Editor’s note: Throughout July we are celebrating 31 days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles available here, this month’s posts will examine dotMagi’s cannonball moments – moments that changed the course of a life, just as a cannonball hit the life of St. Ignatius Loyola has changed. The inspiration for our theme is the Ignatian Year, which marks the 500th anniversary of Ignatius’ injury and conversion.
In August 2010, I took my then 21-year-old son to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for the first time. Our family immediately began a six week series of training and therapy sessions as part of his treatment package. A family counseling session found that my husband was likely a functioning alcoholic too. All of this unfolded just days after my cannonball moment.
Looking back, I can tell you that the discovery that my son had a drug and alcohol problem changed my life. But if I try to slow things down and discover the moment that really changed things for me, it would be right before our suspicions are confirmed. At that moment I was able to overcome the fear I was feeling and invite God into our situation.
My cannonball moment was a wake-up call. I literally woke up to the reality of my life instead of a fantasy that I had created in my head. I knew something was wrong in our family. I made many excuses for my husband and son’s behavior. I got distracted when it occurred to me that addiction was ticking all the boxes that explained the problems. I worked hard to deny the problem because it was way too hard to accept.
Then one day, because I ran out of options, I decided to sit with these uncomfortable feelings. Somewhere deep down I knew that I would have to face them if we had any hope of recovery.
I sat in the quiet of his room with my son when he slept, right after an operation to remove his polyps and tonsils. I felt an overwhelming wave of grief overwhelm me. In the last few years we had been fathers and had grown further apart. My need for a relationship with him was so strong that I couldn’t suppress it anymore. As my heart ached, I felt a complete sense of being in the presence of God, and in that moment I felt ready to do what He asked. I whispered the bravest prayer I could muster: “Please show me the problem.”
In 12-level rooms, cannonball moments are often spoken of – only they refer to these moments as “spiritual awakening”. As with St. Ignatius, these moments occur when we stop living in fantasy and the reality of our lives awakens as it actually is. I had to do everything possible to cope with our situation on my own before I could reach for help and accept my situation for what it was. Alcoholics call this “bottoming out” or “finding a place to jump”.
Because God loves us, He never forces us to do anything. God is waiting, and when we are ready, He is with us as we face the accumulated problems. But just like the knots in the picture of Maria, Untier of Knots, we don’t have to tackle them all at once. We just have to look for the next thing that needs our attention. We will be able, with God’s help, to do the next right thing. And before we know it, progress can be seen.
When I look back on those moments today, 11 years later, I can’t imagine being so clueless about the reality of my life. Self-will had run amok, as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says. Since accepting God’s invitation to be in a relationship, I now have healthy self-esteem and relationships with my family and friends. And I feel free
Adversity shows up in life. They could be the cannonballs of an accident or illness. I think they are just a call to our attention so that we don’t miss an opportunity to be who God has called us to be.
Image: “Mary, Untier of Knots” in the Atonement Chapel (Parsolingan, Gerona, Tarlac), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Read today’s feature “31 Days with St. Ignatius” under “The Ignatius Challenge” by Lisa Kelly. Then use the hashtag # 31DayswithIgnatius on your favorite social media to share how you take on the Ignatius Challenge.