“I knew there was something about you that I liked.”
This sentence saved Sister Molly Monahan from an overwhelming shame attack early in her recovery from alcohol addiction. Sister Monahan, fresh out of rehab, was serving as a consultant and visiting a college campus in Virginia. One evening she slipped away from her duties to attend an AA meeting and discovered to her utter dismay that a law professor she had met earlier in the day was also in attendance. His warm acceptance eased her shame.
As I read her account in her lovely book “Seeds of Grace, A Nun’s Reflections on the Spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous”, I got the sense that it didn’t immediately occur to her that both she and her new professional acquaintance were attending a meeting for the same reason: to stay sober. Years later she pens these words about her experiences in AA:
And there it is, the deeper truth – that we need to help others in order to be
helped ourselves, and not just with the disease of alcoholism. I can only
think that this reciprocity must be a God-given part of our nature, our true
nature, but obscured for us by the illusion of isolation and of independence and by a misguided selfishness. (Meetings: “My Name is Molly and I’m an Alcoholic”, Seeds of Grace)
Sister Monahan found in AA what so many others have – belonging and purpose. Her personal accounts of isolation in the midst of her affliction leave both herself and others wondering – how is it that a nun felt so spiritually and relationally disconnected? In her first essay, quoted in part above I believe she gets to the heart of the matter when she talks about what she heard in AA.
…I heard the truth of my own feelings, faults, and sneaky motivations played
back for me with uncommon honesty. And I began to know that I was not
alone, and that I was not unique. That is what the suggestion “Identify,
don’t compare,” often given at the beginning of meetings, means.
She hits on several key points that I want to develop in the coming days of devotional readings:
1. She heard truth.
2. She found a place to belong with full authenticity.
3. She discovered she was neither terminally unique or alone.