I am the seventh of nine children in a Catholic family. I remember as a young child we were poor but happy. Family and being Catholic was important. The people I knew were those from school, church, and cousins. My dad had a small lumberyard and for the most part could make a living. As time went on everything changed.
As the business grew, what was so important did not seem to be so important anymore. My dad started drinking more and more. We no longer hung around those from church or cousins. We always seemed to be with people that were the so called “movers and shakers”. Those important people with status, or so I thought. It became more important to be self- made than to rely on God and family.
With this new reliance on self, the family fell apart. Being one of the youngest I then had no real role model to follow. The role modeling that was laid out for us then was the importance of being self- made. When it came to moral upbringing I was on my own. It was all about being self-made. Being self-made became my moral compass. Not knowing that a life built on self comes with a hundred forms of fear, I was only able to manage this fear through the use of drugs and lots of alcohol. I was 12 yrs old when I started using drugs and alcohol and for the next 20 years my life was a mess. When I was 17 my parents got a divorce after 25 years of marriage. My life was like the parable of the man who built his house on sand. Every time there was a storm it would always fall in on me. Having no clue of what was wrong I would start all over again. I was living an insane way, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result, but the results were always the same. Looking back I spent a lot of time looking for respect and love from those people who were incapable of giving it and I was incapable of receiving love and respect. This led me into one relationship after another. At best they were sick and dysfunctional and at worse they were just plain dangerous. There were people who wanted to love me, but not knowing how to love or even receive it, well they did not last long in my life either. Yes, this life of self was working very well and I was clueless.
I was in a tavern one night when I learned of the abortion of my first child. I was shocked. I did not know how to act or think. I felt so lost, I had no way to process this, there was no one to talk to. I left the bar numb, wanting to cry but couldn’t. Having stuffed my emotions all my life it was hard to connect with any emotion except anger and loneliness. A few years later I received a phone call from a lady I knew. She informed me that she thought she was pregnant and she was going to see a doctor the next week. A week went by and I got another call from her informing me she was pregnant. By now my drinking had control over my life. I was lost with what to do so I did what I knew best, I ran from all responsibility. I left that poor woman on her own. I turned my back on her and my responsibility as a man and I turned my back on my child.
The odd thing was I went to Mass almost every Sunday. I didn’t know if this was a ritual, or was I looking for something, or was it just superstition that if I didn’t go to Mass something bad would happen to me. There was a hole inside of me and I was desperately trying to fill it, but I couldn’t. I felt that my life was missing something….so I got married. That lasted 18 months. With my drinking and inability to love anyone it took a toll on the marriage and it was a fast track to divorce court. The blessing is that I have a wonderful 15 yr old daughter as a result of that marriage.
So there I was at the age of 32, my soon to be ex-wife who was 4 months pregnant and wants a divorce, no place to call home, an alcoholic, bankrupt in every aspect of my life – spiritually, emotionally, physically, and financially. Yes, I had achieved a life based on self and was reaping the rewards of it.
Now, being at the bottom I had nowhere to go but up. I sought out help for my drinking that had so much control over my life. Some one made the suggestion for me to not just go to Mass on Sunday but to pick up the missal, read every word that is said, and to learn what the Mass is really all about. This was a big turn around in my thinking, although I did not realize it at the time.
At this point in my life I was humble enough to be teachable.
The road to recovery from alcohol, and to reclaim my spiritual life I had experienced as child, has been a long journey. Learning to live with a life based on Christ and not on self has not been an easy task. Learning to change old behaviors is a life long job. I had to learn what it means to be a man. What is, and what was, my responsibility. What roll is it that Christ has for me on earth as a protector and provider. Some times I look back on the abortions and wonder what if…
I dealt with the shame and guilt the best way I could. I went to confession and was a little dismayed at the response from the priest. It was as though he had nothing to say about it.
Thirteen years have passed since that confession when by chance I meet a lady at church. We spent a great deal of time talking and getting to know each other. She works with Project Rachel and I felt safe to talk with her about the abortions. She told me about the healing retreats and how Christ would take my shame and guilt and I could move on. I went and for the first time realized what a violent act that takes place on the child and mother. I realized more and more what my roll was as a protector and provider and how I had failed. I also was able to grieve for my children and give them names. It gave me an opportunity to ask for their forgiveness and to forgive myself.
I ask my children in heaven to pray for their mothers and me every day.
O yes, and that lady I met in church, well she is now my wife.