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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.

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