INTRODUCTION TO THE SPIRITUAL GROWTH
PROGRAM FOR ADDICTIVE OFFENDERS.
GOD-TALK DOES NOT CONNECT US WITH GOD:
Assumptions: Program Rationale
Addicts crave the fix that brings a high, a sense of being above-it-all, delight, Cloud Nine, being powerful, top of the mountain. To give this up, and even more to find a way to give up the wanting, the heart-hankering, the preoccupied yearning for it is a steep hill. An almost impossible climb that cannot be done alone. Therefore to find oneself in a deep hole is the wake up call urgently needed.
My experience is that we are all addicted, as much to processes as to things, consumerism, TV, things, looking good, habits, food, attitudes, views, many kinds of perfectionism, work, etc. The heart of the matter in faith and religion is risking oneself, becoming vulnerable for the sake of the gospel by means of reflection, action and service.
The myth in most religions is to assume that words connect us with God. The tragic flaw in Christianity is the belief that correct words connect us surely and exclusively with God. Much religious talk is vain, self-serving and self-deluding. Without risk and vulnerability, without cost, there is no following of the Christ. I believe with Bonhoeffer that “cheap grace is the mortal enemy of the church,” but also of most of Christianity, and ultimately of our society. Faith not supported by active costly loving is a phony pretense, a charade. “There are no atheists in foxholes.” The quickest fix in deep stress is to find God, to be converted--as every scoundrel in history knows. . Talking about the Bible easily become the new fix, the new high, serving well to keep one from facing the real hard work of slowly being changed by seriously examining self, learning new behaviors, by grasping how many they have hurt and betrayed. They must undertake work long neglected since they are still stuck emotionally at whatever age the addiction began. The challenge is to learn how to listen, how to value others who are different, who differ with you, and see things differently than you do. When God-talk becomes the new fix, then it becomes a way to judge others as further from God than oneself, and gives one a wondrously simple platform for feeling superior and safe and secure. This kind of conversion is a house of cards.
God talk by the addictive person is the best way to hide from the real work of facing oneself. It covers how warped in needed social skills neglecting for many years. Addicts who are “converted” but do not undergo the hard work of the 12 steps remain “dry alcoholics. ” That is, they will retain the characteristics of an alcoholic, --needing some emotional fix, still reacting, still with anger and mood swings, still not humble in heart. Therefore, not in touch with themselves as broken and wounded. They will still live reactively.
Here is one red flag The more one needs to talk about God or believe God speaks to him, the more one has found a new fix which will keep one from facing the real personal work to be done. This is day to day, minute by minute, focus in developing new social skills, in appreciating and valuing and welcoming others. Simply put, the more one needs to talk about God or the Bible the more one is hiding from oneself. Self-proclaimed “God fearing” people are blind to themselves and to their own blindness. They can be mean, ruthless and unethical in their personal lives.
In this Spiritual Growth program, we emphasize not concepts nor talk, but instead tools of spiritual growth - not what one believes. We encourage daily reading of Scriptures, but stress personal awareness, and open heart – developing new habits and openness to the brothers around us. This program was conceived as one which would deeply challenge each inmate to accept detention as a “boot camp” necessary for their change. Many years as a psychotherapist and preparing take home self help kits of specific reading provides a library of self-evaluative and educational handouts. These were assembled, and more were added as new needs emerged. Three themes are stressed, and inmates evaluate themselves for a weekly group review on each:
A. NURTURING MY INNER SELF. study, meditation, prayer, reading, completion of inventories, quiet time, self-discipline, exercise, calisthenics, etc.
B. POSITIVE BEHAVIORS SHOWN: Getting along, care of self, care of group, care of pod, listening, demonstrating new behaviors, group leadership, completing checklists, etc.
C. FEEDBACK FROM OTHERS: seeking and getting feedback regularly, friendship, mentoring, personal program, regular improvement. etc.
This program was conceived and planned during the fall and winter of 02-03, approved and started in March of 03, with the approval of then Lt. Todd Eads. The staff and chaplain have been supportive from the start. It was conceived as a interfaith program employing the tools of all the Wisdom traditions. The program is also based upon a lifetime of some 40 years of listening and helping people change.
The repeat addictive offender is not simply addicted to some substance. Two other additions are always present. They have become professional self-justifiers, as well as professional procrastinators. Therefore an entire life-change is necessary. Any program to be effective must promote a climate of both support, caring and confrontation. It takes time to build such a program, such a group and such a system. We are fortunate to have obtained volunteers who support these aims and are willing to invest themselves sufficiently to make it happen. This program is basically an extended 12 step program, with “teeth” and “bite” with in-house follow through: “show me now.”
We also realized early on that change while in detention was only the bare beginning, and that much ongoing support would be necessary. Therefore the transitional program was planned and partnerships with community organizations was undertaken. Maurice Mercier has taken prime responsibility for this. It is explained elsewhere. We next describe the Fierce Landscape for the Spiritual Warrior program and its components.. NOTE. The workbook was created over 6 years resounding to different needs emerging from a changing environment and changing of volunteers. Our most stalwart volunteer who established the Life Possibilities follow up and transition program has undertaken to put the entire workbook into 12 lessons, This is work underway. Maurice Mercier is leading this project. We hope to finish digitizing this for web publication here within several months. This is Witten in late April of 2009