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Voices for Recovery

Ron Du Bois (09/14/2009)

An important sermon on addiction took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Stillwater, Sunday, September 6. A licensed alcohol and drug counselor, at Valley Hope Treatment Center, Cushing, led the lay service, consisting of a combination of her sermon on the nature of addiction and a statement by a local recovering young person. His name well known in the community is withheld due to the false stigma, condemnation, and punishment currently associated with the disease.  Intelligent, good looking, an excellent public speaker, he belied the stereotype of the “derelict drug addict” and put a realistic face to addiction and addicts who in main are like the rest of us who do not have the disease. By coming forward to tell his story he acted as a model for every other addicted person. Were all people with the disease to stand up and speak out they could literally change entrenched current societal ignorance and attitudes embodied in the “war on drugs.”

He said, “The public may not agree with me.” “I was born with a disease that had nothing to do with my family anymore than parents whose children have   cancer, diabetes, or any other disease. No amount of failure would make me stop.”  Will power plays little part in dealing with any disease. He had the willpower to attend OSU and to be on the Dean’s Honor Roll. He said one of the symptoms of addiction is, “the loss of appreciation of ordinary things.” It bothered him so much that he entered treatment. Fortunately his family could afford the more than $30,000 cost of treatment, necessary in a nation that, unlike every other industrialized nation, has no national health care system.

“The problem with addiction is the illusion that drugs are a solution to the underlying problem of feelings of emptiness and despair,” he said. These emotional and mental conditions always precede and are not caused by drugs.  Drug use is perceived as a solution and as medication for the underlying disorders. Not understood by the public, or law makers, is that the underlying problem is health, not a criminal issue. As we continue to think it is a criminal issue we continue to lower the quality of life in the nation.

He talked about recovery and the need to deal with a life long disease, similar to alcoholism, cancer and diabetes in that it has no cure but can be controlled through out life. Essential to recovery, he said, is the need to believe in a higher power, not necessarily the “correct” answer about the nature of God, but a belief that God is everywhere and in everything. “Access to God is blocked by fear, misery, and character defects,” he said.

He is now living in supervised housing and is working towards a university degree. With faith in a higher power of his own understanding, the support of family and community, this young person may well make a major contribution to the life and well being of the nation.  In future decades society will look back to see this era as an era of ignorance and will wonder how we could ever have believed in such injustice towards those with the disease of addiction.

The Unitarian Church of Stillwater is to be commended for being in the vanguard of drug policy reform and for setting an example for other denominations in the community.  September is National Recovery Month, sponsored by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a federally funded program whose mission is to facilitate recovery for people at risk for mental or substance use disorders. The motto of the National Alcohol and Drug Recovery program is, "Together we learn, together we heal." It aims to promote the societal benefits of alcohol and drug use disorder treatment, laud the contributions of treatment providers, and promote the message that recovery from alcohol and drug disorders in all its forms is possible.

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