Freedom means different things to different people, depending on their personal situations. Someone who lives in an oppressive country might consider themselves free because they aren’t imprisoned. Someone in the United States might consider themselves free because they have the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from tyranny. And others might consider themselves free simply because they have escaped the grips of addiction.
Recently on The Inner Life, Josh Raymond welcomed Father Douglas McKay onto the show to discuss dealing with addiction and how we can find healing and refuge in Christ.
Josh admitted that he knew several people who dealt with addiction. Two of his close family members struggled with alcoholism. Another family member struggled with pain pills. A college friend told him the story of how he had experienced Christmas with no presents because his father had gambled away the family’s money. His parents ended up separating and then eventually divorcing. “When you or someone you love is wrestling with that addiction, you lose that freedom and that control that you have over your life. That addiction takes over so much of who you are, what you do.”
Father McKay is the chaplain of The Calix Society, “an association of Catholic alcoholics who are maintaining their sobriety through affiliation with and participation in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.” Father has seen firsthand the loss of freedom that these people have experienced, and his ministry is focused on guiding these people on the road to recovery so that they find their end in Christ, and not back in the hands of their addiction. “We substitute the cup that sanctifies for the cup that stupefies.”
The reason The Calix Society is so important is that everybody needs a support system in place to recover from addiction. You simply cannot conquer suffocating dependency with sheer willpower. It’s never been done. The strongest support system is founded upon the forgiveness and grace of God. “We need support, and we need help, and we got it! It’s in our Church. There’s Jesus Christ right there in all the tabernacles of the world who tells us, ‘I’m the vine and you’re the branch, and apart from me, you can do nothing.’ And that means ‘absolutely nothing.’” In Christ, we can do anything, but without Him, we can do nothing.
You’ve heard it time and again. It sounds basic and cliché. But it is the key to success in all endeavors, including beating addiction: You must go to God. Dr. William Silkworth, a contributor to The Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous) emphasized the importance of the spiritual component to recovery in the second step. He said that if one journeys through addiction in tandem with their spiritual journey, it will not only restore one’s sanity but one’s sanctity. Without that spiritual component, Dr. Silkworth said that most alcoholics are doomed. Embracing God’s help will bring us the return of that eternal life we received in baptism.
Father McKay said that The Calix Society is the best-kept secret of the Catholic Church and he wishes more people were aware of this option in their addiction journey. “It not only helps you to stay in recovery but brings you to sanctity, leads you to sainthood.”
A great role model for all of those in recovery, especially those who have joined The Calix Society, is Venerable Matt Talbot. He is considered the patron of alcoholics because of his struggle with alcohol addiction throughout his life. As a boy, he got a job for some liquor merchants and was regularly exposed to alcohol. He started drinking when he was about 15 and for fifteen years, he was addicted to alcohol. After eventually realizing his problem, Matt went to confession and attempted a three-month sobriety pledge. He also began to attend daily Mass.
While his sobriety was beneficial to him and those around him, it was not easy. He struggled for a long time to avoid his drinking places, his drinking friends, and his old habits. To counteract the urges of addiction, Matt prayed as much as he used to drink. He joined the Secular Franciscan Order, paid back all of his creditors, and gave generously to the Church. In 1925, when he was 69 years old, Matt died while he was walking to Mass on Trinity Sunday. Fifty years later, he was made venerable by Pope Paul VI. Matt’s struggle should be an example for all those fighting addictions. The journey will be difficult, but nothing is impossible if we find refuge and healing in God.
Listen to the full segment below:
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