The Catholic Letter

Tips and Tricks to Living a Christian Life

Living in the Shadows of Addiction

It’s not easy to get through the drudge and sludge of everyday living. Bills keep their overbearing pressure on your mind and can turn every task into a stressful event. Though you might have some temporary relief on pay day, the creditors have a mysterious way of gnawing at your thoughts…always reminding you that the pay check wasn’t quite enough.


If you’re a parent, you deal with the clutter, clatter, and chatter of children throughout much of the day. While they’re awake, you count the minutes until bed time…praying that your patience will last. Once they’re resting peacefully, your mind tortures you with the notion that you could have been a much better parent today. That your children’s behavior is entirely your fault. When you’re old enough, you realize that this guilt never really goes away.

If you’re single, you fool others into thinking your life is pleasant and enjoyable. And when others are gone, you’re in constant battle with the feeling of desolation and loneliness.

And no matter what your situation in life, it holds thousands of seemingly pointless chores like taking out garbage, or counting out pennies, or following your boss with the automated ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’. At each day’s fold, you start to wonder if anything is important…and try to distract your feeling of uselessness with football games or crafts.

But when you add an addiction to these problems, there barely remains a thread for you to dangle from, as you hang over a pit of despair. Every day, your mind balances between your desires and your soul. Every moment you crave what you hate, and you hate what you crave. It never stops calling…‘eat me, smoke me, drink me, watch me.’ The taunting forever wears on your mind. Slowly, it gnaws at your will, until you give in…yet again.

Then you hate yourself for it. You feel the guilt that is as inescapable as your temptations. It weighs on your soul, as heavy as a slab of concrete threatening to crush your very existence. It can’t be dropped or washed away. It gives you physical pain, mental unrest, and spiritual despair.

To answer it, you sink further into your own hated actions. More will help you forget…if only for a little while. Deeper and deeper you sink…hoping to drop faster than the guilt. But the shame always catches up again. It scolds your lack of fortitude, and torments your peace. There is no escape from it.

You try to climb through it and make new resolutions…and the cycle starts again. Maybe you’ll last longer this time. Maybe you won’t last a day. But each time, you start at ‘day one’ again, hoping you won’t fall.

Finding Hope and the Confessional

To the non-Catholic, I would invite you to join the faith and go to confession. This would be the beginning of a new relationship with God. To the Catholic, I hope to offer some advice on how work through the dark periods.

Sometimes, we tend to think of the confessional as the pardoning grounds. We sin, we are sorry, and we run to confession because we’ve lost our sanctifying grace. Sanctifying Grace – it’s what saves us from damnation. And when we loose it, we can’t help thinking that every next second will unleash a series of events that will lead to our death. So we high-tail it to the church for reconciliation before we end up in hell…and then feel that sense of relief and renewal as we leave.

This kind of turns the whole relationship between God and man into something impersonal. It threatens the connection we have with our Savior because it destroys the real nature of love and mercy. We end up battling God instead of trusting in Him. We come to understand the dynamics as some kind of automated process. As if there are millions of buttons lined up and each one represents a sin. If we press one, a light goes on, indicating God’s anger. Then we must take certain steps to make that light go out (confession) and reset the system.

With such a mind-set, there’s more of a temptation to despair. A light is on, and it will be days before we have the chance to make it go out. So why not press some of the other buttons?

You see the problem? This is why addictions can eat away at someone’s spiritual strength. Because the ‘light’ seems to go on very often. In the state of such despair, it’s easy to assume that we’ve lost our credibility with God…as if our prayers will fall on deaf ears until we’ve made the light go out. Perhaps it’s because of the stress that some traditionalists place on the notion that confession is needed before we can be forgiven.

I won’t dispute what they say, except to mention that the Church teaches a perfect prayer of contrition will bring back our sanctifying grace. We’re still obligated to go to confession, and we can never really be certain that our act of contrition is perfect. But the point of this article isn’t about whether or not we need confession before we can obtain sanctifying grace. The point of this article is that we don’t need confession in order for God to love us. And we don’t need confession in order for God to help us.

If we let our feelings of distance from God stop us from renewing our resolutions, we’re really putting limits on God’s love and mercy. And there are no limits to God’s love and mercy. When we abandon Christ by our actions, His love does not abandon us.

The way to combat addiction is to stop thinking of the confessional as the only place to start over. We need to shed the “I already have to go to confession, why not throw a few more sins in the bag” mentality. If you fall today, don’t let it keep you down tomorrow…even if you can’t make it to the sacraments until next week. Ask for mercy immediately, and begin to rebuild your resolve without delay.

And remember, God is not waiting for you to fall so He can strike you with death. Just as a parent doesn’t wait for children to misbehave so they can punish them. A parent’s mind set is to help the child resist the temptation to misbehave. God’s will is to help you on your journey to heaven.