Love and service go hand in hand, whether it be within our families, communities, Catholic in Recovery groups, 12-step fellowships, or parish ministries. We are called to pour the love and blessings we have received from God out onto others. In recovery, we learn to be honest, open, and willing to share ourselves, our time, and our talents. We learn we must share our experience, strength, and hope with others in order to stay sober.
But as we grow we begin to share ourselves with others because we want to, not merely because we must. We start to see the world and those in it with a new set of eyes: the “eyes of our heart.” True humility is born when we start to think less of ourselves—our desires and needs—and more about the desires and needs of others.
A Gift that Keeps On Giving
It is often said that sobriety is a gift that keeps on giving. This became true for me after I had been sober for over a couple of years and realized how many people had gone above and beyond in helping me without expecting anything in return. Many years before my sobriety, I wallowed in fear and denial of my addictions. My heart was cold and lifeless. My traumas from the past and the self-inflicted wounds of my abortions and other sins nearly severed my ability to give or receive the greatest love—that of the Father. My heart was starving and ached for love and I substituted that longing with drugs, alcohol, food, and other unhealthy behaviors like sexual promiscuity and pornography.
Addiction and other unhealthy attachments lock us in a lonely, self-centered form of bondage. Our vision is turned inward and we end up caring little about anything or anyone, except our next drink, drug, and so on. This way of living goes against everything God created us to be. We were created to be in full communion with Him and others. But the goods news is that God is always near to the brokenhearted and addicted, and He longingly waits for our hearts to cry out in surrender. When we do we can allow Him to reveal, heal, and restore our wounded hearts.
Discerning How We Can Serve God and Others
When this happens, we are then called to step beyond the safety and comfort of our 12-step fellowship and into our respective communities and parishes. If we are serious and ready for change we will find plenty of opportunities to volunteer and serve. Maybe by cooking and serving a meal at our local homeless shelter? Or stocking shelves at the food pantry? How about playing bingo with those in a retirement home or strumming a guitar and inviting the residents to sing along (music always make my heart sing!)? Or perhaps one could join the Society of St. Vincent de Paul or the Knights of Columbus? The important thing is to take our willingness to serve others to God in prayer and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Follow the Spirit and I promise you will never be disappointed!
I have been called in a particular way to share my heart with those wounded by abortion. United in the pain of our past, we come to know Christ, the Divine Physician, as we journey together to find healing. We bond in our hope and trust He will make all things new! We live by the Gospel verse in Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful!”
Do Not Be Afraid!
When we become sober and experience healing through Christ from our addictions and pain, we start to see ourselves in others, especially those hardest to love, and we realize that they too deserve to experience the oneness and closeness of Christ. And in this way we become His wounded healers. When we share in the pain and suffering of others we also share in the pain and suffering of Christ crucified. The eyes of our heart begin to see how God sees all of his children—with love, care, and compassion.
For those who have found recovery but feel they are being called to give more to others in service, I encourage you to ask God for the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to see where He is calling you to freely give to others what He has given to us. Trust Him and don’t be afraid to go out into the world and share the Good News!
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.