The disease of alcoholism and addiction is often referred to as the family disease. This is because if someone who suffers from addiction looks hard enough they can often find others in their own family who suffer. For us in recovery, when we take a moment to look back on our family histories we will likely see that many of our family members were or still are caught in the bondage of addiction.
With each new generation, it seems that we cling to or drag with us the repeated cycle of broken hearts, finances, homes, and families. We cry out to God in our darkest moments begging for an escape.
Yet, by surrendering to God we can receive the gift of sobriety and pray that the cycle of addiction will be cast away for good in our own families. With our newfound life built on Christ, we can turn to the Lord on behalf of our family members still in darkness, trusting fully that God loves them and wants to free them as well—be they our fathers, mothers, siblings, grandparents, or any other family members.
With the life-saving and life-giving power of others in recovery, the Twelve Steps, and the sacraments of the Catholic Church we can allow God to use us as His instruments of grace, mercy, and love. In other words, once we have been healed, we can turn back to our own families and let Christ’s love and healing pour through us onto them like a healing balm.
Each year the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family, which we recently celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas. What a wonderful reminder of what a good and joy-filled family looks like! What family better to consider, ponder, and ask for assistance from than the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph?
We can ask each of them to reveal to us in prayer and petition how we have hurt or wronged our family members in the past (or now) due to unresolved resentment, fear, and anger. And in doing so, we can then ask them to help us pave a way toward reconciliation, forgiveness, and mercy.
We know we can’t fix others (oh, how we have tried and failed!). And we know we must leave that to our loving God. But by praying to the Holy Family, we can receive wisdom about how and when to let God’s love and healing flow through us. It’s by reflecting and communing with each member of the Holy Family that we can no doubt become better equipped to love our own families.
In the Christ child, we are reminded of our own vulnerability and complete dependence on God. We are reminded that He asks us to become like little children as we grow in faith and recovery. And from this place of humility, we begin to overflow with His peace. We no longer are afraid to ask for help as well as seek guidance, inspiration, and wisdom when it comes to living within and loving our families. And with child-like humility, we are able to be patient, merciful, and hopeful when it comes to loving and being with our own families, no matter how broken they are.
In Mary, our mother, we witness her strong and firm resolve and faithfulness. She fills us with humility and complete trust in good times as well as in bad. She helps us to accept everything that comes our way with gratitude and with a joyful spirit. We ask her to purify us so that we may be holy and, in being holy, that we may help draw our own families to Christ as she does with us. We can whisper softly to her many times throughout our day saying, “Mother, let your yes be my yes when it comes to loving my family!”
And in Joseph, we find a strong but silent force for good. We ask him to reveal and remove our most glaring defects of character so that, healed, we can better see and love our family members. We look to him as a model of obedience and complete surrender to the will of God. We learn to count on him to always show up when we are scared, sad, or lonely. He holds our hand and leads us out of the desert and into the Promised Land of Heaven, where one day in faith we hope to live forever with our family members in perfect joy and peace.
By reflecting on and communing with each member of the Holy Family in prayer, we are equipped to bring God’s love, mercy, and healing into our own families. We may not always see the fruit, of course, but when we place our trust in Jesus, born humbly in a manger, and ask for the help of His earthly parents, we can be assured that the Lord will work in our family’s hearts for their ultimate good.
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.