The Reason I’m Both Catholic and in Recovery

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The response of Pilate to our Lord betrays the skeptical view that there is no discernable, universal truth that can be discerned. Or to put it succinctly: “It is all relative.” Your truth is your truth and mine is mine and never the twain shall meet.

I was blessed with many physical and mental gifts in an upper-middle-class home. Yet, I was raised in a pagan household to rely on my own powers and abilities to navigate life and “get what I want” from it. I received all my moral education and spiritual formation from four channels on TV and public school in Iowa. I recall seeing a movie about Easter on TV as a kid and not understanding anything about it. As I got older, my concept of what was right or wrong centered around this: what I wanted to do and whether or not I could get away with it. Unfortunately, my self-reliance and attempt to live by my own “truth” did not work. It put me in conflict with others and made me my own worst enemy.

As a teen, I began to worship the unholy trinity of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll with the seeds of my neo-paganism taking root. Most who have gone down this road—and live to tell about it—find it takes a terrible toll on one’s life. There is an Asian proverb that states, “The man takes a drink, the drink takes a drink, and the drink takes the man.” Such was the case with me.

My formal introduction to any type of spirituality occurred at my first 12-step meeting at age 19. There I met people who claimed to have a real relationship with a real God. Prior to that, no one had ever discussed God with me, in large part due to my arrogance. As I entered my twenties, I read the Bible cover to cover. However, part of the reason I had the time to finally read Scripture was that my destructive living had led me to prison.

My interest in God was particularly piqued by the revelations of Christ in the books of Isaiah and Wisdom. These books were written hundreds of years before Christ and yet they included detailed allusions to Christ’s Passion. I became a believer and joined the Catholic Church receiving my First Communion in 1988.

I say that I joined the Church instead of I converted to the faith. Faith is confirmed in action, word, and thought, and I did not live an active faith until about six years ago. My actual faith conversion occurred as I went through a divorce and annulment. There is a song by Ray Wylie Hubbard that has the line in it, “Some get spiritual because they see the light, others ‘cus they feel the heat.” I fell into the latter category.

I felt depressed and that I had no purpose because I was seeking ultimate fulfillment in partial goods. I was prone to worshipping women as idols and putting them in the place of God alone. Now at the age of 60, I am fertile ground for God’s grace due to “bottoming out” a second time in sobriety over a platonic codependent relationship.

The Word of God and the Tradition of the Church are the only sure guides to meaning in my life. Without realizing that this world is not my home, the only other option is to believe that the blood, guts, sweat, and inexplicable horror and tragedy of my current existence are all there is. Thanks be to God that Revelation has provided a view of the Great Reality which is much larger than our own near-sighted view here on earth. 

I cannot say that I have stopped struggling or that my life is a dream. I am not skipping through daisies as I wait to wake up fat and happy in the lap of Jesus. But I can offer up my struggles for friends, family, and, of course, the conversion of others in need of recovery.

There is a line in the Talmud I am very fond of that states, “By saving one man you save the world.” If I can touch one life and aid them in coming back from the abyss my life will have been a success. For a long time, I was an enemy of God who cringed at the mere mention of His name—I was a non-servant. Today, I have been able to show agape love toward my neighbor in several ways, including writing seven prayer books to increase the devotion of others.

Why is God mindful of me? My response comes from John 3:16: “God so loved [Richard] He sent His only begotten Son so that [Richard] might not perish but believe in Him and have everlasting life.” The true, pure love from the cross has forgiven and saved me. This is the great truth we are called to live our lives by, and also why I’m both Catholic and in recovery. As we read in Scripture, “While we were still his enemies, Christ came and died for us” (Romans 5:7).

 

Richard D. became sober on January 18, 1996, and was received into the Catholic Church in 1988.