Below is an excerpt from the Moscow Patriarchate’s approach model for social work the 21st century. It is quite thorough and well thought-out, and we are all interested to see how this plays out in implementation.
The goal of “prevention and rehabilitation” within an Orthodox context is what I have been working on for the last few years, though there are others who have done far more and have devoted much more time to the matter: Floyd Frantz, Fr. Iulian Negru and many others. All of us desire to the see that national Orthodox Churches cooperate in the creation and implementation of locally-based and –directed efforts to heal people from the disease of addiction.
My experience so far is that our hierarchs understand there is a problem and want to do something, but are usually unable to conceive of an approach that they have confidence in. Many have tried to deal with alcoholics using the standard methods (requests, pleadings, demands, threats and then punishments) and have noticed that nothing seems to work.
As bishops are learning that there is a different way, they are usually very open to the 12 Steps once they get a clear explanation. The Romanian Church is an example: the bishops have embraced the 12 Step model and are pushing to have it presented in the seminaries and used in the parishes.
I think the success will catch on the more the work continues.
XI. 6. The Bible says that «wine maketh glad the heart of man» (Ps. 104:15) and «it is good… if it be drunk moderately» (Sir. 31:27). But we repeatedly find both in Holy Scriptures and the writings of the holy fathers the strong denunciation of the vice of drinking, which, beginning unnoticeably, leads to many other ruinous sins. Very often drinking causes the disintegration of family, bringing enormous suffering to both the victim of this sinful infirmity and his relatives, especially children.
«Drinking is animosity against God… Drinking is a voluntarily courted devil… Drinking drives the Holy Spirit away», St. Basil the Great writes. «Drinking is the root of all evils… The drunkard is a living corpse… Drinking in itself can serve as punishment, filling as it is the soul with confusion, filling the mind with darkness, making a drunk prisoner, subjecting one to innumerable diseases, internal and external… Drinking is a many-sided and many-headed beast… Here it gives rise to fornication, there to anger, here to the dullness of the mind and the heart, there to impure love… Nobody obeys the ill will of the devil as faithfully as a drunkard does», St. John Chrysostom exhorted. «A drunk man is capable of every evil and prone to every temptation… Drinking renders its adherent incapable of any task», St. Tikhon Zadonsky testifies.
Even more destructive is ever increasing drug-addiction — the passion that makes a person enslaved by it extremely vulnerable to the impact of dark forces. With every year this terrible infirmity engulfs more and more people, taking away great many a life. The fact that the most liable to it are young people makes it a special threat to society. The selfish interests of the drug business help to promote, especially among youth, the development of a special «drug» pseudo-culture. It imposes on immature people the stereotypes of behaviour in which the use of drugs is seen as a «normal» and even indispensable attribute of relations.
The principal reason for the desire of many of our contemporaries to escape into a realm of alcoholic or narcotic illusions is spiritual emptiness, loss of the meaning of life and blurred moral guiding lines. Drug-addiction and alcoholism point to the spiritual disease that has affected not only the individual, but also society as a whole. This is a retribution for the ideology of consumerism, for the cult of material prosperity, for the lack of spirituality and the loss of authentic ideals. In her pastoral compassion for the victims of alcoholism and drug-addiction, the Church offers them spiritual support in overcoming the vice. Without denying the need of medical aid to be given at the critical stages of drug-addiction, the Church pays special attention to the prevention and rehabilitation which are the most effective when those suffering participate consciously in the eucharistic and communal life.