The ARM of St. Michael
Freedom from addiction does not happen for anyone who seeks it alone. God unseen, and our human brother of the meeting room who we can see, are our essential help on the road to freedom.
For the addiction recovering, spiritual life - God at the center of all things, not just one's affliction, is a most desirable foundation. When we seek the God of remedy and not the remedy of God, we shall be blessed beyond understanding, beyond anything that human recovery effort can even remotely conceive.
Twelve step programs allow an addict seeking freedom to be guided by the God of their own understanding. The 12 Steps present education in the basic crisis of addiction. This is a substantial part of healing. One cannot be set free without knowing how one is enslaved or suffering. The 12-steps are a book of "common wisdom". Without declaring exactly how they must work in each person's case, the steps reflect the broad shared realities of human weakness and corrective virtues: acceptance, belief, humility, repentance, culpability, confession, petition to higher authority, reparation, community and service.
The 12 steps begin for the now recovering soul through gathering and piecing together the picture of one's own story of affliction, frailty and deepest need through hearing the journeyman testimonies of others. Even though the steps are ordered, the path of recovery - self-understanding and healing, is unique for each person.
If there is a weakness in the program it is probably in motivation, to enter 'the homework' and persist all the way through the steps to actual recovery, on one's own. Since the program is freely self-administered, success is indicated by the will and desire of the seeker. Sponsorship can be a help, where an elder brother in healing offers guidance and encouragement to the sponsee. But without a Church, recovery is more difficult and tenuous.
The work of 12-step recovery is like the Christian path of conversion. We note first that the 12-step fellowship of "Sexaholics Anonymous" is a non-denominational recovery program for those struggling with lust addiction.
SA's definition of sobriety - no sex with self or anyone outside a marriage between a man and a woman, is very near to what the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ calls chastity. What SA calls the higher power, the Church calls Almighty (God), the Divine.
SA requires that members admit their errors to themselves and to God and at least one other human being. The Church conducts this same spoken 'disclosure' of the personal fault to another person in the sacrament of reconciliation or confession, a grace-bestowing event. The process is formal and discreet: the confessor is sworn to absolute confidentiality. The holy priest, in fact, fasts and prays for the penitent long before he even appears in the confessional. No one 'pays' him to do this; it is a radical act of sacrificial generosity.
SA proclaims that there is no recovery without the requested intervention of a higher power. The Christian name for the power of God's transformational intervention is grace. Grace is God in one's soul. God accomplishes what a human alone cannot. In the end, recovery does not occur without God acting in one's soul.
The request for grace from God is called prayer. The word prayer derives from the Latin precaria, "to obtain by begging", which might sound more urgent than the 12- Step equivalent :asking". Every supplication to "higher power" presumes a Hearer and a Grantor.
It is the God of All who the Christian 'beggar' approaches; not god A or god B, but The God, God of all men-created-equally-inferior before Him the Supreme. There is not a democratic society of "recovery gods". There is only one Uncreated Being, the author of the universe, The Creator and also sole Recreator in our case. The Church confidently assures that one will receive what is asked for with desire, faith and patience. The asking must often be persistent, unrelenting, persevering. We come into the same determination as Jacob who wrestled through the "night" (think recovery) with the angel of God, saying to Him "I will not let You go until You bless me."
Now, no one has to be a baptized Christian to receive divine grace through prayer. Anyone can pray. Anyone can ask for God's grace to change and heal. Spiritual life begins for most with prayer. We learn to pray by praying. There are no 12 Steps to prayer; one chooses to begin right now. It is that simple and amazing. A 1981 lyric: "Darkness makes me fumble for a key to a door that's wide open." The door wide open is the gift of prayer right now.
In SA, a sufferer can walk through the door an atheist, one who does not (yet) believe in higher power. But he must pray at some point and commit to a path of asking in order to receive. One can be initially uncertain about to whom he is making request. But sobriety and recovery will never eventually appear if not asked for. Whether or not one says "I'm still not sure if there is a higher power", the person makes a leap of faith, to trust or to choose to believe that there is (now) a power that is higher and listening and capable. The first step requires the humility of the addict to assume God does exist and listens and acts.
SA specifies that we approach God as we understand Him. It follows that God is understandable, thus we can seek the understanding of God, but not the defining of God. All of us want the real God, the true God, the Holy God. A God Who is over all, in all, for all. All of us have been made to desire the Infinite One God.
The Christian entry into all these processes and powers is assisted at all times by, grace. Specifically, by the catholic or universal Church of Jesus, the visible dispenser of grace, the power from the Father through Jesus the Son. The one who has the sign of Christian Baptism is configured and enabled to believe in grace readily.
Does one lack sufficient desire for freedom? It can be received as grace. Does one lack in the discipline of prayer?It arrives through grace.Does one lack faith, patience, strength to heal, motivation to journey, to work out salvation, get up every day and keep going, be a blessing, comfort, joy and help to others? All, again, Grace! To the Christian, grace is everything. All of this leads then to: where does one get (this) grace?
The 12 Steps are shot through with all the colors of practiced Christian virtues, but do not designate exactly whence the activating grace quickly and abundantly comes. The St. Michael Prayer Group is a witness that universal grace is a person. We know His name, and how in so many ready ways He is obtained. The Catholic Church is not a recovery program, it is a life hospital for sinners who can receive daily infusions of grace, the anti-lust, the anti-impurity of God Himself. The power-poor beggar comes to His door with one thing alone, faith: this is the grace of all graces. The saving belief: God is Who He is and can do what we His human children can ask.
Struggling together, is listening to each other unravel the knot of old graceless life, praying for each other, receiving the fruit of prayer because of others, seeing the power of teamwork the strength of many hands - the love in co-advocacy, the giving away of ourselves to others in sharing and witness, broadening knowledge.
We remember with gratitude our Lord and Savior's words:"Your faith has saved you." Jesus, give us eyes to perceive the many forms of grace that are already ours, those that come to us by your loving generosity unbidden and those which become ours through Your granting of requests. Help us remember we are never alone, but struggle together for the glory You have won for us and awaits us. Amen.
Jesus, give us eyes to perceive the many forms of grace that are already ours, those that come to us by your loving generosity unbidden and those which become ours through Your granting of requests. Help us remember we are never alone, but struggle together for the glory You have won for us and awaits us. Amen.