In his book Healing Prayer, John Horn details how the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius provide a way of healing deep childhood wounds through the guidance of a competent spiritual director.
I completed the Spiritual Exercises in May 2020 and it was a very healing journey. But what I discovered through the experience was that I had deeper wounds that needed more than an eight-month retreat. What they needed—what I needed—for deeper healing was 12-step recovery.
I went to Alateen in high school, so I was aware of the Twelve Steps. After completing the Spiritual Exercises, my curiosity about Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) recovery wasn’t so much how to work the steps but more about the concept of “reparenting my inner child.”
I started attending meetings where they used guided meditation to help us connect with our true feelings and childhood self. The meditation was valuable but I wanted to make it more prayerful so I could use it during my daily meditation time. As Fr. Horn writes, “In prayer, primal fears and sadnesses are gradually relived in the light of a gaze that delights in mankind (Mt 3: 16-17), relieving toxic shame, restoring mankind to original innocence.”
In order to invite God more deeply into my recovery journey, I developed a modified version of the ACA meditation below. This reflection strengthens our ability to identify and feel emotions, grounding us in the present moment with God and our true selves. Recognizing how we feel helps to deepen our relationship with God and allows Him to heal the pain and wounds from the past that may be keeping us from becoming the persons we are meant to be. I hope the meditation is helpful to you in your own prayerful road of recovery (it can be used by people in any type of recovery program, not just ACA).
Healing Your Inner Child Reflection
Begin with the Sign of the Cross and take a few deep breaths. Turn your attention to God and bring to mind your favorite way of being with Him. Acknowledge that you’re doing this to grow closer to Him and ask for the light of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Follow the steps below and write down your answers to the bolded questions on a separate piece of paper or in a journal.
What emotions am I feeling right now?
Some common emotional states include the following: angry, disappointed, frustrated, tired, sad, hurt, scared, confused, ashamed, longing, thankful, relieved, joyous, comfortable, content, etc. Use “I” when describing your emotions (I am angry, etc.) and try to use only one word to record each emotion since this helps distinguish emotion from thought.
What physical sensations do I notice in my body?
Consider your breathing as well as your face, throat, torso, hands, and feet (ex. tightness in chest, fluttering in stomach, etc.).
Now consider your childhood self.
How do these emotions connect you with your inner child? What age is the inner child activated by these emotions (it’s okay to not know)?
Gently place your inner child’s hand in God’s hand or in His arms. Keeping your inner child close to God, now take some time to go back and examine the last several hours or day.
When did you feel the above emotions? What activated them?
Now, imagine yourself with God (walking hand in hand or in his arms). Invite God into those moments when you felt the above emotions and write freely to Him whatever comes to mind.
What does your inner child need to hear from God to help you feel closer and more connected?
Write a note to yourself from God, telling yourself how much you are loved. Validate the feelings and needs of that vulnerable part of yourself. Reassure your true self with compassion and understanding as well as words of encouragement.
Ex: I understand that you are feeling scared about the future. You feel hopeless and unsafe. I am here with you and I won’t leave you alone. I’ll keep you safe and close to my heart. I am so happy to have you here with me, sharing your feelings. You always try so hard and I am proud of you for that. You are my beloved child.
Ask God to forgive you for the times you have turned away from Him, knowing that He is constantly pouring His merciful love into your soul.
Now look ahead to the next day or the next part of your day. Visualize two or three key future moments going well. Ask the Holy Spirit for help and guidance.
Give thanks to God for this time and end with a prayer and the Sign of the Cross.
Born and raised Catholic, Chloe is an adult child of alcoholics who recently rediscovered the beauty of 12-step recovery through attending Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) and Catholic in Recovery meetings. For many years, Chloe was an Evangelical Christian before the Blessed Mother, the saints, and the witness of a dear friend eventually drew her back to the Catholic faith.