CITVN is a co-op owned and operated by a Catholic Worker community of homeless men and women who are in various stages of recover from addictions. Our community was the outcome of a 2-year JustFaith Ministries formation process. Our treatment methodology is the ancient monastic daily rhythm of work, prayer and 12 Step study. Our community was founded upon a belief in the human dignity of every person and in the necessity of a transforming spiritual experience rooted in the process of reconciliation. Over 80 percent of our guests achieve sustainable faith – measured as one year of complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It’s LOVE that cures!
We agree that psychotropic medications are overprescribed and can cause spiritual and physical harm. Very few people actually suffer from pathological mental illness. In fact, what appears to be a co-occurring mental health disorder most often disappears in time with sustained abstinence.
Better living through modern chemistry may be good economic development policy for the pharmaceutical and medical industries, but mood-altering chemical methods of treatment are not right for everyone.
The trend is to make all treatment centers into dual diagnosis programs. While this is fine on the surface, a huge majority of the chemical dependency population is not in need of mental health counseling but have the need and desire for sobriety and an abstinence based life. In fact, what appears to be a co-occurring mental health disorder most often disappears in time with sustained abstinence.
The acute care model of treatment is characterized by its crisis-linked point of intervention, brief duration, singular focus on symptom suppression, professionally dominated decision-making process, and increasingly short service relationships defined by cost-cutting insurance companies and shrinking government budgets.
There are two fundamentally different ways of knowing: science-grounded professional knowledge and the experiential knowledge of peer-based recovery support groups.
Science, in its pride of precision, focuses on the segment. Where scientific knowledge places great value on understanding a problem from the outside through the lens of objective distance and carefully controlled experiments, …..
Experience, in its pride of the pragmatic, focuses on what works as a whole ….. experiential knowledge seeks to understand a problem from close-up and inside—from the subjective experience of those who have lived through and solved the problem.
Whereas scientific truth is conveyed in the form of data, experiential truth is truth transmitted by fellowship, support and the inherited wisdom of those who came before us.
In the addictions arena, science and experience meet and at times collide with a third way of knowing drawn from frontline treatment and recovery support practices. While science, experience, and clinical practice can occupy common ground, it is in these divergent sources of knowledge that one can find radically different and competing definitions of the truth.
For example: such differences in worldviews are evident in the chasm between scientific evidence on the pharmacotherapeutic treatment of opioid addiction with methadone maintenance and attitudes toward these medications expressed within the literature and local group practices of abstinence based programs.
Scientific reviews emphasize that methadone delivered at sustained daily dosages (with no requirement to draw down or withdrawal) result in a reduction of social harm, measured in terms of reduced costs, reduced crime, and reduced threats to public safety and health. Most reputable studies indicate that this path leads to a lifetime of addiction. Little attention or resources are devoted to systemic causes: homelessness and the stigma of felon re-entry and mental illness that closes the door to employment opportunities. It’s a low cost treatment methodology that seems to say: let’s keep them doped up so they don’t steal my lawnmower.
These reviews pay little attention to the benchmarks that abstinence-based recovery community members use to evaluate Methadone Maintenance, such as, achieving complete and sustained abstinence and the quality of one’s life and service to others
Recovery community fellowships tend to be highly decentralized in their governance structures and extremely diverse in local group practices. Therefore, any statement attempting to define a recovery fellowship’s position on a particular issue is likely to be true in one place, but not in another. What binds such groups and members toward consensus on key issues are the shared understanding of the central mechanism of their recovery program, shared addiction/recovery experiences, and the principles that have been defined to guide the personal recovery process and the life of the organization.
Abstinence-based recovery programs view addiction as an all-consuming disease with three distinct elements: physical (compulsion and loss of control over decisions about using), mental (obsession with use), and spiritual (self-centeredness). Abstinence is viewed as the precondition for “the pain of living without drugs or anything to replace them” that stirs the search for a Higher Power and fuels the larger process of personal transformation.
All recovery programs are distinguished by the belief that the central mechanism of addiction recovery is a process of spiritual awakening. This spiritual transformation, which is generally viewed as a product of “working” the 12 Steps, begins with an admission of the need for complete surrender (“We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable”). Through this act of submission and the rise of hope (“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”) comes the willingness to do anything to recover and the acknowledgment that no future alcohol and drug use of any kind is possible if insanity and death are to be avoided. The philosophy of complete abstinence is rooted in the collective experience of its members that all past half measures resulted in pain and tragedy in spite of great and repeated assertions of personal will.
Through this lens any form of drug substitution and any medication used to treat addiction is seen as one more effort at using a material solution—a technological fix—to solve what is at its core a spiritual problem. We emphasize that psychotropic medications (antidepressants) are not seen as drug substitutions and we support dual-diagnosed people in recovery from addictions.
Abstinence-based recovery programs are not religious organizations; there is no dogma. The one theological proposition is a “power greater than one’s self.” Even this concept is forced on no one. Somehow the alcoholic and addict must get enough objectivity about himself or herself to abate fears and collapse false pride. If he or she can do all that through intellect, and thereafter willfully support a life structure without a “transcendent symbol,” more power to him or her! We think it no concern of ours what religion or lack of religion our members identify themselves with as individuals. This should be an entirely personal affair which each one decides for himself or herself in the light of past associations, or present choice. Not all of us have joined religious bodies, but most of us favor such memberships.
St. Thomas Aquinas said all addictions are rooted in the misuse of free will. He said there are four basic types of addictions: money, power, pleasure and honor. People become addicted to inordinate self-centered desires that take one out of right relationship with God and others … which is the definition of pride … which is the opposite of humility.
At a high level, self-centered thinking manifests itself as resentments, self-pity and self-seeking motives that I simply know God does not want me to act out on. The use of this language of persecution is discursive napalm. It obliterates any sense of scale or moderation or relationship with others.
In recorded history … whenever God manifested Himself to man … he was always preceded by an angel. And the first words out of the angel’s mouth were always the same … be not afraid.
Now please listen … fear is a consequence for obsessing about and acting upon resentments, self-pity and self-seeking motives. Afraid I’m not going to get what I want … afraid I’m going to lose what I have … afraid I’m not good enough .. afraid I am going to get caught … I … I .. I … a hundred forms of self-centered fear. Obsess long enough on an inordinate desire and sooner or later I’m sure to act out upon it. In doing so I become separated from right relationship with God and others. Then I’m baffled … I have such good intentions … why did I do that again!
The Angel preceding God’s appearance pleads with man to not separate …. Child … don’t act out on self-centered desires … Be not afraid!
Now, here’s the important question: ... and it’s not a deep psychological analysis … it’s an examination of conscience … a moral inventory … the important question is what ’s my motive for behaving like this … and I need to be truthful about this … all my problems are rooted in one or more of seven deadly sins: pride, greed, anger, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony … why I cling to them is simple to answer if I am honest with myself … because I like the affect! Acted upon often enough these motives become ingrained habits of thought and deed and then I lose volitional control of my will. That’s addiction.
The cure lies in prayer (a sick will can not cure a sick will), the process of reconciliation, the practice of virtues and being of service to other.
A lack of power … that’s our dilemma. Alcoholics Anonymous states clearly that probably no human power could have relieved us of our addiction. God could and would if He were sought.
Jesus said, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other … that you may be healed.”
We strongly agree with the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, in their book, “Church: drugs and drug addiction” ... “drugs can not be cured with drugs ...”
There are 23 million people in recovery in the United States. Our message is clear: People can recover from addictions if communities will let them.
CITVN is a member of:
Catholic Press Association
SIGNIS – World Association For Catholic Communication
Aleteia Producer Network
AdEthics Catholic Advertising Network
KnowledgeVision Producer Network
Global Ethics Network
Catholic Labor Network
Catholic Peacebuilding Network
National Catholic Council on Addictions
Association of Recovery Community Organizations
National Association of Recovery Residense
May God’s peace be with your soul!
CITVN Executive Producer