How many times have three simple words passed over my mind that I never spoke out loud? For many times over the years they have remained clenched in denial, shrouded in secrecy, hidden in the darkness of my addiction to drugs and alcohol. But the day finally came when my soul cried out, “I need help!”
And God heard my cry.
The year before I admitted that, I was going to rehab, AA , and NA meetings. But I eventually relapsed; I couldn’t stay sober. I would soon learn from a wise sponsor that recovery and staying sober one day at a time is an inside job. I learned that I would have to get rigorously honest with myself and with God if I wanted to have any chance of survival. I had to ask myself three simple questions. Who is this God whom I must now trust and rely upon? How do I find Him? And why would He forgive me, a sinner? Ever so slowly I allowed Him into my life and He began to peel away the layers of my heart. I had to allow Him entrance by way of Mother Church, and to allow His grace and healing through His most holy sacraments. Was I ready to die of self and be reborn in Him? I realized this was how it had to be, and so I was.
I believe my parents did the best they could raising eight children. When it came to faith in our family, we mostly went through the motions; it sometimes seemed only like a chore. Attending Mass always seemed stressful and moments of joy were few and far between. At home we said grace before meals and our prayers at bedtime, but that was it. My First Communion seemed to only be about the fancy dress and shoes I was supposed to wear and Reconciliation was just a terrifying experience because I thought the priests were old and scary! For some reason, I skipped Confirmation altogether.
Consequently, as I grew into adolescence I slowly drifted away from my faith and down a path of self-sufficiency and ultimate destruction. Any flicker of God I received by way of Baptism was snuffed out by the thrill and excitement I found in boys, parties, drugs, alcohol, and, eventually, sex. I became pregnant twice and had two abortions before graduating High School. Afterward, I spiraled out of control, using anything to numb the pain, shame, and regret from what I had done. All I ever desired was someone to love me, and I clung to the father hoping he would marry me. But there was one problem: I was clinging to the wrong father. This man was mentally, physically, and spiritually abusive. I became pregnant a third time and I said, “It stops here!” He left me claiming the child wasn’t his and I never saw him again. Today, this child is the 33-year-old mother of my three grandchildren. Praise be to God!
I moved to another town and married a man who has stood by me for the last 29 years. When we met we just clicked, and at the time he liked to drink, too. He adopted my daughter and together we had another daughter. He entered the Catholic Church a few years into our marriage and because of this I had to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time in many, many years, where I finally confessed my abortions and many other sins. God’s grace was being poured forth then but I just didn’t know it yet.
I began using cocaine and it wasn’t long before I was using it all of the time. I became a liar and a thief, and started to steal from my husband. I never faced any consequences though because of my using and I hid my addiction well from others, or so I thought. How dark it is before the dawn! My selfishness and out of control behavior finally caught up with me and at the end of May, 2006, my husband told me to leave the house. I found a safe place to stay and started attending meetings. At this time my oldest daughter was pregnant with my first grandson, but because of health complications she lost him. I became sober in order to help comfort her through the pain and sorrow of losing a child, and it was during that time I came to believe that as long as I stayed close to God I would never use again. I surrendered. And by God’s grace I have remained sober since June 1, 2006. My husband has been sober since 2013 and with God at our center we support each other in this journey of life.
I celebrated Holy Confirmation at the Easter Vigil in 2008, and shortly thereafter went on a pilgrimage to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was there that I had many spiritual experiences, but the most profound experience I had was in the Sacrament of Reconciliation concerning my two abortions. I truly felt the Lord’s grace and mercy pour over me and wash me clean. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I realized I was called to share my story, His mercy, and the love of His Mother Mary with the world.
Today, because of healing retreats, I have a relationship with my boys in heaven and I’m blessed to be able to help others find help as well. God wants us to heal from our wounds, not be enslaved by them. As each day passes, I realize everything can be found in the loving presence of God. God has placed many women in my path of sobriety to help over the years and it’s a blessing to see how He transforms them into His beloved daughters. I’m not shy around the table when speaking about God or my Catholic faith. Many today have fallen away, just as I once did, but I now cling to Him, the hope and freedom that only He can bring, and pray that others come to know Him as well.
Kathleen Ann, by God’s grace, has been clean and sober since June 1, 2006. She is an active member of AA, CIR, and works part-time as the Project Rachel Coordinator in the Life office at the Diocese of Rockford, where she helps gently and confidentially guide those wounded by abortion to hope and healing in Christ Jesus. On most days you can find her at daily Mass, the gym, or caring for the needs of her family, young and old alike.