My name is XXX. I am a Catholic and I am an Alcoholic. This is my story.
1000 days, so far, without touching a drop of alcohol. By the Grace of God. I have come to this milestone this month. Unthinkable for a typical businessman living in one of India’s fastest growing cities, who liked living the high life: Clubs, 5-star events, receptions, etc were a major part of most of my adult life till the past three years. The ostensible reason for my being at all these events, taking up memberships in all the possible Clubs in town and becoming one of the most networked people in the business circles in my City was business networking and the opportunities there-on. The actual reason why I was so regular at these events was alcohol: my poison of choice, whisky.
To cut a long story short, and it is probably, one that you have heard before till this point, is that I became more and more attracted to alcohol. After all, it had been my friend since college days at age of 18 years for almost 30 years. It transformed me from a shy introvert to the life of the party. Through all these years of my relationship with alcohol, I have never been pulled up for drunken driving nor ever had any accidents under the influence, or any problems at work. I was able to give up drinking for the normal Catholic seasons of Lent and Advent.
However, after these seasons were over, I would always make up overtime with alcohol to compensate for the period without! Slowly, a realisation that this unhealthy attraction (drinking alcohol per se is not bad, but only if done in moderation, and some of us just can’t drink in moderation!) was gaining precedence over my behavior, brought on by the pleadings of my better half, to give up this habit, prompted me to try and stop drinking alcohol not for a few days, but for life. Also, helping me make this hard decision was the first hand, experience of the problems that one of my closest college friends was having due to his own love for alcohol: DUI, Divorce, loss of custody of the kids and home – he had to face this all.
I can remember clearly my last drinking day. A Friday evening in October, three years ago. I was at a popular Club in the city and must have had quite a few pegs of India’s finest whisky. Next day, decided to stop. Joining Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – which in fact has meetings in many churches, seemed not an option for me. In the Indian context, what would people say? There might be someone who might recognise you, etc, etc. So many of these thoughts might not occur to someone in the US or elsewhere.
So, in desperation, I turned to God and my Catholic Faith to bring me out of my love affair with Alcohol. I reasoned that other Catholics and many Saints could have overcome this battle too and I could learn from them and started researching this topic.
On going through the Net, I read the fascinating account of a Catholic Irishman who lived in the last century, and had a dramatic conversion from a life of alcoholism. His name was Matt Talbot, and he holds the status of Venerable in the Catholic Church today. Matt fought off his desire to drink by initially taking a three month sobriety pledge, then extending it to six months, then a year, and finally for life. Matt overcame his temptations by attending Daily Mass, turning to life of prayer and solitude, and avoiding going to bars by frequent prayers in churches. I read that Matt was a Third Order Secular Franciscan and this made me reach out to the Franciscans in my city.
I called the Franciscan Friary and was connected to a kindly Friar who gave me a lot of literature on Franciscan spirituality and in particular on a little man from Assisi, St Francis who renounced a life of decadence and pleasure for one of poverty and penance and living as per God’s Will. Incidentally, the St Francis prayer is an integral part of AA matters even today. You know, the one that goes” “Lord make me a channel of your peace etc..”
Internet search also led me to the Pioneer Temperance Association, where members pledge not to consume alcohol via the pledge (Heroic Offering) to the Sacred Heart for the sake of excessive drinkers. This pledge was modelled on Jesuit spirituality and the devotion to the Sacred Heart made known by St Margaret Mary Alacoque (whose Feast day is today).
I reproduce the Heroic Offering here:
The Heroic Offering
“For thy greater Glory and consolation, O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, for Thy sake, to give good example, to practice self-denial, to make reparation to Thee for the sins of intemperance and for the conversion of excessive drinkers, I will abstain for life from all intoxicating drinks, Amen”.
I found great consolation in saying the Offering everyday during Daily Mass, especially at the time of the Eucharistic Offering, praying especially that this day I would not touch alcohol. I found that visiting the Blessed Sacrament before any party where I knew alcohol would be served, and saying the Pledge, would also help strengthen me get through the occasion.
Researching further, I found that Catholic spirituality had its roots intertwined with AA and has an indelible influence on the AA movement right from the early days. An Catholic Priest Jesuit Fr. Ed Dowling was one of the earliest friends and spiritual advisors of Bill W, the Founder of AA. Sr. Ignatia also started the concept of giving out sobriety medals. A recovering alcoholic catholic priest Fr. Martin was famous for the Chalk Talks series that could be found on the net and explain very simply the causes of alcoholism. Calix – an association of recovering catholic alcoholics is also a useful resource on the internet.
All these resources strengthened me and helped me come to this point of 1000 days. I have weathered parties, receptions, vacations, special events, relative get togethers, where there is free flow of alcohol, without any problems. I cannot deny that it is not easy, but have managed. I am closer to God and my family, as well as am very involved with Church and related faith activities these days, besides being a Secular Franciscan. I have much more free time to spend with my family and my prayer life and health has also improved as well as relationships with others.
Of course, life without alcohol has to be faced head on; there is no numbing anaesthetic to take away your problems temporarily. Realising the opportunities lost when one placed alcohol more important than other things also brings on regret of the past, but all this can be washed away by having a Good Confession , and resolving to make a new beginning.
Why am I writing all this down? It is just to document my search on how looking for help in my religion – the beautiful Catholic Faith has helped me overcome my love for alcohol. I hope you might find some of this information helpful, if you have a love affair with alcohol, like I did and you are a Catholic. With God, all things are possible. It does involve a change of lifestyle habits, and sometimes a change in friends too. But if Matt Talbot could do it, let us draw inspiration and follow his example.
In writing this article, I wanted to condense the past three years of my learning of using my Catholic faith to overcome my love for alcohol, with the hope that it might help someone struggling with a similar problem somewhere. By sharing this experience, I am strengthened to continue in this journey for lifetime sobriety.
God Bless and I ask you to keep me in your prayers, as I take it one day a time, With God and Without Alcohol. Because through Him, all things are possible!