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Friday, November 29, 2013

New Facebook Page

Well, for those who are predisposed to FB and have been wondering when I would start an FB page, I finally caved:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the US.  Many of us who are struggling with addiction have problems during holidays.  Lots of emotions come up, and we can often feel isolated or even victimized.

If you are struggling with these feelings, it is hard to give thanks to God for what you have.

To help you out, I offer you a look into the lives of some addicts in Bogota, Columbia.


After seeing this, it should be a lot easier to give thanks for the problems we face, knowing that none of us here is living in a sewer while trying to maintain a cocaine habit and dodging death squads.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Met. Hilarion on Atheism

This is really an excellent analysis of modern Russian atheism.  Atheism is a major player in addiction, and so this article sheds light on one of the largest contributing factors in Russia's (and I would say, the entirety of Eastern Europe's) addiction plague.

I am going to start working on a response to it, because I think that, while it is largely correct, the matter of atheism versus anti-theism must be explored.  This is a topic I have discussed before:

This means that the situation in Russia is far more complex than a matter of belief versus unbelief, but rather gradations and levels which mark the path.  Russia's stratified society before the Revolution certainly did foster a great deal of anti-theism, but I think that true atheism was never present in any significant way until the very end of the Soviet period.

Even now, Russia's greater temptations are with superstition and fundamentalism rather than genuine atheism.  Real atheism requires a level of social and material security that is only seen in Northern Europe, which is why that area is the 'homeland' for atheism these days.

It will certainly take a few generations from Russia to regain itself, just as it took a few generations to get to this stage.  But, I will write more about that later.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Anger Epidemic

I saw a recent newspaper article musing about an 'anger epidemic' and tracked down the original story it used to make its point:

A big part of recovery is getting a handle on one's anger.  When anger is suppressed, it often distorts into depression.  When it is expressed, it can very often result in guilt and shame.  Anger is, for most of us, a dubious 'gift.'

We live in a society where the extremes come to dominate.  We are either utterly suppressed with the expectation of docile political-correctness, or we launch into extremes of violent hoodlumdom.  Men are expected to be passive hipsters or aggressive gang-bangers.

I would say that our modern lives make the flaws of humanity all the more difficult to manage.  When you get drunk or high, there is someone there to record every embarrassing moment (in many cases, these are self-documented).  However, most of us are capable of shaming ourselves without abusing substances.  Just a little taste of raw humanity is enough get us to do things that we would otherwise not do.

It is magnified in American culture, which is dominated by the temperance and reserve of Northern European cultures.  Southern Europeans scream and shout when they get angry (and sometimes when they are not angry at all), whereas their northern neighbors are expected to remain 'cool.'  In America, the clash of cultures is obvious in the streets, where the cool and collected are expected to be the cops, and the hot-heads are the bad guys they are chasing.

I'd like to tell you that one way or the other is healthier.  However, we know that the calm and collected types struggle with drugs and alcohol just as much as the emotions-on-the-sleeve folks do.

The problem is not with how we express or repress our fears, but rather the actual having of the fears.  Fear is our enemy.  Do we have a fear epidemic?  I would say so.

Sure, our ancestors struggled with many fears, but I would say that we have far more fears now than ever before.  We are worried about many more things than we have ever worried about before, thanks to the internet, which drags the worlds cares to our desktop computer, laptop, and smart-phone.  We have a diverse range of new worries to add to the traditional worries about family life and basic survival:

These fears result in anger.

Many people turn to addiction as an escape from the constant anxiety that modern society demands of us, coupled with the easy lives even the street person of today experiences.  Look, in most of the world where there are high addiction levels we see few people dying in the streets.  Addiction requires a safety net of enablers, intentional and otherwise, that keep the addict fed and sheltered once he loses his functionality.  Now, the solution is not in people dying in the streets, but rather in addressing the common fears we all experience.

This is why Faith is so important.  Even primitive man understood the importance of faith from a purely practical perspective.  The Romans very often did not believe in their gods, but they understood the importance of public religion as a stabilizing force both on a social and personal level.

If we are worried about a rising tide of anger, we should look to the modern tendency to suppress religion, particularly Christianity.  I think there is a correlation.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

AFR Interview with Dr. Rossi and Me

I didn't know that AFR could handle that much Italian-American chatter (Dr. Rossi and I share some ethnic roots) without melting the microphones, but somehow we managed to get through the evening without damaging the equipment:

Nevertheless, I think it went rather well.  Dr. Rossi and I have not spoken since I graduated from SVOTS in 2001, and so it was an interesting experience to say the least.  He has a lot of good information, being a clinician and in the thick of things at St. Vladimir's.

I'm also very glad he addressed the topic of addiction in the seminaries, because it really is as big of a problem in the schools as it is in the general public, though the repercussions are often far more painful and embarrassing.  Most people expect clergy to somehow be more Christian than themselves, and when a clergyman fails, it somehow disproves the Gospel and the reality of the Christian message.

The Christian message is not 'perfection' but forgiveness.  It is about how only God can save us, because our self will is insufficient.  The funny thing is that the same people who complain about clergy being imperfect also whine about how out-of-touch clergy are and how they do not understand how 'normal' people live.

If you want to understand people, you have to join in their defeats as well as their victories.  When you demand perfection from your clergy, don't expect them to be empathetic.  They will never understand your pain.  They will only pity you, and pity is one of the most dehumanizing experiences one can be on the receiving end of.

Anyway, I hope people find it helpful.  Depending on the feedback, AFR might do more broadcasts on this topic.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Molly: a re-branded and re-marketed Ecstasy

For those of you who, like me, came into this world too late to get into the 'electronic music' scene, this is the new drug craze that you are missing out on:

The story behind Molly reveals something about how addictive thinking sets in.  This drug is really not much different than Ecstasy, which lost its popularity by frying the brains of the repeat-users it didn't outright kill.

Now, a 'normal' person would think, "Gee, some guy I barely knows wants me to buy a pill and swallow it.  He says it is a drug, but it could be just about anything.  It could harm me, so I think I will pass on this."  self-preservation is our normal human instinct.  We don't eat food we think is 'corrupted' because we have an instinctual fear of being poisoned.  When our body detects a poison, it goes into a reactive process to eliminate the poison.  That's why we puke when we drink too much... the body is 'smarter' than we are at times.

The onset of addictive thinking begins when we set aside these self-preservational inhibitions.  A starving man will overcome his initial revulsion at the sight and smell of rotten food and eat something even if it has gone bad.  I suppose hat's how we ended up with all kinds of awful fermented foods like natto and surströmming.  What happens is that our desires overcome our restraints.

In the case of young people, the desire to have a good time and be free of their concerns often overcomes both their natural and socialized inhibitions.  We should wonder why.

Why is 'clubbing' and getting high so important to young people?

I'd say from experience there are a number of reasons:

1) We glorify entertainment and pleasure over virtue and knowledge.  Sure, we want our young people to co to college and be smart, but it is so they can become materially successful and afford higher levels of entertainment and pleasure.  Our society does not exult those who are good.  In fact, it mocks them.

2) With the destruction of the family, young people are, more than ever, insecure in their relationships.  Therefore, their daily lives are about creating bonds to replace what they should be getting from family.  This makes social activities like clubbing far more stimulating than what they were several centuries ago.

3) The advancement of technology tends to overstimulate us and leave us burned out with lesser activities, so we are constantly having to 'increase the volume' to derive pleasure.  For example, if you are constantly listening to your favorite songs on your MP3 player, what is the benefit of going to a concert?  The concert has to become more than just the music you like, hence the light show and the drugs.

So, our young people are sent into the world over-stimulated and needy.  Even before addiction sets in, these conditions leave them as prime targets for addiction.  Molly and other street drugs play into those lowered self-preserving inhibitions.

Many young people are able to 'safely' navigate the waters of materialism and construct relatively secure lives without either addictions or even God.  Our technological advancements have made that possible.  But, there are many casualties along the way.

Molly is just more ammunition in the war against mankind.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

UK Moves to Restrict Online Porn Access

It looks like the United Kingdom is taking steps to limit access to online porn and ISPs will be asking for customers to declare their preference:

While I am usually not into having government or big-business tell people what to do, I think the idea of requiring an up-or-down vote on filters for internet service is a good idea.  Why?

My opinion is that internet porn is becoming a health issue.  There are definite physiological and psychological ramifications to its usage, and so I think the argument that it is absolutely a matter of 'free speech' is becoming more and more ludicrous as we see the effects:

We limit access to alcohol and drugs, right?  I think there definitely need to be limits on the new pornography just like there are limits on the old print variety.  There are real problems with this.

Of course, this does nothing about the bad taste exhibited in 'almost-porn,' which is found in advertising and pop culture.  Kanye West and Kim Kardashian in a obscure-nude music video is just another example.  These images are being drilling into young people's minds without any regard for a child's right to remain shielded from adult sexual fetishes.  Of course, you can't expect these 'celebutards' to respect common decency... they are too busy making money to think about other people as anything but walking wallets waiting to be pilfered.

There will come a time when people figure out that this constant bombardment with sexualized images is damaging us and that we need to return to common decency.  At least, I hope that time will come...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

'Having Patience' versus 'Being Patient'

I know it is just an expression, but sometimes I do think that people believe patience is a 'thing' that they either have or do not have.  Certainly, someone could make a lot of money selling bottles of it.  I'd buy it for sure.

But, patience isn't a substance.  It cannot be bought or grown.  It is an action.

Patience is really a decision we make, a byproduct of the sum total of our attitude and our willingness to learn from the past.  We really don't need anything at all to be patient.  We just have to decide to be patient.

That is why we often hear warnings about not asking God for patience, because He 'gives' it to us with lessons.  He tries to change our attitudes.  Attitude adjustments often hurt.  And well they should, because pain tells us we are not where we are supposed to be.

The decision to be patient comes from confidence in future events happening in a certain way.  If we are not confident in what will happen next, we will act rashly to secure the future we want by getting what we want right now before circumstances slip away.

Of course, fatalism can often masquerade as patience.  The Buddhist, who believes that everything is illusion, can appear to have supreme patience when, in fact, he is supremely fatalistic: nothing matters because nothing really exists except non-existence.  This is why he struggles for stillness, because everything else is folly.

Patience is different.  Patience comes with the acknowledgement that the situations we are dealing with are real, and likewise are the outcomes.  Being patient means knowing the outcome in advance.

So, how do you do that on a daily basis, knowing that things rarely go as planned?  How do you see into the future when it is obvious that none of the most recent lottery winners have ever said, "I got the winning number through my psychic powers"?

The key to being patient comes with having an eye on the bigger picture.  We must step back and see that there is more to life than any one particular incident.  We must see that most often the best things come after failures and disasters, and so our greater wants and needs are met through a combination of success and disappointment.

We don't need to win every battle to win the war.

However, the greatest contributing factor is a sense of our own powerlessness in the face of God's presence.  Once we truly embrace the notion that God loves us and is moving circumstances in the right direction, we can endure not only disaster but the threat of disaster.

To be honest, sometimes the threat is worse that the event.  I read about dissidents under Communism who found the threat of arrest was far worse than the actual arrest and imprisonment.  Once the event took place, there was a sense of relief.  The authorities, on the other hand, used months of incarceration without charges or explanation to build up stress in prisoners so, when finally interrogated, they would break from the months of anxiety they had experienced under the uncertainty of their circumstances.

I recall a conflict in school where a professor didn't like my behavior and threatened to turn me in for it if I didn't meet his demands.  I walked out of the office and straight to the Dean's door because I knew that having the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head would make school far more difficult than it already was.  Waiting is a battle with your own head.  I've lost that battle enough to know that it is better avoided.  By the way, the Dean ended up appreciating my willingness to tattle on myself and I got off the hook.  

If we are willing to fail and let God manage the situation from this larger perspective, then the decision to exercise patience comes without effort.  We don't have to 'try' because trying implies effort... patience is natural when there is no threat.

It is God's love that brings an end to the anxieties of uncertainty and the desire for control.  When we believe He loves us and has a plan that is greater than ours, then we will be patient.

I am still working on this.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gender Roles, Shame, Fear, and Addiction

Following on to yesterday's posts about the unnatural attitudes, particularly in Western Culture, towards gender, sexuality, and personhood, I thought this article would help shed some light on the topic:

One of the reasons that I wanted to bring this up is that, during my various conversations in Russia with treatment professionals, it became apparent that Russia does not have a big pornography problem.  Sure, they have some, and there is plenty of promiscuity, but not the levels of abuse and addiction that you see in the US.

Sure, not all of the expanses of Siberia have cable internet service, but poor service hasn't slowed down rural Pakistan's appetite for raunchy porn.  Pakistan has a huge porn problem, and it is way poorer than Russia.  Is something else going on here?

I believe that, while Russian and the West are both staggering under the burdens of materialism, Russia's gender identities are not under assault the way that they are in the West.  Their overall cultural views of sex and sexuality are not as stigmatized as they are in American and Pakistan.  In a nutshell, Russians socialize better than Americans.  There are not all of the complications of political correctness and repercussions for being yourself, even if that self is awkward for others.

Pornography is often a response to loneliness.  It is also an easy way to experience the thrills of sexuality without the commensurate inelegances of real intimacy.  Tucked safely behind a monitor, the object of one's lust is less likely to laugh at you.  Thus, we can have a half-measure of thrill without the risk of shame... up until someone walks in on your 'precious moment.'

Alcoholism and drug addict also work on this paradigm, but not in the same sense.  Alcoholics and addicts can often form distorted social bonds.  At least they have bonds, whereas the porn addict is almost always by himself.  When you are high or drunk, along with everyone else, the inhibitions are reduced and there is some semblance of release from the bonds of shame.

Sex and shame are tied together, just as shame and addiction are 'bedfellows.'  Addicts use to cope with shame, and yet the abuse itself only increases the load.

In my estimation, Russian society uses alcohol to cope with its shames.  American society has reigned in its alcoholism, but at the expense of a whole host of new addictions.  Porn is part of that 'release valve,' but it is not working.

Of course, it could be worse.  I've written before about the sterilization of Japan.  There is also a profound problem in Japanese culture with honor and shame, and this has an impact on sexuality and sexual abuse.

Warning: graphic language (no images)

This article is more important about understanding the role of shame in Japanese culture, and how this interplays with sex.  It is well worth the read if you can manage to get past the verbal imagery.  Japan's traditional gender roles are teetering under pressure from Western influences, and the results are horrendous: marriage and the family are collapsing, as well as the birthrate.

Wherever the family and marriage are on the rocks, you see cultural suicide and the rise of addiction.

'Natural' marriage, and by this I mean according to its Divine intention, is the defeat of awkwardness and shame.  It is the cure to the problems of sex and gender because within it are the affirming necessities of intimacy and mutual respect.  Within it, one can freely give and freely receive.  It is the destruction of uncertainty, and the exultation of humanity.

Without marriage and the corresponding gender roles within it, the world melts down.  Without God, everything comes apart.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Abstemiousness, Erotophobia, and Anhedonia, use all of these words in a sentence.

One struggle that American society wrestles with is the prudishness and anhedonic attitudes we have towards sexuality and, to a lesser extent, alcohol.  While the USA has absorbed many cultures that don't have these attitudes, the old prudishness rises to the top like some ungodly cream from the milk of a depressed cow. Shame is a powerful weapon, and since most cultures do have some taboos regarding sexuality, it is a button that American culture has been able to press on most of its immigrants up until now. 

Of course, it didn't help that our nearest relations are the English, who birthed the Puritan Movement that embodied these attitudes and then gave us the Victorian attitudes that were akin to Spartans' (minus the nudity).  What this has done, with the help of Augustinianism and profound distortions of Christian tradition, is made sex and joy something that we should feel guilty about even when we are doing it 'right.'

Our erotophobia has left us uncomfortable with discussing sex with our children, obscuring its natural role and making it seem dirty and disgusting.  Yes, there are certain aspects of sexuality that are clumsy and awkward.  But, it is part of what God created.

Sex is a gift.  So is wine...

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart. (Psalm 104:15)

Yes, God is OK with us getting a little buzz.  To the Puritan, this was akin to saying that God permits fornication and murder.  Alcohol use, while rampant in the UK, was seen by the religious zealots that emigrated to American as a sin.  So, when we drink, we do so to excess, having violated the taboos with the first sip,so why stop?

If you travel as an American to Europe, one of the first things you notice is how much folks drink.  In fact, European drinking could be, in an American context, considered alcohol abuse.  To them, we look like abstemious zealots who can't hold our liquor.

Our prudish attitudes are not healthy.  Not everyone who drinks heavily is an alcoholic, nor is everyone who has sexual desires a pervert.  Our stigmatization of these has led to more problems of guilt and shame, which in themselves cause us to abuse these natural gifts.

So, what is really going on?  Why are American colleges becomes cesspools of depravity, while so-called Christians have nothing to offer but 'no'?

The answer is plain: American society has, at all levels, bought into the idea that marriage and real family life is to be put off as far as possible from puberty.  Given that males and females begin to have their strongest urges for sex during this period where culture now tells them they are not 'ready,' they react by 'acting out' in ways that old-school American puritanism finds even more offensive.

We are telling young adults that their natural desires to be married (companionship, relationship, etc.) must be stifled and neglected, then we add to that the cutting off of their sexual desires.  We add the further mixed message that 'early marriage is bad.'  Then, when young people struggle with this unnatural condition, we condemn them.

Internet pornography, the 'hook-up' culture, the abuse of drugs and alcohol... all of these are ways that young people cope with the burdens that our society, with its expectation that everyone must waiting until their mid-30s to get married, yokes them with.  So-called Christians buy into this nonsense, and then add another layer of condemnation to make young people feel guilty when they fail to control their overwhelming natural urges.

When young people do the right thing and marry early (by modern standards), we do little to help them.  We make divorce easy and repercussion-free, and so they bail on the relationship because they've bought into the lie that marriage is about your romantic feelings rather than something more profound.  Again, so-called Christians are busy talking about 'Jesus saves' and speak little about the crosses that all of us must bear.  Christianity without ascetic struggle and self-sacrifice is no Christianity at all.

That's not to say that so-called Christians are entirely alone in this Puritanical monstrosity of modern life.  Feminism is the ultimate form of Puritanism, where women are expected to suppress their natural femininity and sexual desires, including the desire to be mothers, to fit into some strange gendermorphic existence as a pseudo-man.

The hipster movement is the natural reaction, where men become pacified and feminine, trying to look as cuddly and soft even with a beard and carefully-managed unkempt appearance.  Men are afraid to be men, because the repercussions range from mandatory sensitivity training to being fired and sued for harassment.  Yes, there is genuine harassment, but how much of that would go away if we returned to traditional gender roles, and men were expected to treat ladies like ladies?

We send out confusing signals: women are equal to men, but if you really treat them that way, they are too weak to bear it.

Feminism is the fullness of this insanity, and it relies on Puritanical intolerance to make its weird ideas work.  It is its own form of Fundamentalism, castrating both women and men.  Behind it is pornography, alcoholism and drug abuse as people of both genders fight their own nature in order to meet its expectations.

Just in case you are wondering, I'm also not buying into the pop-theology movement that brow-beats women into acting like Barbie dolls for their husbands or urges men to treat their wives like five-year-olds.  I think those are horrid ideas.  Men and women have differences, but their humanity is equal.

What I am saying is that many of our addictions problems are because we are trying to turn off our normality.  We have stigmatized it and, when we break with the natural order, we have created such a dam of shame and guilt that it is very hard for young people to recover.  They are washed away on a tidal wave of pent-up urges, and blown even further off course by Puritanical rage.

We need to stop building dams and, when people fail, bring them back with love rather than subjecting them to over-the-top condemnation.

I don't wonder why there is such a depraved culture these days.  In fact, I often wonder how on earth so many young people remain functional at all.

Self-control is an important part of happiness, yet it is not the whole deal.  These days, we live in extremes of either complete suppression or reckless abandonment of self-control.  As a result, we either use in excess or not at all.  Like throwing a 'super-ball' in an elevator, we ricochet back and forth between extremes, never knowing the truth joy that we can have by existing according to our true nature in union with God.

Addicts really have a difficult time learning to be happy, and this is made worse by so much of modern society, which demands of us conformity to expectations that lead to unhappiness.  I would go as far as to say that we are truly lost because we let the squeakiest wheels, those who are the most unhappy, to dictate our social expectations.

Unhappy people are only good at being unhappy.  Don't expect them t know how to get out of their unhappiness by themselves, because if they could, they would not be unhappy.  Happy people, even when saddled with heavy burdens, still find ways to be happy and optimistic.  They are also free of hatred of others.

We all need to abandon our fears of real joy and embrace what is good.  We must return to our nature, which can only be found in union with God.

Please pardon the rambling here.  I will try to unpack this all in further posts, and perhaps then what I am saying will make more sense.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bad news

Well, with the draw-down of US forces, and the corresponding drying up of the money-wells that US forces bring during 'interventions,' Afghanistan's economy will move back into being dependent on the opium trade.

This is not a good sign for Russia or Europe, because falling prices always means greater availability.  While there are a few people who can experiment with heroin and quit before they are hooked, the vast majority don't get off that easy.

Let's not forget that heroin use is not just a needle-jockey's game: a majority of users smoke it.  The needle is an end-game strategy once tolerance has set in and the supply becomes harder to access because your too busy getting stoned to hold down a job.  The needle offers more 'bang for the buck,' and so off you go to plunge down that death spiral.

With a drop in prices, there will be more heroin on the streets, which means more opportunity for experimentation.

In the early 1980s, when cocaine was starting to hit the streets, a lot of folks (like me) never experimented with it because it was fabulously expensive.  Then Crack came to town, and instantly everyone was smoking and dying.  I remember neighborhoods that were filled with 'crack zombies,' not unlike what you see now in rural towns fighting the meth epidemic.

Drugs are economy-driven in many ways.  Addicts can't afford expensive habits.  

When I quit smoking for the last time, it was not only because I hated being dependent, but I also could not afford it.  I was paying for a couple of packs what  once bought an entire carton for.  In the US, smoking has gone down not only because it is difficult to find a place here you can smoke in public, but also because the prices are high and people can't grow tobacco in their own backyards.

Alcohol is harder to control because anyone with a plastic bag and some sugar is in business.  Heck, they make it in prison...

Heroin is a different story.  Its spread is largely driven by its transportability.  This is bad news.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Essentiality of Parenthood

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

What does it mean to fully know ourselves?  This is a struggle for all addicts, as we come to terms with the falsehoods of what we wanted to be that we created to avoid being who we really are.  We, all fallen and broken men, fight with reality.  It is our downfall.

So, when we decide to heed the call to become persons living in accordance with our own nature, the nature which God sees when He looks at us, the very nature that He not only created but Himself bore and after whom it is fashioned, we must look to the Divine to understand who it is we are called to be.

If we are immature, and must then move into maturity, we must see this maturity in light of God and who He is to us.  To be an adult means to grow more in the direction of God rather than the selfishness of immaturity.

So, if childhood is marked by being a child cared for by a parent, and God Himself loves us and cares for us as a Father, then part of growing up and maturing is becoming a parent.  We must embrace this aspect of our nature.

Our bodies are designed for it (when all is working properly, as with all other physical attributes), and our minds are capable of bearing this responsibility.  In fact, I would argue that we need to be parents in some way.

When the Orthodox Church blesses a marriage, the prayers refer often to the bearing of children.  Monastics themselves, when they reach higher degrees of spiritual maturity, take on the responsibilities of bearing 'spiritual children.'

Taking responsibility and caring for others is an essential part of our humanity.

Modern life says that marriage isn't about parenting, but about sex and romance and perhaps love.  We are told that we cannot raise our children as easily as experts, and we have come to a point where we have forgotten the art and have to read 4,000 books to find out how to deal with things that our great-grandparents never thought twice about.  I say 'great-' because this is the third generation in the West cut off from its past.  This cutting-off has left us as 'blank slates' for theoreticians like Dr. Spock to play lab rat with.

By the time we figured out he was wrong, it was too late.

We have all kinds of parental supervision and replacement 'services' that help us remain 'in the economy.'  Goodness knows that there are plenty of people who would like to opt out without having to give up their goodies, but our grasp is, by design, less than our reach.  Marketing and advertising keep us constantly hungry for more.

Addicts must learn to be parents, both to the children of their loins and the 'spiritual children' they mentor through sponsorship.  Make no mistake, a sponsor is a type of parent.  After all, a parent's #1 job is to raise up an adult.  A sponsor is supposed to raise up a mature person in recovery.

We need to do this, both for our fellow man and for our own spiritual health.  Without this selflessness, our design is never fully actualized.  We will never know who we really are until we take on this task, just as we never know who we really are until we learn to live in commitments, have a job, become self-sustaining, etc.  Being kept in selfish dependency is no way to grow up.

Some readers may say, "I'm too old at this point to have children."  Baloney.  There are plenty of people out there who need a parent, even if it is not biological in origin.  There are broken families and broken people who need your care in order for them to complete their own growth cycle.

Go out there and find someone.  Be a sponsor.  Be a mentor.  Adopt, both literally and figuratively.

You will find that there are many amazing lessons in store, both hard and pleasant, if you will grow into this important part of your humanity.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Atheist Church?

Actually, I found this rather amusing:

It will be interesting to see if this is a 'one-hit-wonder' or whether it takes off.  Obviously, it is for entertainment purposes.  But, what if they try to really pull off a 'parish' system?

That's where the tragic comedy will begin.  You see, I've been around enough religion in America to know what will happen.  After a glorious expansion, there will be power.  People will grapple for it.  Feelings will be hurt and egos bruised.  Then comes the splinters and schisms, followed by sordid tales of immorality.

Why do I say that?  Because those are the same problems that religious groups suffer with, and this is because we are fallen humans.  Sin, it seems, is what we do best.  Many atheists are alienated from Christ and His Church because of scandals like the ones I listed.

Just wait until they start doing these sins themselves, then will have to ask themselves some serious questions.

At the same time, I see this as a damning condemnation of the 'evangelical megachurch' movement and non-sacramental attempts to duplicate Christianity.  Hey, when the atheists can fake being you this good, you have a problem.

After all, it would be hard to have an atheistic eucharist or sacraments without a spiritual component.  You can eat bread and wine anywhere; it is only in the presence of the Divine that they have additional significance.  However, when you make the worship of God a motivational speech... there you have the foundation of an atheistic 'service.'  Sure, the atheistic services serve the people, but so do services where entertaining the people is paramount.

Services are supposed to be about serving God... not serving a demographic group.

It is this lack of centrality of God in worship that leads many people away from God, and I think it can also largely be blamed for the rising tide of addiction and substance abuse.  When you make man the central figure in spirituality, you make him the god.  We all know that making an idol out of ourselves or others leads to profound disappointment and despair.  Many people are leaving Western Christianity precisely because God has been squeezed out of the churches in favor of putting man's 'needs' first and foremost.

It seems like the more Christianity is twisted to fit with people's stated preferences ("Beef or chicken?"), the more people decide that they want nothing to do with it.  Hence, declining church attendance.

Like I said, let's give this a few years.  Sadly, I think far more people will be hurt and disappointed in the end, and the only one laughing will be the devil.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Theory About Eastern European Addiction

I've spent some time observing the addictions issues in Russia and Romania, the latter far longer.  There are some important differences between what is going on here and what is happening there, and I have some theories as to why there are differences and what these differences are.

After all, if you try to work with Eastern European (EE) addicts using Western assumptions, you are liable to make some big mistakes.  There are differences in culture and circumstances that play a big part in either feeding or treating addiction in the individual.  It is important to not impose our own assumptions onto others.  Otherwise, we deprive ourselves of the ability to relate to them as they are, and instead make them illusory extensions of ourselves.

So, here is my theory: while the Western European/American (WEA) and EE societies share a common cultural problem of materialism and anti-spirituality, which aggravates addiction by stifling the relationship with God that humans desire and need, they arrived at their materialism in profoundly different ways.  And, while materialism has had a common effect in both worlds, they have also have dissimilar foundations based on how they got there.  The differences in these foundations are critical in treating addicts, since the path we know as being 'restored to sanity' may place the addict either at odds with or into harmony with his society.

Here's a summary: materialism has been creeping into the West since the Enlightenment, the blossom of which was the French Revolution.  From that point forward, atheism and materialism became acceptable topics in the West.  Universities, once tasked with providing religious formation, became increasingly 'secular.'  Science took on the new centrality of education.  And the sciences extended themselves into the 'social sciences' in which scholars devoted themselves to unpack and repacking such notions as gender, marriage, the family, government, etc.  Traditional education was replaced with the modern system of the schoolhouse and age division independent of the parent.

German theologians were busy undermining the Scriptures and thus continuing the work of Luther in destroying both what was left of the Church and faith in general.  Marx and his cohort soon pick up on this social engineering and the 'revolutionaries' arise.  They eschewed proper families and advocated for sex-love based 'pairing,' mostly because of their concern for property ownership which families naturally accrue.  They wanted to bring an end to 'bourgeoisie' families and relationships.

Of course, all of this theory changed when the Bolsheviks took full power over Russia and created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  Now, they had to stop talking and start actually 'caring' for the workers and peasants of the former Russian Empire.  Now, the high ideals of Communist Party were going to be put to the test.  The first thing that needed to happen, after the expulsion or execution of Russia's intellectuals, was the sealing-off of Russian thought from the rest of the world.  By 1935, the 'Fourth International,' was not only ignored by the Soviets, but was outright opposed.  Soviet thought had been largely ossified as both Lenin and Stalin struggled to make their grand experiment work.

While on paper the Soviets continued with their revolutionary thinking about undermining the family, it is also very clear that on a practical level, they needed healthy families to raise their children.  The idea of dumping everyone in an orphanage became, in the case of the latter days of Romania, a strategy of last resort.  Communists realized that raising kids in barracks simply would not work.  So, Soviet propaganda essentially reinforced families and marriage along much the same lines of pre-revolutionary culture.

The 'experimentationists' and those seeking to undermine family structures were left in the West.  Not much later, Hilter's rise meant that those ardent social engineers would be unwelcome in the Third Reich, and they fled to America and settled in US universities (many returning after the war, but plenty stayed on after the armistice).

So, while the West went on to experience the crazy days of the 1960s and the complete undermining of social morals as social theory, the Communist East was tucked well behind the Iron Curtain and rather scandalized by it all.

Both systems resulted in abandonment of children, divorce, and unstable home lives for children.  The difference was that in the WEA version was far more detrimental because people really took to believing it, whereas EE citizens developed a far more cynical approach.  In essence, Eastern Europeans still know that family and gender roles are good, even though they don't follow them.  Western Europeans and most Americans don't share this.

WEAs are not certain about how men and women are supposed to interact, and how a family is supposed to operate.  EEs have few questions, even if they are not following what they know to be right.

This is important when we are talking about recovery: many Americans have children, but need to go to classes on how to be parents because they have absolutely no idea what to do.  They have been raised without proper parenting, and they have no examples.  While I have seen similar classes in Romania, they are far more rare.  And, frankly, there isn't the demand.  Once people 'wake up,' they still have a culture that supports them in taking the right actions.

The problem now is that, after 25 years of 'freedom,' the clock is ticking.  EE is gradually being influenced by WEA media images, though they are clearly not as far along in this devolution.

So, when we are talking about being 'restored to sanity,' in terms of family life, EEs have somewhere to go.  In the case of many American addicts, family life is largely an unknown, make-it-up-as-you-go-along proposition.  There are entire neighborhoods where all the fathers are in prison or utterly absconded.  The men don't know to be sober and sane men because they have not seen it before... anywhere.

We make fun of 'Leave It To Beaver,' but why exactly are we?  It is because that type of home life is unknown to so many Americans.

A big part of building a large-scale recovery strategy in Russia, Romania, and throughout EE will be the reinforcement of family life both to heal addicts and prevent new ones.  The same is true of the US, but it will require far more work because of the poor social condition of the modern American family.

My hope is that both societies can work together on this, because we face the same outcomes if we don't.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Getting Back Into the Swing

My trip to Moscow has been a whirlwind tour, so to speak.  It will take me some time to pull everything together, fact-check, and even post a few pictures.

Russia is a confusing place in many ways.  Coming in as an outsider who has paid little attention since the fall of the Soviet Union, I have suddenly found myself caught 25 years behind what is happening now.  Some of my new Russian friends were surprised that I knew something of Soviet history.  Well, it was the subject matter for one of my bachelor programs, which I was certain would have landed me a nice job at the State or Defense Departments, up until the Soviets had the audacity to implode their own state and bring the Evil Empire to an end.  I was left with a 'history degree' and a long, winding road through the 1990s as with most of my generation.

Getting back to recovery and treatment, Russia is largely where the US was in the early stages of AAs growth in the US during the 1940s.  There is little treatment, and a large part of it has been driven by the 'pray-it-away' model of Protestant missionaries.  Sure, there are Orthodox parishes and priests attempting to help addicts with a similar approach, but the ROC seems to be leaning more towards a 12-Step model.

That's not to say that they have said anything official, but the speakers have mentioned that more of the bishops have voiced support for 12 Steps than spoken out against it.  Yet, no one appears to be making any kind of move towards an official position.  My sense is that there are a few contributing factors:

1) So long as clergy are taking it on themselves to provide treatment ministries, many of the bishops feel no pressure push for an official program.  They are in a unique position to just say 'not no' to what is going on.  If it succeeds, they can claim some of the glory.  If it fails, they have plausible deniability.

2) The wounds of the Soviet era are still fresh in the psyches of the average adult Russian, and the Church is no exception.  Active ministries like this were so suppressed for so many years that ROC officials simply don't have the instinct to get involved in this.  That's why they are kicking the ball around with ambiguous statements but don't know how to commit.

3) The ROC, like much of Russia, has a lot of bureaucracy.  If I wrote the story behind my entry visa, you'd think I was kidding.  When you have a bureaucratic instinct, everything slows down.  On the other hand, I am in a jurisdiction that runs heavy on personalities and light on administration, so when a bishop wants something to happen, it happens fast.  Not so in Russia.  Heck, even to exchange rubles at aclocal bank required the teller to complete several forms, scan my passport, and then deploy three rubber stamps in two colors.  Now, try putting together a regional addiction treatment center...

The Russians that I encountered who understood the 12 Step model liked it, and the only detractors I found were people who were unfamiliar with it.  There were only two 'concerns':

1) The use of 'God as we understand Him.'

2) Holding hands while praying.

These are workable problems.  The Romanians have long ago dealt with that, and they may be able to lend a hand.

In conclusion, I think that one thing we may be able to do to help speed things along is to better grasp how the ROC processes information, and format the facts about the 12 Steps in a way that is compatible with their system.  Asking the bishops and administrators to think in a new way is nearly impossible, and perhaps more than a little unfair.  But, I think that the 12 Step model can be presented to them in such a way that they will not only understand it, but become enthusiastic about it. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Still in Russia

Sorry for the long absence, but my trip left me WiFi-less most of the time, and I can't write blog posts with my phone.  This is my last full day in Moscow, and I will be home (God willing) tomorrow.  

Today is my presentation:

There is a lot to say, and much more to reflect on.