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.
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