Recovering Catholics

One thing has repeatedly disturbed me in the over 10 years of sobriety that I have.

That thing is the phrase “Recovering Catholic.”

I encountered that phrase quite a lot yesterday and today when I revisited an online recovery community called In The Rooms. I joined a few years ago, never did much with it, but recently felt called to see it again and maybe participate more.

One thing that I hope to do this time around is seek out members of my Faith. My Faith has been extremely important to me in my recovery from alcohol. My Catholicism is tightly wrapped up in my experience, strength and hope.  I figure that if I can connect to other Catholics here, I might find more of a reason to stay. Not that I am uninterested in non-Catholic members, far from it, I’ll be a friend with anyone who is sincere. But I may find an additional incentive to stick around if I can meet other fellow Catholics.

And so I did a search up there in the search area for “Catholic.” I found a bunch of people. It seems that the ITR search engine found anyone who had the term “Catholic” in his or her profile.

And often the word “Catholic” was right after the word “Recovering.”

To me, that term is mean-spirited and hurtful. It also means that the people identifying themselves as one have unresolved issues with the Church. What do 12 Step Programs say about such things? I forget the exact quote in AA’s “Big Book,” but there is something in it about how anger and resentment are two things that alcoholics (and by modern extension, any addict) cannot afford.

They are dangerous landmines. These unresolved issues are just waiting to bite you and perhaps be the trigger for a relapse. Any resentment or unresolved issue needs to be addressed.

Why the term “Recovered Catholic” anyway? Catholicism is an ancient and deep religion and spirituality that has been one of the primary architects of Western civilization. There is much within it that is useful to anyone in recovery. If a person has been harmed by the Church, whether by abuse (of any kind), or they were raised “too strict,” or they have difficulties with the Church’s teachings, all these need to be explored and dealt with.

Regarding abuse: individuals caused it. Not the Church as an institution. Granted, the Church badly fumbled and stumbled in reforming and dealing with abuse. Those who abused, covered up the abuse, and did other wrongs will eventually suffer just punishment. I am by no means soft-pedaling a serious and critical issue. But the lasting anger and resentment that victims feel years later are hardly a “healing.” There are resources available with the Church and outside that can assist people in healing from abuse. It may take years, but the process should be started, and take as long as it needs to take. Otherwise you’re never completely “recovered” from what happened.

If they were raised by “too strict” parents (or taught by too “tough” nuns), so what? That was the parent’s fault. Why did they feel so strongly about the Faith that they drove it home so hard? Perhaps you can learn from authentic and legitimate Catholic sources as to what the Church teach, and more importantly why She teaches that. Your eyes, heart and mind may be opened. Tell you the truth, I was raised Catholic by my parents, my father was rather strict (less so with me than with my much older siblings). I had enough and left the Church. I wandered about a spiritual desert for maybe 15 years before returning. I am grateful that I did. The Church saved my life. Maintaining a harsh attitude against the Church for how Her teachings were inculcated in you is hardly a sign of one in a good recovery (from an addiction. Again that “resentment” word.)

If it is difficulty with Church teachings, then the same advice: learn from authentic and legitimate Catholic sources as to what the Church teaches, and more importantly why. You may understand.

This all takes honesty, open-mindedness and willingness. It also takes humility.

Many people in recovery find their religious faith (Catholic or otherwise) to be of immense help. Going 12 Step-only does not always work, many people need something more. To identify yourself in a manner that bashes another religion is counter-productive and just plain impolite. It is harmful to others, particularly members of that Faith to whom it may be important), and ultimately paints yourself as an individual who may have a shaky recovery (no matter how long sober and clean.)

If you cannot fully deal with and resolve issues from your past, then how can you be of help to others?

The point is, that no matter what the source is for a person’s use of the term “Recovering Catholic,” it does signify something that needs to be addressed and resolved. Something deep inside is still hurting. Honesty and humility are useful tools in doing this. You may not ever return to the Catholic Church, but perhaps the hate, anger and resentment will fade.

Forgiveness and perhaps even reconciliation are ultimately needed. Many “in the rooms” say the Lord’s Prayer during meetings, or on their own. You may want to take a look at the line towards the end:

“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others who trespass against us.”

It basically means that God will not forgive you of your sins against Him or against others, unless you also forgive others of their sins against you. It is tough. Forgiveness may be the toughest thing anyone can do. If it was easy, the world would be a far more peaceful place.

Some things to ponder.

If any reader is a member of ITR, here is my profile at “In The Rooms”.

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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      • I love this piece. I love your blog. I too get uncomfortable when people in meetings cut down my Catholic faith. I stopped going to AA because of that too. I did eventually relapse and found it hard to get permanent sobriety again. My disease had progressed a lot apparently. So this time around I’m pulling out all the tools including AA. During this year of faith and new evangelization I think God wants me in the rooms to witness as a “happy warrior” for Catholicism ha ha. Does that make sense? I talk about my experience strength and hope which includes my faith and try to make it an 11 Step thing. I make the sign of the cross before and after joining hands at the end of the meeting for the Lords Prayer. It seems AA is fertile ground to find x Catholics and point them back home. It’s an extremely subtle thing and very difficult to balance but it seems at least for now that’s where God wants me. I just bought your Rosary book and I love it! You have so much to give!

        • Hi Regina! I just discovered your blog and commented over there before seeing this.

          You have courage, and I respect you greatly for returning to AA meetings in this Year of Faith. I agree, there are a lot of ex-Catholics in the rooms. I might consider returning, to try a fetch them back. I have to get over my knee-jerk irritation with the Catholic-bashing.

  2. I want to ping back this post to mine. I gotta figure out how to do this. I only know how to insert ping backs if another post was recommended in zemanta in my post edit process… Hmmmm ill figure it out today.

    • I hope you figured it out, I’m not sure how to do that, except to insert a link to your post. I’m not savvy with certain aspects. Great knowledge in some areas, woefully lacking in others.

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