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Monday, May 22, 2017

Spiritual Manipulation

Finding sobriety through a spiritually based program of recovery lead me back to the Catholic Church.  This is not the experience for all lapsed Catholics but it is mine and I will be forever grateful to that program for reintroducing me to the deep spirituality of my Faith.  I am in awe of what I don't know and every day is an opportunity to delve deeply into that which The Church offers to aid one on the path towards God.

I have, however, found myself confronted with an interesting problem - the attempts on the part of some to use my spirituality as a form of manipulation.  It reminds me a great deal of the experiences shared with me by people of other faith traditions, particularly those who rely upon 'feeling the Spirit'. 

It goes something like this:  you are sitting quietly enjoying the afternoon, working hard on some project for your employer or lounging in the back yard drinking an iced tea, when your phone goes off.  It is a message from an old friend, someone you have spoken of spiritual matters with in the past.  You read the text and it is a litany of problems they perceive you are having accompanied with an admonition that you fix all these problems. You.  You and your gang, or team or posse.  Then, at the end of the harangue, is a quick note that this doesn't come from the sender, per se; rather it is a message they received while meditating.   The actual message is from a dead person you loved and worked with for years.

It would be even more awful if any of the supposed message - the list of all the things wrong with whatever you are supposed to fix - had any basis in fact or truth.  It doesn't.  It references historical information that never happened, talks about stuff going on in the place you are supposed to fix that isn't going on and otherwise is so far out in left field as to be in another game all together. 

In other words - ridiculous and goofy and strangely self-serving and suspect.

Now, here is the part I have to cop to:  I do not do well with people either trying to manipulate me or confronting me with a sledge hammer.  I don't like confrontation (it makes me scared and anxious).  I hate manipulation - it makes me flat out mad.

Getting angry is, of course, my sin.  I should not let this type of thing bother me.  I should bust up in laughter at the presumption and the silliness.  I should then respond simply with, "Thank you for sharing" and go on my merry way. 

I should of done just that - I didn't...but by golly, I should have and the next time it happens you bet I will reach back into my experience and grab this one so I do react in that way. 

My reason for sharing this is not so people will commiserate with me and tell me how sorry they are that this happened.  I'm sorry too.  I wish it hadn't happened either; but that is not what should be the crux of the story.

What I am sharing is what I wish I had done. I wish I had not called the person and told them that their message from beyond is flat out crazy and that maybe the person they are getting the messages from is still as crazy as they were when they were alive.  I wish I had not told them off and, when they responded, asked them if they had gotten that message from a ghost as well.  I wish .... I wish.... I wish...

I wish I had done this:  answered the text with one word:  Thanks.

And then just gone on my merry way.

I share this type of stuff about me because there are people out there who think that someone who is abashedly Catholic Out Loud thinks they are without sin, walk on water or otherwise skip through life without making errors.  There are even members of my 12 Step group that think 25 years sober translates into never ever making dumb decisions. 

For me it is always important to share that Holy Mother Church does not require me to be perfect, She requires me to walk towards Perfection. She tells me to be perfect as my heavenly father is perfect and then she offers me the grace of the Sacraments to keep trying to do just that one day at a time.

For me it is important to share that being sober doesn't mean life won't happen and mistakes won't be made.  Being 40 years sober or 25 years sober or 2 years sober does not mean you won't do some really dumb things that could hurt someone.  It means you accept your failings, make the appropriate amends or apologies and then move on.  And while I have not yet apologized to the person who sent me this message for losing my temper and treating them with disdain, I will do so....or I am not walking my talk.

Tomorrow I get to take some time with my 12 step sponsor.  I will see how she suggests I handle the situation and I will follow her direction.

Today I will stay sober and I will pray....and I will ask for the Power of the Holy Spirit to shed grace on all of us.

God knows, I need it - do you?

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Retiring from government service has been wonderful.  For 30 years I had a steady (though small) paycheck, good benefits and savings plans all over the place.  In exchange for the long commute, the low pay and the amazingly difficult work I was given the opportunity to put money away for my future.  My government service means I will now begin to receive a pension and have access to health care that is wonderful.  I will also get to put in for Social Security when I am old enough to do so. 

Despite my best efforts to save, however, I still need to work. If I don't have a job, I will be in serious financial trouble even after thirty years of hard work.

With that in mind I applied for and was hired to work for my local Catholic Parish.  My job is to coordinate/administrate the ins and outs of the Parish School of Religion.  The hours are wonderful and I am working four minutes away from where I live; in theory, I could walk to work. 

That remains a theory however so just relax, all you fitness buffs out there.

Is there a down side?  Of course!  No job is perfect, right?  I mean the pay is about 1/2 of what I was making with the government but guess what?  Combine my new salary with my pension and factor in that I no longer have to budge 450.00 a month for gasoline and I am going to be just fine.  I mean seriously fine.  In other words, I can exhale a little. 

And of course I could complain about those who came before me leaving me with a lot of tangled and loose ends but the reality of that is I have asked for help when necessary and I am getting that help.  Despite my tendency to worry and fret, I know everything is going to be okay.  God has my back because I am truly doing His work for His Church.

This brings me to the need to acknowledge what I am receiving from this job that I did not really get for 30 years.

  • Business Meetings begin with the Liturgy of the Hours
  • I work across the parking lot from the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel
  • My boss is a PhD and love Thomas Aquinas
  • My office assistant is a Third Order Dominican just like me
  • The ladies in the office applaud my attempts to learn Spanish and forgive me that I speak it with an Italian Accent
  • I can offer up a prayer to Our Lady of the Copier and no one gets mad at me
  • I can walk to Starbucks
  • My home group for my 12 step program meets on this campus once a week
  • My boss likes peanut butter cookies and shares them
  • I have to walk all over campus and may be able to get rid of my gym membership
Every one of my days ends with me being very tired.  The tired is a good tired, the kind of tired that means I have worked hard and I am learning.  I find myself frustrated, anxious, worried and concerned for all the right reasons and the best part of this job is that everyone here is a dedicated Catholic, a practicing Catholic - which means they are not perfect, but they are going to practice and practice and practice until they get it right.

I know it has been years since I got to do something that I really loved.  Up until now, I relied upon my love for the people I worked with to get me through because sometimes the job itself was so awful it caused me to cry on the two hour drive home.  Today I am a part of something so much bigger than the government and so much better because the mission statement was handed to us by our CEO over 2thousand years ago.  We just keep going....warts and scandals and mistakes do not stop us.  We keep practicing and we hold the doors open for all people who need and want Truth.

Thank you, Jesus and St Dominic.  Thank you for giving me a chance to be of and every day at a time.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

What I have learned in 25 years

I woke up this morning after having a very strange dream.  I dreamt I was at a hotel bar, where I was supposed to meet Warren Sapp.  He turned out to be the bartender.  However, he looked like Michael Keaton wearing an Afro.

Then I woke up.

Today is my sobriety birthday.  I am 25 years sober today.  I have been trying to make a list of all the stuff I have learned in sobriety and I have come up with a partial list.

I have learned:

The only people who know everything in my 12 step program have less than 10 years of sobriety
If you point out to a newcomer that they felt really good 5 days ago so the fact that they feel like crap right now just means that This Too Shall Pass, you might get smacked

Being of Service has a definition that was given to me by every sponsor I have ever had - but not everyone has that same definition

Some people only need to go to meetings to stay sober

the name of the organization I belong to is NOT Well Adjusted and Moral People Anonymous

It is tough being an old-timer because sometimes you don't have anyone to talk to, which is why I have a sponsor

the way I feel is not always reality, but it is always important to address those feelings in a constructive manner

being smart has nothing to do with being sober

everyone with 2 years of sobriety wants to write a book and sell it

not everyone belongs in a 12 step program

people in a 12 step program ALWAYS want to change it

Being sober is a gift - a gift I must be willing to guard and defend and in order to keep it?

I have to give it away.

Sober / Catholic / Loving it  #25yearsandcounting

Friday, April 21, 2017

Random Thoughts on a Friday

I have kept some sort of journal since I was around 11 or 12 years old.  Most of those old spiral notebooks I still have, squirreled away in a safe place where no one will find them.  I doubt they would be of real interest to anyone but I have left strict instructions to destroy them when I die.

Most are filled with the kind of random goofiness - an attempt at a first novel when I was 11 for instance, which reads suspiciously like The Outsiders - one would expect from an over wrought and extremely dramatic tween and teen.  Some of it, however, is really sad and really dark.  The fact that I kept writing during the depth of my alcoholism is amazing to me.  I am, however, very glad I did.

I got sober in 1992.  The program I use to stay sober emphasizes the concept of 'one day at a time' - in other words, don't act all happy over something that has not happened yet because anything can change in a split second.  I agree with that philosophy.  I am, after all, a woman who hung up the phone at 4:15pm after telling her husband she loved him and then found him dead an hour later when she got home from work.  I know how fast life can change and I appreciate that I am not going to celebrate something today that did not happen until it does - and it did not happen back in 1992 until 12 days from now.

What I am celebrating today is the journey that took me on the last big bender, the giant drunken rage and tantrum that, by all rights, I should not have survived.  I think back on why I decided that 'those people' didn't really have the answer and were too mean for a delicate flower such as myself.  I wrestle with the emotions - gratitude, shame, dark humor and outright amazement - I feel around this time of year.  It is a tough time for me.  It is one of those things that I love and I hate. 

I am sad because today a woman's body - naked and abused - was found in an alley in Modesto.  Someone's daughter is dead.  It could have been me.  I do not know what killed this woman, but I know that it could easily have been my mother mourning my death 25 years ago because of the way I was treating the disease of alcoholism.

I love that I found the answer.  I hate what the disease did to me, the time I wasted and the relationships I destroyed.  I hate that the answer to the disease did not make me so wonderful that I have not destroyed other relationships while being stone cold sober.  I love that I found my way Home to Rome.  I hate that it took me so long.  I love the life I have today....I hate how much I had to shed and change and give up but in all honesty?  The reward has been infinitely wonderful.  I wish I could package it, give it to everyone.  I know so many who are lost - including those who don't know it - and I weep that I can do nothing for them but pray.

Gratitude cannot begin to describe the way I feel when I think about where I am today and where I was on April 21, 1992.
I am overwhelmed.

Now if only Madbum had stayed the heck off that dirt bike.....

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Finding a Subject worth Blogging About

This morning on Facebook I spotted this in a friend's status post:

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

I was intrigued enough to offer an opinion by posting, in the comment section, my kind of convoluted idea that one should try to have the kind of reputation that matches their character. In other words, the two should not be so different as to make what other think you are diametrically opposed to who or what you are as a person.

That being said, I get where the post is going - who or what I am (a good Catholic) may not be what the world designates as either good or Catholic.  What I may be might be labeled according to the standards the world holds dear. 

What I need, therefore,  is the strength to accept that the majority of people might reject both  (character and reputation) as unacceptable. What I see as good may be seen as bad.  Light may be considered Darkness.

Which, of course, brings me to my character defect of wanting to be loved by people more than I want to be loved by God.  This is not a good thing.

The unyielding problem that I experience as a Catholic is the acceptance of the promise by Jesus Christ that the world, which rejected Him, will reject me.  I mean, look, I get it and I understand it intellectually but that understanding does not preclude my wish for a universal Leslie K. Fan Club.

Why do I have this need and why is this so darn difficult to be free of despite all the evidence I have that the need for love and acceptance by the world can be unproductive at best and damaging at its worst? 

The simple answer is concupiscence.  The effects of The Fall have damaged human nature so that what was meant to be a need and yearning for communion with God is perverted to a singular  need for acceptance by my fellow creatures.  My love for my fellows should be rooted in, and secondary to, my love for The Father. What is meant , therefore, to be a loving extension of my need and yearning for communion with God grows to be a focus for recognition and love from my fellow creatures.  My own fallen nature shifts my focus from Him to you...or it....or stuff...and inevitably that shift causes me trouble.  It makes me lonely, angry, hungry when I am full and tired when I have had enough sleep.  It makes me worried and depressed and anxious.  It causes me to be overly confident in my ability to fix everything and it drives my need to control those around me so that my life will be settled and happy...if only they would listen to me, they would feel better and therefore so will I.

What is interesting to me when I examine my conscience is the discovery that I can completely skip over the entire 'Love your neighbor as yourself' part of the commandment.  In fact, to be honest, I change that to "Receive the love of your neighbor FOR yourself" - in other words, enough about me talking about me....let's talk about what YOU think of me.

And it better be good...or else.

Good works may not get you into heaven or insure your salvation but we know they are necessary for both or Jesus would not have clued us in that our actions will be the criteria for whether or not He recognizes us at the end of the world.  In fact, He makes it pretty darn clear that there are actions we better be taking - we better be a member of His Church, we better be eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, we better be visiting Him in prison and feeding Him and making sure He has clothes and a place to live.  More importantly we better be acknowledging His authority and to whom He gave it before ascending into heaven.

What I have to understand and discern is my reason for following His commandments.  Wanting to avoid hell is a good start but my reason, if I am growing as a Catholic, should ultimately be to please Him, to be in communion with Him, to be like Him as much as I can.  If my reasons for doing what is right remain rooted in selfishness (to avoid the pain and suffering of hell or because I really, really want to be seen as a good person by the world) I miss the point.  I become someone who does the right things for the wrong reasons and that makes me vulnerable to attack from the evil one.

While I understand the sentiment expressed by my friend's Facebook post, I am held to a different standard.  I should have a meeting of character and reputation.  I need to have my actions reflect who I am and who I am needs to be in alignment with the Will of God, and not the will of the government or the latest political craze or the ideas expressed on Fox News or MSNBC.  I have to be willing to proclaim the Truth not just because it is the right thing to do but because it IS Truth...not subjective but objective and real...not something but somebody.

And I need to be a part of that Body.