Medallions of Hope

Growing Older
June 30, 2023
Sister M. Thomas More Ruffing
Sister M. Thomas More Ruffing, OSF
August 10, 2023
Growing Older
June 30, 2023
Sister M. Thomas More Ruffing
Sister M. Thomas More Ruffing, OSF
August 10, 2023

By Sister Keith Marcinak, OSF

My AA Medallions:  Hope-Filled Encounters 

By Sister Keith Marciniak, July 2023

If anyone knows me, they are aware of my extra-long key chain and my round, brass medallions.  At first glance it grabs their curiosity and they ask what are “those things” on your key chain. I explain that these brass medallions are my AA medallions in celebration if my sobriety. Often, people look at the coins and congratulate me and sometimes people just look at the medallions in silence. Usually it serves as a conversation starter for a good sharing. These short meetings have decreased shame and guilt, normalizing the disease of alcoholism and provides a reciprocal inspiration of hope and joy.

People who know what the medallions signify often either say, “Are you a friend of Bill W?” (the AA founder), which leads to friendly conversation. These mini-meetings have occurred in various places.

After retiring from my ministry of counseling alcoholics and drug addicts I returned to the Motherhouse. During a local community meeting, some Sisters came up to me and saw my key chain on the table and the usual questions came up. After my explanation, two of the Sisters told me that they had a family member who was an alcoholic. They both added, “This is the first time I have said anything to anyone because I was ashamed of them.”

They seemed to have left our conversation a little lighter in the soul for sharing their personal story.

Then something remarkable happened. Some of the Sisters I met started to say to me, “My brother is in recovery, ”I think I came from an alcoholic home,” “My mother was an alcoholic,” “My father was an alcoholic and he was unable stay sober.”

My trips around the city include more chance encounters with the recovering person.

While out and about, I have observed people noticing my medallions. Once, in a deli, the girl behind the counter asked how long I had been sober. I told her a day at a time and, for today, that is all that matters. It turns out that she was living at a recovery house.

While at another deli (it seems that I only hang out at delis, which is not true), before exiting the store, the manager came up to me and asked about my sobriety because he saw my keychain. He understood the message and now, when I stop in, we often talk.

At a local meeting, I had my key chain on the table. An influential woman in the community looked at the medallions and told me, “My significant other is in recovery. Both of us have found the program very helpful in our lives.”

It seems like there are connections everywhere.  Walking out on the street, a woman was looking at me and staring. She finally came up to me and said, “I never thought about putting my medallion on a keychain. I think I will do that since I have seen yours. Thanks.”

Being open about being a recovering alcoholic has helped to give hope and freedom to others. I believe that God uses our weaknesses to strengthen others.

I trust that God will surprise me with more of these popup meetings. I believe they will occur because every day I have to work the first three steps of AA.  I must admit that my life was unmanageable, admit that there is a Higher Power (God), and turn my will over to my Higher Power (God) on a daily basis. These actions have allowed me to reach 47 years of sobriety and another brass medallion.


Sister Keith Marcinak

Sister Keith Marcinak entered the Sisters of St. Francis in 1971, and after teaching for ten years, she began her ministry in counseling. She retired from the Monroe County Community Mental Health Authority in 2018 after 20 years as a dual diagnosis counselor. She also ministered for many years as a behavioral health counselor in Jackson, MI and as a Chemical Dependency Coordinator at Flower Hospital in Sylvania.

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3 months ago

I was touched by your blog regarding your sobriety. Thank you for your willingness to openly celebrate your years of sobriety!
I, unfortunately, lost my sister to alcoholism nearly 10 years ago. She was in rehab and the hospital many times. She\we tried ‘everything’, but after 50 years of drinking, the beast had a hold of her and she was unable to break free.
I miss her dearly, but and still happy when I hear that you were able to break free through your faith in our Lord.

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