Catholic Health has more than 9,000 dedicated associates, who uphold the mission to reveal the healing love of Jesus to those in need. Recognizing that healing can take on many forms, dedicated hospital chaplains work every day to minister to the spiritual needs of patients and families. They share their sacred stories of hope and healing to help others who may be suffering physically and spiritually.
Michael (not his real name), came into the hospital with medical problems he first experienced as a child. Now in his 40s, he is seeing them resurface. Michael admitted that his medical issues were a consequence of years of drug and alcohol abuse.
Michael has a girlfriend who is supportive, as well as a family who stands behind him. While he has been drug-free for ye.ars, he is just one month sober after previous years of going without alcohol. Though he has faith, Michael says he has not been to church in a while, but knows it is something he needs to do as he thinks about his life during this time. Throughout the course of our visits, we spoke about his dependency on drugs and alcohol as a way to escape and deal with anxiety and stress. Michael wants to pursue productive ways of dealing with life, yet admits his default is to turn back to drinking.
We also talked about forgiveness. He asked me to pray that God and others forgive him. He feels that perhaps God is punishing him and I ask if he feels he deserves to be punished. At this thought, he cries and says part of him does, for all the things he did in the past.
I speak to him, stating that there are consequences for our actions, but God's arms are always open, waiting for Michael to come back fully from the life he once lived. While he defines himself by his past, God offers him a better future - one with goodness and meaning. This doesn't mean he won't face other medical consequences from his past abuse, but it does mean he can live better moving forward.
Michael is emotional during our visits, shedding tears for all those past missteps in his life, but part of me cannot help thinking he also sheds tears that, after all the things he has done, God would still love someone like him.
During our last visit, Michael was more peaceful and doing better as he prepared to go home. We talked multiple times about his past, his resources, and options that can help him get better. He knows in his mind what he needs to do, but it remains his choice if he will pursue the right course for his life.
We prayed together and I asked for strength, wisdom and perseverance for him during this time. Before leaving, I said another personal prayer by myself, that God may help Michael put actions to his thoughts and words; and that he may finally be free of the past that so easily entangles him and is so hard to leave behind.