My name is Michael and I’m a clergy alcoholic in AA
I am a Roman Catholic priest, a pastor of souls with the title of monsignor. I am also an alcoholic. A few months ago, I celebrated an anniversary of ordination. A month before that, I celebrated a more important anniversary, my fourth as a member of A.A.
Why do I say that my anniversary in A.A. is a more important date than my ordination anniversary? The answer is that through A.A. my Higher Power, God, has not only saved my life and restored me to sanity, but has given me a new way of life and has immeasurably enriched my priesthood. Thus, thanks to God and A.A. I am today striving honestly and sincerely, despite many shortcomings, to fulfil my priestly vocation in the manner that God intended. My sobriety has to be the most important thing in my life. Without sobriety, I would immediately revert to the kind of life I led during the later years of my drinking — the life of one who found himself going in only one direction, down.
I believe that I engaged in work for work’s sake, hyperactively spreading out in many directions — anything to keep the searchlight off my inner self. Alcohol became a reward for my strenuous labours. By the easy excuse “I work hard, I play hard,” I tried to justify the drinking that had become more frequent and more prolonged and had resulted in absenteeism, lying, deception, neglect of duty.
Driven by recurring fits of remorse, guilt, and depression, I sought help from doctors and from fellow priests, to no avail. I tried retreats, prayer, acts of self-denial, abstention from alcohol for periods of time, rest homes, geographic changes. Nothing worked.
Deep discouragement and despair set in. Thus, a life that had been motivated by grand ideals, great enthusiasms, burning incentives, had now become almost completely enclosed within the circle of the bottle and myself. The priest, a man of God, was bowing down before a different master, alcohol.
Then, finally, down in my deep well, shrouded with blackness, feeling devoid of hope and helpless, I cried out for help. Now, at last, I was ready to go to any length to achieve sobriety. And God heard my cry and answered.
After a period of hospitalization, I went to my first A.A. meeting. I then involved myself with a group of alcoholic priests, and I attended these meetings regularly. I also went to lay-group meetings, open and closed. I listened with an open mind. I became active. In addition, I spent six months in psychiatric treatment.
Day by day, one day at a time, I have kept away from that first drink. A.A. has become my way of life. I realize that, paradoxically, I keep my sobriety by giving it away. I am responsible whenever and wherever a hand reaches out for help. What freely I received, freely I must give.
Of one thing I am certain: God’s will for me today is that I be sober for this 24 hours. He will take care of the rest. If I remain faithful to this way, the A.A. way of life, one day at a time for the rest of my life, I pray — and I am confident, though wary of complacency — that God will, by His loving mercy, mold me into the priest He wishes me to be.