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Friday, May 31, 2013

Sexuality and DNA

Just so you know, a majority of the inquiries to me from this blog's readers are regarding sexual addictions.  I can't say for sure why, whether it is about raw numbers or the fact that they are the least understood of the addictions.

Frankly, I think we know very little about sexuality from biological and psychological perspectives, and modern Christianity has largely forgotten the Biblical narrative set in Genesis and continued in the New Testament.  Gender and sexuality have become more about politics these days then about a common groundwork to humanity.

Nowadays, we have been divided and conquered on this topic.

As a result, we all tend to pile up our own little opinions on this topic.  Then, someone comes along and pulls some of the erroneous ones out of the stack.  Here's an opportunity to have that happen:

Why am I posting this?  Because there are lots of helpful facts in it.  For example:

“Neutral academic surveys show there is substantial change. About half of the homosexual/bisexual population (in a non-therapeutic environment) moves towards heterosexuality over a lifetime. About 3% of the present heterosexual population once firmly believed themselves to be homosexual or bisexual.”

“Sexual orientation is not set in concrete,” he notes.

Even more remarkable, most of the changes occur without counseling or therapy. “These changes are not therapeutically induced, but happen ‘naturally’ in life, some very quickly,” Dr. Whitehead observes. “Most changes in sexual orientation are towards exclusive heterosexuality.”

Numbers of people who have changed towards exclusive heterosexuality are greater than current numbers of bisexuals and homosexuals combined. In other words, ex-gays outnumber actual gays.

The fluidity is even more pronounced among adolescents, as Bearman and Brueckner’s study demonstrated. “They found that from 16 to 17-years-old, if a person had a romantic attraction to the same sex, almost all had switched one year later.”

“The authors were pro-gay and they commented that the only stability was among the heterosexuals, who stayed the same year after year. Adolescents are a special case—generally changing their attractions from year to year.”

Now, let's think about this: sexual 'orientation' and 'attraction' are synonyms.  What do these facts tell us about sex addiction?  We are dealing with a far more fluid area than something that can be dismissed as 'genetic' or 'hard-wired' (a.k.a. DNA-programmed) into us.  If our attractions are subject to change, then they can be changed.

This is a helpful sign for treating sexual addictions.  Now, perhaps some of you are going to get the message that I think homosexuals can be 'cured.'  Well, that is silly: I don't think alcoholism or any other addiction can be 'cured,' and so I don't believe in cures to begin with.  They are the modern man's "Nirvana"... reputed, but never actually witnessed.  If a solid majority of addicts elude recovery despite years of treatment, I don't see why homosexuals should also have anything other than a low success rate of treatment, if they want treatment at all.

I certainly don't want to force anyone into treatment who does not want it, even pedophiles and the mentally ill.  But, don't expect me to enable their behavior, either.  I'm more than willing to chip in on a very large, high-security 'hotel' for those who want to harm others because of their disorders that they don't want to treat.  Again, for clarity, I am not talking about gays.

So, what's the point?  The point is that we are made to have attractions.  Desires are part of who we are.  But, they can become deformed because they are fluid.  Turning them off is not really an option, but they can be reigned in, and they may also be steered to some degree in a healthier direction.  However, once they become deformed, they can never be neglected.

There is no 'cure.'  There is only treatment.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Suicide: Modern Culture's Blight

In the land that commercialized positive thinking and put pill bottles in every drawer, depression has emerged as the most debilitating condition we face.

This is what I was feeling when I watched that silly video "This is Water."  Professor Wallace's photo is featured in this article.

Here is one of the most fascinating articles I have ever read in the mainstream media, both well-written and informative.  I encourage you to read it:

Addiction and suicide are like twins separated at birth.  Both result in the destruction of the person.  The only difference is in the last of the three 'factors' of suicide which addiction does not bear:

"I am not afraid to die."

Addicts waste their lives precisely because they are afraid to die.  They live in horrendous circumstances because they lack the courage and confidence to 'end it all' without things getting worse.  I would say that many addicts are saved by a worse hopelessness than the suicide.  That is, even death won't solve anything.  Only the addiction can take away the pain, and death means an end to the relationship with the addictor.

Here's another factor:

When teen suicide was on the rise in the 1970s and 1980s, society was stung by the conclusion that something must be wrong with the way we live, because our children don’t want to join us. The question today is different, but just as unsettling. With people relinquishing life at its supposed peak, what does that say about the prize itself? What’s gone so rotten in the modern world? In her next bundle of research, Phillips hopes to pinpoint the massive, steam-rolling social change that matters most for self-harm. She has a good list of suspects: the astounding rise in people living alone, or else feeling alone; the rise in the number of people living in sickness and pain; the fact that church involvement no longer increases with age, while bankruptcy rates, health-care costs, and long-term unemployment certainly do.

Yes, church involvement helps keep people from suicide.  Why?  How many of us have denounced the 'insensitive' ways traditional Christianity has dealt with suicide?

The Church will not offer a full funeral for a suicide in part to make sure everyone has a healthy fear of suicide.  The modern therapeutic culture has gone to great lengths to destigmatize suicide even within Christianity.  Now, we offer 'life celebrations' for those who kill themselves, then wonder why they kill themselves.

Why, indeed.

You do not offer the victor's crown to anyone else but the champion.  When victory status is afforded to the suicide, and we erase the notion that suicide is a failure that God despises, then it becomes a serious option.

We should be afraid to die.

Recovery from addiction rests on this principle.  If you are not afraid to die, then suicide is a much easier option than years and years of self-discipline and pain.  An addict can 'tap out' of life and take a short cut to eternal rest without the inconvenience of living a sober lifestyle not driven by self-will.

Atheism and the suppression of Christianity are also largely responsible for the high suicide rate.  By preaching utter nothingness after death and the meaninglessness of life aside from hedonism, the long path towards old age and its burdens seem to be a hopeless prison.  The middle-aged high-risk category are confronting the fact that they are getting too old to have the adventures of youth and their choices are becoming more limited.  Self-gratification becomes harder, and so death looks like a great way to exit an non-enjoyable existence.

Cradle-to-grave public services make many of us feel 'disposable.'  We are no longer necessary for the survival of others.  We are now in an era where the government provides more support for children than parents, in the form of free or subsidized education, along with generous welfare benefits.  No one is 'indispensable,' and we are even taught now that mom and dad are easily swapped with mom and mom or even no mom or dad at all.  Love is just a kind of amorphous putty that can occupy any number of shapes.

It will be harder to get people into addictions treatment the more that the materialist mindset takes hold and people are taught to suppress their natural desires for life and their fear of death.  The more pervasive these beliefs become, the more untimely, self-imposed death we will see.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vacations, Holidays, & Pilgrimages

Sorry for the break, but I'm just now getting back into the swing of life after an all-too-brief vacation.  And, as can be expected, there were loads of phone calls and emails to return, along with an unexpected visitor and some other stuff.  Loads of fun!

This is only the second family vacation we've ever taken, the first one being two years ago... and this is after over 15 years as a family.  Part of it is history: my family vacations were often marked loads of stress and illness.  Our vacation options often involved trips to the mountains, which meant (for me) motion sickness, altitude sickness, cold, wet, and a grumpy father insistent on catching a trout.

It has taken years for me to get the idea that vacations can actually be enjoyable.  The funny thing is that I live in the same town, and so the vacations are much the same, minus the trout fishing... and the stress... and the sickness.  We are not having a 'Purpose-Driven Vacation.'

Vacations are important because they break the routine.  I love routine, even though I am in a job that thrives on breaking it: people have problems at weird times, and I have to quickly respond even though I had other plans.

Routines are helpful, but they can often lull us into a false sense of comfort.  Yes, we have much less to think about when we have a 'rhythm' to our day or week.  We can then adjust this pattern to avoid looking at our world as it really is, and who we really are.

Pilgrimages are designed to do the same thing: break the believer's monotonous spiritual life.  Occasionally, we need to knock the rust off and see more of the Church than just the tiny corner we occupy.  Many parishes become wracked  with dissent because the people there simply don't go anywhere else.  The parish then are in becomes 'everything there is,' and that means ever change is an all-or-nothing proposition.

The more I see of the Church, the less critical it becomes for me to control my small part in it.  If I really want this or that, I know it exists elsewhere and I can go get it there if I really need it.  Pilgrimages are helpful in that way.

Of course, they are more challenging in a country this spread out.  So, I recommend you work the two events together: take a vacation, and make sure you work in a spiritual journey along the way.  That's what we did when we stopped off at a monastery just before ascending the mountains.  The nuns wanted us to return on the way back, but I spared them having to host a family that had spent four days in a dusty campground with no showers.  They deserved that kind of consideration.

In the path of sobriety, conventions and trips to see other fellowships in different places are also very helpful.  It is wonderful to sit in an AA meeting in Romania and find all the same problems and joys that we have in California.  Getting the bigger picture of recovery makes our individual problems seem smaller.

Once you have cleaned up enough of the wreckage of your past (like getting the ankle monitor off or getting past your bills so that you have some reserve cash), take a trip.  Go on a journey.  Use you map and meeting directory as your guide.  You can even call the regional office and tell them what you are planning.  You may be surprised at how welcoming fellow addicts can be to a traveler.

If you can't do it right now, then ask God to provide the opportunity in the future.  He will provide the right time.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Porn, the DSM, & Returning to Normal

This is a really interesting article about how the new revision to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is missing the whole problem of internet porn addiction, especially its real effects and recovery.

I think it does bring up a few very important points:

1) Like prescription drug abuse, porn addiction can develop in a normally non-addiction-disposed person, and then distort the person's mind enough to become addicted.

2) For those without underlying predisposition, normalcy can be returned to in relatively short order with complete abstinence from porn.

3) The DSM is avoiding one of the most common problems young people face in this era.

In fact, I think a lot of problems with porn are being swept under the rug, and if counselors are not educated in the warning signs, they will be unable to help people when it is needed the most.  Let's take a look for a moment at dating.

I've encountered a number of young Christian women who have a 'wonderful' relationship with their boyfriends... who are addicted to porn.  They all describe the same passive, caring, laid-back boy who does not pressure them for sex.  The latter is a big selling point, because these young women take their 'waiting' seriously because they want to have a decent and healthy sex life.

The problem usually arises when the boy states that he is watching and abusing himself to internet porn, quite often the 'really bad' stuff.  The girl is scandalized, but does not want to give up on the 'great relationship' which is different from other relationships in that the boyfriend isn't getting too frisky and has a really calm demeanor.

Well, then the bad news comes out: he's calm in large part because he's exhausted from his porn habit.  If he actually had to 'perform' with her or any other real woman, he probably wouldn't be able to.

If he has introverted tendencies, then porn allows him to not struggle to overcome the most inhibiting aspects of his introversion.  He is not challenged to grow up and perhaps move towards the 'middle ground.'  Porn means he can satisfy his natural desires without others.  He is stunted.

And, there are lots of young ladies who are interested in a stunted relationship so that they don't have to grow, either.  Except, when the time comes to 'consummate' the relationship, or when they need him to be actually present in the relationship, they realize that the porn has removed all of that desire.

This is usually when I get the phone call or email asking for help.  

My answer usually goes something like this: he needs to get off the porn completely and the MO as well for at least a year, possibly longer, to allow his mind to revert back to some kind of normal.  You don't know who he is if you met him while he was using porn and you may not like him once he comes around to himself.  He may not be a pervert based on the weird stuff he's been abusing himself to, but neither of you knows yet because he is sick.  You may want to ease off on the relationship until he gets help, because you had better not get into 'fixing' him.  If you do, then you need to get over to an Al-Anon meeting and start learning what codependency is.

As you read through this, I'm sure you are already seeing the reason why there are so many ED pill advertisements on TV, radio, and internet.

Porn addiction is real, and it would be better if the DSM would address the real problem.  In the meantime, porn addicts are finding help for one another on-line.  If anyone knows a good program to help addicts deal with their withdrawal from porn, I'd like to hear from you.  For those who absolutely cannot quit and maintain abstinence, there is always SA.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Selfish 'Compassion'

Every so often, I run across something that bothers me in a deep way, and it usually takes a project in my garage or some manual labor to loosen my subconscious enough to figure out what is banging around in the back of my head.  So, I watched the video below, and I found it really bothersome in a vague way.  

It is well-produced and the speaker is very articulate.  Some of what he says, in  bits and pieces, are things that I have harped on for years.  But, still, there was something wrong.

So, I went outside to build some shelving.  As I was screwing one of the boards in place, I slipped and drove my drill with a screw bit into my thumb, and it all came up at once... blood and thoughts.

I found out later that the speaker in this video was a popular writer and professor, who killed himself a few years later while wrestling with depression and a failed medical regimen.  A tragic loss.

In listening to this presentation, at first I found much that I agreed with.  But, then I began to hear things that I found problematic.  By the time he dismissed morality and religion, I knew there was a huge, gaping hole in this whole thing.  Allow me to explain, since the speech on its own is very compelling.

Wallace talks about the drudgery of daily life, depicting it in painful detail.  The life he describes is without God.  There is no inner struggle, and neither is there any majesty.  Even the compassionate world he seeks to implement is really devoid of anything beyond the narrow confines of daily life as he morbidly paints it.

He talks of self-obsession and the need to think of others for our own peace of mind.  I found both of these rooted in the same problem: he never explains why it is that humans would derive any real pleasure from compassion.  It is self-serving rather than really being altruistic, and so his world of compassion is one of self-absorbed people getting happy off their ability to pardon one another.

Is that bad?  Yes!  Why, because, in the end, one is still alone in a meaningless life.  The checkout line is easier to bear, but you are still in a checkout line and the shuffle continues with you still thinking about yourself.

What if you are not like the attractive actors depicted in the story?  What if the 'ah-ha' awakening is not enough?  In Wallace's own case, it was not enough to overcome his own disease.

That's the rub: there is more to life than how or what you think about it.  There is more to the world than a daily dose of drudgery.  If you are slumping along, it is because you have not yet entered into life.  And, this life begins with God!

The World According to Wallace is a world without that spiritual connection to the Divine.  There is no greater glory or purpose.  What 'interconnectedness' he speaks of is merely perceptual.  If it is, then it has no endurance.  After all, perceptions change.  His certainly did, and look where his perceptions took him.

We are not called to merely change our perceptions from 'A' to 'B,' but to be transformed as persons through Jesus Christ.  We are not just supposed to think differently, but our thinking is supposed to change as we are changed by God. Wallace argues for a world dominated by human will, or at least the will to think differently about it.  Yet, this does not work.

If we could think our way to a better and happier world, then we would not have so much misery.  The world is miserable because people really are doing their best thinking.  We may not like what they think, and they may not be thinking up to their 'full potential,' but they are nonetheless thinking as best they can.  Wallace conveniently ignored the fact that the cashier and all the people around him have a rich thought life.

They are already thinking as best they can, and yet the world is still a place of pain.

Wallace is talking about taking his thoughts seriously, but the spiritual path, the one leading to God and recovery, means realizing that the thinking is the problem to begin with.  The fallen mind is broken.  You cannot rely on it.  It will always create bad thoughts.  We should be on guard against them, but also remember that whatever head tricks we play on ourselves will only work until our head hiccups again and our little plans come crashing down.

We can offer people the half-measures of 'positive-thinking,' but we must be ready to acknowledge that it won't last and it will eventually fail, because the human mind always fails.  We need the healing of Christ, not a formula to cope with our brokenness.

If you want to take this brokenness a step away from the spiritual, let's just consider Wallace's own use of anti-depressants and his intimate knowledge of the limits of his own mind.  Why not just decide to think better of himself rather than suicide?  Some thought patterns cannot be escaped by the force of will, and he makes no effort to examine the obvious limits to the 'power of positive thinking' because, after all, it would really mess up the beautiful narrative.

Yes, I have the same frustrating emotions he describes.  I, too, try to remember that everyone has struggles and that they are deserving of my patience and compassion.  But, they deserve it for a different reason.  For me, the added benefit is that patience and compassion make me feel better, but the real reason that I have to do them is because they don't.

Patience and compassion are hard, and a lot of times there is no obvious advantage to them.  This is the real danger.  If you are expecting to feel better from generosity or kindness, then you will certainly be disappointed.  Most often our good deeds are rewarded with disregard at best and outright evil at worst.  Wallace's narrative skips over the most obvious crack in his plan: the same woman in line with the screaming kid that he 'pardons' my go outside afterwards and back her car into his.

Real patience and tolerance and compassion are not brought about by 'positive thinking.'  As Christians, we believe they are 'Fruits of the Spirit,' divine gifts that come from God through our own work of repentance.  That repentance comes when I realize that I have no ability to reliably pardon others, nor do I really want to.  I must.  It is a Commandment.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Jesus does not offer up 'Suggestions for a Life of Contentment'.  He commands us to love one another.  Let that sink in: He commands us to love.

In the end, when the video concluded, that was what troubled me the most.  I lived for a time in Wallace's world, and it drove me to despair.  I entered the gates of my own personal Hell while trying to 'think' my way out of my problems.  The solutions were always short-lived.

We all need something more than positive thinking.  We need to confront our own broken minds and seek after God's help.  We must also realize that forgiveness and compassion are not options to take just to make the world better, but are acts of obedience to God Himself that we do regardless of the outcomes.  He is the one who rewards, either now or later.

The attractiveness of this film for many will be its promise of peace without God.  We who have struggled to find such peace know how fruitless such an adventure is without Him.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Psychology of Atheism

A friend of mine sent in this link on the topic of atheism:

His approach goes something like this: if religious beliefs, particularly Christianity, are based on neurotic tendencies in a person, then to not believe must also be neurotic in origin unless one can demonstrate that one is cured of one's neuroses before one makes the decision not to believe.

Then he goes through a number of explanations of both what 'neurotic atheism' looks like, and how most famous atheists clearly made the decision to not believe in God out of a process that was clearly neurotic in origin: personal suffering and emotional reaction to it.  The truth is that very few, if any, atheists go through years of psychoanalysis and counseling to rid themselves of their neurotic tendencies before making the decision.

Rather, they make the decision, then work very hard to back it up.

Now, the honest truth is that most religious people do the same thing.  What it does do is places most religious belief on even footing with atheism, something which generally annoys atheists who usually revert to the I'm-too-smart-to-have-imaginary-friends stance when their facts start to shake under the the weight of their proposition.

However, in the case of addiction, most addicts in recovery find out that their rejection of God as he is was indeed neurotic.  Addicts don't want to really believe in God because that would interfere with drinking or using, yet the addiction itself is the coping mechanism for living a life without God.  The addicts process of overcoming his neurotic tendencies is directly linked to his belief in the 'Higher Power.'

That's the main problem for psychologists who take on this notion that believing in God is neurotic in origin: the most effective treatment for addiction is the 12 Step model which relies on belief.  A wholesale rejection goes contrary to their own evidence, and also violates a tenet of psychology: neurotic beliefs cannot make a person psychologically 'healthier.'  

What this means is that if a neurotic belief is preferable to reality in terms of its benefit to the patient, then the psychological process of returning the patient to reality also means confining the patient to a life of torment.  Do psychologists want to leave their patients stranded in a world of torment?  They'd be out of business if they advertised such a thing.

This article points out that the philosophers involved in the atheistic movement were indeed tortured people, many having a father problem which led to their rejection of the Christian God and thus a Higher Power as a benevolent force in the Universe.  This stand, naturally, means that addiction recovery would be impossible as a rational process from their perspectives.

In the end, we are left not with the evidence of God's reality, but rather the effect of beliefs (there is more than one particular religious belief) on the believer.  We must then ask that if the belief in God is helpful in curing neurotic behaviors (like addiction), then can one really classify it as neurotic?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Brief Video on Atheism

Someone posted a link to this video (H/T on my FB feed, and I found it one of the most interesting things I've seen in a long time:

Addiction itself bears witness to the deterioration of the human condition under the effects of Atheism.  That is why the 12 Steps relies on the rebuilding of one's understanding of God in order to recover.  Recovery hinges on one coming to believe in God not as the 'yes/no' proposition Dr. Cunningham speaks of, but the key to existence itself.

The nihilism of modern atheism has devastated Eastern Europe to this day, some 20 years after the passing of official Communism and Atheism.  Western Europe is having a wealthier version of this social collapse, with plummeting birthrates and similar addictions problems.  people are doping themselves because the atheistic world lacks meaning and stability, two things the human psyche cannot do without.

Say what you want about reality, humans simply do not do well without God.  Modern atheists do indeed rely on Christianity to provide a God for them to reject, and yet rely on to provide essential meaning.  This is why atheists don't turn to Plato and Aristotle for meaning: they open the possibility of a creative force organizing the cosmos.  Atheists have Sartre and Nietsche... not too much hope for humanity in them.

I think those with significant time in recovery intuit what Dr. Cunningham is saying, and I think he articulates it well (I like the 'unpolished' feel of this video as a real conversation rather than a rehearsed and staged 'chat').  The concept of God that he puts forward is far more hopeful than the 'Jesus-or-hell'  narrative that bogs down Christians.  If you more closely read the Gospel of St. John, you see this bigger picture.  It is an image of Genesis: a world imbued with God and meaning.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Nation of Wimps

Someone sent me this link, and I thought it sets a very interesting background picture for modern addiction, primarily among young people

It is very difficult to get addicts to mature when they are immature because of social expectations.  Even around my neighborhood, men older than me are dressing and trying to act young, down to the saggy pants and crooked hats.  Here in Los Angeles, old white men now wear Costco-issued Hawaiian shirts and board shorts as if to brag about their perpetual 'Beach Boys' lifestyle, when many are grandfathers and business owners.

Of course, they are also the first to complain when a young lady comes to church with too much of her cleavage visible.  I tell them, "You are wearing what you want, and she is wearing what she wants... what's the difference?"

Both have little in the way of manners or self-respect.  Both are also covering up insecurities and feelings of inadequacy that lead to sin and, in some cases, addiction.

This article represents a fair assessment of how this immaturity is being perpetuated in schools and colleges, largely by the Hawaiian-shirt wearing parents who, behind the 'awesomely cool' exterior, are neurotic and stressed out... and make sure to share that with their children.  So their kids end up drinking, drugging, and sexing just to relieve the tensions they have with their parents, not to mention themselves.

Some young people claw their way through this mess and end up OK, but there are plenty more that don't survive the over-pressured indulgence of their parents.  As a society, we need to wake up.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Porn and the Brain

While I generally find "TED" lectures to be 'academic infomercials' at best and self-aggrandizement for upper-middle class faux-intellectuals at worse, there are occasional gems in the mud.  Here is one:
This is informative not only for porn addicts, but lots of other stimulus-based addictions.  While rather brief, he cuts to the chase and makes an excellent argument for treating internet addiction through abstinence.
The rewiring process that young people are experiencing is what is most troubling, and something we should all be aware of.  I have railed time and again on this blog about how we are creating a generation of addicts.
At the lecturer states here, once a man is liberated from his addiction, his real potential is released.  I think many of our social problems today are the results of so many people being doped up on porn, alcohol, drugs, food, & and the many other addictions that are holding us hostage.
We are being oppressed by a new 'Opiate of the People' that keeps us obedient to politicians and marketing executives.  The ruling classes from all the various parties have come expect us not to think critically, and they have found it is easier to keep people stoned than to really engage in the risky business of leading. 
We are so doped up we have no idea what our children are being taught, or what they are being exposed to.  As this lecturerer states, kids are getting into porn in their early teens, at a time when their parents are supposed to be in charge of their home lives.  Instead, mom and dad are just as enthralled by their own popular hypnosis.
Our children are being damaged, and we are too wrapped up in our own selfishness to notice.  Porn is becoming part of the new serfdom, where mankind is being locked up by addictions and dependencies.  Our votes and our 'voluntary cooperation' with the system are being installed so that we can be controlled through Pavlovian responses rather than independent thought.
This brain chemistry is meant to wash away critical thinking.  It is working.  Just look around.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Enjoyment of Life and Sobriety

So much of addiction begins with attempts to 'enjoy' a life that is, by circumstance, joyless.  People often begin using drugs and alcohol to have 'fun' or as a social lubricant.

That's because social events are often filled with fear and the subsequent self-consciousness that intoxicants erase, along with a great deal of impulse-control and judgement.  In our broken world, we have cause to be concerned about how others think of us, especially when such virtues as compassion are in short supply.

Christians and addicts share a problem: how does one balance the challenges of life with our desire to be happy?  How can we learn to laugh without it being at another's expense, or a nervous chuckle?

Too often Christ is portrayed as the great 'buzzkiller' because He spoke of sin and condemned it, yet the Pharisees condemned Him for spending time at the tables of 'bad people,' i.e. the 'partiers' of His time.  If He was a dour fellow, people would not have been drawn to Him.  He clearly was not.

Addicts face the deceptive image that abandoning drugs and alcohol means a life without joy.  They will have to sit in their discomfort.

The message of the Gospel is not one of joylessness, but true joy that is found in God's love, just as the addict finds joy in the loving Higher Power who will save him from his fears.  Christians and addicts must learn to not live in the panic mode, worrying about how they will avoid their fears.

We all must learn to enjoy life: to see people in the light of divine love rather than the coldness of mere biological existence.

We cannot give thanks to God for all things unless we first appreciate these things, and we cannot appreciate them unless we experience them and ultimately enjoy them.  This is not an excuse to do things in an inappropriate way, but to experience life as it has been given to us.

That's called gratitude, and it is really important to harness.

No one can stay sober if he lacks gratitude, just as no one will stay sober if he is constantly unhappy.  Sobriety brings joy because it brings the freedom to enjoy life.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May You Have a Joyous Pascha

To all my Orthodox readers, I pray that you have a joyous Pascha.  There hasn't been much activity here with all of the services, and today will be super-busy with this morning's Liturgy, then a bunch of adult Baptisms, and then the Paschal services.  I will try to get back to posting during Bright Week.

Much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Addiction Hits Home

On Holy Monday, there was a fire department ladder company, a rescue truck, a police car, and an ambulance in front of my house.  This not a normal occurrence even in my neighborhood.

They were actually for the neighbor.  His wife came home and found him unresponsive on the living room floor with a needle in his hand.  He has been out of prison for five days after doing a five year stretch on a parole violation.

He's OK for now.

His wife was complaining that there was no addiction treatment in prison.  So, I asked her, "Has he asked for help since he got out?"

"No," she admitted, "he is hard headed and wants to do things his way."

Prisons really are for punishment and public safety.  If 'penitentiaries' really helped people repent, they'd have something to show for it.  The whole idea of the penitentiary system which reforms prisoners has never worked because of one thing.

People are healed by love, and prison is anything but a loving place.

Expecting a prison to heal wounded souls is kind of like asking your auto mechanic to replace your pacemaker.  One could make the argument that the two are both mechanical devices, just like we can connect addiction to crime.  But, the honest truth is that both are entirely different skill sets.

I would not want my heart surgeon to also be my auto repairman.

Prisons cannot heal, just like churches cannot punish.  They are different.  This does not mean that one is more important than the other.  But, they cannot cross the boundaries of what they really are.

Prisoners should be allowed to form AA or NA groups in prison, but it should not be the responsibility of prison officials to try to treat addicts, especially since even voluntary programs have a very low success rate.  Expecting a prison to treat addiction is never going to be effective.

I hope my neighbor gets help.  he has been 'in-and-out' most of his adult life, and his children have spent most of their childhood seeing their father through plexiglass.  He can make the change if he wants to.  Lots of us have.

You can't blame the prison, because it is doing what it does best: warehousing prisoners until they are done with their sentences.