Each week, I drive by a beautiful park on my way to a recovery meeting. During my drive, I always notice a particular bench and remind myself that that’s where “it” happened—the Lord’s miraculous healing of my alcoholism.
I came into the rooms of Recovery in 2013. I was a hidden daily drinker, desperate to “get control” of my problem. I put together some time of sobriety here and there, working with a sponsor and attending meetings, but I could not stay sober. I relapsed many times that first year. Little did I know that each relapse was bringing me closer to revelation.
My last relapse came after I had reached 60 days of sobriety. I walked into a liquor store without a thought and picked up a bottle. There had been no decision—no struggle—and just like that I was back to drinking daily. My sponsor suggested I write down my thoughts leading up to the next drink. We met the following day on that bench in a beautiful park close to my home and I began to read what I had written:
Woke up and I feel horrible…I am not going to drink today…I have so much to do and a drink would help me get things done. I’m not going to drink…maybe I should buy something, just in case I need it…I might start feeling bad? No, I won’t! I won’t even go to the store. If I go I will buy something. But I need blueberries. Okay, I’ll go to the store but I won’t get anything to drink. I won’t even go down the drink aisle.
I go immediately to the drink aisle and put a small bottle of alcohol in my cart.
I won’t drink it unless I am desperate. But what if I do drink it and then need more?
I go back to the drink aisle and get a full bottle of alcohol.
I’ll buy the bottle but I won’t drink it. It’s no big deal if I drink it. I’ll just wait till I go to bed and then only have one drink and go to sleep. I could drink it sooner than that. Okay, but just wait one hour. The wire is tightening. It’s here, hidden, but within reach and I can’t stop thinking about it. My mind is split into two voices, one telling me to “just wait one more hour, it’s working, you can do this.” The other is repeating “you are going to drink anyway so might as well do it now. You are just making yourself suffer, you need it, you’ll feel so much better.”
I pick up the bottle and put it back down, over and over again. Finally, I drink to shut the voices up.
Please shut up and be done with it. It did not work. I just drank another one. I feel horrible. Why, why did I do this again? I hate myself. I am so stupid. I am so weak. Please help me stop, please, please, help me God. Help me.
What I wrote in my journal is a picture of the hell on earth I lived, day after day. I was being tortured before and after every drink. How had I been unable to see this horrible reality for what it was? This was alcoholic insanity and denial—the power of the disease at work. And the power it still had over me was a direct result of self-will and pride. I still wanted to run the show. I still wanted the magic drink that I was convinced would give me control of my life, pain, and suffering as well as the ability to remake the world on my terms.
I was unwilling to give up this illusion of power. I couldn’t see that I was caught in a trap with the “wire tightening around my neck.” The more I struggled, the tighter the noose became. All of my pride, knowledge, and will were useless. It was clear that no human power could relieve me of my alcoholism.
Over the course of the year prior to that last relapse, my sponsor and I had talked in depth about my Higher Power. Lack of belief had never been an obstacle for me. I had no problem believing that “God could and would if He were sought.” I had been taught through my Catholic faith that God was all powerful and merciful, that He loved me beyond measure and had sent His only son to die for me. I knew I had a savior and I knew who He was. I knew that Jesus had been with me through everything and had given me the courage to walk into the rooms of recovery and the strength to stay and be honest through all of my relapses.
But there, on that bench with my sponsor, I sensed Jesus was finally leading me to the realization that only God could relieve me of my alcoholism. I suddenly saw the choice before me as clear as day, and it was not the choice to drink or not drink. It was the choice to stay in self-will and keep holding onto my pride or to give it all up to God. All of it. The first three steps in AA can be summed up like this: “I can’t, He can, I think I’ll let him.” Finally, I took these steps to heart and surrendered my drinking and myself to God.
And the voices stopped. There was a great stillness in my mind and soul, and I knew with deep certainty that it was over. I could feel the addiction’s absence. The problem had been miraculously removed and I haven’t taken a drink since.
I walked away from the bench at the park that day with a sense of strength, purpose, and hope. I walked back into the rooms of recovery and back into the steps. I soon found Catholic in Recovery and was led back into the daily practice of my Catholic faith in the form of service, prayer, and the sacraments.
The voices of alcoholic insanity and obsession have never returned since. Today, my great joy is to share how Jesus reached deep into my suffering and rescued me “from the fowler’s snare,” leading me into the life of sobriety and faith I have had for over the last eight years (Psalms 91:3). It’s a good life to know, love, and serve the Lord—to be sane and free in the Lord!
“Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, ‘If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32).
Ann is grateful to be recovering from alcoholism through the grace of God and 12-step recovery groups. She has been sober since 2014 and was drawn back to her Catholic faith by Catholic in Recovery. Her greatest joy is working with sponsees and using her experience to bring hope to those suffering with and affected by addiction.