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Helping The Catholic Alcoholic

September 5, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By REY FLORES

The fallen human, born with original sin, is not perfect, but there are absolutely no reasons we shouldn’t strive to be saints. Our life here is to work toward eternal life in Heaven with God, so it’s time to get to work, folks.
As an alcoholic in recovery, I too have known the destructive results of a maddening and spiritual disease. Everything from coming from a broken home, to broken hearts and broken bones, it’s no fun out there in our self-imposed hell.
The path of destruction left behind by alcoholics is not pretty. It can ruin lives — if not completely, at least partly. It can take a long time to recover one’s own life, if the drink doesn’t kill you first.
Why is hard liquor called “spirits”? The Oxford Dictionary defines “spirit” as a “strong distilled liquor such as brandy, whiskey, gin, or rum.” According to DrinkingInAmerica.com, 12th-century European monks believed that the spirit was removed from the “mash” during the distilling process. To this day, some European rye whiskey drinkers still pour out the first shot onto the ground, in order to giving the angels their share.
In any case, any God-fearing alcoholic who has taken the first of the Twelve Steps of recovery and has come to realize that he or she is powerless over alcohol, and gone on to the second step — “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” — will recognize that these “spirits” truly are evil and have been used as weapons by the Enemy to rob us of our humanity, our health, our loved ones, and ultimately our eternal souls.
In my own experience, I have zero doubt that alcoholism is truly a spiritual disease. Sure, it ravages our bodies and our minds, but the damage to our spiritual well-being, as well as the spiritual well-being of those around us, is the worst part of all of it.
Early recovery can be difficult for the alcoholic who is willing, and actively, making every possible effort to sober up. Being dry is one thing; sobriety is another thing altogether.
What I mean by being dry vs. being sober is this. There are plenty of alcohol and substance abuse programs out there that many alcoholics and addicts are forced to go into because of employment, criminal, health, or other legal reasons. Don’t get me wrong — there are those who participate in in-patient and out-patient treatment programs who are there on their own volition.
The alcoholic who is basically required by some entity beyond his control to regulate his drinking is likely not ready to get sober. A person like this only goes through the motions to regain whatever freedom, job, relationship, or privilege he may have lost because of his addiction. This type of person is not necessarily willing to become sober.
On the other hand, the man or woman who voluntarily participates in a twelve-step recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous, or both, is more likely to succeed in his or her recovery.
The one thing I want to strongly emphasize in this column is this: The recovering alcoholic or addict is not alone, particularly if he or she did most of their drinking around their loved ones. Therefore, the most likely scenario for the alcoholic to recover is to have a spouse, children, and other loved ones who are also willing to attend programs like Al-Anon or Alateen.
This helps everyone affected find healing and regain some sanity and stability back in their lives. The willing participation on behalf of the alcoholic’s loved ones is to help them recover from the storm of alcoholism and addiction that they have also endured.
There is no other way to look at it. The marriage and family affected by alcoholism need healing. Fixing one part of the family unit, or just one spouse seeking the help he or she needs, isn’t going to bring the necessary healing that the marriage and the family need.
We must remember that an alcoholic or addict didn’t grow up wanting to be an alcoholic or addict. Due to whatever circumstances, reasons, family history, generational sin, or what-have-you, this person is one of millions of people affected by this dastardly spiritual disease.
Certainly, the alcoholic must take full responsibility for his or her behavior once he dries out, and is truly seeking to become sober. For that sobriety goes beyond putting the bottle down. It takes a lot more to become sober than just stopping the drinking and drugging.
Another couple of things that I have learned in recovery are these: We cannot do it without God, and we cannot do it alone. The Third Step makes this abundantly clear; we “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.” Let His will be done, in His time, not ours.
Additional crucial aspects in recovery are that we must humble ourselves, listen, practice a lot of patience, go to meetings, have a sponsor, call your sponsor, do service work, and keep learning and practicing the Twelve Steps in all our affairs.
A constant “attitude of gratitude” is also key. Some days will still be difficult, and sometimes lead us to think about that first drink. But when everything seems to be going wrong, we must thank God even for the little things. Without gratitude for His blessings, we will certainly remain lost.
This disease doesn’t go away. There isn’t a magic silver bullet to ward off the alcoholism and addiction. You don’t get a diploma when you pass all the tests. This is a life-long, life-changing commitment which we must make if we are ever going to serve God as we are meant to, not serve Satan by using his “spirits” of destruction, which we willingly shot ourselves with over and over again.
There are so many things I’d love to share with you in this column, but perhaps I can address this again in some future articles.
One more very important thing I’d like to share with you is the “Drunk Horse Thief” theory. Even if you take the booze away, you still have a horse thief. The alcohol is just one part of it. We have character defects which we must also work to change. Taking the bottle away from us is not enough. The whole person has to change. That means no more lying, stealing, cheating, getting angry, being offensive, impatient, or lazy. I learned this at an AA meeting from an old-timer with over 30 years of sobriety.
Venerable Matt Talbot remained sober for the last 41 years of his life after battling the bottle from age 14 until he put the bottle down for good at 28 years old.
Sr. Mary Ignatia with the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine was known as the drunk’s “Angel of Hope.” She was instrumental in helping the medical community recognize alcoholism as a disease. To this day, her obligatory coffee pots and sobriety recognition “chips,” which are coins marking the length of sobriety for AA members, are still an integral part of the programs.
I fully understand the importance of anonymity for AA members, but as a recovering alcoholic who is a Catholic writer, I am hoping that those who need to read this column will read it, and get the help they need.
AA, NA, Al-Anon, and Alateen programs can be found easily online or by reaching out to your parish or local hospital. Another recovery resource specifically for Catholics worth looking into is Calix. You can find it at www.CalixSociety.org.
Remember, even if you aren’t the alcoholic in your home, marriage, or family situation, you still need to seek healing.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with one of the best prayers any of us, alcoholics or not, can benefit from in our daily prayer life, the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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(Rey Flores is a Catholic writer, speaker, and a grateful recovering alcoholic. Contact Rey at reyfloresusa@gmail.com. Pray for me, as I’ll pray for all of you battling this disease.)

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