In her column in this newspaper last Saturday Mary Kenny chose to make reference to my spiritual life. She pitied me for having no spiritual element in my life, assuming it consisted only of the material and was therefore bland and unimaginative.
Mary Kenny has of course never met me, never phoned me, never asked for a meeting or an interview over coffee, never tried to contact me in any way to ask me about anything. Until now I have made little or no reference in public to what spiritual life I do have, so she had absolutely no information on which to base her opinion. What she did have was the most contemptible arrogance to assume to know enough to write about it anyway. A more ignorant, condescending pouring out of sanctimonious drivel I have not read in a long time.
All Kenny knew was that I had completed the formal process of defecting from the Catholic Church and from that one single fact she assumed to know everything else, next week she’ll probably preach to us all she knows about humility. Thousands of others have chosen to leave the Catholic Church too but, unlike Kenny, I don’t assume to know all of their reasons.
I have been a Catholic in name only for many years but after all I have seen of the Church in recent times I decided I did not want that organisation in my life anymore, not even in name only. To assume, as Kenny does, that I therefore have no spirituality in my life is truly reprehensible.
I am crossing a line here I haven’t crossed before but Kenny’s vitriolic nonsense last Saturday cannot go unchecked. Almost 13 years ago I tried to stop drinking, having tried twice before and failed. I had been an active alcoholic for 14 years by then and was quite a mess at the end of it all. Anything I did, in all those years I was drinking, was done with a drink in my hand. I lived at about 10% of what I was capable of and I struggled to do even that. When I stopped drinking I had to learn how to live without it. I had to learn how to be. How to get through a whole day without getting drunk. How to pass an evening. How to enjoy music. How to conduct friendships properly. How to relax at the end of a day’s work. How to socialise and meet people sober. How to watch tv or read a book.
I also learned that I could not do all of this by myself. I had friends who themselves had crossed the bridge from addiction to normal living, but more was needed. Over time as I slowly became a happy confident able man I accepted that I was receiving more help than that of friends. I came to believe in a power greater than myself and came to believe that that power was helping me to stay sober and helping me learn to live happily, because I had never been able to do that on my own unaided will. I chose to call that power the Spirit of Recovery, that which keeps me sober.
It didn’t come easy or natural for me to start believing in any such power but as time in recovery passed my belief in a power greater than myself grew and deepened. Instead of believing that a higher power was just helping me stay sober I believed that it was helping me in all areas of my life. As a friend of mine says ‘he’s looking after all of it, or none of it.’ I see my higher power as a loving caring essence in my life that wants me to be well, happy and living a good life.
Today I try to hand my will and my life over to the care of that higher power every morning before I leave the house in order that my actions and thoughts might be guided by my higher power’s will for me. At night I review my day and thank my higher power for everything including the fact that I didn’t drink. I ask my higher power to look after other people too, just like I used to ask God to do when I was a little boy lying in bed thinking I would one day be a priest.
But of course I don’t need to be a priest to believe in a power greater than myself, spirituality is not the preserve of practising Catholics and having a sense of oneself that extends beyond the physical and the material is not an understanding exclusive to the obnoxious Mary Kenny. And the next time she chooses to write about other people she should afford them the courtesy of getting her facts right first, and keep her patronising pity to herself.