Addiction is a vicious beast, a disease that emerges from profound emotional pain and that is very hard to overcome.
At the same time, those who struggle with addiction must never be defined by this battle. There is so much more to every human person than their struggles.
“We do not define people with broken arms by their arms. Likewise, we must not let mental disorders define either the people who have them or their families,” said John Dolan, Bishop of Phoenix, who launched the first diocesan mental health service.
There is hope in knowing that numerous saints overcame addictions. Their stories witness that our addictions, sins and failings do not define us, and that every one of us is called to holiness in our own particular way.
These three saints overcame addiction and found holiness in the midst of their struggles. You can read about other saints who wrestled with addictions here, and in the book The Saints Who Struggled with Addiction, which I want to credit with supplying some information for this article.
Blessed Bartolo Longo
Although raised in a Catholic family, Longo’s rejection of religion began when he was 10 years old and his father died.
“Like many addicts, Bl. Bartolo’s road to drugs was most likely initiated by grief,” writes Henry Sseriiso in The Saints Who Struggled with Addiction.
Longo became a Satanist priest and continued to struggle with drug addiction as well as anxiety, depression and paranoia until his conversion back to Catholicism as an adult.
After converting, he dedicated his life to helping the poor and teaching people about the Rosary and the power of prayer.
His story is absolutely extraordinary and well worth a read.
St. Bruno Sserunkuuma
Born in 1856 in Uganda, Sserunkuuma was the son of Buganda Kingdom chief. He struggled with a serious addiction to alcohol from the time he was a young man.
When he became Catholic, he sought to renounce this addiction, but continued to occasionally struggle with the temptation of alcohol after his conversion.
He eventually suffered martyrdom for his faith, and his story of struggling over time with his addiction is an inspiration to others who know the feeling.
“Saint Vladimir’s life before conversion is among the most shocking saint stories, especially for modern readers,” writes Henry Sseriiso in The Saints Who Struggled with Addiction. His pre-Christian life is pretty horrific to read about, but let’s just say he had a grave addiction to sex and other kinds of moral depravity.
After his conversion, however, he renounced all of his wives and his 800 concubines, and turned his life around completely. He remained faithfully married to only one wife and replaced the pagan temples in his realm with churches.
Today he is the patron saint of both Russia and Ukraine, and a prominent figure in both nations’ history and folklore.