I began my journey in recovery on January 26, 2003, after spending Christmastime wondering how I managed to get yet another DUI (2nd in less than 18 month), and trying to humble myself enough to ask for help. Luckily, one of the gifts I received during this time was the gift of desperation. I called my cousin who had over twenty-five years in recovery at that time and he helped me get into out-patient treatment. This treatment center happened to be only a few blocks away from where I was living, which was yet another gift because I could not drive at all for 3 months. It was by God’s grace and love that I was able to navigate the world of recovery and meet the many angels that helped me through this time.
One of the milestone moments in this journey was having to spend Holy Week in jail as part of my sentence. I had around 2 months of AA under my belt, I had a sponsor and was working the steps, but the one idea that really helped me through this novel experience was thinking about Jesus and what he had to endure during his Holy Week. I reminded myself of what Jesus went through that week knowing what was to come at the end. And if Jesus could do that, I could get through this week in jail. As it turned out, I was released early and was out for Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday masses.
I will never forget my experience in jail. The banging of the doors (I think they do that on purpose), the plastic mattress and pillow, the cart that goes by at certain times where you can get a real toothbrush (and if you miss the time the cart goes around, you’re out of luck). Oh, and the one spork that you have to use the entire time you’re in. I went in thinking I was going to bring my Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and really teach the other women how to beat addiction! Those women did not need my help. I needed theirs. They gave me some of what they had gotten off the cart and became my friends.
Since January 2003, I have gone through all the steps of AA. These steps and meetings saved my life. I truly believe that. Among the steps I use every day is number 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. I work to have a relationship with God. I have had to relearn a few things from my early upbringing in the Roman Catholic Church. I recently was introduced to Ignatian Spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises. These exercises are a comprehensive work through prayer and meditation for a closer communion with God. I highly recommend these exercises.
At 19 years of sobriety, I not only have no desire to drink, I no longer have any desire to return to the person I was when I was drinking. That was not my authentic self. When I think about that person, I shudder. She was filled with self-hatred, had not an ounce of self-esteem and could justify any type of offensive behavior. I put myself into such dangerous circumstances, but I didn’t care enough about myself to make better decisions.
I’ve come to realize that even though I hated myself, there was one who could and would never hate me because I am His child. God was waiting to help me when I could not do life anymore. All I had to do was ask for help, which was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was desperate enough to turn to God and that is why desperation is a gift. Mercy and grace are real. I believed that I was not worthy of God’s love. God knows better, He always knew me, for “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me”.
It has helped me to have a song in my head and heart to remind me of that:
Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. (lyrics by Civilla D. Martin)
I always felt like everyone knew how to do life and I didn’t. Have you ever felt like there was a rulebook out there on “How to Live Life”, and you never got your copy?
Action step: Try having a discussion in your faith community about “imposter syndrome” and you’ll build community while experiencing grace, because you are certainly not the only one!
I felt for a long time like I didn’t deserve God’s mercy and grace. With a closer communion with God, as I understand God, I found out that He was always there watching and waiting for me. I just had to get out of my own way and see Him.
Reflect: Is there something in the way that is preventing you from living fully in the grace of God’s love? Journal about it, or discuss it with another person of faith. Spiritual directors are also an excellent resource.
God is there, waiting for you.