Escapism to Surrender: Embracing Prayer, Catholic in Recovery Virtual Meetings, and Service During this Challenging Time

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When life in quarantine began, I did what I often do and decided that I was just going to remain busy and plan like crazy to get through it. The first thing that I did was get really motivated to exercise. 

One of my many passions is rowing. Social distancing meant that the season was not going to start but I did not want to rest on my laurels with my training regimen simply because I was stuck inside.

My wife and I decided to switch up taking care of the kids and making sure they were emotionally enriched while we worked. This proved to be a very difficult task. We started doing an early bedtime to get a bit of a break. I bought a Nintendo Switch for the boys since we could not go anywhere. I have not played video games for about 15 years, but I ended up playing hours of video games every night after they went to bed. 

I did not call anyone or do any personal development outside of my workouts. I hardly called my sponsor. Life was hard because we had outgrown our home about a year ago. And while we had just purchased a new home, the pandemic has pushed back our move-in date.

Admitting my Powerlessness

Family conflict was on the rise. Tempers were flaring. One day when it got to be too much for me to handle, I called my sponsor. He helped me realize that much of what I was experiencing was the result of the situation I was living in. It felt like a constant pressure cooker in that house with no means of relief and nowhere to go. None of us had our own space.

I started trying to attend AA virtual meetings after that. It may have been the meetings that I was attending but I didn’t like that they were jam-packed and had lots of people complaining about the pandemic without any practical solutions to apply to daily life. 

I also started attending Catholic in Recovery virtual meetings. They were smaller in size and started off with a reflection based on God’s word. In the meetings, we seek to connect our daily lives to the Sunday Mass readings.

Eventually, I suggested to my wife that we go ahead with our move and that the major contributor to our struggles was our lack of space. We moved about two weeks ago.

The more I reflected on my experience, the more I realized that I was not helpless in all of this. I realized there are things I can do to help manage the stress and other things that are beyond my control. Letting go of the things out of my control has usually been the path to peace and serenity in my life. And it’s no different today. Perhaps best of all, I began to realize that there are things that I can do to help others and grow closer to God during this time.

Surrendering My Will

Prayer is a major part of my day. I start the day with the Step Eleven prayer every morning with my wife (which includes reciting the Third Step prayer for me as well as the prayer of St. Francis) and end with my examination of conscience.

I take other opportunities for prayer throughout my day as they arise, five minutes here and there.  This often keeps me focused on serving others and limits my stress levels significantly. Making a sacred space in my home has helped in this endeavor as well. My entire day hinges around prayer.

My days are spent on my work, whether for my family or the Kingdom. I’m blessed to have a career that benefits others and it lights a fire in me. Sometimes my “work time” means doing chores but sometimes it means spontaneously playing with my kids by going on a bike ride, playing a game in the backyard, or rough-housing with them.

Rather than pursuing escapism through unhealthy attachments when my kids go to bed, my evenings are now spent on personal development. I participate in one or two Catholic in Recovery virtual meetings per week. I seek to offer my experience, strength, and hope in the virtual meetings and I always leave with a sense of being spiritually fed. Hearing about the experience of others limits my frustrations and helps me remember that I am not alone. It also helps me to exercise compassion in my dealings with others, even if we are not meeting in person.

I have moved my previously “sacred” morning workouts to the evening so that less time is taken away from my family. This has meant a major shift in my fitness goals and exercise regimen since I cannot muster the motivation to get a good workout on the rowing machine when I am already exhausted. However, I have a greater sense of accomplishment overall because I know that every possible minute of my day was focused on improving the lives of others. And I still have time for a workout!

I am no longer slaying monsters in “Zelda: Breath of the Wild” but I still am watching television.  However, the difference is that my choices feed my soul. I watched the series “The Chosen,” which really helped me to connect more deeply and fully with Christ. And I have watched several faith-based movies. Sometimes I do some spiritual reading or watch a movie with my wife on evenings she does not have calls for work.

I always end my day with an examination of conscience in the family chapel that we have created in our new home. Despite not being able to receive the sacraments during this time, it has been a time of profound grace and conversion for me. The more I have plugged into my own conversion and sought the well-being of others, the more others around me have done so as well. 

This would not have been possible without the principles in the Twelve Steps and the fellowship of Catholic in Recovery. Times of isolation can often lead the Holy Spirit to work wonders in the soul as long as we are open to His grace. 

If you are in a place of struggling spiritually or emotionally, I encourage you to seek God with the desperation of a drowning man and connect with others on a regular basis who can help lead you to Him.

Jonathan has been in recovery from drugs and alcohol since 2010. The Catholic faith has always been part of his recovery. He found freedom from his addiction in modeling Christ through service to others through 12-step groups, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, youth ministry, and really any other outlet he could find. He is a strong believer in the power of Christian fellowship in recovery.