Sunday, August 15, 2010

Faith and Drinking

In contemplating Mary Karr's conversion experience, I recall how one of the things that led me back to the Catholic Church was my relationship with a man who had "gotten right-sized" in Alcoholics Anonymous. He was, like me, a cradle-but-lapsed Catholic, returning to his faith when he entered sobriety. The reason for his return was that he realized that his being able to stay sober -- one day at a time -- was wholly beyond his power, and that it could only be God who was keeping him from picking up a drink. Until he had surrendered his craving for a drink to God, he told me, he would sit in AA meetings, shaking and with sweat streaming from every pore because he wanted a drink so badly. But he had nearly drunk himself to death while on a business trip, and had woken up in the ICU; he had checked himself into detox during his Christmas-New Year's break from work because he knew he had to stop drinking or he would die.

A month or so ago, when I wrote a long blog post about the conversion of the actress Ève Lavallière, someone wrote a comment casting doubt on the sincerity of her faith, seeing as it had come to her in the midst of personal suffering and turmoil. All I can say is, this is undoubtedly the door to faith for most of us. Some of us are lucky enough to have received the gift of faith in childhood, and never to have strayed from it, but they are outnumbered both on earth and in heaven by the eleventh-hour converts. And there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents, etc.

I remember my old boyfriend C. telling me about how a friend of his in AA said once that drinking was just something you did while you were driving around looking for drugs. C.'s own sponsor in AA was killed in the World Trade Center. I have a particular affection for the gallows humor Mary Karr relates from "the rooms," i.e. the rooms where AA meetings are held. I've been to a few AA meetings in my life and more Al-Anon meetings than I can possibly count.

7 comments:

Janet said...

The people that I have met in different 12 Step rooms--the ones that are really working the program--are the most wise and peaceful people I know. Almost every year, I go on a retreat given by a priest who is in Al-Anon. One of the things that he has helped me see is how thoroughly Catholic the principles of the steps are.

AMDG

Janet said...

My verification word on that last comment was sonalitt. :-)
AMDG

Pentimento said...

Janet, one of the reasons my father avoided AA -- when he sorely needed it, and still does -- was because he accused it of really being a sort of non-denominational Protestantism (my father may not be a very good Catholic, by his own assessment, but AT LEAST he's not a Prot). He did go a few times to some meetings of a Matt Talbot group, which is a sort of Catholic recovery group based on steps. However, I think you must be right about how Catholic some of the principles are. It's been a long time since I've been to an Al-Anon meeting, but after reading Lit I'm thinking of going again -- mostly for what you mention, the serenity and wisdom of the group.

Janet said...

Yes, I really need to find a meeting myself. I tried to go to one a few weeks ago, but nobody was there, and now I'm in the busiest time of the year at work. I'll probably have to wait 'til the first part of September. But if you think about it, ask me if I've done it. I have some CD's from these retreats. If you would like to hear them, I'd be glad to send them to you.

AMDG

Pentimento said...

It looks as though there's one I can walk to, just a couple of blocks away at a UU Church. Of course I'm reluctant to go for all the usual reasons -- I'm so much better and so much worse than the other people there, etc.

I will remind you, and I would love to hear one of those CDs. I'm going to look for your email address because I think it's on my computer somewhere.

Janet said...

You can send me a message through FB.

See, I'm always reluctant to do anything at a UU church, but, really, for me the first important step was to keep focused on my own crap.

AMDG

Pentimento said...

Heh. There's some non-denominational Protestantism for you. Too bad we can't control where they put the meetings!