When My Life Was A Trainwreck I Needed God’s Help


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I think most people in the world that have been around any length of time and studied history and culture just a little bit will agree that faith, religion and Churches do not seem to have the kind of fervent followers they enjoyed for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years before 2015.

We live within a culture, most of us, that preaches anything goes, more sex is good for you and will make you happy, and that it is very important to be rich no matter what principles one has to violate along the way.

Way back in the 1970s while I was still in my 20s I had the opportunity to live in the most decadent parts of Asia. Before I did, I said one last prayer to my Maker: “Oh God, you haven’t made me very happy and all this talk about living life right and avoiding the world of sin has gotten me nowhere so I’M LEAVING YOU!”

And He let me go!

Forty some odd years latter I came crawling back to God and I found I was saying the same prayer St. Augustine uttered while he was living in his Mom’s house with his pregnant girlfriend: “Oh God, I know I need to clean up my life and live by your law — BUT NOT YET!”

Not only had I broken most of God’s laws and many of the ones enacted and usually enforced by civil authorities in several states and nations but I was also addicted to substances that usually kill people before they reach the age of 60.

I needed help. And I needed God. In fact, I was told in order to lose my addictions, I absolutely had to have a total belief in a Higher Power — and H.P. could not be me.

It wasn’t easy for this lost and embittered Catholic to return to a Church that seemed to be run by the worst kind of sinners: child molester.

And then God Himself, I think, sent me dozens of messages and messengers.

At dinner with old friends one night they all listened politely as I complained loudly about the “lost, sinful clergy” when one old timer said very calmly, “So, you go to Chuch for the Priest; Not For Jesus.”

I felt like a rocket had hit me in the chest.

A few weeks later, still railing on about how screwed up the Catholic Religion was, another old timer said, “John: your job is to get John to heaven. These other guys are not your problem.”

Holey snikees!

Finally, as I lost steam and my arguments seemed dumb and dumber, I went off about a particularly dreadful member of the clergy and my dinner guest said, “They are human beings with all the sins and problems and character defects that you yourself confessed.”

That was it. I went back to Catholic Mass the next Easter.

As I sat very skeptically eyeing everyone from  the back row, I heard God Himself say to me: “See this crowded church? They are all sinners. I forgive them all. Even you, John.”

That did it. I went to confession and rejoined The Church. I also rejoined the human race by going into a daily practice of prayer, good works and service to others.

Then someone suggested that I join this secret, anonymous cult that had some chance of resolving my addictions.

For months I went and almost daily I raised my hand to announce that “This will never work for me.”  Finally, a little red-haired women yelled out at me: “You don’t know that!”

In fact, I found out  I didn’t know ANYTHING.

Now I have been practicing the 12 Steps of recovery for a few years and “living by the principles” and I feel terrific. What happened to me was beyond my wildest expectations: I had a conversion. And I didn’t even know it. My observant friends started to tell me and my wife, “Something seems to have happened to John…”

While in this 12 Step Program I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about the genesis of this movement and how most faiths or religions seem to share dozens of good practices, habits and beliefs. In fact, I have come to conclude, like the founders of the 12 Step Movement did back in the 1930s, It really doesn’t matter what faith one has as long as one has FAITH: and that means a Higher Power.

But since I was born and raised  a Catholic I decided to give that two thousand year old Child of Christ a try.  And I found that being a Catholic is terrific — if I have the right frame of mind.

I no longer seek to reform the Church: I just try to get today right for me — and if that spills over into some good for others — all the better….

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Above: Sister Mary Ignatia Gavin, C.S.A.

Finally, I learned on my journey that Catholics helped make the 12 Step effort possible way back in the 1930s and 40s. A devout sister named Sister Mary Ignatia in Akron, Ohio was the first person ever to admit, on a regular basis, alcoholics to a hospital for treatment of the disease of alcoholism. Bill Wilson and Doctor Bob Smith considered her “the third co-founder of AA.”

She also started the practice of giving new people in recovery a medallion or “chip.”

Bill Wilson, late in his life and in the life of his spiritual guide, Father Eddie Dowling, wrote, “I believe that my duty would lie in helping the non-Catholic alcoholics discover the Grace of God.”

Father Edward Dowling

Great resource: Father Ed Dowling and AA’s Bill W.
by Robert Fitzgerald, S.J

Father Dowling showed Bill Wilson the power of faith using what he knew best: the Catholic Church, the sacraments and all the facets of Catholic teaching, history, tradition and beliefs.

Bill Wilson never became a Catholic himself, it is believed, because he wanted AA to be for everyone including Jews, Atheists, Muslims and everyone else.

So I am Catholic and Alcoholic: “Cathaholic.”

I belong to two of the greatest counter culture groups of all time: the Catholic Church and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).




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Above: Just two of the books about the spiritual development of AA. Co-Founder of AA Bill Wilson met a Catholic Priest named Eddie Dowling, S.J. The two developed a 20 year relationship.

AA is not religious and does not require any religion or belief.


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