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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What I think I've Learned so Far.

One of the greatest aspects of the spiritual journey I have been on for the past 22 year involves the discovery of me.

I also believe that statement could be interpreted as incredibly narcissistic, so I think I should explain.

Growing up I was blessed with one sane parent and one incredibly damaged parent - both of whom loved their children as best they could and with what they had.  Because one parent - my mother - was much better equipped to be a loving parent than my Dad does not diminish his love for me and my brother.  It did, however, make it a very odd life.

It is difficult to know you are loved when the person charged with that has a horribly violent temper, does a lot of screaming and yelling and physical abuse.  I don't care how one tries to paint that picture (well, he had a hard life, he was from the South, he was a combat vet, he was an alcoholic) the child that is standing in the middle of the portrait only knows one thing:  for some reason this person thinks I am stupid, ugly, a liar, worthless and have little value until they suddenly don't - and then they tell you that if only you had not behaved 'that way' they would not have exploded all over you.

When you are ten, that marks you.  I was not as damaged as some, but the damage was there and it caused me lots of pain over the next several years.  Enough pain that, if it had not been for my mother and her family and Holy Mother Church, I would have been a runaway at best, a suicide at the worst.

When I began the journey of recovery I was told to look at the baggage I was carrying and I was asked to jettison it. It was suggested I not try to gussie it up by calling it 'survival skills'.  I was told to just get rid of it and I was shown a process for doing so (thank you for steps 5 through 9!).  It was also recommended that I find a way to forgive the person who had harmed me.  Both those requests were difficult to do and were not one time events.  It has happened slowly over the years and my ability to trust, to let you get to know me, has been part of that process.

As chronicled here without shame, letting people get to know me hasn't meant sunshine, rainbows and unicorns fill my world.  Many people I thought would love me forever have walked away with a door slam, and I am locked out of their world.  I am not their cup of tea and that has hurt more than anyone will ever know.

It has not, however, destroyed me.

For every person who has left God has put into my life someone loving, kind, amazing and like minded.  I have become a par of a community that is filled with odds and ends and quirks and silliness as well as Love, Truth and Fidelity.  I have watched those I once envied fall and fall hard and not gotten one bit of satisfaction out of it; rather, I have been filled with pity because I know how much it hurts to find out that basket into which you put all your eggs is rotting from the bottom up.

Today I am coming to an understanding of who I really am and while there are still those around me that have not been given a full access pass I am a lot closer to my authentic self with everyone than I was even 5 years ago.

My hope today is all those who are struggling recognize that the search for you does not mean you will stand alone; rather, it will lead you to a communion with Truth that is second to none.

I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Let us Never Forget

Let us pause for a moment today and honor those who gave their lives willingly as well as those who had their lives snatched from them.

Let us pause for a moment today and pray for those who hate us, that they may experience the Love of Truth that does not entertain evil as a way to convert those around them to Lies.

Let us pause for a moment today and remember where we were that morning.

Let us pause for a moment today and cry - because we should never, ever be ashamed to shed tears for our country.

Father Mychal Judge, pray for us!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Serpents and Posts and Looking to the Future

Last night at Parish Council we read the Gospel where Jesus references Moses raising the bronze serpent up on a post in order to save the people of Israel.  They were getting their feet bit all 'to hell' (honest, they were) and God told Moses to fashion the icon, put it on a pole, raise it up and have the people focus on it.  They would, He promised, be saved from the fiery serpents if they did and so he did and so they were - bam!

I have always been taught (and of course I accept) that this is a pre - figurement of Christ on the cross; Jesus Himself tells us this when He compares that bronzed serpent to Himself.  What I always wondered about is why a serpent?  That always strikes me as a symbol of evil because, of course, I immediately associate it with The Fall as described in the book of Genesis.

So, last night (being the Dominican that I am), I asked.

Father says (without missing a beat, mind you), "It's the hair of the dog that bit you.  Haven't you ever hear that expression?".

Now, it is a monument to my hard work in sobriety that he would even ask that question.  But what was even funnier is everyone at the table burst out laughing.  One person spit out their water.


Because they knew that to ask me that question is HILARIOUS!!!

Have I ever heard that expression?


I think that is one of the best parts of my life today - the normies (who surround me...and trust me that is exactly what it feels like sometimes, I am surrounded) not only tend to forget I am an alcoholic when they do remember it is with laughter and fun because that is what I have modeled for them.  It is FUN to be sober.  It is OK to poke fun at my disease and laugh out loud at the idea that someone like me would have no idea what 'a bit of the hair of the dog that bit you' would mean.

In other words, how cool is that?

Meanwhile, while everyone was laughing, I pulled out my trusty iPad and googled the question.  I found a great Catholic site that discussed this very question (why a serpent?) and got an answer from a Dominican theologian.

Lifting up sin itself becomes a sign of conversion.

Jesus took on our sin, allowing Himself to be lifted up and crucified so that all might be saved.

Thank you, Holy Mother Church. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

What Normies See

I am thinking today about what those who do not suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction see when they look at people like me.

It has to be confusing to them.  We seem to love being in trouble - we love 'the sin' in their eyes.  We choose drugs and alcohol over family, friends, work, school.  It has to be confusing.

It has to be confusing.  People like me promise over and over again to stop and to get our acts together.  We mean it too.  We mean it when we say it and we mean it when we are trying so hard to not take that first drink or make that call to the guy who has the magic powder.  Yet, over and over again, we take that first drink or we make that call.  It has to be confusing.

Today I read a very intelligent woman's comment about people like me loving the sin more than we love the Lord and I cannot speak to other alkies or addicts but I can tell you without reservation that was not true for me.  I was horribly miserable the last two to five years of my drinking.  I wanted more than anything to be a woman of grace and dignity.  I wanted to go back to The Church.  I wanted to be someones wife, someones mother.  All I could seem to do was drink and smoke cocaine and I remember sitting in a closet, weeping because of the horror I had become and the absolute fear I had that this was it.  I would never be anything but what I was - a loser, a complete total loser.  A gutter drunk.  A woman who had killed her own children rather than stop.  A woman who had walked so far from God and His Church that I knew those people there would never welcome me back.  I was hopeless.  I was the worst thing on the earth.

It has to be confusing.

Something that most Normies (those who do not have the abnormal reaction to alcohol I have) never consider is that people like me are stone cold sober each time we drink.


I can only speak for myself.

Being sober, for me, is a painful experience when it is just me, just Leslie, trying to traverse the world.  I never understand what you people are doing, thinking or saying.  You all seem so together, so smart and happy.  I try so hard to fit in, to be a small part of a greater whole, and quite frankly I just cannot do it.  You all scare me.  You are smarter than me, and you are dumber than me and you think your better and you think I am worthless and I am better and I am worthless and you seem to have the answers and I cannot even formulate the questions.

It is all very, very confusing.

And when I drink?

All that goes away....and I am just fine.

Why would I not continue to do that?

I never meant to get drunk, I just wanted to feel normal.  What I did not know is that when I put alcohol into my system, it flips a switch and I cannot stop drinking.

And when I am sober - and it is just me, just Leslie - I feel scared, out of place, confused,weary and so very, very alone.

So what happened to change things for me?

I heard someone else say almost the exact same thing - and I suddenly realized that what he was describing was what I was experiencing and what he was describing was alcoholism.

Who knew?

I know it is confusing...I get it.  I understand.

For some reason, hearing someone else describe what I was feeling gave me hope.  See, this man had been sober for a long, long time and he claimed he had done it through the appropriate 12 step program...and that is where I found my sobriety.

Because of my sobriety, I found my way home to Holy Mother Church.

Because of being home, I found my way to The Order of Preachers.

Today I have over 22 years of continuous sobriety.  I go to three meetings a week, sponsor 14 people and I am in service.  I also am in service in my Parish - as a Catechist, a Lector and a member of Parish Council.

Sometimes, when I am sitting in a meeting or at Mass, I think to myself, "WOW - how did this happen?".

And I is because I am no longer sober just me, just I am sober through the grace of God.

Today - for me - it is no longer confusing.  And when I see intelligent people being confused, I can understand.

Please pray for those of us who cannot find their way home.  They don't mean to hurt you .  They do not love what they are doing more than you.

They just cannot stand to be sober.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Death of a Journalist

One of the reasons I take my time before I comment on a situation is my attempt to practice 'restraint of pen and tongue'.  Too many times I have reacted only to be given information later that changed my opinion or, at the very least, gave me a different way to interpret the events.

Thus when I got the news that James Foley had been beheaded by Islamist currently torturing, crucifying, murdering, raping, and otherwise behaving exactly like they have always behaved when given half a chance, I kept quiet.  I felt such grief, such anger, such incredulity at the response to this whole situation by the rest of the world that I was afraid I would open my mouth and just start spewing.  I did not want to do that; it is unCatholic and it is wrong.

I am glad I did refrain, because today I can look at that horror through the eyes of Faith and I can see why God allowed that evil to happen.

James Foley is a saint.

He is a martyr to freedom of the press, to the ideals of American culture that shaped his upbringing and to his Catholic Faith.

That's right, people.  James Foley was a Catholic.

James Foley was not just a Catholic - he was a Catholic during his imprisonment under Ghadafi and he was a Catholic under the lash of the evil now pervading the Middle East.  He was a Catholic, praying the Rosary out loud with fellow prisoners and doing so because that is what he had been taught by his Catholic parents.  He did not walk away from Jesus in the Eucharist because The Church did not embrace whatever political agenda or current social fad is the grooviest.  He stayed faithful in the face of the sword.

Was he perfect?  Of course not.  No saint is perfect and despite what some  believe the saints are not proclaimed simply to make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves.  The Church proclaims saints for us to look to and emulate - St. Monica, struggling with alcoholism and the feelings of abandonment and betrayal brought about by the behavior of her son, Augustine.  St Theresa of Avila, dealing with migraine headaches and dumb male members of the clergy questioning her desire to reform the Carmelites because her family were conversos.  St Catherine of Siena, struggling with her own personal vanity and her lack of formal education in an Order that prizes learning.  These people, saints one and all, struggled every day to stay faithful to teachings they did not always understand and may not have even agreed with but they did it because for them how close they could stay to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist was more important than getting their own way or 'being fed' by a homily.

James Foley, Jesuit educated and Catholic to the core, stood strong under conditions I am blessed with not having to endure.  What can I learn from him?

I can stay faithful despite being scorned.
I can stay faithful despite the loneliness.
I can stay faithful despite being misunderstood and misjudged and disliked.

In other words, the little slings and arrows I experience as a result of being active and Catholic Out Loud in a culture that looks at that as some sort of personal attack cannot become my focus.  I must be willing to put on the armor provided me by the Sacramental Life of Holy Mother Church.  I must be willing to speak and to ask for help and to pray without ceasing when I am told what I do is not very valuable.

My heart goes out to the Foley family.  What I hope is that they know the time they spent instilling the proper values into their son was not wasted time.  What I hope is that other parents do not become discouraged when they are laughed at or scorned for doing the same thing.  What I hope is that they know they will see their beautiful boy again, and that when he went to the gates, that son of theirs heard the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Enter into the kingdom".

St James Foley, pray for us.