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Friday, September 13, 2013

Loneliness and Fellowship

There are times when writing on this blog underscores the problem I am struggling with.  It is not like we do not know the answer to the problem of addiction.  The problem is that so few people are interested in dealing with it.

For me, it is an inescapable reality.  People email me or call me up.  When I meet with parishioners, the topic surfaces because they are either struggling with their passions or are entangled with someone who is extremely dysfunctional.  The problem is that most people just want the problem to go away.  They are not willing to struggle.  All I can say is, "Keep coming back!"

But, I think many who read this blog can relate that those of us who are really interested in this topic are atomized: we are spread out and disbursed in a sea of people who are simply uninterested.  Most of them are not that sick, so why should they care?

I've gotten the opportunity to email exchange with lots of folks with sincere concern and profound thoughts, but it is not the same as fellowship.  There's a difference between getting a :) and a real human expression.  Sure, I know there are a lot of people out there (the blog is now averaging 200 hits per day and steadily increasing), but it is still fairly lonely here in front of my monitor.

Loneliness is something that I had to accept as part of my 'job.'  We Orthodox parish priests are isolated from one another by geographical barriers, and when in close proximity, there are lots of other barriers of jealousy, envy, and territory-guarding which makes for complicated relationships.  Parishioners want our companionship, but it is always with the expectation that we are still their 'vending machine' and we had better not be flashing the 'out of service' light lest the bishop be contacted.  If you have hair, you can never let it down.  If you do, you will be reminded by someone with a gun pointed to his own head... "Father, don't make me do this!"

So, we tend to isolate.

The same is true of many addicts in the Church: they are isolated from fellow parishioners because there is a sense that they have to keep the addiction an utter secret.  It is so hypocritical that we preach a God who loves sinners, then we run around making sure that no one thinks that we are sinners.  But, we are.  We are afraid of our neighbor.  He and his opinions are a threat, and we forget that our neighbor is looking at us as threats as well.  We are scared of one another.

So, most people compensate by having 'two lives': a life in the parish, and a life in the group.  It is only when you get home and close the door that the two come together.  This is a recipe for loneliness.

Someone mentioned arranging online meetings for Orthodox in recovery.  I'd even like to see us perhaps meet at a campground somewhere for a bonfire and socializing.  We will see what happens.  I don't know.

In the meantime, I want to thank all of you, those who speak and those who are silent.  Thank you for stopping by.  It tells me this is the right thing to do, and that there are a lot of us out there who are struggling for answers and desirous of a way to God through our struggles.  Though we do not know each other or see one another's faces, like the POW in the solitary cell, sometimes it is a real comfort to tap on the wall and get a response.

We are not alone.  And, if we carry the message, our numbers will grow.


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