STEP 12 “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Today I write this, I recall my last drink, just 18 month ago, and the deep low I was in. I remember feeling helpless and unable to get out of my cycle of daily drinking and blacking out. God truly showed me the path into recovery, which included finding AA meetings and a wonderful circle of persons supporting me in my journey. I trusted their words, did what they said, and kept coming back! My sponsor guided me lovingly through the steps. I had no idea where my journey was headed, but God showed me I just needed to be honest, open, and willing.
I knew it was time for me to attend a retreat after about 8 months of working hard through AA attendance. Again God led me to a wonderful place, the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement at Graymoor, in New York in early March for a recovery retreat, just as the pandemic was unfolding in the eastern US. The retreat director and I spoke during the weekend, and he suggested I find a Calix unit which might be helpful in my recovery and spiritual growth. When I came home from the retreat, I prayed about it and focused on adapting to our lockdown. Soon I felt a familiar restlessness, which always means I need to reconnect with prayer and discerning. God was calling me to learn more about Calix.
I learned that there were no active Calix units in my area of New Jersey. I learned through dialog with my friends in AA that many would be interested in learning more about Calix and starting a unit with me. I attended a few of the online international Calix meetings that were starting up because of the pandemic, and soon we were assembling online to form a unit in residence at our parish. We sought and received diocesan approval, and we had a wonderful deacon step forward as a spiritual assistant. We began meeting weekly through Zoom, and quickly we had our group spotlighted in our diocesan newspaper. Our diocese was just completing a training of parish lay ministers in addictions. We have been pleased that Calix fits into their model of helping those in all forms of addiction and those who support them.
For now we continue weekly on Zoom, using a format we adapted after receiving counsel from the Calix Society. We made up a session binder which serves as our meeting layout. We begin with prayer, then reading of the Credo, 12 steps, and an anonymity statement. We continue by reading the upcoming Sunday readings, followed by the corresponding meditation from A 12-Step Approach to the Sunday Readings by Fr. Jim Harbaugh. Our spiritual director gives us a short reflection tying these themes from the readings into daily sober living. We then open up our meeting for open sharing and discussion. We conclude our meeting with intercessory prayer inviting personal prayer requests, and a final prayer/blessing. While we one day hope to move our meeting to an in-person format with mass or adoration, the pandemic continues to limit gathering, which we see continuing through our winter. In our group, there is a fairly equal balance between those who are working steps in their recovery, and those who are experiencing co-dependency or supporting someone they love in recovery. In Calix there is a place at the table for everyone, and this alcoholic deeply appreciates that we can find love and support here, regardless of what our program is, or where we are in our journey.
Perhaps one blessing to come out of the pandemic is the way in which Zoom has helped unite persons in recovery continue to give and receive support to one another. I have grown in just a few short months through the gentle mentoring of those in the Calix meetings I have been attending through the society. This is our 12th Step lived every day, to be sharing with the newcomer how to live each day the way God wants us to live. Even with less than two years of sobriety, I am called to carry this message and to live these principles in all my affairs. One blessing that came from my attending Calix is realizing I am not just an alcoholic. I have more “-ism’s”, and God wants me to work on those addictions now that the obsession to drink has left me. I can give it to God and have him show me the way.
To those just starting out on your own Calix journey or discerning whether God is calling you to start a unit, keep praying and asking God to reveal how you can be of service to him. If he can call a newbie like me to the front and center to collaborate with others to launch a new unit, he can use you too. I’m reminded of all the ordinary persons called into service in the Bible stories–men and women who might appear as motley as ourselves but were likewise honest, open, and willing. Moses, Elijah, and Jonah said yes and were given the spiritual gifts necessary to complete the tasks they were entrusted with. Maybe we can look at them as fellow practice-ers of 12th step charism. Wherever you are in your recovery journey, I pray for you.