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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Four Supports for Recovery

The reason that I took the time to address clergy codependency is that the Church serves as one of the four means of support an addict has for beginning and maintaining sobriety.  Codependency, the condition by which a person derives their own sense of well-being from another person, turns what should be a source of strength for recovery into a well from which the disease can draw the waters of destruction.

Priests are usually the ones with whom the addict will deal when it comes to the Church, and so we must examine how priests are formed and how they see themselves in order to see what the Church's role is in recovery.  It is important to stress, however, that the Church is more than the priest, but very often the priest is the means by which the average person interacts with the Church.

Let's return to the matter at hand, the Four Supports.  I'll go through them briefly:

1) The Recovery Group- the 12-Step group is usually at the center of an addicts recovery, where he finds other co-strugglers with whom to share experience, strength, and hope.  Addicts rarely find their way on their own.  There are a few cases where real miracles occur and someone is instantaneously cured of an addiction, but these are far more the exception than the rule.

Now, recovery groups are getting a bum rap these days, but I believe this has mostly to do with the 'over-prescription' of AA meetings by courts and the over-use of the term 'addict' when the drinking/using is still very much a choice.  Just because someone is drinking in a reckless manner or even using hard-core drugs, even to the point of physical dependency, he is not necessarily an addict.  addiction is a total loss of control, which only people who have experienced can fully understand.  This is why the group is so important: it can speak directly to the addict in a way that cannot easily be ignored.  It say, 'If we can, then so can you.'  No one else has the credibility to say that.

2) The Family- while Americans are not really family-oriented people (we are the descendants of people who emigrated away from extended family, and this does leave a mark as we see Americans move around much more than is seen in other cultures), what remains of the family is important.

Addicts often first turn to family when looking for help in maintaining their disease, and the emotional blackmail doled out by the addict usually effects the family in a negative way.  However, if the family is healed, or has maintained a proper view of the disease, then its health can be a source of inspiration and support for the recovering addict.

3) The Church- the foundation of recovery is a spiritual one, and the Church defines spirituality outside of the ambiguous 'anonymity' of 12-Steps.  The anonymity and escape from religious terminology is important, either because someone's addiction has been exacerbated by heresy (yes, heresy makes addictions worse, a topic I promise to explore later) or by a false sense of understanding what is really misunderstood.

Plenty of Orthodox misunderstand God.  They know the right words, but have applied the wrong meaning.  Therefore, the Church must make a particular effort not only to teach, but to continue to help people explore the Tradition and get the 'real meaning.'

There are quite a few addicts who get sober without the Church, but those who have later converted (and I speak from experience) will tell you that the Church has deepened their spiritual experience and made it full in such a way that the 12-Steps does not describe.  In fact, the original book Alcoholics Anonymous assumed that there was a Church and that people should go to it to complete their spiritual search, but for many in the US and the West, the problem has been that the churches they have attended held to heretical teachings that undermined the spiritual growth of people in general and addicts in particular.

Only the True Church can truly help the addict.

4) Profession Counseling- the last category is counseling, which was the only means of 'treatment' in the West prior to AA and the development of the 12 Steps.  It has also had some of the worse results, but mostly because it cannot, by nature of our modern construct of counseling, address the spiritual nature of the disease.  This is why medical treatment alone rarely has a positive outcome.

This has largely to do with the core of counseling, which is the ego.  Now, the ego does need to be 'cured' in that it must have a right understanding of itself in terms of what has happened to it and what it can do.  Counseling is good at helping the addict deal with contributing factors that led to addiction.  The problem is when a counselor assumes that fixing the ego is all that is necessary.

What modern counseling does not quite get is that the real problem of human existence are the kinds of fears we experience which only faith in God can cure.  These are the 'ontological fears' that terrorize us and cause us to turn to our selves for hope and confidence.  This is where pride kicks in and addiction gets its start.

Quite a few addicts get sober without setting foot in a counselor's office, but this does not mean that counseling is not important.  It is, particularly if the life experience of the addict has been particularly traumatic.

Conclusion- an addict with these four supports while working the Steps will more often than not find sobriety and recovery.  The removal of any one of these supports drastically reduces the chances of being healed.  When trying to help an addict, it is important to look at the person's opportunity to recover in terms of these four supports.

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