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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Vacation Joy

2207 The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.


How much fun can one person have in such short a time as three days?

Well, leave it to me - I can have a blast!

I have had a rough few weeks - caused by my own self-pity, of course - so three days of loud, Italian Family interaction was exactly what the doctor ordered.  Starting on Sunday of this week, I have done some minor traveling, some great sight-seeing and eaten in a fabulous restaurant or two. All of this was done with people I love, admire and have such ease and comfort with that it really gave me a chance (once more) to say, "Thank you, God, for my family"!

The week has gotten me thinking about what The Church teaches in terms of the role of the family and I realized that my inability to feel at ease in the world is directly related to the uneasiness of my family life growing up.  Because of the rockiness of emotions brought into every situation (a volatile parent can do that) I am rarely at ease out in the world.  The family is the original cell of social life.  If that original cell seems to flap and shudder in the wind of violence - verbal or physical - the members of that cell are going to take that anxiety-producing experience into the world with them.

While my hard work the last 22 years has made it better for me it has not cured me of this social anxiety.  Because I have chosen to walk this path without availing myself of medications, the path has been a bit rocky.  While I am still behind my choice, I have to take responsibility for it.  If I had, perhaps, decided to take the more convenient route or if I had been more open with people around me as to why I get nervous and scared and anxious and wounded, I might have had an easier time of it - and they may have been a bit more forgiving of me.

It is an interesting dilemma, though, because being that open means trusting people with personal information.  If they have that information, they have an advantage over you, right?  Can't have that - people cannot be the alcoholic is left with a real problem.  If I trust these people they may hurt me.  If I don't let them get to know me, I may hurt them.  If I get hurt I may never recover.  If they get hurt, they may never forgive.

ACK!  What an order!

The Church guides us, therefore, to put our trust in only One Being - the Supreme Being.  That trust, the kind of 'here I am in all my pain and glory, without reservation' trust, is the kind of step we are asked to make in order to recover.  Thus, the objective of both The Catholic Church and an honest run at the 12 Steps are the same - Trust God, clean house, help others - not so you can be crowned Queen of the May but because it is through this simple formula you will find the peace you need to be able to expand your social life.  

The original social cell of my life has changed over the years.  People are dead, they have gone on their own way or they are far away.  I get to look closely around and rejoice in the social fabric of my life today and recognize that while I am far from perfect, I am not a malicious or evil woman.  I have made an honest effort to grow, to Trust God, to clean house and to help others.

Thank you for the wonderful week, Lord.  Back to work on Monday!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fighting Sin Everyday

1850 Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight." Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God." In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.


in a recent conversation with someone it was suggested that writing about sobriety and writing about theology would be difficult because the two can be so different as to cause conflict with my readers.  I was taken aback, as that idea seems foreign to me.  I supposed, because of my personal experience, I don't see the conflict and it dawned on me during this morning's 11th Step that the reason so many people think there is a conflict is because the word 'religion' has taken a real beating in the last twenty years or so.  In particular, since the attack on the United States on 9/11 those who have a beef with organized religion have gone to great length to argue that there is an inherent evil about all organized worship of God.

I have also dealt with the opinions held by some towards me that because I very publicly and spectacularly fall short of living perfectly according to the Teachings of the Catholic Church that I, like all religious people, am a hypocrite.  

All this is understandable.  We are a black/white, all or nothing kind of society in America.  We exalt people for the wrong reasons (money, beauty, fame) and we delight in the failures or mistakes these false icons inevitably make.  We are quick to point out the mistakes of our fellows and we are slow to see our own.  I suffer from this just as much as the next person.  I get it.

As someone who fights daily the disease of alcoholism I have a constant battle with the sin of self-exaltation.  In my 12 Step program we call it selfishness, self-centered fear.  The 11th Step, seeking through prayer and meditation knowledge of God and the understanding of what His Will is for me, is an attempt to suppress at the least, discard at the most, our fallen natures.  Whenever I make an error, whether it be a big one or a small one, it is inevitably rooted in fear of not being accepted  or loved.  My goal has been to lose the need for the love of human beings and focus only on needing the Love of God.  Trying to express that in my writing has caused people I do love pain and that was not my intention; however, my goal is still the same.

I believe that my spiritual growth will depend upon my ability to love rather than be loved.  When I can open my heart to others without needing them to open their heart to me I will have achieved a closer union with Jesus.  

Sin, that need for "proud self- exaltation", is what holds me back.  It is what causes me to want your love more than the Love that surpasses all human experiences.  My needs, my wants, my desires put me in conflict with you and that conflict inevitably leads to the separation from Jesus Christ and His Church.  If I do not reconcile and accept the consequences of my own actions, I get closer to the next drink.  For me, to drink is to die.

Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation allows that particular wound to heal.  However, I know that my actions have caused a rift and that rift may never heal at all.  What I have to remember, however, is failing to live up to the Teachings of the Church is not hypocritical.  I believe in those Teachings.  I am just not very good at incorporating them into my every day life in a consistent basis.  Luckily for me, perfection is not required for membership in His Church.  As my spiritual director has reminded me quite forcibly over the past 48 hours, The Church is not a hotel for saints.

It is a hospital for sinners.

Thank God.  

Have a great day, everyone!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A New Day

In my defense (which I make only as an explanation and not an excuse) I was operating this blog under the assumption that people who had blocked me were not reading it.

I want to take just a moment to explain my journey of the last 22, almost 23 years.  It may help anyone who is on a similar path and it may give others a better explanation of what my personal demons have been all my life.

I am the child of divorce.  My parents' divorced at a time when it was still considered socially unacceptable to do so.  People got married and took vows and my parents were of the generation that understood the difference between a vow and a contractual agreement. 

When my father left it was during an unsettling time (though I do not think a man or woman can leave their child behind and not have it be unsettling).  My mother was pregnant, I was 5 years old and we were scared.  I in particular was deeply frightened because I had come home from kindergarten and found my father packing his suitcases.  When I asked where he was going he said he was going on a business trip and since he made his living as a salesman this seemed reasonable.  Unfortunately, it was the first of a series of lies.  He never returned, except in fits and starts and usually to attack and scream at us about how we were not being good enough or smart enough.

Thus one of the biggest demons I have fought is the idea that I just do not measure up - I do not know how to talk to people, how to laugh appropriately or carry on a conversation.  I am not pretty enough or smart enough or loveable or good enough for a friendship.  I have overcompensated most of my life - getting the best grades in school and trying to be the good girl that Mommy needed during her toughest times.  I took the obligation of protecting my baby brother to such extremes that I fired babysitters and then took him back to our house when my Mom was at work. 

Someone asked me recently if I started drinking to escape and I told him I didn't think that was the reason as much as wanting to fit in with the crowd.  Until I went to college I had my acting and music and writing to keep me on the beam.  Yes, I was a nervous and unhappy child.  I did not fit in at grade school and felt awkward in high school but that is not unusual. Most adolescents go through such awkward stages and most of us survive.  I loved God, I loved my Church and my biggest want was to have a boyfriend and be thought of as popular.  I was two years sober before I found out I was considered popular in high school, which makes me laugh at myself to this day!

No, drinking was a kind of dare.  Here's the bottle, Leslie, have some.  What I did not expect was the effect alcohol would have on me.  It filled that hole in my center.  It made me not care that I would not pass muster in the regular world.  From the first slug of Southern Comfort I found paradise and acceptance and feelings of independence and dang, it was FABULOUS!  Who would not want to repeat that, and often?  Add to that mixture the various drugs of the time and kerPOW - a solution becomes a problem in no time at all.

Getting sober has been a journey not only of trying to negotiate the world sober but in finding out that I do matter.  I am loved - not so much by humans but by God.  Coming back to The Church helped me find my center and in the beginning of my reconversion I was too forceful in my preaching.  I have found such joy and happiness that I wanted others to have it too.  I overstepped my bounds.

With my birth or blood family, I tried to shield the children from hardships and I tried to teach them that I would always love them no matter what they did, thought or experienced.  What they see, however, is someone who thinks they are better than everyone else because they are sober, Catholic and finding acceptance at a deeper level than the human.  They see me as overbearing.  I have only myself to blame for that and can not apologize to them for being that way anymore.  They have had enough of my apologies and I do not blame my family for not accepting them.

I do believe in objective Truth and I am sorry for those who have rejected that Truth.  I know that, while I have not been very successful with my family, my witness has helped others.  I know this because those people have told me my witness and my enthusiasm and my ability to transmit the teachings of The Church have inspired them. I don't think they are lying. I am grateful that they are in my life.

I also believe I am loveable today and while I miss the interaction and sharing with the ones I love I am truly more dependent upon the love of God than the love of creatures.  My cross is a cross of my own making, but I know that Jesus is helping me carry it.

The people in my 12 Step family as well as my Catholic Family (Dominicans, RCIA Catechists, others) has all shown me a love and forgiveness that the regular world is not real great at demonstrating.  There is a reason for this and it is a simple one:  they have all seen their own mistakes and how those mistakes have harmed others.  They have grown as a result of falling down.  They know the power of forgiveness, not just when they receive it but when they give it.  They are willing, more so than the average person, to forgive.    They do not, however, expect forgiveness to wipe out responsibility and so they are helping me now accept my part, my responsibility in the breakdown of my personal relationships.  They are helping me carry my cross.

I have forgiven a lot.   Because I was urged and guided to forgive, I have experienced relationships with people I would have just walked away from and that is priceless.  Those people did not change - my father, for instance, really did not change.  He continued to lie until the day he died and some of those lies I did not discover until after his death.  That does not matter.  I forgave him.  He was in my life.  When he died we were at peace with each other and that gift is amazing.

My promise to God and to my readers is that I will continue to be transparent in my life.  My promise to my family who reads this is I will try my utmost to not hurt you with my transparency.  My hope to all is that, if I do, you tell me and show me so I can correct my errors.  Do not, please, assume any malice on my part.  If I stumble it is because I am blind.  Help me to see.  Do not just leave me in the dark to find my own way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Step Three and Why it is Important

Meditate on the horrors of Hell, which will last for eternity because of one easily-committed mortal sin. Try hard to be among the few who are chosen. Think of the eternal flames of Hell, and how few there are that are saved.

- Saint Benedict Joseph Labre (1748-1784)
I have behaved in a selfish and self-centered manner, stepping on the toes of my fellows and causing them to retaliate.
I have no excuse.  I acted out of fear and self-pity.  I started the ball rolling and those who have chosen to take themselves as far from me as possible are right to do so.
I made my amends - which, to those who wonder, is NOT an apology.  I admitted my wrongs and made the promise that it will not happen again.  I pledged my undying love and loyalty. 
I do not deserve to be forgiven by humans but I know I have been forgiven by God.  I am so grateful for the people in my 12 Step group who do not give up on me and help me, with love, to see where I went off the rails.
Tomorrow is a new day.  While I know I have a solid foundation of sobriety and am surrounded by  my sober and my Catholic family, it is still important to be open and honest about my failings.  If I am not, I could drink again.
And I am determined to die a sober woman.
Thank you for your prayers.

Consequences and Truth

God has created my heart only for Himself. He asks me to give it to Him that He may make it happy." -St. John Vianney 

Today marks the  anniversary of the death of my father, John.   He died April 15, 2003.  It is especially poignant for me to remember him this morning.  I was the last person to speak to him on the telephone and I was the one who found his body.

I will be forever grateful that the last thing I said to my father was, "I love you.".

Today of all days, I think it is time for me to come clean and clear the air.  I have deeply upset someone in my family.  I did this by stating on this blog that I know longer cared about their life, which was not true.  In fact what I wrote was a lie.  I can tell you, and it would be true, that I badly worded the subjective truth and should not have written it in that manner.   It doesn't matter, however, because when they read it they saw just the words and it hurt them.  They have justly removed themselves from my life and I cannot blame them.  I can only apologize in the same forum in which I caused them pain and I choose to do so on the anniversary of my father's death because I do not want the day to begin without telling them I love them, just as I did not let the night of April 14th end without saying I love you to my father.

The reality of what I wrote would have been better explained as this:  I care deeply that they have a wonderful and full life, that God enrich them with grace and happiness and that they and their siblings go on into the world and find success.

My personal happiness is no longer linked to their approval but I would never deliberately hurt them either in person or in print.  I would love to be a part of their life and I accept that I am not.  I hope they will forgive me one day.  

My father, John, was a WWII combat vet, a thrice married man who loved to hunt and fish and adored his three grandchildren.  His relationship with his own children was rocky.  John was not always easy to live with - he had a volitale temper, was quick to lash out at people and could be quite hurtful.  

At the same time he and I shared a love of history and animals.  The movie The Thing (the original Howard Hawks version, not the newer one with Kurt Russel) was one of our favorites to watch and any time I see it come on the television I think of him.

Today, estranged as I am from someone I love, I think of my father and how he too was estranged from people he loved at the end of his life.  I am not sure if he ever attempted to reach out, to ask for forgiveness or to admit his wrongs.  I know he did not do so with me but because of my 12 Step Program and The Church I chose to forgive him anyway.  It was the right thing to do and I did it for me, not for him.  

I hope today goes well for everyone who reads this blog - friend, foe or family.  I will keep all of you in prayer and I hope you do the same for me.