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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Catholics and Free Will

FREE WILL. The power of the will to determine itself and to act of itself, without compulsion from within or coercion from without. It is the faculty of an intelligent being to act or not act, to act this way or another way, and is therefore essentially different from the operations of irrational beings that merely respond to a stimulus and are conditioned by sensory objects.

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I am one of the 12 to 15 percent of the general population who suffers from the disease of Alcoholism.

When I first realized that, no matter how I planned or wished or hoped or wanted, I had reached the point of not being able NOT to drink alcohol I was devestated.  The blow to my ego was like a well landed punch from a heavy weight boxer.  The denial was tremendous.  I fought the idea that I could not not drink any more than I could, through tremendous force of the will, fly by flapping my arms up and down. I fought so hard that my first 2 years in AA were nothing but a series of setbacks, lies and relapses.  I wanted it ( IT being sobriety) but I couldn't get IT.

Something remarkable happened in 1992.  On May 3 of that year I was hopeless, without the ability to go 24 hours without drinking some amount of alcohol (even if it was only a sip or a gulp).  Then, like a miracle, on May 4, 1992 I went 24 hours without a drink...and I have been putting 24hrs of sobriety together every day since then without a break in the chain of sober days and nights.

So what the heck happened?

I am still the same alcoholic I was on May 3, 1992 in terms of having a physical illness that causes me to react to alcohol in a manner different from those who do NOT have the disease.  If I was to drink today I would trigger the craving which would, in time, kick the compulsion into overdrive and it would not be long before I would be hiding bottles in my coat pockets and calling in sick to work with the flu.  That would be followed by a quick search for the type of substance I think will keep me functioning so no one will know...which will lead to a maxing out of credit cards, a loss of job, a loss of home and eventually death under a bridge or in an alley somewhere.

I know all that - I knew it then and I know it now and the basics have not changed one iota for me in 19 years.

Why do I bring this up (again)?

Because I am thinking a whole lot about Free Will.

Catholics believe that Free Will is a true and lasting gift of love from a Creator.  Rather than create organic robots who would spend their days jumping around and singing His praises, He created us in His Image and Likeness - allowing us to share in the creative process in many, many ways.  The act of love creates another human being.  The act of thinking creates all kinds of cool things.  The actions taken to build and tinker and put paint on a canvas or words on a page can create entire worlds within worlds within worlds.  And while people may assert that a roomful of Monkeys typing on computers all night every day for 100 years will produce a work of Shakespear, the reality is that hasn't happened yet....because Monkeys have other things to do and are not interested in typing on computer keyboards in order to prove a theory CREATED by a human being.

But for those of us who suffer from compulsions, how do we reconcile Free Will with fighting a disease that does not respond to will power?

I had to understand the concept of 'formation' before any of this could even begin to make sense to me:  I could not run at this problem head on all by myself.  It did not work.  I might be able to not drink for awhile - a day, a week, even a few months.  However, of myself and by myself eventually I would forget that when I drink I hurt myself and others and, mindlessly, shoot that tequila right down my own throat...just because it is there, and I have had a rough day, and people are inordinately interested in my feelings about other humans, and my goldfish died....

However, by forming my will in the likeness of One who has all power I am giving myself the chance to be something I cannot be alone: a sober, dignified woman of grace.  By trying, to the best of my ability, to line up my wants and needs with those God has for me, I can defeat this disease on a daily basis - thereby, living a life that is second to none.

So the exercise of my Free Will becomes paramount to my recovery.  I have to not just not drink, I have to live my life each day with the question, "What is YOUR Will, O Lord?  What would YOU have me do today?".

There are people who do not do this - they exercise their own will power and one day at a time they stay sober....and if they could ever see their faces with clear eyes they would not be surprised that people shy away from them, that the only people who can be around them or interact with them are those who have made a committment to love the Creatures because the Creator loves the Creatures...and we want to be like Him.

My soldier is out of Afghanistan....THANK YOU, JESUS!!!

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