on my fourteen years, where I’ve been, am now and where I’m going, along with the means for the way.

Just trudgin’ my road of happy destiny.

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"

Ninety-nine years ago, today

Today is the 99th anniversary of the beginning of the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal.

Two years ago I took a greater interest in the Apparitions than before and in studying them, discerned that they would be of great beneficial use to recovering alcoholics and addicts.

On the one hand, I probably shouldn’t have started blogging about them when I did, as I haven’t written in too great a detail about the individual apparitions; the result being too many posts of perhaps shallow substance (at least “shallow” for anyone very familiar with them). The primary purpose of this blog isn’t really to delve too deeply into things like Marian Apparitions. But, I do have two hands and the other one counters with the proposition that perhaps I may have whetted your appetite on Fatima several years prior to their centennial, and hopefully you have gone beyond what I have written here, explored them on your own and have taken to heart the Fatima message of prayer, penance and conversion.

The Fatima message is essentially the message of this blog. So… perhaps in response to the approaching centennial, I can incorporate more things on Fatima throughout the year, rather than just on the Apparition date. (I’m obviously blog-planning out loud…)

EWTN has a good page on first Apparition at Fatima.

Here are all my posts on Fatima to figure out what I was doing.

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"

Divine Mercy Sunday

(NOTE: Portions of this post were cobbled together from earlier ones.)

Tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a new celebration established by Pope St. John Paul II in 2000 when he canonized a Polish nun who had received messages (or “interior locutions”) from Jesus in the 1930’s. (These are an accepted part of Catholicism, although not binding upon the faithful. Apparitions like those at Lourdes and Fatima and messages such as those received by Sr. Faustina (now Saint Faustina) do not add anything new to God’s Revelation to humanity. They are merely signs that the Good Shepherd is doing His work and is reminding us of certain necessary things. Quite often apparitions and locutions occur during critical moments in human history, indicating that the Lord’s “sheep” are going astray and He is coming after them.)

Jesus’ messages to St. Faustina concern God’s immense love for people and His boundless “ocean of Mercy” to which we are all entitled. No matter how dirtied we are by the sins of our past, when we dip into the ocean of Mercy we are scrubbed clean. God’s mercy is available to us for the asking, and is the source of immeasurable graces.

The devotion and practice of Divine Mercy is critical, I think, to anyone in recovery. It fixes our brokenness and mends our wounded souls. It teaches us that God is a loving Father, that Jesus is our brother and the Holy Spirit our infallible guide.

It was important to me, and critical in my recovery and how my Catholic Faith became more important than the Twelve Steps in maintaining my sobriety.

I had drifted away from the Catholic Church in 1987 thinking that religion was just human nonsense designed by the powerful to control people. I never doubted or disbelieved in God’s existence, as I’ve always regarded atheism as a supremely irrational and stupid human notion. I did feel nevertheless that religion was pointless. Anyway, to make a long story short, I drank to excess, abused it, and ended up returning to live with my Mom for 10 years. Originally I was to be her caregiver (my alcoholism was manageable), but for a while I was the person being cared for. (See also Drunkalogue.) My Mom watched EWTN a lot. Aside from the Daily Mass, from which I got a daily injection of Truth and sensibility from the sermons, she also watched the “Chaplet of Divine Mercy” each morning. She eventually taught it to me, particularly around Divine Mercy Sunday.

I think it was her daily praying of the Chaplet that brought me back into the Church. It also was, and continues through this day, to be a source of healing and mercy.

This is important to us Catholic alcoholics and addicts. We are so broken and wounded from our past. For many the past is just too much and they never fully escape from its haunting.

The all-encompassing nature of Divine Mercy heals our souls and enables us to draw upon the endless reservoir of God’s Mercy. It is a tremendous aid in our spiritual growth and progress. It led me back into the Catholic Church, with Her fullness of the Gospel Truth and the sacramental life and graces. It helps you to achieve a more fuller life.

The key elements of the Divine Mercy Devotion are:

Please click on each of those links to learn more! You can also click on this: Divine Mercy to explore anything else I wrote on it.

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"

Mother Angelica of EWTN dies, Easter Sunday 2016

Mother Angelica, the Poor Clare nun who founded EWTN, died today. She was 92.

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(Image via EWTN Facebook Page)

Mother Angelica was, to say the least, a significant factor in my reversion to the Catholic Church in 2002. It was a process that stretched over several years, but ultimately came to fruition when I was felled by my alcoholism and would up doing nothing but laying on my Mom’s couch for weeks on end as I was too ill to go anywhere and do anything. Mom watched EWTN every morning, mainly the Daily Mass and several devotional programs, particularly the Divine Mercy Chaplet. All of that, as well as Father Angelus Shaughnessy’s homilies and Father Benedict Groeschel’s programs. These all helped me straighten out my thinking.

My Mom had taught the Divine Mercy Chaplet to me during the years before my reversion and recovery. I think Mom knew something wasn’t quite right concerning my relationship to the Church, but she never said anything. Maybe she just taught it to me because I didn’t know it. Whatever, God knew, though! Mother Angelica’s broadcast of the Divine Mercy Chaplet devotion as well as the annual Divine Mercy Sunday celebrations from Eden Hill, MA slowly drew me back home. Although I wasn’t practicing the Faith, the annual Divine Mercy Sunday telecast was an annual event. I actually looked forward to it. The seeds were planted and slowly took root. Alcohol masked the interior growth. When I finally succumbed to it, being too physically weak to go anywhere, exposure to EWTN finally brought the Faith out from the dark nether regions of my soul where it had lain dormant.

Mother Angelica and EWTN helped me a lot in early recovery when I knew AA’s 12 Steps weren’t going to be enough. I had looked at them, thought them interesting and valuable, but felt they were at the shallow end of the spiritual pool. I needed something deeper. EWTN illustrated to me that Catholicism wasn’t something that you did for an hour on Sunday, but was a way of life, infusing your heart and mind with a manner of living and thinking that draws you closer to God, and ultimately, to our true Home, Heaven.

She had much to say about how to apply the Faith to daily living. Several books of hers directly dealt with problems and coping and just “How do I get through this…life…?” I have them all.

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(Image courtesy of EWTN)

EWTN has a full scedule of events this week, including her funeral, listed on their: Memorial site on Mother Angelica. The site also has much information on her life and work.

See also: CNA’s Schedule of Events on Mother Angelica

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"

Novena to St. Joseph reminder

Just a reminder: A feast Day for St. Joseph is coming up on March 19th, meaning a novena through him should start on March 10th or 11th.

EWTN has two nice novenas. See: Novena to St. Joseph and a shorter St. Joseph Novena

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"

Lent is continuing…

I just wrote something that will appear on March 9th, and in doing so noticed it has been nearly a month since my last post (Ash Wednesday). This isn’t an apology for not posting, (I don’t do that anymore.) but Lent has been typically a month when I post more often than not.

On the one hand time slipped by a little fast (I didn’t realize it had been a month.) On the other, I’ve been busy doing Lent-y things. Trying to make “spiritual progress,” and succeeding and failing, but trudging on nevertheless. Following up on my Year of Mercy desire to develop a greater appreciation for Divine Mercy, and reading much on it. Recently this involved skimming through previously read books on and by Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement and jotting down books she read or were popular with the CW movement back in the 1930s – 1950s. I figure they’re all public domain and hence possibly available online to download for my Kindle. (Some are, most aren’t. But my wife recently posted a like that lists Free books: 100 legal sites to download literature. So, I plan to be really busy scouring them for books! Day and the CW Movement are important to learn about during this Year of Mercy as they are an excellent example of applied “Works of Mercy.”

The Corporal Works of Mercy:

To feed the hungry.
To give drink to the thirsty.
To clothe the naked.
To shelter the homeless
To visit the sick.
To visit the imprisoned
To bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy:

To instruct the ignorant.
To counsel the doubtful.
To admonish sinners.
To bear wrongs patiently.
To forgive offences willingly.
To comfort the afflicted.
To pray for the living and the dead.

I hope your Lent is going well.

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"

Lent 2016

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and that means Lent, that special time of the year for people who wish to grow closer to the Lord and to make tremendous strides in their spiritual progress. For us sober Catholics, we should embrace this season!

Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples: “If anyone is willing to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
(via The Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version)

Bear in mind that taking up your Cross to follow Him could mean ending up like Him, too. Particularly in this day and age of the persecution of Christians.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have two excellent online resources. The first is their Lenten Resources page and the other is the USCCB Daily Mass Readings.

Praying Lent: an Online Ministry of Creighton University is an annual suggestion of mine for Sober Catholic readers.

Last, and certainly least, is Sober Catholic Lenten post Archives, every post I’ve ever done on Lent in nine years of blogging. I don’t know how often I’ll blog during the season, but as usual I’ll try and kick it up a few notches.

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"

St. Maximilian Kolbe Relic Tour begins in the USA and Canada (UPDATED)

(NOTE: I was so excitipated over the relic tour that I messed up some links in the body of the post. The “St. Maximilian Kobe Post Archives” link should be fine, and I now include links to the news article as well tour schedule.)

I learned yesterday that a first-class relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe will be taken on a pilgrimage tour of the USA and Canada during 2016. I’m blogging about it only today as I was so excitipated I couldn’t get anything done. See: St. Maximilian Kolbe Relic Tour Begins in U.S.. The schedule is here:
Click here to see if the Tour goes near you.

To be “excitipated” means to be “so excited about something that you cannot function productively.” I made the word up. Yes, St. Maximilian Kolbe is one of my favorite saints.

St. Maximilian Kolbe is a patron saint of alcoholics and addicts. I’ve written many times about him on this blog. See the St. Maximilian Kolbe Post Archives for all the posts on him.

I am also a member of the Militia of the Immaculata, a personal conversion and evangelization apostolate he founded in 1917. He established the MI while in Rome in response to a massive anti-Catholic protest and demonstration by Freemasons.

His relics will be at a parish not very far from me. I will be able to see them on May 22nd, which is a date of much significance to me, for that is my sobriety date. It is also the feast day of St. Rita of Cascia, patron of lost causes and impossible situations.

So, one of my favorite saints, who’s a patron of addicts, will be having his relics pass right by me on my sobriety date. And I’ll be able to see them. Paulcoholic is excitipated!

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A note on “relics.” From the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center: “What is a Relic?

A relic is something connected with a saint or blessed, including a part of their body (e.g. hair or a piece of bone), their clothing, or an object that the person used or touched.

Relics are classified as 1st Class – a part of the person’s body, for example: blood, hair, or bones; 2nd Class ‑ an article touched by the person or touched directly to part of his or her body; and 3rd Class ‑ something touched indirectly to the person, that is, to a 1st or 2nd Class relic, to the tomb, etc.

It is not the kind of relic or how big it is that is important, but rather the faith and prayer that the relic occasions. By the communion of saints, it is that person who is close to us, blessing and praying for us.”

The first-class relic of St. Maximilian is hair from his beard. Since he was murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz, his body was dumped in a crematorium. No remains were saved. A barber had shaved his beard in 1939 just after the Nazis invaded Poland. It was hoped a beardless face would attract less attention. (This is from the National Catholic Register article on the Tour linked to up above.)

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"

“The Daily Pledge” online recovery community

For those of you who participate in online recovery, either to supplement your face-to-face meetings or to replace them, just a “heads up” that Hazelden’s Social Community will be shutting down near the end of the month. It is being replaced by a new online recovery community called “The Daily Pledge.” I have already changed the links in the sidebar.

If you are a member of Hazelden Social, you should be able to see the notice there. (I won’t bother with a link.)

I just joined “The Daily Pledge” and it seems at first glance to be a useful place to meet others in recovery. I was never really all that active on the Hazelden Social site; although it was useful, the site navigation was cumbersome to me. I did get the hang of it, but I never felt at ease with all the options and functions. The Daily Pledge is more “stripped down” yet retains a rich set of options for members to share.

Here is the link: The Daily Pledge. My profile: My Profile on the Daily Pledge.

I spend much more time on In the Rooms. I login several times a week, sometimes daily. You can find me over there: My profile on In the Rooms. Despite my preference for ITR, due to the massive change for Hazelden Social in moving over to TDP, I will give TDP a chance. I like what I see so far!

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"

Blessed Michael Sopocko: A Divine Mercy intercessor for alcoholics

In my study of the Divine Mercy devotion, particularly focused in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I ran across in one of the biographies of St. Faustina information concerning her spiritual director, Blessed Michael Sopocko (in Polish: Michał Sopoćko.) It is pronounced “Soh-potch-ko.”

I won’t get into a biography of him here (there’s a link later on that is a biography) but Blessed Sopocko was instrumental in guiding and advising Sr. Faustina during her life, especially in getting her to write down the messages she received from Jesus as well as other observations on her life (a spiritual journal, or diary.)

The information in particular that attracted my attention, apart from his assistance to Sr. Faustina and the Divine Mercy Message, was that in postwar Poland Fr. Sopocko was involved in a sobriety movement. I found nothing in particular as to what he did except for “In October 1947, the new academic year started at the seminary in Białystok. Father Sopoćko taught the same subjects that he had taught in Vilnius: catechetics, pedagogy, psychology, and the history of philosophy. His work at the seminary was not limited solely to teaching. He was also a confessor of the seminarians and conducted for them numerous retreats. At the same time, he also pursued pastoral, religious, social and educational activities. An important part of his activities were his educational programmes promoting sobriety in a society. From: Biography of Bl. Sopocko

I feel that since we sober (and sobering up) Catholics deeply need Divine Mercy to assist us in achieving and maintaining our sobriety, we should avail ourselves of yet another intercessor. Especially one who is closely acquainted with Divine Mercy and its Apostle. When you read his biography and do additional research on him in the Divine Mercy links in the sidebar, you can appreciate what a powerful intercessor he can be. He lived a difficult life, especially after St. Faustina died in 1938. From the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland, to the later Soviet sequel, to the banning of the Divine Mercy Message as taught by St. Faustina for over a 20 year period, Bl. Sopocko suffered persecution. A lesson many of us can draw strength from. Although we may not suffer persecution in our work, we can ask Bl. Sopocko for the strength to persevere.

He was beatified on September 28, 2008. His feast day is February 15th.

More on Fr. Sopocko.

On the Year of Mercy and us sober Catholics: The Year of Mercy and what it means for us sober Catholics and St. Faustina and Divine Mercy.

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"