A Moment of Grace at a Retreat Leads María to a Life of Sobriety and Joy

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A combination of faith and fear prevented me from drinking alcohol until my late 20s. I eventually started having wine and beer at family gatherings and dinner parties for one reason: I wanted to feel like I belonged. Within six months, my drinking had become a problem, controlling my thinking and actions. Eventually, alcohol had power over me and I began hating the person I had become.

After several relapses and a lot of heartache, I made a decision to completely surrender once again to our loving and merciful God. I walked into an adoration chapel and repented aloud in the presence of God. I was the only one there with Jesus and I sobbed in one of those I-hope-no-one-ever-sees-me-like-this-except-Jesus sobs. I felt such deep sorrow for turning my back on the One who loves me the most and I desperately asked Jesus to show me what to do next. 

Five hours later, after being prompted by my spiritual director, I was on an airplane headed to the Healing the Whole Person Retreat facilitated by the John Paul II Healing Center. It was led by Dr. Bob Schultz, Bart Schultz, and Sr. Miriam James Heidland. I didn’t know anything about the retreat but I knew that I needed to go. Lo and behold, the opening session was a talk by Sr. Miriam who happened to be a recovering alcoholic. I nearly fell out of my chair. 

The Lord knew that I needed to know that I wasn’t alone in my drinking and that there was hope for recovery and healing. I became more open-minded and willing to go to any length to stay sober and live in freedom.

My healing has been an ongoing process. There hasn’t just been a single moment when I turned to God for help to receive healing—there have been thousands. I realize now that if I’m honest, open, and willing to surrender, God will surely do the rest. 

The Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Scripture, the Blessed Mother, the Rosary, and the Saints carried me through my darkest days. When I realized I had friends in Heaven cheering me on and praying for me, that was a game-changer. I began to pray the rosary and imagine Mary, the Queen of Heaven, interceding for me at the throne of God with all the Saints, which has been an amazing grace. I also began reading St. Faustina’s diary and learned about God’s divine mercy and how He wants us to trust Him and His mercy more than anything else, which helped me to finally let go of all of my shame from my past.

A few years ago, I was trying to find a way to connect my Catholic faith to recovery and discovered Catholic in Recovery. I ordered The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments and started a group in our area shortly afterward. 

Getting to know other Catholics in recovery from around the world has been very uplifting and encouraging. I really enjoy reflecting on Scripture and discussing how it relates to recovery every week during our meetings. I also appreciate the freedom to talk about our Catholic faith, the Saints, the sacraments, and our religious experiences openly.

We know our enemy wants us to remain discouraged, anxious, and hopeless. He wants us to believe we will never get well and our efforts don’t matter. These are lies from the author of lies. The good news is that Jesus died for all of us and that He is waiting for us to turn to Him for healing and mercy. It’s never too late for us to start over. All we have to do is ask God to help us.

I have never regretted asking God for mercy, never regretted running back to God and starting over again. However, I have regretted being rebellious, selfish, and full of self-pity. I have learned that when we turn from these destructive things and run toward the mercy of Jesus, as the psalmist reminds us, the Lord will be faithful in offering His abundant mercy, healing, and joy.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” – Psm. 103:1-5

María’s Testimonial