A 12-step program leads to sobriety and the church door


One in an occasional series of stories onindividuals who will receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.

At a South Jersey diner last week, Lou told me his story, a journey from what he calls “hell on earth,” to a call to heaven.

In late 2013 to the first half of 2014, now-27 year-old Lou hit “rock bottom,” caught in the grips of drugs and alcohol, an addiction that began for him after high school.

“There was an eight-month stretch (of addiction) during this time that broke me down physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” the Camden County resident said.

“I didn’t know how to handle life with drugs and alcohol, or life without them.”

In May 2014, at the urging of friends and family, he entered a 12-step program. Out of respect for this treatment, he has allowed only his first name to be used in this story.

Lou learned in the program’s weekly meetings how to “bring me out of myself, be reliant on a high power, and turn my will and cares over to him,” he said. He also found inspiration to stay clean from the mentor assigned to guide him and others in the program.

“These people were sober, and genuinely happy to be sober. Through them and God, I was able to find peace within myself, and find that life was manageable. I was recovering from this sick, delusional state of mind.”

His interactions with a religious sister, also in treatment, led him to Saint Mary Church in his hometown, and its Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the process taken by individuals seeking to enter into the Catholic tradition.

The weekly classes began last August, and “Lou asked great questions. He was very engaged,” said Deacon Dave Murnane, director of RCIA at Saint Mary’s.

“My personal and professional life got better,” after he began taking classes, Lou said. He now runs his own business, and credits his devout Polish-Catholic girlfriend and her family with keeping him on track.

“Her mother gave me a book, ‘My Treasured Catholic Prayers,’ which I work into everyday life,” he said, with joy in his voice.

“The book touches the fabric of my existence. The closer it gets to the Easter Vigil (and receiving the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Holy Eucharist), the more excited I get. My parents are flying up from Florida to celebrate with me. They’re so happy for me.”

Almost three years from first stepping foot into treatment, Lou acknowledges the peace that no substance, liquid, or earthly material could provide him.

“Where I’ve come from, it’s God’s grace,” he said.

“I trust in God, and he provides me with everything I need. If I hadn’t found what I found, death would have been a better option than living.”

At the same time, Lou recognizes that his path to Easter, and eternal life, could only have been decided on by one person. “I had to want it myself.”