It Began with a Routine Mammogram

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roswell Park

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Roswell Park

Several Public Catholic readers remarked on the fact that I went silent last week. Truth was, I just got overwhelmed and needed a time out. I promised you I’d write an explanation. A post I wrote for the National Catholic Register, covers a lot of what is happening with me.

Here’s part of what I said:

It started as a routine mammogram.

I re-scheduled it several times for various trivial reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t like going to the doctor. I never did like going to doctors all that much, but since I spend a huge portion of my life dealing with my 90-year-old mother’s medical care, I like it even less.

I guess it would be safe to say that I’ve got medical care exhaustion. In fact, I’ve got care exhaustion. In fact, I’m just plain tired.

So I put the mammogram off. I scheduled and re-scheduled and dithered and delayed. I thought it was a bother and a waste of time and that there was no real reason for it since it would be negative on all counts.

I was bored and bothered throughout the whole uncomfortable deal when I finally made it in for the mammogram. I left the place happy that it was over and I wouldn’t have to do it again. The lady who took the x-rays emphasized that I needed to come in every year. But I had no intention of going through that again next year. A few years would do. Who knew when I’d be back.

It turns out that I was back in a week. I almost didn’t take the call. It was a number I didn’t recognize, and I was, as usual, busy, busy. Butt after thinking about ignoring it, I picked up the phone and clicked. Long story short, there was a problem. A couple of days later, I was back.

It wasn’t a quick exam, and it was, in fact, oddly impersonal. The doc and the tech kept going over the spot with the ultrasound, bearing down hard, and talking to one another. I wasn’t involved. I was sore for days afterwards from all the poking.

I should have known something was up, just by their intensity, by the 45 minutes (I looked at my watch) that they spent staring at the screen and talking about my body. But I continued down la-la road.


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So, Charlie Sheen Announced He’s HIV Positive …

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by La Real noticia

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by La Real noticia

Actor Charlie Sheen has announced that he’s HIV positive.

To be honest, I was a bit confused by all the hoopla surrounding this. Charlie Sheen, the poster boy for dissolute living, with the big daddy of STDs? No surprise there.

Then, I watched a YouTube video of his announcement. The poor man’s a mess. He needs our prayers, as do the others who must live with this cunning virus.

I wrote about this for Catholic Vote. Here’s part of what I saidxt:

So, Charlie Sheen announced he’s HIV positive.

My first reaction when I read the headline was big yawn. Mr Sheen has bragged about his sexual promiscuity. He’s made millions playing characters that are a watered-down version of his real-life self. Add to that his equally well-known problems with alcoholism and drug addiction and, well, big yawn.

His life is like a walking how-to video on how to contract STDs and trash your health. The fact that he’s contracted the HIV virus is no big whoop to me.

I was flummoxed as to why this was such big news. Then, I watched a YouTube video of his “confession,” and I saw why. This poor man has been hiding in shame from his HIV status. According to his statements, he’s allowed himself to be blackmailed to the tune of millions of dollars in an attempt to hide the truth.

After watching the video, I, as usual, felt sorry for Charlie Sheen. His demons are terrible ones. He is afflicted with the ubiquitous plague of drugs, alcohol and dissolute living, which is a recipe for self-destruction. It also seems that he’s — for some reason — burdened with crippling shame because he’s infected with a virus that is often transmitted through sexual contact.

That might make sense if he was a monk who had been pretending to be celibate and got his lies found out. But Charlie Sheen brags about his “goddesses.” His wildly self-destructive self has been on every media outlet, flaunting the delusions and insanity of alcoholism and drug addiction. STDs, including HIV, are not a big reveal where Charlie Sheen is concerned. They are the logical next step in his life path.


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Drug Addiction is a Catastrophe for Families

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Imagens Evangelicas

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Imagens Evangelicas

I wish that the Synod on the Family had been able to spend more time considering ways in which the modern world destroys families, often from the inside out. If they had, drug addiction would surely have found a way onto the list.

Nothing is more insidious or difficult to address than drug addict family members. The rest of the family ends up paying a horrendous price for the love they feel for the addict, and the addict is destroyed utterly by both the addiction and the things they do as a result of the addiction.

I wonder that there is so little genuine attention given to this plague by religious thinkers. I honestly do not know why this is so.

I wrote a post for the National Catholic Register about my own struggles with a family member of mine that I love with all my heart who suffers from a life-long addiction to drugs.

Here is part of what I said:

If you doubt that drug addiction is evil, consider what it does to love.

I’ve been dealing for years with the heartbreak and disaster of a beloved niece who suffers from cocaine and meth addiction. I’ve watched and suffered as the drugs destroyed her personality, health and sanity.

It’s as if the drugs were devils who consumed her. They disassembled her personality and shredded her rationality until there was nothing but rage and violence left behind.

Drugs eat the person alive, hollow them out and leave them as clanking and unworkable faux versions of themselves. Drugs degrade addicts in horrible ways. They do things to themselves and others that scar and mutilate them spiritually and morally, as well as physically. The worst of it is that drugs turn them sociopathic. They become manipulative, dishonest, and without conscience in their dealings with the people who love them.

No one can have a practicing drug addict in their life and stay sane and happy. You can’t help them. If you try, they will pull you into their insanity and destroy you, along with themselves. The choice inevitably becomes a choice to either cut all ties with the drug addict, or be destroyed by their addiction, along with them.

That’s why I said that drug addiction is evil. It destroys life, personality, morality and sanity. But its worst crime against the people it infects is that it turns love into a weakness and a weapon.

Read the rest here.


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The Family Drug Addict and Thanksgiving


I don’t know what it is about the holidays. All I know is that the family alcoholics/drug addicts cannot stand the happiness that might happen at this time of the year.

So, they rouse themselves from their self-absorption and go to work, manufacturing crises and doing everything in their power to pull the rest of the family into the traumas of their own devising. They won’t stop until you stop them, or until they’ve made such a mess of the holiday that everyone — Every. Single. Person. — from the littlest baby to the senile old lady is a frazzled wreck, and sullenness and misery hang over the turkey like a fog.

The holidays are their deal. You can set your calendar by the oncoming train wreck that your family drug addict/alcoholic will provide.

I missed it this year. Things have been so lovely lately. I’m deep into a prayer time and I am free of the weight of public office and I just got my piano tuned, and my kids are doing great and my husband loves me and my Mama is precious and, and, and … all is well. Sigh. Close your eyes and breath in the peace.

All this contentment made me a sitting duck for the family drug addict and her annual permutations on holiday-destroying crisis creation. I missed it entirely when I got the calls about going to the hospital. Now, I wasn’t so stupid as to actually drop everything and rush over to the hospital to do some grade-A emergency hand holding. Been there. Done that. Not doing it again.

No, I listened and then started rationing my answers to the phone calls. That helped. But it’s still peace-destroying to have 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 (I kid you not) phone calls in a few hours. I put the phone on silencer, but even the constant buzzing sound of the vibration can make me tighten up inside.

When none of that got me involved, it became a matter of me making decisions which would have gagged Solomon, decisions which I flat-out refused to make. Drug addicts are manipulative to the max, and I got a full dose. Every button that love can create got punched.

It was at this point that I finally realized that, hey, Thanksgiving is this week and this is the Annual Ruin the Holidays whatever. After I finally “got” it, things simplified.

I no longer feel harassed because I no longer feel pulled in two directions. My normal instinct to go and save someone I love is disconnected now. I realize that this is just her, doing her druggie thing that she does every year and I have no reason to feel conflicted about not allowing her to jerk me into it. I am actually doing the responsible thing for myself, my family, my guests and for her.

As soon as Thanksgiving is past, she will go back to her usual drug doing life and all will be quiet until she ramps it up again for Christmas.

Because nothing any of us can do will “fix” the family drug addict/alcoholic. That’s all on them. There is so much help out there for them; our whole society runs around with its hands out, trying to convince them to take treatment.

I’ve done the deal with my family drug addict. We’ve been through the phoney-baloney-hyped-up uselessness of the most expensive treatment center in Oklahoma. It did no good, largely because it catered to its privileged clients and went in for touchy-feely puff and stuff instead of demanding the raw grit of honesty.

For my money, AA — which is free — is the single best program. It works. I’ve seen it work.

But nothing is going to do any good unless the drug addict/alcoholic wants it to work enough to swim through the misery of change. Change, even without alcohol and drugs, is never easy.

Giving up an addiction to a substance is both physical and mental. It requires going through some unpleasant detoxing and some even more unpleasant honesty and then topping that off with leaving behind the warm bath of your old drug/alcohol supporting friends and lifestyle and jumping into the cold snow of living life naked, without the drugs/alcohol to blur out the edges.

I know people who have recovered from addiction. They did it the hard way. It began by making a decision that they didn’t want to die. That’s a wise and realistic decision, because alcoholism and drug addiction are killers. First, they destroy your personality. Then, they destroy your family. Then, they lay you in the ground.

I’m not writing this to vent about my experiences with the family drug addict. I’m writing it to tell you what you must do with your family alcoholic/drug addict this holiday.

Send them away.

Shut the door and don’t let them in. If you have children, you must keep them away. Children deserve and must have a stable environment to be able to grow into the people they were meant to be. Children deserve a Thanksgiving free of the manufactured and utterly unnecessary drama that alcoholics and drug addicts inflict on people. As their parent, it is your job to protect them from the crazy destructiveness of the drug and alcohol addicted.

If you have children, give the family drug addict/alcoholic the heave ho. I mean that. Kick them out and nail the door shut behind them. They can stop when they want to stop. There is a whole world of help out there, begging them to allow themselves to be aided in their recovery.

But you can not stop them. You can not help them.

What you can do is save yourself, your family, and most importantly, your children from the chaos and complete destruction that will happen if you let these people in.

Just to make my point clear, I’m going to repeat it: If you have children, your first responsibility is to keep the kids clear of the drug addict/alcoholic and their soul destroying behavior. Protect your kids: Kick the drug addict/alcoholic out.

I’m going back to my retreat now. That may sound a bit counter-intuitive, after this rant. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to forgive? Aren’t we supposed to lend a helping hand?

In truth, forgiveness doesn’t enter into this. I love the family drug addict, and love always forgives. I’ve forgiven her already. It’s not a matter of forgiveness, it’s a matter of accepting reality. And the reality is that until/unless she really wants to stop using, I can’t help her.  My only choice is whether or not I let her destroy other people along with herself.

I have a lot to pray about. The one thing you can do for drug addicts/alcoholics is pray for them. That does work. Again, I’ve seen it work. Pray for them and for yourself and the rest of the family. And then trust them to God. You’ve done all you can do.

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One Man’s Story: From Drugs to Faith


I have a family member who has done time in prison over drug addiction. Her drug of choice was cocaine.

That makes this young man’s story especially poignant to me.

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Conversion Story: Jesus Came to Heal the Broken Hearted, and I Had a Broken Heart


This is a beautiful testimony of conversion to Jesus. In a way, it’s a rescue story.

Notice this young man’s discussion of his friends who led him to Christ by their example, witness and loving invitation. That is a potent form of evangelization. It is what Pope Francis is trying to teach us. The question is, do we have the ears to hear?

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