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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolution: Love More

If you decide to make a New Year's resolution, try this one: love more.

We often wish to lose weight or stop doing something we hate.  But really, if we would all love more, we would see immediate benefits far beyond dropping a dress size or getting some more stuff.

To love, we really need to be mindful of how much we are loved.  God loves us, and it is this love that we can share without end, so long as we are united with Him.

In the meantime, I hope your New Year's celebration does not end up looking like this:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Alcoholism Recovery Missionary Coming to US

Long-time readers of this blog know about the work of Floyd Frantz, the OCMC missionary in Romania, who has helped the Romanian Orthodox Church establish ministries for alcoholism treatment throughout the country.  Floyd has not only helped hundreds of alcoholics in Cluj, but has trained thousands of priests.

I just got this message from him, and it looks like he will be coming to the US for some fund- and awareness-raising.  here's what he wrote:

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!!

Hello Fr. George,
Greetings, and I hope that this finds you well and in good spirits these days.

Just a short note for now, I am trying to schedule a fund raising trip for March. If you have any ideas please do pass them along, I need all the help I can get with this. I hope to pass through your area [Los Angeles] around March 9th. (There may be some flexibility with this date.) I'll also be visiting with some other folks from L.A., but I still do not have a definite date for anything.

So, if your parish is interested in having Floyd come to speak, or you'd like to start supporting his ministry, please contact him at stdimitrie(this is where the 'at' goes)

Can I Be Addicted to Rage?

Anger is dangerous for addicts.  The 'high' that we get from rage can be, in many ways, its own drug.  That's why some people can become 'addicted' to rage.  

I would say, 'yes and no.'  Clearly, anger does not present the same brain chemistry that substance addiction does, and I have not seen evidence that people who become angry often or violently have an 'addict brain' the way alcoholics, drug addicts, and porn addicts do when examined by an MRI.  But, one can also lose control over one's ability to control rage.

And, just like substance abuse, rage is a response to powerlessness in the face of a threat.  Watch an episode of 'COPS' and the #1 excuse criminals give for fighting with police is "I was scared."  Anger and rage are responses to terror.  They are not hopeful dispositions.

I think this is critical in understanding the difference: the substance abuser has a 'hope' in his drug, whereas the rager has no hope other than destruction of what he would otherwise 'use.'  This is also why Envy and Anger are close relatives: both are destructive tendencies, yet each has its unique calling.  Envy is aimed specifically at people, where as we can get angry at even abstract institutions and inanimate objects.

Envy can also be far more subtle than the fearsome bile of Rage.  We can often act in the most sinister a subtle of ways under Envy, whereas true Rage is impossible to conceal or understate.

Fear is always about a loss of control, and it is the loss of control that is central to addiction.  The difference I think has to do with the restoration of hope.  The true addict must release one hope in favor of another, whereas the envious rager needs only embrace a hope.  Letting go, anyone who has tried can tell you, is really hard.

This is why, in my opinion, that Anger Management therapy can often be conducted without a spiritual program.  The challenge is far less daunting.   The rager need only embrace the idea that he can have hope of not going to jail again if he stops acting out, and so this hope becomes impulse control he needs.  The trick is to catch the thinking before the onset of the emotion, or at least early enough in its cycle to divert it.

Addiction is far more complex and resistant.  This is why psychology alone can't cure it or even really treat it at all.  Psychology is only effective in treating the contributing personality or emotional disorders that arise from or contribute to addiction, but addiction requiers a spiritual treatment in order to make this shift in 'hopes.'

Friday, December 27, 2013

SA Group Update

Well, we now have a phone number and access code for a conference call for our SA Phone-In Group.

Sessions will begin January 6, 10:00 pm Eastern (US) Standard Time.

The plan is that Fr. Agapios will facilitate the group, and meetings will follow the SA White Book.  It is strongly recommended that all participants have the White Book and start reading it.

Eventually, the group can choose a Secretary and a rotating Leader as it progresses.  Fr. Agapios has committed to staying with it as long as is necessary.

It is important to remember that real names will not be used, nothing will be recorded, and you will have complete privacy.  Those who have send in emails cannot, by this system, be identified by their numbers or access codes, because they are all the same and there is no 'Caller ID' feature.

It is heartening to see so many requests for the number.  This means that we are meeting a need in our community, and that so many of you see hope in recovery.  It is possible, so long as we all remember that we cannot do it alone.  Recovery requires God and our brethren.

Perhaps at a later time we can also look at having an AA/NA group, and possibly an OA group as well.  But, right now, this is a good start.

As a side note, I am thinking of putting on a one-day retreat in the Los Angeles -area to discuss internet pornography and addiction.  If it comes together, I will post information about it on the blog.

In the meantime, if you or a loved one is struggling with pornography, send me an email with Fr. Agapios # in the subject line.  The address is on the right side bar of the blog.  For those who already have sent in your request, you will soon receive the necessary information.  If you do not have it by the end of today, then please resend your request.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Morning After

In addiction, regret is our constant companion.  We are always sorrowful about things that we have done, both intoxicated (or acting out) and sober, the memories of which follow us around for a lifetime.

Sometimes, we have to literally step over the wreckage of the immediate past, strewn over the ground as a physical manifestation of our inner disorder.  Our failures and indulgences seem to scream out at us from every inch of the world.

As sobriety comes, that chaos begins to decrease.  And, with it, the wreckage begins to subside.  No more broken bottles littering the floor, no more sensations of shame for what we did the night before.  In fact, waking up without a crushing hangover is, for many, a tremendous gift in and of itself!

It can feel strange some mornings to get out of bed and have no questions about how we got there or whether we will be able to survive the rest of the day.  Sanity and health can be disorienting to those used to be sick and insane.  Sometimes, we 'relapse' a little by indulging in a panic attack or a bit of amateur dramatics just to duplicate the old failures that at once tortured and comforted us.

It takes time to get used to being happy.  Therefore, if we feel a bit strange getting through the annual Christmas with less hostility and shame, discomfort and acting out, then this morning might feel a bit dizzying.  It is OK.  This is what it feels to be alive and rather normal.  Normal people celebrate festivities with friends and family, then get up the next day with perhaps a sink full of dishes, but not much more beyond that.

I'm not saying that normal life is something for addicts.  If normal life worked, then there would be no addicts.  For some people, the normal life is just something for others.  For the addict, normal life has some small shared territories, or even things that are replicated, but we never really are natural participants in it.  When the addiction overtakes us, we are changed in a way that means we cannot go back to the care-free lifestyle of a 'normie.'

Our existence is one that exists above the normal life.  I am not saying that we look down on addicts, but rather that our life in sobriety draws us ever heaven-ward.  We are people focused on God rather than the daily pursuits of our non-addict friends.  Thus, events like holidays become more about God and less about human concerns.  And, so, without all the additional attention and fuss, we find that we are better able to get through those same human interactions that once befuddled us because we no longer care as much for them as we do for God.

We encounter others in light of God's love rather than our fears and desires.  We are less stressed, and more in possession of our faculties.  We don't lose control.  There is thus no wreckage.  We go to bed in peace, and wake up the same.

For those of us that has a less than successful day, do not lose hope.  Sobriety takes time to get used to.  Changes will continue to occur, and sometimes all the chaos will be there even though no relapse happened.  It is OK.  Be patient.  God will make the changes that we cannot make.

If we stay on the path, every morning after can be a cause for joy and hope.  And that is because every morning after, both good and bad, is a gift from God.  It is an opportunity.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Story... or Two...

Yes, the Feast is almost here... and the absurdity of modern man is on full display.

We here in the West are celebrating a Feast we hardly understand... and doing so in the worst way possible.

For those of you who are not aware, the United Kingdom is a 'theocracy' where the Church of England is the official religion of the land.  And, while the CoE is busy debating female bishops, young adults under their spiritual care are busy debating whether Santa Claus is mentioned in one of the Four Gospels.

Methinks they need to stop nattering about the elimination of of vestments and cassocks and worry more about the elimination of basic knowledge from the average Church of England 'member.'  Well, maybe getting rid of vestments would be a good idea for some, just like keeping firearms out of the hands of unsupervised children is a really good idea.

Well, at least they match... what am I saying?

Great Britain is not alone.  Basic knowledge of Christianity is dying everywhere in the West.  So, Christmas becomes more about Santa and less about the Incarnation.  Of course, avoiding His birth makes it easier to drink and eat and party, because the implication of the Son of God's birth is one that many find unsettling.  He is real, and He is here.  The barriers between God and man have been torn down, and we are left naked before Him.  No more excuses.

Notice that atheists are OK with the celebrating, so long as the celebration itself is meaningless.  But, you see, a true celebration always has a meaning to it.  Without meaning, a party loses much of its flavor.  It just becomes excess.  Yes, sometimes we can have a party just because we have not had one in a long time, but many of us think that the folks who 'go out' every night are shallow.  'Clubbing' becomes a meaningless activity without some meaning.

Actually, it does have meaning: we are lonely.  This is why Christmas is often so painful.  When we remove God from it, it becomes another event where we try to overcome our loneliness and alienation by enforcing 'mandatory fun.'  We host and participate in obligatory events, often with people we don't like or are unwilling to be reconciled with, and the annual event becomes a giant nuisance.

Well, that was my experience of secularized Christmas, and still is as I gaze on from a distance.  I find most of it empty.  Occasionally, the reality peeks through: I serve a funeral yesterday, and as I drove through the cemetery, I noticed how many graves have Christmas decorations around them.  They make sense there, because the mourners have hope, and that hope comes from Christ.  Without Him, decorating a grave is meaningless.

We who enjoy the blessings of recovery have a lot to be thankful for.  After all, the way to sobriety comes through God's healing, and that healing comes from our union with the Son made flesh.  His Divinity and Humanity are brought together in a single Person, and through Him we are brought into the light that warms and restores.  He not only forgives, but He recreates us to be more than we have ever been before, better than we could ever be on our own.

And, He begins this when we are utterly broken down and wretched.  When we are foul and disgusting, He reaches into our world, and then becomes one of us.  He gives up His glory to be inglorious.  He obscures His splendor, so that we could bear His presence.

This is the real story, and it is the one everyone needs to hear.  We need to know that the Son not only shares His humanity with us, but also His Sonship, because in sharing one He shares both.  This is our hope, and it is a hope that we experience as reality when we walk those Steps and become who we are supposed to be.

That is what Christmas is all about.

Then, there's the drunk 'Santa' and 'Elf' in Poland.  I bet you never heard of a man in a snow sleigh getting a DUI.  

NB: some of you may think I am holding certain people up for ridicule in this blog.  I am actually holding up all humanity, including myself, to ridicule.  Yes, I have selected some people and incidents up as the 'Apotheosis of Absurdity,' but it is with the recognition that we are all absurd.  Addiction itself is absurd, but even more so are our attempts to deny that we are not absurd.

We are ridiculous, and we need to remember that.  Even with the finest vestments and perfect theology, are are foolish.  That's because we are still fallen so long as we draw breath.  Of course, what we must also do is never actually aspire to be ridiculous, or 'celebrate' stupidity.  We all need to look at the silliness of others and remember how someone else out there looks at us and sees us as outrageous.

The greatest glory we can have is humility.

And, if you ask my family and friends, you will find out (if you have not already) that I myself have none.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Passions of Abuse

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a few years recall this chart I've developed to explain how fear gives birth to the passions:

The passions on the left are what we can call the 'Passions of Abuse.'  Once Pride gives us the 'green light' to abuse other people and things for our own selfish needs, we fall into the general category of Lust.

Lust is more than sexual thoughts, but rather the objectification of another person and use of this person without regard for the other's humanity and will.  Through Lust, we come to lie, cheat, and steal... from other people and ourselves.  Lust is about manipulation to make sure we always get our way.

Gluttony is the abuse of things.  We consume things regardless of how those things were created to be used.  It may be alcohol or drugs, but the effect, and the thinking behind it, is much the same.  The substance abuser will also engage in almost all of the same behavior as, let's say, a sex addict.  The only real difference is the means to the high.

I think, as we see the proliferation of different types of addictions (food, gambling, internet pornography, etc.) that we understand how they really share many similarities.  I believe this has already been born witness to by the many 12 Steps groups to emerge from AA to deal with these problems.

There are some 'nay-sayers' who think that the increasing numbers of people who identify as addicts is part of a passing fad.  I would say that for a tiny minority, you have the 'Fight Club' effect of people going to meetings to get attention or identifying as an addict to get out of having to do something uncomfortable.

Most folks don't want to go to meetings unless they have to, and most people don't want to identify as an addict unless they are compelled by some extraordinary reason.  It is, for most, an embarrassment.  Sure, there will always be a few poor souls along the way who will abuse terminology and resources, but they are far from the rule.

The reason there are so many 12 Step groups has little to do with people making excuses for bad behavior and wanting to ride on the coat-tails of alcoholism recovery, but rather because there are a lot more problems these days that share the same origin.  Addiction is exploding.

Compared with human society 200 years ago, man has countless more opportunities to perpetuate an addiction.  A farmer two centuries ago would have a hard time getting hooked on internet porn... or any kind of porn for that matter.  Wood block prints simply don't have the effect on the human mind that streaming HD videos do.

There also weren't credit cards to run up with gambling binges.  Once you lost the farm, that was it.  Random, anonymous sex was also harder to come by.  Most of our addictions come from the relative ease of modern life as well as the sheer numbers of people we have.  It is easy to get lost in this world, and it is in the shadows of anonymity that our secrets can grow and fester.

Man has always abused his neighbor, that is not new.  But, there is a line that men can now cross more easily, because our society is large enough and stable enough to bare the weight of many more debilitated people that it could in the previous millenniums.  Traditional societies enforced personal responsibility through customs and taboos.  Those are disappearing, and so the guard rails of human life are gone.  We are free to plunge into new depths.

The depths were always there, and we have always known that man can do horrible things.  So, we have always had some form of morality to keep us from abusing one another and the things around us.  Culture is always about keep man from falling into the prison of the broken will, where he is compelled to do what he wants.  That is addiction.

Going back to the chart, the cure for abuse is not in the exercise of the self-will, but rather in the introduction of God into the awareness of man.  Once God is there, man loses the fears and the attendant passions.  We lose the need to abuse people and things.

On the other hand, without God, man must cope with his problems on his own.  Modern society is pretty good about convincing us that we can do it all.  And, thus, we bear the high cost of addiction: we abuse others, and we abuse ourselves.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Friendly Reminder About the Holidays

Holidays are a 'slippery' time for addicts.  They are full of temptations.

It's not just food and drink, but memories and nostalgia and dissatisfaction and alienation.  Yes, those are really big temptations.

My advice: go to meetings.  Have some people on 'speed dial.'  Talk to someone who cares about what you are going through.  Holidays can feel lonely, but they are only as lonely as you allow them to be.  If the crowd you are with has you feeling isolated, then reach out to someone else.

Don't try to manage the holidays on your own.  You can't.

Remember that sobriety is all about recognizing your emotions and disposing of them properly.  Some emotions are appropriate, but others are not... particularly those negative emotions which lead to despair and stupidity.  Dump them.  Confess them.  Get rid of them, because they will make you miserable for no reason.

Remember that misery without hope serves no useful purpose.  Ask yourself: does this sorrow have any benefit to me?  If not, dump it.  By the way, the only sorrow that is necessary is the one that leads us to God's love and healing.  All the rest is just wasted time and effort.

There are better things to life than being sad and depressed.  Addicts struggle with learning to be happy, especially since most think that being happy means being numb.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Real happiness is not numbness to our pain, but the elimination of the pain by growing and healing.

Until that comes, don't forget your real friends and co-strugglers.  Help them by calling them, and they will help you.  

If you are not struggling, then reach out to those who are.  Show them you care, even if it is quick text or a phone message.  It means a lot to someone fighting the inner battle.

Most especially, try not to ruin other peoples' attempts to be happy.  It will only make you feel worse later on if you get all pent up and then explode in the middle of Christmas dinner.  Deal with your problems in private, then wash your face and put on your best show.  You'll find this is an ascetic struggle, but one well worth having.  It is a great victory for mankind when we can refrain from afflicting one another with our neuroses.  

These holidays are God's property.  Let's treat them that way.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Family

When we look at contributing factors in the development of addiction, there is a very clear pattern that family life is a major player in both the development and prevention of addiction.  Children in healthy, intact, and religious homes fair the best in all the parameters: happiness, mental illness, academics, sexual experimentation (rather, the lack thereof), drug abuse, etc.

Of course, this share of the population is dwindling in the West.  Religion went out the window in Europe after WWII, largely thanks to the rising popularity of social policy as the 'New Salvation.'  Of course, the weakening of divorce laws both in the US and Europe, along with the generous support for 'single motherhood' without the need for a family's assistance, broke up the traditional networks that protected children.

In fact, the West's destruction of marriage began long ago, when marriage was seen as a 'contract' between two individuals that was sworn out in a church with the exchange of "I Do"s.  Then comes the Romantic period, which added, well... romance.  Marriage gradually becomes more and more about the couple and their feelings rather than the family.

That's not to say that the West hasn't held on to some idea of family.  I would say that it has, but as a matter of instinct rather than as a theological truth.  That's why Dobson & Company occupy only a limited territory within the larger Christendom.

The Roman Catholic Church also did no one any favors by turning over its theological teaching to eggheads who write unfathomable stuff that, when summarized in a manner that most lay people can understand, ends up being something like "No divorce, no birth control."  The theology behind these 'absolutes' became lost in complex arguments that theologians love to have, but people don't understand.  I would say that if it is that complicated, it ain't true.  The truth is always very simple.  When God speaks to Moses, he doesn't do it in a language that Moses' people can't understand.

When Judaism became ruled by the Scribes, Christ had to come.  The Law is not complication, but the regulations were killing everyone.  Kind of familiar...

The truth is that marriage has never, ever been just about a couple, but the foundation of a family.  When a couple only thinks of themselves, children are emotionally neglected, and they go 'looking for love in all the wrong places' as the song goes.

I think this article is important because it underlines the problem of the couple-only philosophy, which is, I think we can safely say, failing.  In fact, I think this idea is largely behind the recent precipitous drop is social morals with the 'advent' of 'gay marriage and now, at least in Utah, the resurgence in polygamy.  And, you guessed it, in typical American fashion, a reality TV show was involved.  Imagine that?

Many commentators have noted that the deterioration of traditional marriage would lead to all kinds of excesses.  Well, at least excesses from our prudish standpoints.  Polygamy is Biblical from an Old Testament perspective: Kings David and Solomon were just two of the examples.  But, then again, the foundation of the Old Testament rests on Adam and Eve... and the family they produced, down to us.  Most of us do not read it that way, but to an ancient reader, that is exactly what was being described.

All of us need family.  In fact, when deprived of family, we will often try to build one out of available materials.  When it comes to recovery, we must always look at both our family history and our present family obligations.  

It is important for all of us to realize that we have lifetime obligations, both as parents and as children and as siblings.  Addiction alienates us from these vital and much-needed connections.  We must repent and ask God to heal not only the addict but the entire family, since people often try to cope with the loss of relationship with the addict in other, often unhealthy, ways.

Family is important.  We never stop needing a dad and mom.  If we are parents, we must remember our obligation to be healed so that we can fulfill the roles that parenthood requires.  Children simply cannot be told, "We've decided that this is what we want, and you need to just go along."

Humans just don't work that way.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Med Trainees Succumbing to Addiction

We often look to medical professionals, particularly doctors, as modern-day 'clergy' of science. With the politicization of medicine (along with school and just about everything else it seems), access to doctors has been whipped up into an 'essential' for modern life.

Never mind that fact that mankind has lasted thousands of years without doctors, and even the previous generation often resisted going to the doctor even when deathly ill.  That generation has died off from old age, and now as the Baby Boomers hit the age where medical problems become unavoidable, they are pounding down the doors of medical groups seeking services.

There is a high expectation of doctors, as there once was of clergy.  Of course, in today's world in the US, the average 'pastor' is under-educated by historical standards.  When you look at seminary curricula from 150 years ago and today, you can see the deterioration.  The exact opposite is true of medical doctors: they are expected to know far more than ever.

So, the numbers may astonish us, when we see that MD interns are struggling with addiction:

It is assumed in our modern world that an educated man is a moral man.  That is not necessarily so.  Education once implied that one studied classical literature that discussed morality and ethics.  Certainly, doctors do in their training, but it is a very small sliver of their education, which is often cast in the context of 'liability' or blame.

But, since most of our universities have become places that not only question morals, but actually set out to provide a culture where morality is disdained, then one can assume that all of the moral lapses of normal university life will rub off on the doctor-trainees who attend them.  And, yes, addiction often begins with poor moral choices.  When we think it is OK to use alcohol or drugs to cope, this is a moral decision.

When you have an educational ethos which frowns on religion, or specifically Christianity, then you are also producing a generation of people who will be agnostic at best.  Sure, they may not become utter atheists, but a weak faith is effectively no faith when you are thrown into the stresses of Med School.  So, students need a way to cope with their fears, and so they use drugs.  Then they get in trouble, and we wonder why they are acting like irresponsible 'college kids'?  Oh, wait...

The sad thing is that drug abuse is actually killing so many medical interns.  But, if you look at the overall numbers for college students, it gets worse:

Of course, I had to laugh at the author's conclusion... make overdose medication an over-the-counter item.  Never mind the fact that most alcohol OD deaths occur when everyone things that Joe or Sally just needs to 'sleep it off.'  When I was in the Navy, I had to pull a couple of shifts on 'drunk watch.'  It involved making sure the 'patient' slept on his stomach (so as to not choke) and making sure he continued to breathe.  

College students just drag their buddy onto a couch and continue to party.  I know, because several kids in my own college died exactly like that... in the middle of a party.  They weren't found to be dead until the next day when someone tried to rouse them.

Our universities are not forming morally-equipped doctors, or for that matter, morally-equipped graduates of any profession.  They may get oodles of information and stern lectures about accepting 'homosexuality' or using politically-correct terminology, but rarely do they get anything that will help them mature into stable human being.  They may not discriminate, but they tend to come out of college as over-sexed, immature basket-cases.  I know because I talk to recent graduates and I see that a four-year degree these days leaves one absolutely puzzled about life.

They have few answers, but they have lots of experiences... mostly involving drugs and alcohol.  It takes years for many of them to straighten out and get on with life.  Most of the time, it seems like adulthood starts to gel around 30.  Sadly, I think that the modern college experience leaves one with their 20s entirely wasted, hustling to pay student loans and dissatisfied with one's personal life.

But, getting back to the topic, we can't expect our next generation of doctors and medical professionals to be trustworthy with pharmacological substances unless we provide them with a university life where drugs and alcohol are taken seriously.  Expecting people to be loosy-goosy on weekends by straight arrows during the week is simply too much to expect of humanity.

We need to start thinking about the culture we are creating in our colleges, because we are already starting to see the effects on our society, and it isn't very good.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Phone-in SA Meeting for Orthodox Christians

An Orthodox priest has agreed to facilitate a phone-in SA (Sexaholics Anonymous) meeting for Orthodox Christians who are struggling with pornography.  This will be completely anonymous: callers will have the ability to use pseudonyms and there will be none of the face-to-face interface of regular meetings.  No one will know each other.  While this priest, we'll call him 'Fr. Agapios,' is not a porn addict, he does identify as an addict and has long-term recovery in his addiction.

The meeting itself is schedule to begin in January.  It will meet weekly, and the scheduled time is 10:00 pm Eastern (US) Standard Time.  The format for the meeting will come from the 'White Book' of SA.

If you are interested in getting this number for yourself or a friend (please, it is requested that this meeting is for Orthodox Christians, thank you), please email me at the address on the right sidebar under 'Kontakt.'  In the email subject, write "Fr. Agapios #" so that, when the number comes available, we can send you the number.  You don't have to explain why you need the number.  Ask, and you will receive... no questions asked.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Poland: Alcoholism Treatment for Clergy

Here's an article about alcoholic priests in treatment in Poland, featuring two of my friends.  Dr. Protsenko runs the treatment program "Old World Christian Charity" in Moscow, and Sister Danuta is very experienced in dealing with alcoholic families, particularly the children of alcoholics.  She is presently serving in Wasilków, Poland.

Because of the proximity and language similarities (most older Poles can speak Russian due to their previous association in the Warsaw Pact with the Soviet Union), Poland's adoption of AA is being closely watched in Russia.  In fact, you can see an interesting triangulation between Americans, Poles, and Russians when discussing the progress of alcoholism treatment in Russia.  This is different from the Romanians, whose initial influences came from Germany and Western Europe and the US, though I would have to say that there is more of a shift towards American influence since the Western European model is far less religiously-minded.

While Russians harbor deep distrust of things American (for good reason, I would add), they do have an appreciation for the spirituality of the 12 Steps once they come to grasp the concept of 'God as we understand Him.'  Initially this is a major turn-off, but once they understand that Bill W.'s friend coined the term to help Bill overcome his 'New Age theology,' they see that it is a way of transitioning the addict from a defective view of God to an accurate one.

Below is a Google machine translation, which I tried to clean up a little bit.  You can read the original (in Russian) at the Blagovest web site.


Fr. Wieslaw Kondratovich: Priests who are struggling with their addiction, especially parishioners respect

12/12/2013 14:56

At the Polish Catholic priest Fr. Wieslaw Kondratovich special ministry - almost two decades, he helps fellow priests suffering from alcoholism, get rid of the addiction. How can it be - the priest-alcoholic? In Poland, this make no secret: the clergy, as well as all the people affected by this terrible disease. But for those who want to be healed, treated with special respect.

- Fr. Wieslaw, please tell us about your rehab.

- We call it the Diocesan Counseling Center of sobriety. It is based on the parish of St. Bartholomew in Kovalyovo under Pleszew in Kalisz Diocese. Among the various areas of work of the center is the most important therapy priests alcoholics. Our center is in operation for almost 20 years. During this time, 750 priests have passed therapy. Basically, it is the Polish priests, including those that serve as missionaries in different countries in Africa, Europe, America. And from Russia was also a Catholic priest. The main thing that all spoke Polish, because we have all the therapy in this language.

- How is the rehabilitation program? What are the characteristics of therapy for the priests?

- Priests are we six-week course of therapy, and then come once a month for meetings post-therapy. Therapy consists of three areas, and one day a man successively passes them all. For example, in the morning he works with secular professionals (specialists in "addiction psychotherapy"). Then we accept the cause - three members of the Centre - we are all recovering priests with many years of sobriety, with its experience in dealing with addiction. We have been dealing with other therapies - it can be called spiritual and religious and priestly, we touch alcohol problems in the context of church life, the priestly ministry. And talking about what you should pay attention to after therapy, when a person will recover itself. The third stage - the pastoral work in the parish priests convalescent: every day they serve the liturgy, taking confession, preaching.

- And as such priests perceive parishioners?

- It's no secret of the parishioners that the priests, undergoing rehabilitation, they solve their problems with alcohol dependence. And it does alienate people from them, on the contrary - they are very well respected for it. With the whole neighborhood coming to our church, people come and say, well here they do what they preach ... Because it does not matter whether a person has a problem, but what he does with it. Therefore priest alcoholics are very popular - and it changes people's view of the disease. And the priests who recover and know that everyone knows about it, it makes it possible to deal with the guilt and shame - with those two wounds which have all alcoholics and which are the driving forces of the disease.

- What are the limitations of your Center?

- Our center is open, but we have locks. We accept anyone who knows what is coming. Priests come in their cars, so they can spare time to leave. For example, close to the city has an indoor pool, they go there, it is very encouraged in terms of therapy. They included phone numbers, you can watch TV. Only internet we do not allow it to not distract, because the basic principle - focus on therapy. There were certainly a few cases, when the priests came, bought a drink, but they had to be sent home immediately.

- Do I understand that the idea of ​​helping alcoholics-born priests from your personal experience in overcoming addiction? Do you remember the moment when you realize that you need to get rid of the disease, to seek treatment?

- Yes, I remember that day - April 30, 1980 I was a young priest, and had served only six years. On the eve of my last terrible binge, which ended the scandal: I got disgracefully drunk at a wedding, where I was invited as a priest. I woke up the next day and fortunately remembered (it was not always so) what happened the day before. And I said to myself: "Come on, I do not want to live anymore." I went to a local doctor, helped me find the address psychologist Mary Matuszewska which then oversaw the group Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). She diagnosed me as "alcoholic" and invited to attend an AA group in Poznan. And at the first meeting, I realized that this is what I was looking for, and I'll be sober. Because there is an alcoholic who would not want to stop drinking. Everyone wants to, but not all admit it. That's how it all began.

- And how came your Center?

- It started with the fact that I as a member of AA with a few months of sobriety was on the retreat from the famous Polish priest Francis Blahnitskogo. This is the man who founded the movement "Oasis" ("Light and Life"), and he did a lot for sobriety. He told me: "As only strengthened his sobriety, you need to go to the priests." Imagine, he had to know about me just what I'm recovering in AA, and he gave me such a request! And since 1983, when I worked in Poznan, I've already started with fellow priests to do, on the program "12 steps". Then the Archbishop of Poznan, at my request, sent me to the parish in the village and there Myyomitsy started sending me priests with alcohol problems. Initially, we were only two, and then it became more. We lived together, did everything together, together recovered. And then from there I was transferred to the new Diocese of Kalisz, in Kovalev, Bishop Stanislaw Naperala gave me a house, not yet unfinished until the end, blessed to do rehabilitation center. He knew me since Poznan, knew about our work. And in 1994 we opened our facility.

- How did you find the procedure therapy programs that relied on?

- First - my own sobriety in AA program "12 steps." My experience of sobriety in AA - for 33 years. We first AA group appeared in 1957, and this movement was massively distributed almost 40 years ago. In 1986 he came to me an American priest, who was the director of the rehabilitation center for the priests of the Diocese of Boston. He spent two weeks with me and taught me. Then, for two years I have attended a course of psychological help. And in 2001 the doctor and Woronowicz (known in Poland as a specialist in addiction - note Evgenie Protsenko) traveled together to America to study. So we were getting ready. But everything else - the grace of God and the Holy Spirit.

 - Your Center - the first experience in the Polish Catholic Church? Is there still such centers?

- There was another such center, but now his supervisor retired, and somehow... relapsed. Now our center for priests only one. But this does not mean that we have to help the priests patent-alcoholics! Some of them go to other secular venues, along with everyone else.

- Those priests who are in regular AA group - already heroes, because to admit that you are a priest and such a problem ... the priests harder to admit it?

- Much more difficult! Also because to be a priest in Poland - is an honorable occupation, the priest expect it to be an authority, will, as a shepherd to lead other people. When I went to the AA group, I immediately said that I was a priest. Although, by the way, I have no one did not ask. And I expect that these 20 people on me suddenly see how to make big eyes! And even disappointed because nobody paid any attention (laughs). Only later, after the meeting I was told here see - is an actor, this one writes book, that one is an engineer, and this - the doctor. You're here as a priest, just one of all - this is normal.

In general, with the desire to recover all alcoholics, mostly the same: an alcoholic does not want to be treated, his work protective mechanisms. It is believed that in order to recognize their problem, every alcoholic must reach the bottom. But this does not mean that it must be in the gutter. This is the bottom of the can "bump": that it is the bottom of the "hit," "pushed" from him before.

- How to do it?

- As a rule, through working with relatives, with an alcoholic environment, by the so-called "hard love" which, if briefly stated, means you drink - so you yourself bear all the consequences. And the consequences are there already, since you are forced to go to therapy. And it is very important that people in the Church and in society understood that from them depends largely on how to continue to keep an alcoholic. That he had enough humility to he understood that alcoholism - this deadly disease. As they say, all alcoholics stop drinking, but some succeed in life.

- Humility in this context - a wonderful word ...

- The word "humility" comes from the Latin humus - soil, land. It often happens that close their love and care do not help, and only hinder alcoholic "burrow into the ground" - this occurs when the amount of crises around the accumulated and then comes the realization that this is the price paid for the booze. "Hard Love" is not to help the alcoholic drink. But this requires the information you need to prepare. For example, wives of alcoholics are sent to codependent treatment groups. And when this sick family (and when the alcoholic with a family is sick, the whole family is sick ) is reunited with the wife, who had already begun to recover, she may have somehow regulate this precarious situation and help his alcoholism recovery.

- And who can help Catholic priests? They have wives ...

- But they have fellow priests, bishops, who also need to know what to do with this disease. At the conference , I talked about our experiences Bishop Panteleimon (Russian Orthodox Church Bishop, chairman of the Synodal Department for social service and charity - Ed.). In your Church has married priests, and if some of them show up problems with alcoholism, it is necessary to conduct therapy for women and children, along with his own recovery.

- Can you talk about hereditary predisposition to alcoholism?

- It's hard to say for sure. But give you my example: my grandfather so drunk that he would just lie in the street, sleeping in a train station and died in drug clinic. I saw him only once in my life and always very scared as I would not be so. But God ordered differently: from this disease has become for me a blessing. I thank God that I'm an alcoholic, because through it I met a wonderful program, lovely people and thus began a new life, a new way to take the gospel and help others. How can you not be thankful to God! As they say, every tramp in God has his own way.

- I hear it from you, it is important for readers in Russia. In our Church, this problem also exists, but for her not to talk.

- It is important to do everything that depends on us, and the rest - as God administer, all at once, we did not sober. By the way, I understand something in Russian, and every day I read in Russian prayer for peace of mind, which is so loved in the community of AA: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. "

Interviewed by Julia Zaitseva

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to the head of the Rehabilitation Centre "Old World" (Moscow) Evgenie Protsenko and Sister Danuta Abramovich (Warsaw) for assistance in arranging interviews and translation from Polish.

Fr Wieslaw with my friends Dr. Evgenie Protsenko and Sister Danuta Abramovich.  Dr. Protsenko and Sister Danuta are both fascinating people with lots of experience.  And, as they do speak English, I think it would be great to bring them to the US for a conference someday.  Of course, that would require us to get out act together over here in America.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's All About Morality

The modern problem of porn addiction can be traced to the popular revolt against traditional morality in our society.  In the 1960s, we saw the 'feminists' take up the call of late 19th century Communists to do away with 'bourgeois marriage' and usher is sexual experimentation as part of the 'struggle' to create the New Man.

Less than a generation later, the Soviets realized the folly of this approached, and enforced social morality that looked much more traditional family models than 'free love' and communal cohabitation.  The same could be said for Mao's China.  These states realized that morality is not about random rules, but about social order that is beneficial for all people.

Morality draws the line between destructive and constructive behavior.

So, when you have a denizen of the 1960s say something like this, you wonder what it is she is thinking:

Mine is not a moral position. I think adults should be able see whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes (if the images are not based on a crime or any cruelty being committed).

Then, Ms. Wolf goes on to say precisely why people should not watch porn and documents the moral breakdown as a result.  She even applaud's the UK new law forcing internet service providers to give their clients the ability to opt out of porn.  Of course, I find it hilarious that this is coming from a news site that has plenty of 'soft core porn' on its side bar (this is why I am reproducing the original article here).

Ms. Wolf, and the rest of us who stand against the detrimental effects of porn, are indeed arguing for morality.  We are demanding that people understand that internet porn is immoral because it is ultimately destructive.  While Ms. Wolf contends that she is all for whatever consenting adults want to do in the privacy of their own homes, the fact remains that she is dissatisfied with the results.

What she is demanding is a half-measure, picking and choosing what morals she wants and which ones she does not.  That's the dumb part.

When we look at the moral standards of any given society, we can see that morality is not about bits and pieces.  It is a unified picture.  If you remove some of the tiles from a mosaic, you destroy the entire work.  It no longer is what it once was.

This is what has happened to Western culture after the 1960s, where families and marriages have been destroyed.  Sex is not just a bit, a piece sitting in a mosaic that no longer makes sense.  It looks for meaning, but is sadly reduced to a biological reaction rather than a central role in binding society together.  It becomes an impulse or an urge, rather than a spiritually significant and beneficial act.

Ultimately, porn will destroy the 1960s generation's 'achievements,' and Ms. Wolf will probably go to her grave not understanding exactly how she was an instrument of the very thing she hated.  She fought to separate sex from morality, and ultimately regretting the immorality that poured forth.

It is as if she wants neither morality nor immorality.  She is comforted by the idea that immorality is an option, but one that should never be taken.  But, in 'freeing' people to put the word 'vagina' on the cover of a non-medical text, she also freed them to abandon peoples' responsibilities to one another.  Indeed, we do have responsibilities.  

Some folks want those responsibilities to include paying taxes and providing social programs, while others want those responsibilities to include taking care of the children you procreate and helping them to become good people.  Either way, they are ultimately moral arguments.  You cannot demand things from people without a moral appeal.

After all, who would say that 'racism' or 'sexism' are not moral issues?  Human rights and the respect for others emanate from a moral standard.

Morality is, in the end, the only thing that keeps a Godless nation from sliding into social decay.  Ms. Wolf can thank centuries of Christian morality for the fact that her 'opponents' have not tried to behead her lately.  Though the UK is largely an atheistic culture, there is some residual Christianity left... for the time being.


Couples are having 20% less sex than they did just ten years ago
Wolf connects this to the rise of pornography
Porn poses health problems...
It desensitizes those who watch it and has long-term consequences
As a result, it has a negative effect on sex and relationships


These days, I am rarely surprised when, after a lecture or book signing, someone will try to talk to me about their addiction to porn and ask where he or she can get help.

As an author and feminist social commentator, I often discuss my work at events and meet a wide spectrum of people who talk to me about sex, relationships and, more increasingly, the impact of pornography on their lives.

There is no stereotype of what this person will look like. A man in his 60s has asked me if I think his porn addiction accounts for his current impotence.

A lovely young mother of three boys asked sadly how her husband, in an otherwise happy, sexually fulfilled marriage, became 'lost to porn' to the point that she had to leave him. She now wonders how to  protect her sons.

A bright, male college student confessed that he is worried about what he calls 'the kink spiral' - the term he uses to describe feeling trapped by his need to see more and more extreme porn to get aroused.

The fact he needs more and more extreme, violent or fetishistic porn images in order to get aroused.

Couples in their late teens tell me no one they know can have sex without porn playing on a screen. A guidance counselor at a private school asks where he can find help for his students - many of whom are so addicted to online porn that the obsession is affecting their schoolwork and social development.

Recently, a major British study, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, which questioned more than 15,000 people aged  16 to 74, showed couples are having about  20 per cent less sex per month than they did just ten years ago.

As someone who has been researching in this field for over 20 years, I believe we must take seriously the rise of pornography. New research shows it is having a detrimental effect on men's and women's sexual responses  and harming relationships as a consequence.

My latest book, Vagina: A New Biography, about female sexual desire, has a chapter on new discoveries in neuroscience that show how pornography negatively affects both sex and relationships.
Popular culture is reflecting this trend: the new film Don Jon centres on porn addiction. The hero is sleeping with Scarlett Johansson but sneaks off to watch porn, since he says nothing with a real woman (even Johansson!) is as good. Meanwhile, sex scenes in mainstream movies are getting more violent. In The Kids Are All Right, I was startled to see Julianne Moore's character start slapping her partner's face as he neared orgasm.

Young women tell me that hair-pulling, and even pressure around the neck at orgasm, are normal parts of courtship sex these days. These are 'porn cliches', as one young woman put it. I am not surprised by these shifts because we all know about the pornification of society.

I believe more voices would be speaking out if the new research on this issue were better understood. What we're not being told - and this is a view which many scientists now confirm, but too few ordinary people understand - is that porn use poses health problems.

Mine is not a moral position. I think adults should be able see whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes (if the images are not based on a crime or any cruelty being committed).

Yet the neuroscience of porn addiction is clear: watching porn causes sharp spikes in the activation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, which makes people feel focused, confident and good.

The trouble is that this short-term neurological arousal has long-term consequences. Firstly, it can cause desensitisation to the same erotic simuli that turned you on recently and, over the longer term, it can cause a greater likelihood of sexual dysfunction.

The user then craves more and more extreme pornography - violence and taboo images activate the autonomic nervous system, which is involved with arousal -  in order to reach that same level  of excitement.

'Young women tell me that hair-pulling, and even pressure around the neck at orgasm, are normal parts of courtship sex these days.'

This acclimatisation and desensitisation explains why images that were seen as fetishistic, taboo or violent ten years ago are now mainstream fare on porn sites.

A second effect, confirmed with men and anecdotal with women, is trouble reaching orgasm. Doctors are now reporting an epidemic of healthy young and middle-aged men, with no disease or psychological issue that would otherwise explain their difficulties, who are having sexual problems such as impotence or delayed ejaculation due to this desensitisation.

A final problem related to desensitisation is that men start to see their own partners as less attractive, and less able to arouse them by ordinary sexual behaviour.

And, of course, one woman can't provide the ever-changing novelty, that constantly renewed boost to the brain that porn artificially delivers by a mouse click of the mouse.

There are other ways porn use can negatively affect female arousal. If a woman feels uneasy about her partner's use of porn the stress of her resentment and anger can affect her own ability to become aroused.

If you understand the neuroscience of female arousal, women need to have their autonomic nervous systems (heart rate, breathing, blood circulation) highly activated to get turned on. Emotions such as stress, anger, a sense of threat and  resentment can function like throwing a bucket of freezing water on the female system.

Detrimental: Porn does not teach men sexual skills that are useful in arousing women

I have also done a lot of research into the fact that sex portrayed in most porn does not teach men, especially young men, sexual skills that are useful in arousing women. As Dr Jim Pfaus, a pioneer in the field of the science of sexual behaviour from Canada's Concordia University, puts it, porn use can take an emotional toll on relationships because men who use it are 'neurologically bonding' not with their partners, but with the porn.

Relationship expert and couples' counselor Michael Kallenbach says: 'Couples are far more aware of porn now than they've ever been. With everyone owning iPhones and tablets and being constantly bombarded with sexy ads and imagery, porn is leaking into our lives and affecting our relationships.

'When one partner watches surreptitiously, it's a very dangerous avenue to go down. Their imagination, and relationship, will be put at the mercy of fantasy. This often results in affairs.'

A recent University of Sydney study, in which two professors surveyed more than 800 men, found that excessive porn consumption was reported by almost half the respondents (85 per cent of whom were married or in a relationship), and was harming their professional success and relationships.

The numbers were dramatic: 47  per cent of the male subjects watched between 30 minutes to three hours of porn per day, one in three said it harmed their work efforts, and one in five would rather watch porn than have sex with their partners.
I can understand why the porn industry is keen to keep the addictive nature of its products quiet and promote the libertarian notion that there are no consequences. It is a global industry that wishes to turn men, and increasingly women, into addicts for financial reasons.

The situation very much resembles the marketing of cigarettes without health warnings in the Sixties.

So why isn't government-mandated disclosure of the risks obligatory, as it is now with cigarettes?

The answer is our politicians don't yet fully understand the damage that is being done.

Recently, the Daily Mail won a victory whereby the Government agreed that all households should opt in if they want to be able to view porn on the internet.

I believe that with good health information, people can make more informed choices about how, when, and if they want to use porn, and even better choices about what kind of imagery they might seek out or avoid.

Those who wish to end their addiction - like ending any addiction - can do so with effort.

Men who have done so - that is for whom we have data - report a great sense of regaining psychological control, and heightened arousal with their wives or girlfriends. Mostly they are relieved not to be at the mercy of something that many of those who write to me feel they need - but don't especially like.
Are we 'sexually liberated' if porn is taking over our thought processes and corroding our ability to sustain meaningful relationships? I think we are less sexually free.

A powerful industry is manipulating us - and ruthlessly exploiting some hard-wiring in the male brain - to turn us more and more into sexual and emotional robots, only capable of achieving sexual fulfillment in a room with a computer, alone.