THE CRITIC, Vol. 43, No. 3, Spring, 1989
My Name is Bill H.
And I Am a Member of the CIA
The acronym for Catholic, Irish, and alcoholic, CIA, brings instant recognition and support for those of us gaining sobriety through the grace of God and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. We have the “Irish virus.” I’ve heard it called the “Murphia.” Others say that if you removed us from the ranks of A.A. – now numbering about one million in the United States alone – the meeting could be held in a phone booth.
There was a quid pro quo relationship between my drinking and the way I used the Catholic Church and its sacraments almost from the beginning. One hand washed the other. Drinking helped the guilt over sex I felt as a Catholic. Confession helped me confess to the “sin” of excessive drinking when it became symptomatic. Eventually, both lost their allure for me. But by then it was too late.
I was physically addicted to alcohol and continued to receive the sacraments merely out of rote obedience and an immature compliant personality. In my mid-thirties, drinking was no longer a matter of choice. At the same time, long since away from my strong influence, I could no longer honestly accept the church’s tenets and, especially, its dogmas. I continued to attend solely out of my Irish inbread sense of loyalty to “one’s own kind” and a real fear of external damnation.
That was my pattern for years as the ecstasy I received from alcohol and the church became twin sources of agony. The use of alcohol was a disease in a very real medical sense. I was drinking against my will. Catholicism became a disease in its simplist sense. A source of discomfort; or disease. Today, after fifteen years of sobriety and fourteen years of professional counseling other CIA’s, I can look back with some perspective.
It took about thirty-seven years of drinking for alcohol to become the “rapacious creditor,” as A.A. describes it. For me, “it gaveth, then it taketh away.” My dues for becoming a member of the CIA add up to the loss of a good wife, five children, a career, all my spiritual, religious and moral values, financial bankruptcy and, in the end, a rendezvous with suicide.
There is no blame attached on my part for either the Catholic Church, my Irish background, or even alcohol itself. I am neither anti-Catholic nor a moral crusader against the demon rum. Alcoholism ran in my father’s family. It is genetic. My body never “processed” alcohol the way it does in four out of five drinkers. Therefore, it is a “no-fault” disease.
As I am a “cradle Catholic,” I was never exposed to any alternatives until I was an adult. Bu then I was hooked on Catholic rituals and had developed a tunnel vision which did not permit any other means to salvation. I have had a “Catholic personality” for at least half of my life. I never had an “alcoholic personality” until I had been drinking a fifth a day for years. Research has long since demolished the myth of the “pre-alcoholic” personality. The alcoholic develops a damaged personality because of drinking too much too long. It is not the other way around. When I accepted that, a great load was lifted from my back.
As for the Irish part of the CIA trinity, I am proud of my ancestry but I feel I must keep the American part of it in its place; I contain it, like John Foster Dulles did with communism in the fidties. I have always had an allergy to the Pat O’Brien type of Irishman portrayed in fiction. Too many of them exist in real life. I grew up in Bridgeport, an area where Irish drunks were conspicuous.
I was born in Chicago shortly after Prohibition began, the youngest in a loving, well-disciplined and structured family of four boys and two girls. One of my father’s brothers died of alcoholism in his thirties. But there was heavy drinking among my uncles on both sides. My mother and father, my greatest role models, were social drinkers and moderate in every other area of their lives. To this day they lead in my prayers of thanksgiving.
Not once in my memory did my parents ever lose control of their lives, have temper tantrums or resort to physical violence or vile language. That may account for the fact that I have “stuffed” my feelings all my life. Mother and dad wouldn’t like it! For much the same reason, I did not openly stop receiving the sacraments until they were long gone. For this reason I was a very hard nut to crack in group therapy. On the surface, everything was always “just fine.”
Most of us were not the “emotional” type, though I had an older brother who would often release the lid on his temper. Within minutes, he was “normal” again, never holding a grudge. I formed the opposite temperment, which may explain why I went to three different alcoholism treatment centers before I thought such behavior was “OK” for me.
The most leavening characteristic I inherited from the family genes was humor. It kept us all in our “place;” there was no room for ego enlargement. It still prevents me from taking myself too seriously, a deadly trait for an alcoholism counselor to have.
Wary of his family drinking rotgut in speakeasies, my dad posted a reward of a hundred dollars or a gold watch for any of his children who could abstain until the age of twenty-one – then they were on their own. My oldest brother walked off with it. I was far too young and too far removed to be tempted. When Prohibition was repealed, dad as the family role model again urged moderation.
I was raised in a ghetto-like environment, rarely meeting people of other faiths, color or origin. The church still had a somewhat defensive “them or us” posture about the rest of the world. Communism was the favorite bogeyman. Some of us might even be asked some day to “stand up for our faith” and reach heaven via martyrdom before a firing squad! Priests and nuns were doing just that in Mexico. Secularism and “modernism” were the chief heresies. One had to get a note from the parish priest to swim at the Y.M.C.A.
My brother and I got the full treatment of sixteen years of Catholic education. Three of us survived the rigors of the Jesuit “Ratio Studiorum.” It was a totally male orientation for me, right through college. In grammer school their favourite “punishment” was to send us to the other building to “sit with the girls.” There were no girls within sight in prep school or college.
My first twelve years of school were undistinguished for scholastic achievement or extracurricular activities. I survived a tour of duty as an alter boy but was drummed out of the Boy Scouts in a formal courtmartial for minor criminal activities. By the time I had reached the Jesuit prep school from which I eventually graduated, I was more noted for a lack of charisma and a revulsion for organized activities than for anything else. The senior class yearbook summed me up in one charitable sentence: “Still waters run deep.” In fact, they ran no deeper than pubescent fantasies about the contours of the current stripper appearing at a local burlesque house.
If such “immediate occasions of sin” ended up in the the “heinous crime of self-pollution,” as the Jesuits called it, I ran the risk of “insanity and death” in that order, followed by eternal punishment. Thus began a pattern of guilt over sex. When I discovered a cure for this in alcohol, I eventually had to confess both as forms of “self-indulgence”! Confession and drinking served dual purposes in “solving” sex and alcohol – the twin ogres of my life – for a long time before I was forced to seek other solutions.
My first drink at age fifteen was more than the usual rite of passage young men experience. The event was every bit as memorable as my First Holy Communion and just as spiritual, mystical, and magical in its effect on me. Both substances truly enlarged my life. Now I knew why alcohol was called spirits, from the word spiritus. Social drinkers, if they remember their first drink at all, do not describe it as a sacramental experience.
I made another discovery on that day which I regarded as a great gift. It was my tolerance for alcohol. I had gulped down two stiff old fashioneds at my brother’s swank wedding. Instead of performing its usual function as a central nervous system depressant, it actually served as a stimulant when it surged through my body. This alcoholic symptom, high tolerance, was with me right from the beginning. The guarded feeling I had about it, the need to keep it under control at all times, was another immediate symptom.
I had been an avid reader since learning the alphabet and devoured all the literature I could get my hands on. Most of my heroes were “heroic” drinkers – in sports as well as in literature – men who were as noted for their drinking feats as they were for turning out great stories or breaking batting records.
Ironically, I also developed a precocious interest in alcoholism and its current “cures.” Men of my father’s era, including his alcoholic brother, had taken the “Keeley Cure” downstate, a dry-out farm where the alcoholic could not drink but simultaneously downed huge doses of health food and strange tonics of one sort or another. Wealthier people went to psychiatrists who immedately wanted to find out “why” they drank so much. A drunken, gap-toothed cockney I met in an East End bar in London once answered the same question for me in a very succinct way: “I drink because I’m a bleed’n alcoholic, that’s why.” It took the medical and psychiatric professions many years to come to that same conclusion.
Years later as a Jesuit college student under the GI Bill, I wrote a paper for a psychology course on the “Causes and Treatment of Alcoholism.” In 1945, psychologists were still determined to find out why some people drank to the point of self-destruction. What was the “cause” of alcoholism? Latent homosexuality or oral gratification ranked neck and neck for the honor. The American Medical Association did not list alcoholism among its primary diseases until the mid-1950s.
After prep school the Jesuits left me to my own devices in the pre-war non-Catholic world of Chicago with all its “occasions of sin.” There was more to follow during a fifty-month stretch in the Navy. I was still limiting the alcohol to “patriotic” drinking. Occasionally, I played the role of the drunken sailor when I thought it appropriate. Previously, the only other time I deliberately got drunk was at my senior class “beer bust.”
I finished college in less than three years and decided to follow the same career as an older brother, journalism and free-lance writing. It was many years before my drinking interfered directly with these goals. They were the last to go. This is a fairly typical pattern of the male species of CIA.
I was now away from the womb of a totally Catholic environment and the influence of my family. I was an atypical CIA in this department. There were no apron strings around me. I had had a taste of the secular world by now and liked its freedom. Doubts about church claims had crept in but I brushed them aside.
I settled down in Washington, D.C., an area of the Mysterious East in the U.S. peopled by a more liberal brand of Catholicism than I had been accustomed to. Congressman Gene McCarthy, the “other” McCarthy, in the nation’s capital at that time, carried the banner for Commonweal Catholics like myself. I found survival as a Catholic more palatable now. Happily employed as a journalist, I had begun to enjoy moderate success selling an occasional article.
By 1950, following St. Paul’s advice to Catholics of my ilk, I had married my kind – college-bred, liberal and “literary,” and raring to fight social injustice on all fronts. Fortunately, she was also very attractive and enjoyed a drink. The poor woman was unaware that the first symptom of my physical addiction to alcohol had reared its ugly head on our wedding day.
I started the morning with the shakes – a “first.” It was the end of a night of revelry with a bachelor brother. We were then still under the strict midnight fast rules. But the end justifies the means in situational ethics of this type, so the Jusuits said, and I went ahead and downed my very first “hair of the Dog” drink.
The dilemma I faced would have delighted novelist Graham Greene. The risk of scandal dictated that I receive Holy Communion with my bride. What horrible thoughts would have crossed the minds of her family and mine had I not. It was not a “viable option,” as we say in the eighties. The price of this decision to a person with scrupulosity was incalculable. A disaster thinker from birth, I reasoned that a priest hearing this in confession would either detect it as a symptom of alcoholism and send me to treatment instead of “forgiving” me, or declare my marriage invalid and have it annulled. My decision to go or not go to confession over such a monumental sin was put off for the rest of my life. Fortunately for me, I did not have to worry about external damnation. I had already nailed down “dying in the state of grace” by having made the “Nine First Fridays” twice – and back to back!
Four years and two children later, Louise awoke me one morning – I was the overnight rewrite man at the Washington Times-Herald – to tell me that the paper had folded. Our prayers for a better job with more money were answered shortly, or so we thought. I have since learned as an A.A., to pray only for what I need – even if I don’t know what that is – rather than what I want.
What I got was exactly what I didn’t need as a budding alcoholic – a job in public relations in “The Big Apple” with an unlimited expense account. My nineteen-year pursuit of intoxication and addiction to alcohol had begun. I held the position of publicity director for three of the largest publishing companies in the world, one after the other, without ever being fired for drinking.
The loss of a good wife and five children, meanwhile, was not enough to stop me. The more I drank, regardless of the undeniable (except for me) symptoms of alcoholism, the more promotions I received and the more money I made. This is called “falling upstairs.” Many of us experience it, especially if our job means more to us as a symbol of ego nourishment and self-esteem than our wife and children. Until I got sober, what I did was much more important than who I was.
Living in New York, moving from place to place almost every two years, and producing reasonable facsimiles of ourselves almost at the same rate via the “safe Vatican Roulette” method of so-called birth control (rhythm) put a strain on the marriage. At home I began to use alcohol as a second means of “Irish” birth control. Outside of that, everything about our marriage was “just fine.”
Louise disagreed and eventually solved my marriage problem in on stroke – she divorced me. What led to this rational decision on her part to take to the lifeboat before the ship went down is the story of the progression of physical addiction. The reputation alcoholics have as “con men” before our first drink. I wasn’t. But by the mid-1950s I needed “permission” to continue drinking so bad that I had unknowingly surrounded myself with a “bodyguard of lies” to protect myself from the unspeakable truth that I was drinking against my will.
Just as I had at one time, Louise understood alcoholism well – she was an avid reader on the subject by then – but, understandably, only on an intellectual level. She did not divorce me for being an alcoholic. She divorced me for not doing anything about it after repeated confrontations. I could not dare accept that then. I spent all my energy – which included working some Saturdays and selling articles – to “prove” that I had a “different” kind of alcoholism. I was certainly not your “average” drunk, losing jobs, beating up the wife and kids, being hauled off to jail by the cops, etc.
Looking back over the marriage/divorce part of this CIA story may shed some light on how I managed my life then as a hell-for-leather Catholic and full-blown alcoholic. I was the “gamma” type of drunk, characterized chiefly by a slow but steady progression. The pattern of daily drinking, no binging, no open “fights” about alcoholism, no staying home with a hangover, no embarrassing displays at parties or in the presence of coworkers.
Maintaining my image as a man who could hold his liquor became as vital to me as breathing and eating. Sex faded into the background. I clung to my facade as the perfect husband and father. I was a good Catholic too, insisting that my children attend mass and go to parochial school.
Louise had dropped out of church by this time so I slipped into the mantle of the hero Catholic keeping the faith. My favorite saints, the North American Martyrs, had nothing on this Jesuit product!
From the beginning of the marriage, when I saw that Louise could not maintain my drinking pace with the decorum a good Catholic husband expects of his wife – the mother of his children! – I went underground with some of my drinking by storing half-pints at strategic locations around the apartment. It didn’t last. It takes a creative person to explain the presence of a half-pint of vodka in his rolled-up socks. It worked, but not for long. I was glad when we started renting houses in Westchester County. I thanked God every day for the rafters in the basement.
The confrontations had begun and they were filled with the ironies and the paradoxes that go with trying to be a good Catholic and a practicing alcoholic simultaneously. One morning my Jesuit conscience got the better of me and I confessed to Louise of a near-miss, a sexual encounter as they would call it today, with a girl at a drinking business party. It showed how honest and above board I was with her!
She stunned me with the casual but straightforward reply that she wasn’t worried about her Catholic husband committing adultery. What had bothered her for some time was my drinking and my failure to do anything about it. She could not have known that alcoholism ranked way below adultery in my hierarchy of values. But excessive drinking was still a moral problem with me. It had to be. How else could I be forgiven for it in confession?
My growing dilemma called for caution in the confessional. Once I went too far and the priest sentenced me to quit for ten days as a condition of ego te absolvo. I never went back to him. Nor did I return to the priest who told me my drinking was a symptom of a disease and not a matter of confession. “Go get treatment,” he said, and slammed the window shut in my face. Such embarrassment always called for a drink to blot out my “Catch – 22” situation.
During the late fifties and early sixties, I was maintaining an average intake of a fifth of vodka a day along with the amphetamine, Dexedrine. It speeds up one’s metabolism, counteracting the slowing-down action of its opposite drug, ethanol. I could work like a trooper right through lunch hour, disdaining to drink with the three other members of our PR staff who were also alcoholics. Louise always had a few Dexedrines around the house, prescribed by her obstetrician. It keeps pregnant women from eating too much. It helped in that department with her husband too, a paunch is regarded as another symptom of alcoholism.
Meanwhile, I made sure that I was “not that bad an alcoholic” with some very concrete examples for my wife to ponder. In researching a feature article on alcoholism for Sign magazine, I spent a day at the Mt. Carmel Treatment Center across the river in Patterson, New Jersey, with some skid-row type alcoholics who found shelter there.
The sight of such down-and-out human wrecks only reinforced my conviction that I still had things under control. When it was published I brought home a copy to Louise and showed her what “real” alcoholics look and act like. Most of them had long since lost wife, family, children, self-respect and careers. They were left with no more than the clothes on their backs. Louise read it and shook her head sadly as I sipped a Scotch and reminded her how lucky she was to have a husband who could control his drinking. By 1972, I was in the same condition as the Mt. Carmel alcoholics and in much the same kind of facility.
I went all out to maintain my facade as a “good Catholic” and “good drinker” right up and through the divorce. By this time we were in Chicago and I held the position of publicity director with a even more prestigious international publisher. I was also surrounded by family enablers in my brothers, sisters (one a nun) and my eighty-ish mother, none of whom had ever found one of my hidden bottles. An alcoholic needs enablers to keep drinking, people who will confirm his reputation as a controlled drinker and a good father and husband. No wife was going to accuse their kid brother of child abuse or wife-abuse! How could I then know what I knew twenty-years later; that the marks of alcoholism left on children are invisible and don’t go away easily.
I made every effort to make the divorce as cosmetic as possible by insisting on an annulment with a clause mandating a parochial education for the children – now numbering five – at my expense. This added another halo over my head. I know today why the “Big Book,” Alcoholics Anonymous, describes the true alcoholic personality as “self-will run riot.”
The divorce was finalized and I moved into my own apartment. Within a few years Louise remarried an old friend and moved back to New York to take up residence with him and their children of two marriages. He was, of course, a CIA like her ex-husband. He too lost his sobriety and she also divorced him. Eventually, he regained it and went into alcoholism counseling as I did. By the 1980s all three principals in this little soap opera had become friends, thanks to the healing properties of A.A.
Back in Chicago things began to close in on me. Child support arrearage, unpaid income tax levies, and increased impatience on the company’s part at my wage assessments and a federal levy were tightening the noose. Add to these my oldest son’s drug addiction – I was getting calls about him from every precinct in the city – and you have more “reasons” for the alcoholic to go on drinking. A broken hip from a nonalcohol-related accident rounded out the picture of myself I wanted everyone to see; a harassed, divorced father of five with a druggie son struggling to get to the office on crutches. There is another acronym in A.A., it is PLOM and it stands for “Poor, Little Old Me.” I had all the qualifications for it in my sick alcoholic mind.
Alcoholically, I was in the reverse tolerance stage of the disease; it took only a pint to achieve the same effect as a fifth once did. I had thrown away my amphetamines on the advice of my drug-addicted, alcoholic seventeen-year-old son who discovered them in my coat pocket. He shamed me with: “DO you want to wind up a dope-fiend like me, Dad?” They too had reversed their tolerance for me. Nothing was working any more.
I was fired from my second publicity job. The controller got tired of sending my checks to my debtors. Once again, I got a rousing letter of recommendation and the best wishes of my boss, with no mention of John Barleycorn. I had lost my previous job to natural attrition. When sales go down, public relations and advertising people are the first to go. We are an expendable lot, which accounts for much of the enabling in the business. No one dares bum rap another when it comes time to go; it’s the “there but for the grace of God go I” syndrome.
I held the same position with another firm, but that fell through in a year. This time it was nepotism. It didn’t matter since by this time, alcohol was eating into my job habits. I no longer had the energy to turn out the simplest of press releases with the same old enthusiasm.
A brief job with the Department of Public Aid turned into an alcoholic fiasco which ended up with me at the Chicago Alcoholic Treatment Center, a drunk tank for indigents. This, compounded by a diagnosed case of alcoholic cirrhosis, sent my handwringing sisters to Al-Anon and Open A.A. (public) meetings for education.
They learned fast. My older sister, a B.V.M. nun for forty years, confronted me with the blunt information that I was “using the church” to drink on. I would be the first to open up a liquor Store after early morning mass. Her logic, though it escaped me as a practicing addict, was sound enough. She suggested A.A. instead of mass. “You wouldn’t see a priest for a toothache, would you? You’d get to the nearest dentist as fast as you could.” The trouble with that was that, despite completing a treatment program, I still hadn’t reached bottom yet. Mass made me feel better than A.A. where they didn’t seem to understand alcoholism the way I did. How many had ever written about it or published anything on the subject?
My other sister was more direct. She drove me directly to skid row on the theory that she could “hurry” or “raise” my bottoming out by saving me the trouble of drinking myself there. The first place I stopped at was the Cathedral Shelter, run by Episcopalians. I summarily dismissed it as inappropriate and went down the street to Catholic Charities. Since they had no bed I wound up at the Salvation Army. It may have been Protestant but at least it was nondenominational! They let me in. Telling them I was a practicing Catholic didn’t work.
The major in charge, impressed by my knowledge of alcoholism, promptly put me in a supervisory position, where I could “keep my eye” on those alcoholics who worked in the Red Shield Stores. I bore the title of Stores Manager, stayed six months without drinking, and left thankful to God that I wasn’t a “real” skid row bum. I know now I was on a “dry drunk” – abstinence does not equal sobriety. Incidentally, the major let me out of chapel – the fire and brimstone lectures – so that I could go to daily mass, a condition I had made contingent on my stay there. He paid me a hundred dollars a week and gave me an air-conditioned room to top it off. Give an alcoholic an inch and he’ll take a mile.
There were other incidents which would give some alcoholics pause in their downward spiral, but they didn’t have much effect on me. Kicked out of my apartment for nonpayment of rent, I stayed in a second rate hotel on Ohio and Michigan for a few days until my money ran out. One bright sunny morning, Michigan Boulevard strollers were treated to the sight of a middle-aged, three-piece-suited man gingerly descending a hotel fire escape, suitcase in hand. He had six floors to go. Traffic stopped. A gapers-crowd gathered. Some cheered. A cab driver stuck his head out and shouted up at me: “You’ll never make it, buddy!”
On the evening of February 26, 1973, in a cheap studio in East Rogers Park, I lay across my bed weary and depressed after a week’s binge without eating – another first. While fingering a rosary I drew a razor blade across my left wrist. I was not drunk. Neither was I sober. There is a twilight zone in between wherein reason flees. I had given up the ghost and put myself in the arms of Holy Mother Church in the fastest way I knew.
When I awoke in a few hours the blood had congealed and I had nothing but a scar to show for my “heroic” efforts. A doctor at the VA said later I missed the artery by a hair. I call it my “Miracle on Morse Avenue” and God’s way of finally getting my attention. There is an old Irish saying particularly apropos for CIAs like me: “For some people, the only way God can get their attention is with a brickbat.” Some gifts come in strange packages.
It was my last drink. Sobriety took years more to achieve, with the assistance of a five-month stay in a VA psych ward, plus one more two-month alcoholism rehab, and ten months in a halfway house. I was not your “instant” alcoholic; I had to work at it. Likewise, I had to work hard at sobriety.
There were mileposts along the way. One was the VA psych ward experience. I was not allowed to go to the bathroom alone. A male nurse attended me, pointing out that you might want to slice your wrist again. That’s your business. But you’re not doing it on my shift.” It was my first sight of “tough love” in action. I was to use it many times as a counselor a few years later. My sisters and brothers were catching on too. None of them paid me a visit during my stay there, wisely deciding to leave me to the professionals for a change.
A sense of humor helps and there’s plenty of it to go around in a VA version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. On discharge, the psychiatrist on duty sized me up with this pithy sentence: “The patient is oriented in all spheres. He seems motivated to the alcoholism treatment unit and finally realizes that his propensity for drinking may be the cause of some of his problems.” I have ranked this understatement next to Hirohito’s opening remarks broadcast to his people and the world on the day he surrendered: “The war has not necessarily gone to Japan’s advantage.”
It took me two more months in the milieu of other patients with “wet brains” to convince me and force my admission that alcoholism was my “primary” disease and not a result of my problems or “Catholic personality.” “Wet brain” is a euphemism for a diagnosis of OBS, or organic brain syndrome. It is irreversible and stems from one drink too many. I’ll never know how close I came.
Admission is not the same as acceptance which, with me, was more intellectual than a “gut” feeling. The first sign of recovery was realizing that I should stay where I was and go through the alcoholism treatment again. No longer did I trust myself to live independently. Just to admit that I was dependent on someone besides myself marked a change in personality.
Another came during the three-month stay at the VA alcoholism unit – without one overnight pass. A therapist pinned me to the wall describing me as an “injustice collector”: “You collect little hurts and fancies, save them up and then drink on them.” A perfect description. “Never complain, never explain. Don’t get mad. Just keep score. You’ll get even some day.”
By this time, although I was sure I hadn’t “caught alcoholism from a toilet seat, I was beginning to suspect that recovery was contagious. After discharge from the VA unit I entered a local halfway house for men and stayed ten months, working outside, going to A.A., and coming home at night to talk about it – openly for a change. Just as I was beginning to enjoy the shelter of this environment, I was told to go out and get some “real” sobriety.
It was 1974. The state of Illinois was preparing a certification system for alcoholism counselors in anticipation of a new alcoholism decriminalization statute, at which time they would need to open up and staff treatment facilities. I was one of the first to sign up.
Today my old Catholic fears of the wrath of God have been replaced by gratitude, a word used in A.A. almost as often as the word God itself. I no longer, as in the Act of Contrition, “dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.” I’ve had as much of hell as I think God ever intended for me, if he ever intended any for me to begin with.
Near the top of my list of things to be grateful for is the sobriety of my son, also in A.A., who was unfortunate enough to inherit his father’s alcoholic genes. He is sharing God’s grace with me. It is indeed prodigal; I’ve always had more of it than I was using.
I also believe that God reveals himself to us only as we reveal ourselves to each other. This comes to me out of the “theology of alcoholism.” It’s a discipline not found in any college curriculum.