After Years of Drinking and Popping Pills, Emily Encounters Christ’s Healing at Mass and Finds Sobriety

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Emily started experimenting with marijuana and alcohol when she was only 12 years old. This led her into trouble with the police and, eventually, juvenile detention. Yet, as punishment, she was forced to do community service and ended up doing it at a Catholic Church.

“When I got home, I was on probation and had to do community service and was sent to a Catholic church,” Emily shared. “That brought me back into my faith. I stopped using drugs, completed my hours, and the pastor ended up hiring me to work at the parish.”

But like many, she continued to use alcohol since it doesn’t have the same social stigma that drugs have. As she entered adulthood, she became a high-functioning alcoholic, successfully graduating from college, managing her jobs, getting married, and having children.

“I started to drink more and very quickly I became addicted to alcohol,” Emily said. “But I was high functioning and my life was going smoothly and I was successful so no one bothered me about my drinking. This kind of just progressed for 15 years or so.”

She notes that there are certain cultural expectations that make the excessive drinking of alcohol seem somewhat acceptable and normal.

“There is this, ‘Mommy drinks wine’ culture, which has been normalized for the suburban stay-at-home mom. That and Xanax for anxiety. For a long time, I just had people validating my drinking even though I knew I was an alcoholic.”

However, she then moved to a new community, where people started to take notice.

“People started to see that it was a problem, mainly people at my church, including my pastor,” Emily said.

Around this time she had also become critically ill, and as a result, was given opioids to help manage her pain. She quickly became addicted and was now combining alcohol with drugs.

“It just spiraled out of control, drinking around the clock and snorting pills and manipulating doctors for more pills,” Emily shared.

At one point she even received the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick after she ended up in the ER. It was then that her priest encouraged her to go to detox and rehab. But rehab wouldn’t be enough.

“When I came home from rehab I just wouldn’t accept the fact that I needed to surrender, and I would go back to drinking and would reach another bottom before trying to get sober again,” Emily said.

But things would change on June 18th, 2018.

“I don’t remember anything about that night in June at all. I came to and it was pouring rain and I was drenched. I didn’t know where I was or how I got there,” Emily said. “I was looking at my phone to try and figure out what happened. My texts were incoherent and I was embarrassed by things I had texted to people who were trying to help me.”

That next morning she walked into daily Mass, having not slept, feeling shame for her drinking and previous behavior. Yet, the people within her church community responded with love and concern.

“They all welcomed me back with open arms. And I thought, ‘Why do these people care about me so much when they don’t have to?’ They cared about me until I was finally able to care about myself. That night was going to be my last bottom,” Emily said.

Five days later she went to St. Patrick’s in New York City to see a friend become ordained a deacon. She hadn’t had a drink in five days, and she was experiencing terrible withdrawal.

“I was in withdrawal and I was sweating, shaking, and in pain. We go to St. Patrick’s and the Mass is beautiful, despite how miserable I feel. But then, during communion, I am horribly triggered by the scent of alcohol from the chalice of the Precious Blood. It seemed so intrinsically evil that my Lord would be used to tempt me. At that moment I realized I was faced with two choices: I can march out of the cathedral and go right back to where I left off or I can truly surrender it completely, which was something I had never done,” Emily said.

By the grace of God she surrendered. And she hasn’t had a drink since.

“I got on my knees and prayed like I never have before. I truly believe I experienced a miracle that day,” Emily said.

Not too long after that miraculous moment, she was introduced to Catholic in Recovery through her friend’s husband. She wanted to pour out the same healing she had received to others in her parish and community.

“We are now starting a Catholic in Recovery group at the parish where I was the one everyone was concerned about. Now, they are all supporting me in starting this group. It is nice to rejoice in my recovery with them after having brought them through the fires of hell in my active addiction,” Emily shared.

Having attended other recovery programs in the community, Emily was drawn to more Christ-centered recovery groups and found that there weren’t any in the area that were Catholic.

“I felt that something was lacking with recovery programs outside of the Catholic sacraments. There was something so powerful about doing my Fifth Step with a priest and bringing that into the sacrament of reconciliation rather than just telling someone over coffee,” Emily said. “The sacraments have been intertwined in my recovery and to have a more concrete way to do that, through Catholic in Recovery, has been really wonderful.”

Emily believes that the sacraments and community of the Catholic Church are what can ultimately bring the greatest level of healing to those struggling with addictions and unhealthy attachments.

“I have learned that sobriety is not a punishment. It is a grace and a gift that I received from God when I couldn’t do it on my own,” Emily shared.