One 12-step Meeting Offers Healing in the Midst of Alcoholism and Family Tragedy

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It wasn’t until Susan was older that she realized alcoholism ran in her family. This is because, though a functioning alcoholic, her father provided well for their family and she had a stable home life. This made it difficult to see that there were problems growing up.

Yet, aside from an occasional event of drinking, Susan didn’t follow her family’s path. That is, until fourteen years ago when her sister died unexpectedly and tragically from a rare medical illness.

“I was off and running and was drunk almost every night for ten years after she died. It was my way of coping with this tragic loss. Yet during this time I really didn’t have any concept that I was actually an alcoholic,” Susan said.

This event started a downward trajectory for her. It was exacerbated by a personal family and legal crisis, followed by the news that a friend had become gravely ill from a rare form of colon cancer. Susan decided to move in and help her friend as she was going through chemotherapy. But Susan’s drinking escalated. She was drinking one to two bottles of wine almost every night, sometimes blacking out. Eventually, her friend asked her to leave. Having moved to San Diego to help her friend with little money and nowhere else to live, she was homeless.

“I got asked to leave and checked into a hotel. I just wanted to die. I did not want to live the way I was living anymore. I wanted to commit suicide, but deep down I didn’t want to die. I just wanted all the pain to stop,” Susan shared. “I ended up calling someone to take me to the ER and admitted I was suicidal. There I was asked if I had a problem with alcohol and for the first time ever I said, ‘yes.’”

It would be on that day, September 17, 2015, that Susan had her last drink of alcohol. Her journey of recovery would not be an easy one, though. She ended up in a crisis house where she received supportive services. Following this, she entered a four-month treatment program for women. Though familiar with the Twelve Steps, she wanted nothing to do with them.

But then she had an epiphany. Shortly after arriving at the treatment facility, Susan attended an H&I speakers’ meeting at her treatment facility. Susan stayed after the meeting and noticed the large posters of the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions.

“I read the posters very slowly, and suddenly I saw the blending of the Sacraments of the Catholic Church and the Ten Commandments with the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was off and running with the Twelve Steps,” Susan said.

Susan converted to Catholicism in 2010 and it was from her sponsor that she heard about Catholic in Recovery. She has been attending Catholic in Recovery meetings at St. Joseph Cathedral in San Diego for more than two years now.

“In my Catholic in Recovery meetings, I get to talk about the Twelve Steps and I get to talk about Jesus Christ. There is always something in the Gospel readings or our reflections that is helpful, and I wish I could attend my Catholic in Recovery meeting every day,” Susan said.

Susan sees Catholic in Recovery as a great aid to her 12-step meetings. For her, Catholic in Recovery is not a replacement, since both work together to help her with her recovery.

“Catholic in Recovery is a wonderful addition to my recovery program and to my religion and I would encourage others to check it out,” Susan said.

While Catholic in Recovery offers her spiritual help with her recovery, it also has offered her a source of comfort as she’s had to mourn the death of loved ones. From April to August of 2018, she suffered three deaths. One of the individuals who passed away was her cousin Lynn, a woman with whom she was extremely close.

“My cousin Lynn was very close to me,” Susan shared. “Parkinsons ravaged her, but she was a great advocate in my recovery. On the 17th of every month, she would send me an online card for my sobriety and we spoke almost daily.”

When she passed away, she found love and comfort from those in her Catholic in Recovery group.

“I can freely express my grief in Catholic in Recovery meetings, and group members were praying for me throughout my cousin’s death and supporting me, “ Susan said, and then explained why these meetings have been so powerful for her. “God’s grace is just so present when I’m in a Catholic in Recovery meeting and there is such love there. We’re able to express love and I get the beauty of God’s grace in action.”