“In the early 1980’s I was an aircraft carrier-based naval flight officer in the E-2C HAWKEYE radar aircraft. Naval Aviation was a drinking culture back then,” Kevin S. said. “Each port we came across seemed to have its own special drink, and I was intent on sampling each and every one of them.”
Although a cradle Catholic, Kevin left the Catholic Church during his college years when he became involved in Campus Crusade for Christ. He developed a strong faith, one that kept him from excessive alcohol consumption through his early young adulthood. But once he joined the Navy, his faith grew less important to him as he became immersed in the heavy drinking culture of the Navy.
“As time went on in the Navy I stopped doing the things I needed to keep doing to reinforce my Christian lifestyle and a relationship with God. Instead, I wanted to be liked by others in the Navy and became a chameleon,” Kevin shared.
As an officer, he would sometimes read reports of sailors who were undergoing assessment for their drinking habits and, in some cases, being sent away for inpatient treatment.
“I once remember reading a report about a guy who was being recommended for 28-day inpatient rehab, and when I saw how much alcohol he consumed I remember thinking, ‘lightweight,’” Kevin said.
While he was aware of his unhealthy drinking habits at the time and even tried a recovery meeting, none of that was enough to keep him from drinking. It wasn’t until he became the father of two adopted children that things began to change.
“I had some words with my wife the night before about my drinking and the next morning I was playing with my daughter who was still in diapers,” Kevin said. “As I looked at her, I thought about everything she had gone through to leave the Soviet Union and become part of our family since she was born in Russia. I realized she didn’t deserve a broken home. She didn’t deserve a dad who is a drunk!”
It was at that moment he acknowledged that his drinking needed to stop. He admitted he had become powerless over his drinking and, while he didn’t feel that his life had quite become unmanageable—he had managed some degree of success as a Naval officer, husband, and father—he understood the direction his life was heading was “unsustainable.”
“I was still hanging on but it was unsustainable and it wasn’t going to end well,” Kevin said. “I was living in a house of cards and there is no such thing as a well-constructed house of cards.”
He began reading stories from a publication called AA Grapevine, and while he didn’t always share the same level of desperation or loss that some AA members he read about had experienced, he understood the emotions behind why so many of them drank. He recognized that those emotions and reasons for drinking were his very own.
So Kevin came to the rooms of recovery, and this time it stuck.
Over time he found a solid group of guys in recovery as well as a good sponsor, a Catholic attorney whom he respected professionally and spiritually. He also continued to grow in his Catholic faith. He began working the steps, being honest with himself and others, and sharing his experience, strength, and hope. As a result, he hasn’t had a drink since July 30th, 2000.
“About two years ago I was listening to Catholic Answers and Catholic in Recovery founder Scott Weeman was talking about his book The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments. I ordered his book, thought it was great, and joined an online CIR meeting for General Recovery,” Kevin shared.
Since then, Kevin has become a group leader and also shares his experience, strength, and hope as a writer for Catholic in Recovery.
When asked about what he appreciates most about Catholic in Recovery meetings, he cited that “they bring the experience of the Gospel and the person of Jesus Christ to recovery in a more specific way.”
And during his AA meetings, he has even started to invite fellow Catholic members to CIR meetings.
“I have found myself inviting Catholics who I know within AA. I tell them CIR is bringing recovery within a Catholic context and that we use the Sunday Mass readings to couch our recovery experience around the resources of the Catholic Church,” Kevin said. “And in many cases, the experience during CIR meetings opens folks’ eyes and reaffirms them in their recovery and faith journeys.”