My Catholic faith has always been a major part of my recovery since day one. Being continuously told from the beginning that selfishness was at the root of all my troubles, I knew I had to change. And what model better to follow for unselfishness than that of Jesus?
My Third Step of Recovery
I was fortunate enough to find a sponsor who supported my belief in Christ and the Church. Although not a Catholic himself, we found a common bond in our quest to become more Christ-like. When it came time for me to do the Third Step in my recovery from addiction to alcohol and drugs, we talked about what exactly surrendering to the will of God meant. For those unfamiliar with the Third Step, it involves making a “decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.”
My sponsor directed me to meet with my spiritual director at the time, Father James Nash. Fr. Nash had always been with me in my walk with God, even during the darkest times. I credit a lot of my faith in Christ to the compassion that Fr. Nash demonstrated toward me. We had a conversation about surrender and what it meant. I cannot recall the details of that conversation other than that he suggested that I complete the Third Step in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
In the Catholic Church, we believe that Jesus is fully present: body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. We believe this as a central tenet of our faith. Following that meeting with Fr. Nash, I went to the chapel at my parish. Jesus was not exposed as He is in the case of Eucharistic Adoration (when the Eucharistic host is physically exposed), but one of the wonderful things about Catholic churches is that Jesus is always present in the tabernacle at all times. Although I don’t remember much about my conversation with Fr. Nash, I remember the Third Step like it was yesterday. I said the following Third Step prayer in the presence of the living God:
“God, I offer myself to You—to build with me and do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life.”
I was immediately overcome with a peace that I had never felt before in my life. I knew that my life had been completely changed and, from that moment on, it would never be the same.
The Importance of the Blessed Sacrament for All Catholics
As Catholics, Christ is the center of our faith. Without Christ, we are like sheep without a shepherd. The Third Step is about surrender. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus surrenders Himself to God the Father just as He did on Calvary. By partaking in this sacred mystery of the Mass, we receive the special graces that we need to turn our will and life over to the care of God just as Jesus did on the Cross.
The Eucharist is literally an extension of Christ’s passion. Christ sacrificed Himself for the redemption of mankind. As Catholics, we get to participate in the moment where an all-loving God became man and sacrificed himself for us every time we attend Mass. There is nothing more powerful, healing, and unselfish than this ultimate reality.
Seeking God’s Will Through a Relationship with Christ
Many Catholics pursue a certain degree of self-seeking without completely destroying their lives, albeit with some consequences to their souls. Many go about this unknowingly for a time because the damage may be minor or may not present itself right away. However, as St. Paul tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
In this passage, St. Paul is talking about a “spiritual death” in sin. All sin has selfishness at its root. Pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth are all manifestations of selfishness that have not been rooted out and have taken on a damaging form.
For an addict, the passage from Romans has physical consequences as well. Our addictions often have the end result of physical death of the body if we do not seek recovery. Relapse will often occur due to selfishness or self-seeking that is not put in check. So how can we grow in virtue and our recovery? We have our model in the unselfish, self-sacrificing love of the living God, Jesus Christ. Following Him in the way He lived his life is one way to follow God’s will. Another way is to develop a personal relationship with Jesus as our guide.
One way to know Jesus and allow him to be our guide is to spend time with Him. We as Catholics have this miraculous gift of being able to spend time with Jesus, physically, because of His presence in the Eucharist both at Mass and in Adoration.
I often face indecision in my life. Everybody does. I have one day a week where I spend time with Jesus in Adoration. I often take seemingly difficult struggles to Him during that time and I walk out with more clarity than I have had in a while. I strongly encourage Catholics in recovery, or all Catholics for that matter, to dedicate time every week to visit Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.
Simplicity in Following God’s Will
In recovery, our sobriety depends immensely on seeking God’s will. Many men and women in recovery achieve that through prayer and seeking to live an unselfish life. For Catholics, we have a simple example to follow that eliminates much of the “guesswork” in discernment: following the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ and continuously seeking a personal relationship with Him. What better way to do that than to share in His sacrifice by attending Mass and spending time with Him in the quiet and calm of Eucharistic Adoration on a regular basis?
Jonathan Hicks 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.