A Different Look on Alcohol Problems

(This document can be downloaded in its original form by clicking A different look Alaska version.)

St. Dimitrie

St. Dimitrie Program

Information and Addiction Counseling

A different look

on alcohol problems

Companion for the information program

on alcoholism and recovery

in the Orthodox Parishes

Program developed by the Medical-Christian Association CHRISTIANA CLUJ, under the umbrella of the Orthodox Archdioces of Vad, Feleac and Cluj
in partnership with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, SUA

Contents

  1. Alcoholism, sin, and society……………………………………… 4
  2. Questions and Answers on Alcoholism ……………………………..6
  3. The Symptoms of Addiction …………………………………………..11
  4. Guide for rational drinking………………………………………………12
  5. The ‚V’ Chart of alcoholism progression and recovery……….14
  6. The Family Roles ………………………………………….. 15
  7. Open letter to my family …………….. ………………………………..19
  8. The progression of the Family Disease ……………………..20
  9. Taking Action: Prevention Strategies For Parents ………….21
  10. Substance abuse in teenagers………………………………..24
  11. Orthodox Spirituality and the Early Stages of Recovery……27
  12. A.A. at a Glance ……………………………………………31
  13. The AA Preamble …………………………………………..32

  14. The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous ……………………33

Self-test: Are you an alcoholic? ……………………………………34

What is Al-Anon? ………………………………………………………..34

Self-test: Are you troubled by someone’s drinking? ………….35

Guide for the biblical study of the first three steps of A.A….36

1. Alcoholism, Sin, And Society

Today we live in a society that is developing in new and exciting ways. For certain, in the next few years we will be entering into a phase of growth that is unparallel in Romania’s history. Our society is becoming more modernized, has more wealth, is better educated, and has more freedom of movement and of choice than ever before. One of the more obvious signs of this new development is the opening of the “Anti-Drug Coalition” offices here in Cluj this month. This is a new program, and presents new and important opportunities for helping the many thousands of alcohol and drug affected people here in our area.

Today, we are participating in a conference that attempts to answer a critical question about alcoholism, that is; “is alcoholism a sin or is it a disease?” This is a very good question, and one that needs to be discussed if we are to develop the kinds of programs necessary to help addicted people.

For sake of discussion, I will say that any person who continues to drink alcohol in spite of having negative consequences related to the drinking of alcohol could be characterized as having symptoms related to what we call “alcoholism”, or “alcohol dependency”.

The general belief today is that alcoholism is determined from not one, but from several factors in an individuals life. These include genetic, psychological, sociological and cultural factors. For example, both the Jewish and the Irish societies accept alcohol use, but the Irish have more alcoholism.

The idea behind sin is personal responsibility. The question becomes is the alcoholic responsible for being an alcoholic, that is, did he choose to have the problem of alcoholism? Or is he a victim of alcoholism, along with society? Many people would tell us that he did not choose to be an alcoholic, but rather alcoholism chooses him by factors which were beyond his control. Is he responsible for his actions? Of course he is. Is he a bad person or a “sinner” for having a disease called alcoholism? That is another question.

One thing that we can say for certain about sin is that it is separation from God. This separation from God, which was caused by sin, has been the cause of disease and death ever since the fall of Adam.

One of the apostles, St. Paul, spoke of his own condition of sin in Romans, Chapter 7, Verse 19-20; “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me”. Here St. Paul is speaking of the kind of powerlessness that comes with the human condition generally. This powerlessness is not the result of any personal sin that he may have committed. He is speaking of sin in a general way, the kind of sin that comes with our “fallen human nature”. Paul was no worse of a sinner than the rest of us. Far from it, he was very righteous and is regarded as a saint. However, his temptations were great, and he was temped by his own human weakness. Here, Paul is speaking of the kind of weakness, or “powerlessness” that the alcoholic must deal when he is trying to control his drinking, or when he is wanting to avoid taking a drink of alcohol. Many people believe that the alcoholic has a human nature that is weakened by disease, much like diabetes.

For the alcoholic, his spiritual life becomes more complicated because of the nature of alcoholism. His separation from God becomes very acute, and very real. He does not choose to separate himself from God in a deliberate or willful way. This separation happens because of his choice to drink alcohol. However, the factors that determine alcoholism are usually unknown to him. Not by choice does he become addicted; rather he becomes a victim of circumstances because of his lack of knowledge about alcoholism and addiction. And please remember the pressures of this society are obviously encouraging him to drink alcohol, the very thing that is causes the problem to begin with.

One other note about viewing alcoholism as a sin is that because of the stigma of being labeled a “sinner”, many alcoholics find it difficult to use the Church for reconciliation with God. In fairness to the clerics, until a few decades ago, alcoholism has been thought to be only a moral weakness. It has been only since the mid-1930’s, mostly through the efforts of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, that the disease concept of addictions has been better understood and accepted. Interestingly enough, AA advocates disease concept of alcoholism. However, it proposes a spiritual approach to the treatment of alcoholism. This spiritual approach is outlined in AA’s “12 Steps”, which are intended to help the individual find peace and reconciliation with themselves, other people, and with God. The first step of AA is to admit to personal “powerlessness”, exactly the kind of powerlessness the St. Paul spoke of in Romans.

Where does this lead us to in our discussion? Is alcoholism a sin, or is it a disease? Well, I would say that neither argument is completely correct. Moralistic and judgmental views only make the alcohol problem more difficult to treat because it alienates him from society. Also, the “sin model” does not consider the biological and psychological factors of the disease concept. On the other hand, a strict disease concept model of addiction does not allow for the depth of spiritual despair that the alcoholic faces, and does not allow for the development of the spiritual resources necessary for recovery. These views can compliment each other, and are both useful if they are both thought through to their conclusions. The only problem is that sometimes people holding one view of the other compete with each other, rather than trying to understand the other person’s position.

I will end by sharing a story from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 2, Verse 9. In this story Jesus is healing a man suffering from paralyzes. Jesus said to some scribes, “Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or ‘Rise, take up you pallet and walk’?” Now, in this story Jesus healed a man of a disease, and also forgave his sins. I think that in working with people suffering from addictions we need to consider that healing the disease of the body and the soul are important. We cannot do the one without doing the other.

2. Q & A on the Disease of Alcoholism…

What is “alcoholism”, or “alcohol dependency”? “Alcoholism” or “alcohol dependency” is difficult to define in simple terms. There are books written on the subject of how to diagnose exactly when a person is “dependent” on alcohol or other drugs. Put simply, alcoholism can be identified by the behaviour of drinking, and then having problems related to the drinking. These problems are followed by efforts at controlling the amounts of alcohol consumed, either by moderation or complete abstinence. For the alcoholic these efforts to stop drinking, to control the amount consumed, or to control the effects of the alcohol are usually unsuccessful. The repeated pattern of failed attempts at control or to moderate drinking behaviours are the central characteristics of “alcoholism”, or “alcohol dependence”.

A more formal definition is as follows: An “alcoholic” is defined as someone who is unable to consistently choose whether he shall drink or not, and who, if he drinks, is unable to consistently choose whether he shall stop or not. “Alcoholics with complications” are those who have developed physical or mental disorders through prolonged and excessive drinking.

Why is alcoholism considered a “Primary Disease”? This is in reference to the belief that alcoholism is a disease in and of itself, as stated by the World Health Organization in 1956. That is to say, as a “primary disease”, alcoholism is not considered a secondary symptom of some other disease or condition. It is predictable in its course, has symptoms, and is treatable. Although there are usually other emotional and/or physical problems associated with the illness that need to be treated along with the alcoholism, the alcoholism must be treated as primary if the other major symptoms are to be dealt with effectively. This is saying that if a person is having physical, social, psychological or spiritual problems that are related to heavy drinking, these situations are not likely to improve as long as the person in question is drinking alcohol.

Is the disease of alcoholism progressive? The progressive nature of alcoholism is very observable, and easy to chart. The “V-Chart” included in this manual is one model that shows it’s progressiveness. It shows a typical progressive slide downward into end-stage alcoholism on one side, and an upward slope showing the process of recovery. Usually people become alcoholic only after several years of drinking. In order to help the alcoholic, or potential alcoholic to understand this, we have them to go back into their drinking career and write about their drinking history. Seeing the changing pattern of their drinking, written on paper and in their own hand, leaves few alcoholics unconvinced that they have a problem. It also helps them to project into the future, and to see what their life might be like if they don’t accept help now. Recognizing and seeing how unmanageable their life has become because of drinking works to promote within the person the need of a daily recovery program.

Is alcoholism fatal? For many alcoholics the end result of their drinking is an early death. This comes from auto accidents, physical complications, disease, suicide, and other causes related to their drinking or drug use. We should note here, that it is common for doctors to treat the physical problems created by heavy drinking and to advise the patient that he will die if he continues on his present path. It can happen that the patient continues to drink, and then eventually dies from the physical complications caused by the alcohol consumption. Shall we say that the patient died from the liver problems, or from the alcoholism that compelled him to drink again causing the liver problems? The same holds true for the man who is advised not to drink alcohol and then to drive his automobile. If he continues to drink and drive, it is possible that he will kill not only himself but also others. This is not deliberate murder, nor is it an accident. It is the outcome of the delusion and of the denial found in a fatal disease that we call “alcohol dependence”, or “alcoholism”.

Why do only some people become alcoholic? No one seems to know why, or even how it happens that some people develop this disease that we call “alcoholism”, and why others do not. There are several theories about this, ranging from “sociological” models to “medical models”. The most widely accepted theory is that some people are born with a genetic “pre-disposition” towards alcoholism. This theory implies that there is a bio-chemical or genetic factor of some individuals that influences the likelihood of the individual developing a dependence on alcohol. In this theory, it is accepted that there are social and psychological factors that combine with the pre-disposition and either enhance or decrease the person’s likelihood of becoming alcoholic.

Does the alcoholic understand alcoholism? The person who becomes “alcoholic” usually does not understand the problem of alcoholism any better than his priest, doctor, family, friends or employer. Making the problem even worse is that by the time most people recognize that they have a problem, they are into the deeper stages of the addiction. This makes it very difficult for them to recover unless they get some outside help, such as in AA or in a treatment program like St. Dimitrie.

…and on the Recovery from It

Can alcoholism be cured? There is no known cure for alcoholism, although it can be put into remission. Alcoholism is a chronic condition, very much like diabetes, heart disease, TB, or similar other diseases. For the diabetic, following the doctors orders, and changing to a healthy lifestyle allows the effected patient to “recover” as long as they stay on their recommended program of recovery. But the diabetic, like the alcoholic, is never “cured”. If he begins to eat sweets again, he will face the same old problems. The same is true for many heart patients who find that they have heart problems. It is diet, exercise and changing to a healthier lifestyle that allows them to maintain their wellbeing. For the alcoholic, it is willingness to work a simple daily recovery program as outlined in the 12 Steps of AA, and to abstain from drinking alcohol that will allow him to live a normal life. Because there is no known cure for alcoholism, once a person “crosses over the line” into alcohol dependence they can never again return to “normal drinking”. We wish to restate that the heavy drinker can “recover”, and return to a normal level of functioning in his society if he or she is willing to abstain from the use of alcohol.

How can I identify someone with a drinking problem? Identifying a drinking problem can be difficult. It is not about how much someone may be drinking each day or week. To say it another way, it is not “how much” a person drinks, but rather “what are the effects of the alcohol” on the person that is drinking. The question to ask is, does drinking affect the individual’s physical health? Does drinking affect their mental health? What are the effects on their emotional health? What are the effects of drinking on their family life and on their relationships with loved one’s? How does it affect their social and professional life? And most importantly, how does drinking alcohol affect their spiritual life and their relationship with God? Answering the following four questions can help you find out if someone you know has a drinking problem: 1) Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your drinking? 2) Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? 3) Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking? 4) Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover? One “yes” answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. More than one “yes” answers means it is highly likely that a problem exists. If you think that someone you know might have an alcohol dependence problem, it is important to consider the options available for help, either through the AA program, or through the St. Dimitrie Project.

What is meant by “Recovery”? When we speak of “recovery”, we mean that a person that is addicted to alcohol or drugs “recovers” or “regains” his or her ability to function in society without being dependent on alcohol or drugs. This implies a return to normal functioning within the society. This does not imply that the person has been “cured”, and can thereby safely drink alcohol again. It is never safe for the problematic drinker to use alcohol in any form.

What is a “Recovery Program”? This term can be used in two ways. An individual persons “recovery program” usually refers to how the individual uses the simple living skills found in treatment, or in AA, for remaining abstinent. This is different than when the term is applied to an organization like AA, or to a treatment centre like St. Dimitrie. It is then used as referring to the specific “program of recovery” or “treatment program” that is endorsed by that particular organization or institution.

What is “Alcoholics Anonymous”? Alcoholics Anonymous or “AA” is the most widely used program of recovery for alcoholism in the world today. The AA program started in 1935, when two alcoholics began helping each other to stay sober. They began to treat their alcoholism as they would any other life threatening disease. They began following a “daily program” of recovery that enabled them to stay sober. It should be noted here that clinical treatment programs like the St. Dimitrie Program are different than the Alcoholics Anonymous program, and although there are similarities, these two types of programs should not be confused. Please refer to the section in the manual “About Alcoholics Anonymous”.

Why is AA so important in recovery programs? The AA group is a critical element in the recovery program because it helps to reduce the denial, stigma and shame of the alcoholic. The group also provides positive role models from people that are in recovery themselves. This means that the newcomer in AA learns about how to remain abstinence from other people who have had the same problem with alcohol. The AA group also gives the problem drinker a new set of friends who will encourage abstinence, rather than encouraging him to drink. This new circle of friends, is called a “peer support group” or “social support group”. It is critical to the alcoholic that he attends these meetings regularly if he is to remain abstinent.

3. Symptoms of Addiction

  • Preoccupation for the drug (people, places, things related to the use);
  • Increased tolerance (the need for a higher amount in order to obtain the same mood change);
  • Withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing use ;
  • Failure of the values system (he lies, cheats, hides, denies…);
  • Social, mental, spiritual, emotional, physical deterioration

The disease of addiction affects all the dimensions of the user, as all his family members

Abstinence Irrational use ? Abuse Addiction

—————–—————–

? = the time of crossing from irrational alcohol use to abuse,

without having the possibility of marking an exact point in this transition

Spiritual = failure of the values system

Mental = denial, rationalization, minimizing, generalization

Emotional = expressed trough feelings of guilt, shame, fear, blaming others

Physical = i.e., in case of alcohol: lever cirrhosis, brain problems, stomach aches, mouth and throat cancer, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol related work injuries (falling, electrocuting… )

The statistics show that the time frame from the first use till the beginning of addiction differs with the age:

for an Adult between 5 and 15 years

for a Teen-Ager between 5 and 15 months

for a Pre-Teen-Ager between 5 and 15 weeks

6. The Family Roles

The family as a system. Family represents a group of individuals connected through biological and emotional links. Each of the family members is unique, has his own rights, but, together, they form a ‘whole’ – the family. Each family member influences the others, while the family as a whole influences each individual member. This is the family system. A good comparison is the one with a toy having more elements suspended and in balance with each other; if one of the objects falls or gets broken, the others will also be affected, will spin around, trying to get back in balance. A sick child will involve all the people around him, whether by taking care of him, or by being jealous on the attention he is getting. The same is when a family member becomes an alcoholic: the rest of the family will have to “cope”, to survive in the new life circumstances. Here are some of the ways in which we try to do this (otherwise named roles that we undertake in this survival fight):

  1. The Alcoholic / the Addict.
  • Behaviors: losing control over his drinking; denial; unable to fulfill the specific grown-up tasks; egocentric; blaming others; charming; knowing everything; perfectionism; grandomaniac; self-pity; aggressiveness; ‘master of excuses’; withdrawn; sexual and intimacy problems;
  • Feelings: pain; guilt; fear; anger; shame; despises and hates himself;
  1. The Enabler
  • Behaviors: over-responsible; serious; manipulation; self-blaming; self-pity; martyrdom; seeking control; helpless; ‘good person’; fragile; easy getting ill;
  • Feelings: pain; anger; fear; guilt; helplessness; inadequacy; lack of trust in himself;
  1. The Hero
  • Behaviors: a substitute for the parents; leader; serious; tries to control; needs approval; workaholic; focuses on realistic tasks; obsessed by performance; successful; doesn’t like losing; independent, moves away from the parents home; likes to be the center of attention, to dominate; competitive; tendency to alcoholism; wants to always be right; not assertive; sometimes, aggressive; seems calm, but feel hurt; often marries an alcoholic.
  • Feelings: pain; loneliness; inadequacy; confusion; anger; fear; guilt;
  • Brings to the family: responsibility
  1. The Scapegoat
  • Behaviors: disrespect; identification with ‘peers’ from questionable entourages; confrontational; early substance use; rebellious (related to self-esteem); withdrawn; doesn’t follow rules; unplanned pregnancy; delinquency; runaway; aggressive when playing; accidents; takes high risks; imitates the behaviors of the addict; antisocial; irritable; problems at school; can’t trust nobody; in school, misses school a lot, low grades, rebellious, ends up in counseling.
  • Feelings: pain; fear; loneliness; rejected; anger; inadequacy; resentments.
  • Brings to the family: distracts the attention from the rest of the family; focuses the negative attention.
  1. The Lost Child
  • Behaviors: compliant; spontaneous; rich imagination; materialistic; eating disorders (over-weighted); distant; over-independent; quit; lonely, isolated; poor practical skills; repressing the sexual identity; childish; fragile; anxious; ‘freak’; in school, average grades, ignored by teachers and mates;
  • Feelings: pain; loneliness; inadequacy; anger; fear; helpless; unworthy;
  • Brings to the family: relief (‘one we don’t have to worry about’)
  1. The Mascot
  • Behaviors: warm, sensitive; good listener; clown behavior; avoids conflicts; hiper-active; ‘the family pet’; immature; poor sexual boundaries; looks for a hero to protect him; seems joyful, but feels angry; in school, concentration problems, poor grades;
  • Feelings: fear; loneliness; insecurity; resentments; guilt; confusion; discontent;
  • Brings to the family: amusement; relaxation.

Recovery…

… is important and possible in the 12 Step programs for:

      • The alcoholic  Alcoholics Anonymous

      • Enabler / spouse  Al-Anon

      • Children  Alateen

The Hero:

  • Strong points… his strengths are making him to be a responsible leader who knows to set up short term objectives; good volunteer and a natural instinct for success;
  • He needs to learn…to relax and have fun; to be spontaneous; to follow directions from others; to negotiate and ask for help;
  • Good attitudes from the grown-ups… to offer him attention even when he doesn’t get big results; to strengthen his personal worth and helping him make the difference btw. his own value and his successes; to teach him that making mistakes is normal;
  • Bad attitudes from the grown-ups… not to let him dominate a conversation or always be the one doing things / answering at school / volunteering.

The Scapegoat:

  • Strong points…often, very creative, is straight and very loyal;
  • He needs to learn…to express anger and pain in a constructive manner; to make the difference btw. his mistakes and those for which are wrongly accused for and to take responsibility for the firsts; to get involved in activities that will bring them positive attention; to forgive themselves;
  • Good attitudes from the grown-ups… to tell him when is his behavior inadequate; to praise him every time he takes responsibility for something; to be empathetic toward the kid and his behavior;
  • Bad attitudes from the grown-ups…to feel sorry for the child; to treat him preferentially and to give him more power; to agree with his complaints regarding other kids and grownups; not to take his behavior personally and to see himself as an incompetent teacher / counselor etc.

The Lost Child:

  • Strong points… is a easy o work with and has a rich imagination; he works good independently and follows with care the rules;
  • He needs to learn… how to acknowledge his own worth, how to identify his feelings and his needs, how to initiate new activities, how to find alternatives and make decisions on his own; how to ask questions;
  • Good attitudes from the grown-ups…to take all the kids into account and have one-to-one meetings, especially those who are constantly being neglected; to point out and encourage his qualities, his talents and creativity; to be sensitive to the personal interests of the child; to have personal contact (hugs, shaking hands etc.); to teach him how to develop a relationship with his peers and mates; to encourage small groups work in order to build up his trust and confidence;
  • Bad attitudes from the grown-ups… not to allow him to ‘escape’ by accepting him to remain quit or not to get involved; not calling him on his name; allowing other kids to take too much care of him by answering in his place or speaking in his name;

The Mascot:

  • Strong points… a special sense of humor and spontaneity; sensitive to other people’s problems and trying to help them reduce stress;
  • He needs to learn… how to get attention, appreciation and help from others; how to recognize and accept his anger and fears; how to take care of his own needs and desires; how to solve conflicts; how to allow others to take responsibility for their own actions;
  • Good attitudes from the grown-ups… to control their anger when faced with the ‘school’s clown’; to offer him tasks of a certain relevance and importance; to keep him accountable when necessary; to encourage an adequate sense of humor; to stress the eye contact;
  • Bad attitudes from the grown-ups… not to encourage the distracting activities of the clown; avoiding shallow attitudes toward them.

7. Letter to my family

I am an alcoholic. I need your help.
Don’t lecture, blame or scold me. You wouldn’t be angry at me for having TB or diabetes. Alcoholism is a disease, too.
Don’t pour out my liquor; it’s just a waste because I can always find ways of getting more.
Don’t let me provoke your anger. If you attack me verbally or physically, you will only confirm my bad opinion about myself. I hate myself enough already.
Don’t let your love and anxiety for me lead you into doing what I ought to do for myself. If you assume my responsibilities, you make my failure to assume them permanent. My sense of guilt will be increased, and you will feel resentful.
Don’t accept my promises. I’ll promise anything to get off the hook. But the nature of my illness prevents me from keeping my promises, even though I mean them at the time.
Don’t make empty threats. Once you have made a decision, stick to it.
Don’t believe everything I tell you; it may be a lie. Denial of reality is a symptom of my illness. Moreover, I’m likely to lose respect for those I can fool too easily.
Don’t let me take advantage of you or exploit you in any way. Love cannot exist for long without the dimension of justice.
Don’t cover up for me or try in any way to spare me the consequences of my drinking. Don’t lie for me, pay my bills, or meet my obligations. It may avert or reduce the very crisis that would prompt me to seek help. I can continue to deny that I have a drinking problem as long as you provide an automatic escape for the consequences of my drinking.
Above all, do learn all you can about alcoholism and your role in relation to me. Go to open AA meetings when you can. Attend Al-anon meetings regularly, read the literature and keep in touch with Al-Anon members. They’re the people who can help you see the whole situation clearly.

I love you.

Your Alcoholic.

9. Taking Action:

Prevention Strategies For Parents

While parent-child conversations about drinking are essential, talking isn’t enough—you also need to take concrete action to help your child resist alcohol. Research strongly shows that active, supportive involvement by parents and guardians can help teens avoid underage drinking and prevent later alcohol misuse.

  • Monitor Alcohol Use in Your Home. If you keep alcohol in your home, keep track of the supply. Make clear to your child that you don’t allow unchaperoned parties or other teen gatherings in your home. If possible, however, encourage him or her to invite friends over when you are at home. The more entertaining your child does in your home, the more you will know about your child’s friends and activities.

  • Connect With Other Parents. Getting to know other parents and guardians can help you keep closer tabs on your child. Friendly relations can make it easier for you to call the parent of a teen who is having a party to be sure that a responsible adult will be present and that alcohol will not be available. You’re likely to find out that you’re not the only adult who wants to prevent teen alcohol use—many other parents share your concern.

  • Keep Track of Your Child’s Activities. Be aware of your teen’s plans and whereabouts. Generally, your child will be more open to your supervision if he or she feels you are keeping tabs because you care, not because you distrust him or her.

  • Develop Family Rules About Teen Drinking. When parents establish clear “no alcohol” rules and expectations, their children are less likely to begin drinking. While each family should develop agreements about teen alcohol use that reflect their own beliefs and values, some possible family rules about drinking are:

  • Kids will not drink alcohol until they are 21.

  • Older siblings will not encourage younger brothers or sisters to drink and will not give them alcohol.

  • Kids will not stay at teen parties where alcohol is served.

  • Kids will not ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking.

Once you have chosen rules for your family, you will need to establish appropriate consequences for breaking those rules. Be sure to choose a penalty that you are willing to carry out. Also, don’t make the consequences so harsh that they become a barrier to open communication between you and your teen. The idea is to make the penalty “sting” just enough to make your child think twice about breaking the rule. A possible consequence might be temporary restrictions on your child’s socializing.

Finally, you must be prepared to consistently enforce the consequences you have established. If your children know that they will lose certain privileges each and every time an alcohol use rule is broken, they will be more likely to keep their agreements.

  • Set a Good Example. Parents and guardians are important role models for their children—even children who are fast becoming teenagers. Studies indicate that if a parent uses alcohol, his or her children are more likely to drink themselves. But even if you use alcohol, there may be ways to lessen the likelihood that your child will drink. Some suggestions:

  1. • Use alcohol moderately.
  2. • Don’t communicate to your child that alcohol is a good way to handle problems. For example, don’t come home from work and say, “I had a rotten day. I need a drink.”
  1. • Instead, let your child see that you have other, healthier ways to cope with stress, such as exercise; listening to music; or talking things over with your spouse, partner, or friend.
  2. • Don’t tell your kids stories about your own drinking in a way that conveys the message that alcohol use is funny or glamorous.
  3. • Never drink and drive or ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking.
  4. • When you entertain other adults, make available alcohol-free beverages and plenty of food. If anyone drinks too much at your party, make arrangements for them to get home safely.
  • Don’t Support Teen Drinking. Your attitudes and behavior toward teen drinking also influence your child. Avoid making jokes about underage drinking or drunkenness, or otherwise showing acceptance of teen alcohol use. In addition, never serve alcohol to your child’s underage friends. Research shows that kids whose parents or friends’ parents provide alcohol for teen get-togethers are more likely to engage in heavier drinking, to drink more often, and to get into traffic crashes. Remember, too, that it is illegal in most states to provide alcohol to minors who are not family members.

You can also join school and community efforts to discourage alcohol use by teens. By working with school officials and other members of your community, you can help to develop policies to reduce alcohol availability to teens and to enforce consequences for underage drinking.

  • Help Your Child Build Healthy Friendships. If your child’s friends use alcohol, your child is more likely to drink too. A good first step is to simply get to know your child’s friends better. You can then invite the kids you feel good about to family get-togethers and outings and find other ways to encourage your child to spend time with those teens. Also, talk directly with your youngster about the qualities in a friend that really count, such as trustworthiness and kindness, rather than popularity or a “cool” style. When you disapprove of one of your child’s friends, the situation can be tougher to handle. While it may be tempting to simply forbid your child to see that friend, such a move may make your child even more determined to hang out with him or her. Instead, you might try pointing out your reservations about the friend in a caring, supportive way. You can also limit your child’s time with that friend through your family rules, such as how after-school time can be spent or how late your child can stay out in the evening.
  • Encourage Healthy Alternatives to Alcohol. One reason kids drink is to beat boredom. Therefore, it makes sense to encourage your child to participate in supervised after-school and weekend activities that are challenging and fun.

COULD MY CHILD DEVELOP A DRINKING PROBLEM?

While this booklet is mainly concerned with preventing teen alcohol use, we also need to pay attention to the possibility of youthful alcohol abuse. Certain children are more likely than others to drink heavily and encounter alcohol-related difficulties, including health, school, legal, family, and emotional problems. Kids at highest risk for alcohol-related problems are those who:

  1. • Begin using alcohol or other drugs before the age of 15.
  2. • Have a parent who is a problem drinker or an alcoholic.
  3. • Have close friends who use alcohol and/or other drugs.
  4. • Have been aggressive, antisocial, or hard to control from an early age.
  5. • Have experienced childhood abuse and/or other major traumas.
  6. • Have current behavioral problems and/or are failing at school.
  7. • Have parents who do not support them, do not communicate openly with them, and do not keep track of their behavior or whereabouts.
  8. • Experience ongoing hostility or rejection from parents and/or harsh, inconsistent discipline.

ACTION CHECKLIST

  • Establish a loving, trusting relationship with your child
  • Make it easy for your teen to talk honestly with you.
  • Talk with your child about alcohol facts, reasons not to drink, and ways to avoid drinking in difficult situations.
  • Keep tabs on your young teen’s activities, and join with other parents in making common policies about teen alcohol use.
  • Develop family rules about teen drinking and establish consequences.
  • Set a good example regarding your own alcohol use and your response to teen drinking.
  • Encourage your child to develop healthy friendships and fun alternatives to drinking.
  • Know whether your child is at high risk for a drinking problem; if so, take steps to lessen that risk.
  • Know the warning signs of a teen drinking problem and act promptly to get help for your child.
  • Believe in your own power to help your child avoid alcohol use.

10. Substance abuse in teenagers

  • risk factors –
  1. teenagers subculture: grownups are trying to control the teenagers use by associating it with a certain age, with certain social events, with ceremonies and festivities; our culture (family, community, churches) have changed their attitude to one that is not only pro-use, but also one of giving up old traditions and reducing control. Overall, the environment is only one of the ‘causes’ of teenage drinking – in other words, a risk factor. Most of the drinking doesn’t take place in the family, social or religious circumstances, but in a peer subculture. This subculture is one that is often unsupervised by responsible adults, that improvises its own rituals and that gives its own meaning to substance use. In the worst case, this ends up being a ‘caricature’ of the society, and all the caricatures are predisposed to exaggerations. Still, not all the teenagers develop addictions, so we can not totally blame the cultural factors.
  1. teenagers personality: by their nature, teenagers are prone to taking risks which, even if dangerous, are captivating and attractive; teenagers live ‘here and now’, much more than adults do; from a developmental perspective, teenagers are the middle distance between childhood and maturity, both biologically and cognitively (the ability to plan and foresee the consequences). From the same reason, teenagers have a difficult time in delaying the gratification (reward); drinking offers an immediate reward. It is easier for teens to move from the experimental use to the habitual one in order to feel good or to avoid feeling bad, without taking the consequences into account. In time, drinking can become the main recreation source and coping mechanism – rebellion; will power – knowing what you want and think, no matter what others want and think, can become dangerous if it develops without the planning and consequence anticipation skills; the desire for independence involves a certain opposition. The parents attitude is essential – id they are too severe, they will block the autonomy of the future adult, leaving vulnerable to peers pressure; the opposite attitude, of giving up their social and parental responsibilities, leaves the teenager without a structured set of values and traditions. In the happy case of a successful individualization process, the outcome is a mixture of parental influence, of the own culture and experience, under the sign of willpower and integrity and guided by values and ideals congruent with the social interests.
  1. peer pressure: a great part of the teenagers-parents conflict has to do with loyalty: parents approval vs. friends approval; teenagers are more sensitive to group rules about the way they look, their behaviors and attitudes, and most of their mood changes has to do with the struggle of winning and maintaining this approval. This subculture is one that encourages the hedonistic / instrumental substance use; if the group to whom your child belongs to, has such an attitude, he is at risk of developing a substance use and abuse problem.
  1. teenagers estrangement: this refers to rejecting / interrupting the connection between the teenager and the parents and society’s values, ideals, traditions; this is not without emotional consequences; the estranged teenagers are angry, they do what they do because they feel betrayed (even without really acknowledging in this way) by those of whom values they reject. In fact, each estranged teenager has been neglected by his family, society or by both.
  1. stress: the problem of stress needs to be seen from the perspective of coping mechanisms (the less of them an individual has, the more stressed he will be); the stress symptoms include nervousness, anxiety, irritability, agitation, sleeplessness, concentration problems, eating disorders and substance use problems as a compensation. The dysfunctional family environment is one of the main stress factors, especially where there is physical, sexual and emotional abuse, domestic violence, arrests, parental alcohol and drug abuse, mental disorders at one of the parents. Still, not all the teenagers that develop a substance use problem are coming from these kinds of families.
  1. insecurity and low self-esteem: self-esteem is based on the ability of overcoming the obstacles; the success strengthens the self-esteem, while failure leads to self-esteem decrease and anticipating the future failures; chronic failure and frustration ends up in despair and “learned helplessness”. Insecurity has its roots in the lack of affection, in a climate of trust in others and in himself. Both of these aspects may lead to substance use as a compensation method. Each teenager is an individual looking for something to make him feel special and proud, whether it’s personal attractiveness, talent, social skills or intelligence.

The process of addiction

    1. Experimental use – motivated primary by curiosity and the search for ‘high’ moods (sometimes, also by rebellion); the use effects are less important than the mood that comes along with this taboo; this use takes place usually in a social context, it’s not frequent, can be impulsive and lead to drunkenness; we can also meet the use of multiple substances.
    1. Social use – the primary motivation is social acceptance and social facilities (integration); the main effects are relaxation and giving up the inhibitions; this use takes place in the friends / colleagues group, at parties; big amounts of alcohol can be used, they can get drunk; hangovers and blackouts may appear; this is the stage when teenagers begin to learn about the instrumental effects of drinking on emotions and behaviors.
    1. Instrumental use – in this stage, the teenager searches for the previous mentioned effects of drinking on emotions and behavior; there are two types of use: the hedonistic one (searching for pleasure and giving up the inhibitions, sexual or aggressive behavior) and compensatory use (using the substance to inhibit a behavior or suppress some emotions, like anger, resentments, guilt, shame, pain, boredom or anxiety). At times, accidents, hangovers or blackouts may appear, but the negative consequences are still minimal and hard to notice. Missing school and lower school performances may result, but the adults will not make yet the connection with drinking.
    1. Habitual use – alcohol use becomes the main way of entertainment and/or coping with problems. Changes in the lifestyle may appear (entering a group that drinks heavily, intoxications are more often, isolation, rebellion, irritability). Also, this is the stage when we can talk about a tolerance increase (the need of progressively using more alcohol to obtain the same effect) and about maintaining the alcohol use behavior, despite the physical, social, legal, academic and emotional consequences.
    1. Compulsive use – loosing the control of the use (when, where, how much, for how long), preoccupation with the use, unable to stop the use; irritable and depressive when not using.

11. Orthodox Spirituality

and the Early Stages of Recovery

In helping alcoholics and addicts, there are different views about addiction and recovery. The first of these is the professional level, which is based in medicine and psychology. From this perspective addiction is viewed as a brain disease, and the cause is genetic and neuro-chemical. Here they offer the hope that a medical prescription will help bring about a cure, or through some psychological counseling insight the patient will be cured of the addiction. Then there is the other perspective, where treatment is helping people to accept that alcoholism is a treatable disease using spiritual measures, and that the responsibility for accepting this help is with the alcoholic. This type of “treatment process” involves helping the addict or alcoholic to review their past, to accept the need for complete abstinence from alcohol or drugs, and in helping them to develop basic recovery skills so that they can stay alcohol and drug free. For most of these people, recovery will involve personal change that is spiritual in nature. There are other paths to recovery, but spiritual measures are the most proven method for most people who have recovered. People who cannot accept a spiritual path should be helped in other ways.

First of all, let’s look at some basic teachings about Orthodox spirituality. Here it is said that the main purpose and goal of life is unification with God and participation in His divine nature. The Church would also say that unity with God can only be achieved through God’s eternal Son, Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) Unity with the Son is perfected by and through the Holy Spirit. It is natural for the soul to seek this unity, and is the soul’s main occupation. Man cannot find love, peace in life or harmony without this unity with Christ, in and through the Holy Spirit. It should be remembered that from the Orthodox perspective spirituality is mostly a question of God’s action on the soul through what is called “grace” and not man’s action on his own soul, which would be more like psychology. Orthodox spirituality then is related to the origin of grace, and in finding grace. Finding grace is essential to spiritual growth, and grace only comes from God. While it can be said the grace is freely given by God, man does have his own activities in finding this grace. This is usually done through prayer, the sacraments, fasting and other common spiritual actions such as doing good works. It must be said again however that “grace” is a gift from God, and not something that we achieve or deserve. Our activities only help to prepare our souls for the activity of God’s gifts.

In order to achieve the unity with God that our souls strive for it is necessary that there exists cooperation between God’s activity, which is grace, and man’s will. It is “volition” or “will”, and not “intellect” or “emotion” that is the primary element in man’s effort at unity and harmony with God. This implies man’s surrender of “self will” and an “acceptance” of God’s will in his life. Man is dependent upon God for grace, and cannot achieve unity with God through his own efforts, no matter how great they are. It is only through divine grace and intervention that man achieves this unity. However, man’s own efforts and willful consent are necessary to the plan of salvation. When we select that which is good, through seeking and doing God’s will, then God gives us grace for accomplishing the soul’s desire. This is a willful act of “cooperation” with God on man’s part, and a free gift of grace on God’s part. We are always free to choose to do His will, and He is always free to give His grace. All good that we have comes from God, even our own volition. How we use the gift of our own free will is always our own personal choice.

Alcoholism at its most basic level is spiritual, in that it implies a separation from God, which is our most unnatural state. The mistaken use of volition which leads to addiction separates the alcoholic from God’s grace, and then the addiction overwhelms the alcoholic spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. The addict essentially becomes “powerless” over the addiction. Spiritual recovery is necessary because the alcoholic needs to move in the direction of reunification with God. This spiritual direction and motion was lost through the misuse of volition, which is related to the alcoholism. This change in spiritual direction can only be achieved through spiritual means, both through the use of our own volition, and through God’s freely given grace. The alcoholic must regain the God given direction of his soul, find his true value system”, or “belief system”, and regain the peace and harmony with God that was lost through the drinking or drugging.

Said in a different way, addiction occurs at the spiritual level when a person loses the ability to use their “volition” or “will power” in a normal and healthy way. That is, they consistently make self defeating decisions regarding their addictions that harmfully affect both themselves and others. Their choices are against their God given instincts and their souls desire to unite with God. They have plenty of “will-power”, but it is misused or misdirected willpower. Inner turmoil is caused by the conflict that they have with their own value system. Isolation occurs because of the lost relationship with others, God and himself. The alcoholic becomes lost in his own delusion and confusion and does not recognize his own condition.

Recovery occurs at the spiritual level when the addict regains the ability to make right choices in his life, and finds peace with his or her self and with God. The addict begins to use his “will-power” to work a program of recovery. This does not mean the addict can drink or drug normally again. That choice is lost forever. Recovery implies acceptance of this fact. He or she will no longer fight to regain control of the addiction and will trust that God will restore his sanity about drinking. He will become “God Dependant” and will begin to trust in God’s grace and help. He will lose the desire to drink or drug as a way of dealing with his problems, and begin to rely on God’s help in all of his daily affairs.

The “Bridge” between addiction and recovery is not an easy one to cross. In the extreme confusion of active addiction it is almost impossible for the alcoholic or addict to get honest about his condition, and to accept the fact that he needs help from others in order to recover. Actually, most people who do recover either report a “spiritual experience” or “enlightenment” which is closely related to a life changing event such as divorce or near death experience, or they have an intervention made by some outside person such as an addictions counselor. The help comes from outside themselves.

Of course belief in God and having faith that God can and will help him through his difficulties is certainly a good thing. The problem usually comes when the alcoholic confuses belief with quality of belief. Even the devil believes in God, but it does him little good. To recover from addiction, there needs to be a quality change in the relationship with God, and it must come from a genuine desire to change for the good, and to have harmony with God’s will. This requires humility before God, and surrender to God’s will in all areas of his life by giving up his own self will and ego. Having an open mind about recovery principles which are based in spirituality will help him to find that relationship that is missing.

There are people who do not recover from their addictions. Usually these are people who cannot be honest with themselves about their addiction or alcoholism. These are people who only want to escape the immediate consequences of their addiction. They may have certain organic problems related to their alcohol or drug use. Also, forcing people into recovery is generally not helpful, although under certain circumstances they can be helped if it is done correctly and with professional help. There are also heavy drinkers who are not alcoholics that do not accept that they have a problem, and who refuse help. These people are known by their lack of guilt over their drinking behaviors. They simply don’t care about the consequences to themselves or to society. And lastly, people who are unwilling to accept the concept of God, or who are unwilling to live by spiritual principles will usually not find relief from their alcoholism or addiction. However, many of these will recover if they develop the capacity to be honest with themselves, and become willing to grow along spiritual paths. It should be noted that just attending church is usually not enough. There must be a change of attitude towards their addiction, and there must be willing to grow spiritually. Personal honesty and a willingness to change are the two key elements of recovery.

12. A.A. at a Glance……This is A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature

What is A.A.? Alcoholics Anonymous is a voluntary, worldwide fellowship of men and women from all walks of life who meet together to attain and maintain sobriety. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership.

Current Membership. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 groups and over 2,000,000 members in 150 countries.

Relations With Outside Agencies. The Fellowship has adopted a policy of ·cooperation but not affiliation· with other organizations concerned with the problem of alcoholism. We have no opinion on issues outside A.A. and neither endorse nor oppose any causes.

How A.A. Is Supported. Over the years, Alcoholics Anonymous has affirmed and strengthened a tradition of being fully self-supporting and of neither seeking nor accepting contributions from nonmembers. Within the Fellowship, the amount that may be contributed by any individual member is limited to $2,000 a year.

How A.A. Members Maintain Sobriety. A.A. is a program of total abstinence. Members simply stay away from one drink, one day at a time. Sobriety is maintained through sharing experience, strength and hope at group meetings and through the suggested Twelve Steps for recovery from alcoholism.

Why Alcoholics Anonymous Is “Anonymous”. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of A.A. It disciplines the Fellowship to govern itself by principles rather than personalities. We are a society of peers. We strive to make known our program of recovery, not individuals who participate in the program. Anonymity in the public media is assurance to all A.A.s, especially to newcomers, that their A.A. membership will not be disclosed.

Anyone May Attend A.A. Open Meetings. Anyone may attend open meetings of A.A. These usually consist of talks by a leader and two or three speakers who share experience as it relates to their alcoholism and their recovery in A.A. Some meetings are held for the specific purpose of informing the nonalcoholic public about A.A. Doctors, members of the clergy, and public officials are invited. Closed discussion meetings are for alcoholics only.

How A.A. Started. A.A. was started in 1935 by a New York stockbroker and an Ohio surgeon (both now deceased), who had been ·hopeless· drunks. They founded A.A. in an effort to help others who suffered from the disease of alcoholism and to stay sober themselves. A.A. grew with the formation of autonomous groups, first in the United States and then around the world.

How You Can Find A.A. In Your Town. Look for ·Alcoholics Anonymous· in any telephone directory. In most urban areas, a central A.A. office, or ·intergroup,· staffed mainly by volunteer A.A.s, will be happy to answer your questions and/or put you in touch with those who can.

What A.A. Does Not Do. A.A. does not: Keep membership records or case histories. . . engage in or support research. . . join ·councils· or social agencies (although A.A. members, groups and service offices frequently cooperate with them). . . follow up or try to control its members. . . make medical or psychiatric prognoses or dispense medicines or psychiatric advise. . . provide drying-out or nursing services or sanitariums. . . offer religious services. . . provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or other welfare or social services. . . provide domestic or vocational counseling. . . provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, social agencies, employers, etc.

Taken from http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org

13. The Preamble of A.A.

Alcoholics Anonymous ® [Alcoholics Anonymous] is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other, that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

  • The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions.

  • AA does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes.

  • Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”

14. The 12 Steps of

Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.

  4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.

  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principals in all of our affairs.

15. Are You an Alcoholic?

Answer these questions as honest as you possible can!

  1. Do you lose time at work because of your drinking

  2. Does your drinking make your marriage happier?

  3. Do you drink because you are shy towards other people?

  4. Does your drinking affect your reputation?

  5. Do you drink in a bad company or in an inferior environment?

  6. Does your drinking make you neglect your house chores?
  7. Has your ambition decreased since you are drinking?
  8. Do you feel remorse after you drink?

  9. Have you had any financial difficulties because of your drinking?
  10. Do you feel the need to drink at a certain time during the day?
  11. Do you want to drink something the next morning?

  12. Do you have problems sleeping because of your drinking?
  13. Has your efficiency decreased since you’ve been drinking?
  14. Does your drinking endanger your job or your business?
  15. Do you drink because you want to get rid of your problems?
  16. Do you drink alone?

  17. Have you had any memory loses (“blackouts”) because of your drinking?

  18. Have you been treated by a doctor for conditions caused by your drinking?

  19. Do you drink in order to build your self-esteem?

  20. Have you ever been hospitalized because of your drinking?

SELF-EVALUATION…If you have answered “Yes”

to any…of these questions, there is an warning signal that you might be alcoholic!

two questions, there are chances that you might be alcoholic!

three or more of these questions, you are definitely alcoholic!

16. What is Al-Anon?

The Al-Anon Family Groups are a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems. We believe alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery.

Al-Anon is not allied with any sect, denomination, political entity, organization, or institution; does not engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any cause. There are no dues for membership. Al-Anon is self-supporting through its own voluntary contributions.

Al-Anon has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic.

17. Are You Troubled by Someone’s Drinking?
Al-Anon Is for You!

Millions of people are affected by the excessive drinking of someone close. The following questions are designed to help you decide whether or not you need Al-Anon:

  • Do you worry about how much someone else drinks?
  • Do you have money problems because of someone else’s drinking?
  • Do you tell lies to cover up for someone else’s drinking?
  • Do you feel that if the drinker cared about you, he or she would stop drinking to please you?
  • Do you blame the drinker’s behavior on his or her companions?
  • Are plans frequently upset or canceled or meals delayed because of the drinker?
  • Do you make threats, such as, “If you don’t stop drinking, I’ll leave you”?
  • Do you secretly try to smell the drinker’s breath?
  • Are you afraid to upset someone for fear it will set off a drinking bout?
  • Have you been hurt or embarrassed by a drinker’s behavior?
  • Are holidays and gatherings spoiled because of drinking?
  • Have you considered calling the police for help in fear of abuse?
  • Do you search for hidden alcohol?
  • Do you ever ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking?
  • Have you refused social invitations out of fear or anxiety?
  • Do you feel like a failure because you can’t control the drinking?
  • Do you think that if the drinker stopped drinking, your other problems would be solved?
  • Do you ever threaten to hurt yourself to scare the drinker?
  • Do you feel angry, confused, or depressed most of the time?
  • Do you feel there is no one who understands your problems?

If you have answered “Yes” to any of these questions, Al-Anon or Alateen may help you.

Alcoholism is a disease that… YOU

have NOT … caused!

can NOT … control!

can NOT … cure!

18. Guide for the biblical study

of the first three steps of A.A.

Step 1.

“My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness… For when I am weak, then I am strong.”(2Corinthians 12:9-10). Step 1 tells us that the beginning of our recovery depends on “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable”. Recognizing our lack of power comes in conflict with many of the cultural messages that convince us that we have to be strong, that we have to be the masters of our own destinies, but it’s also conflictual with the message that our disease of alcoholism is giving us: “You can resist alcohol better than others! You can drink more! You can handle it!” This is how we get into situations where our drinking gets to unimaginable heights and gives us the most awful physical, emotional and spiritual pain. The St. Ap. Paul was phrasing to well this fight of ours: “for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it, Instead, I do the things I hate… But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. ” (Romans 7:15-24). “If you will continue to do what you’ve been doing, you’ll get what you’ve been getting.”

Still, the paradox of Step 1 tells us that overcoming our denial and admitting our defeat is the only way of transforming our lives and of overcoming our weaknesses. The wise king Solomon was saying that God will help anyone if he can be humble and ask for His help. As long as we are too proud to admit our powerlessness, we can not become the witnesses of God’s work in our lives. (Psalms 72:12-13).

Step 1 is asking us to shout our pain: “O, Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried out to the day and night…For my life is full of trouble and death draws near” (Psalms 88:1-3), so we can begin our spiritual journey toward the Shepard of our souls (Mathews 9:36).

The shout of Step 1: “God, I can’t take it anymore!”

Step 2. “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Step 2 is an extension of Step 1; after admitting our powerlessness, we need a new source of power to take care of our ‘insanity’ and to bring our hope back (“Hear me speedly, O Lord; my spirit failed” – Psalms 142:7). But this is possible only if we manage to overcome the temptation of self-pity, of blaming the others for our sufferance or if we stop seeing ourselves and our disease as the center of the universe. The tendency of always repeating in the groups the same stories or of still being chained to the past, betrays the fact that we have not really made Step 1. Step 2 is asking only for the willingness ‘to believe’ and to ‘search’ a Power greater than ourselves, one that wants and can free us from our misery. We have the freedom to believe or not to believe in God, to search or not to search a Higher Power. But “anything is possible is a person believes”, Jesus told us (Mark 9:23-24).

Most of the times, God comes to us only if He is invited. He does not impose His will upon us, even if He has the power to do so. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return… No, He is being patient” (2 Peter 3:9) and He encourages us to follow Him: „Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Mathews 11:28). Jesus came for the sick and suffering ones and is just waiting for us to tell Him “Lord, I believe; Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) to come and heal us and take our pain away.

After working Step 2, we find ourselves at a crossroad; on one side, our addiction doesn’t want to lose us and makes us believe that she is our last source of comfort; on the other side, we start seeing that her promises are fake and that the truth stays in “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness” (John 12:46).

The hope of Step 2: „God, I believe You can!”

Step 3. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God, as we understood Him.

Alcoholism, as many other personal troubles, transforms our lives into an ‘egocentric turmoil’. Anytime someone or something comes between us and what we desire, we let ourselves overwhelmed by resentments and we try to regain the control over them and ourselves. Our survival efforts have taught us not to trust anybody, still this is the one thing asked from us in Step 3 – to trust a Higher Power, one in which we are not completely sure about how much do we believe. We are promised, though, that if we will surrender our lives into the care of God, He – as opposed to the humans – will always keep His promises. It’s very hard for us to do so, since we still feel insecure and confused. The Step 3 prayer from the Big Book of AA (pg. 63) gives us an example about how could we begin: “God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love and Thy way of life. May I do thy will always! ”. He comes to our door, He knocks and He waits for us to open; if we do that much, He will come in and have dinner with us (Revelation 3:20).

We can not know God’s peace and serenity unless we regularly communicate with Him, through study and prayer. The decision of surrendering our will and lives into the care of God implies the surrender of our intellectual pride (Proverbs 3:5-6). Anytime we feel overwhelmed by doubts or by our anger that God might have abandoned us, we can remember King David’s conviction: “The Lord was watching over me” (Psalms 3:5).

Step 3 ends the process that has begun in Steps 1 and 2. Leaving from humiliation, from powerlessness, we end up receiving a new direction in life. We are now offered the insurance that we are not alone anymore and that “your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the kingdom of God your primary concern”(Mathews 6: 32-33).

The surrender of Step 3: „God, I’m gonna let You!”

More biblical readings on the first three steps:

Step 1

Psalms 88:1-3;

Mathews 9:36;

Psalms 6:2-4;

Psalms 31:9-10;

Psalms 38:1-9;

Psalms 44:15-16;

Psalms 72:12-13;

Mark 4:35-41; Ephesians 2:1-2; 2 Peter 2:19;

Psalms 5:1;

Psalms 6:6-7; Psalms 10:14;

Psalms 102:1-7;

Proverbs 14:12;

Proverbs 18:14;

Proverbs 23:29-35;

Proverbs 26:12;

Proverbs 28:26;

Psalms 28:1-2;

Psalms 30:10;

Psalms 31:22;

Psalms 34:18;

Psalms 39:4-5;

Psalms 40:17

Step 2 John 7:17;

Mathews 6:33; Hebrews 11:6; Luke 1:37;

Mark 9:23-24; Mark 10:51-52

John 3:8, 14-18; Mathews 9:12-13; Mathews 12:18-21;

Mathews 20:29-34;

Mark 5:35-36; Mark 9:23-24;

Luke 1:37;

Luke 9:56;

Luke 11:5-13; Luke 13:10-13; Luke 18:35-43; John 6:63;

2 Corinthians 1:8-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21;

Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 2:4-5; Philippians 2:13;

Hebrews 7:24-25;

Colossians 2:13-14;

1Corinthians 15:20-22;

Corinthians 1:18-25;

Hebrews 2:14-18;

James 1:17-18

Step 3 Mathews 11:28-30;

Mathews 16:21-26;

Ephesians 2:8-10;

Psalms 23;

Psalms 91:1-4;

Mathews 6:31-34; Mathews 10:37-39; Mathews 11:28-30;

Mathews 16:21-26; Luke 9:57-62;

Luke 11:2-4; Luke 24:46-47;

John 1:12-13;

John 5:24;

John 6:35-40;

John 8:1-11;

John 12:26;

John 17:3;

Acts 2:21;

Romans 3:21-24;

Romans 4:20-25; Romans 5:1, 8-11;

Romans 10:9-13; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; Ephesians 1:3-14

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