Responsively Yours: Wanted: A Safe Place to Face Addiction
United Methodist Women members respond to issues of addiction every day — in our families, schools, churches and neighborhoods through our national mission institutions and through our international outreach. We engage with people with real needs, whose lives and whose families are fractured by addiction. Sometimes, we are those people. We stick when we should flee, and we wander when we should stick.
Thanks to God’s pursuing love, the surrounding love of the community and treatment experiences, some people successfully battle addiction every day.
The Wesleyan tradition is strong on breaking the bonds that hold us, whether they be drugs or alcohol, sex or gambling, food or Facebook. Whatever our “drug of choice,” any addiction interferes with our ability to “become whole persons,” and to give ourselves wholly to God and to the work of God’s reign.
We are no longer a community that believes that addiction is sinful, but too often we do treat it as something that is shameful. As it does with other mental health issues, shame adds stigma to already traumatic situations that result from addiction. There is a complex interaction between chemical dependence, poor choices and habitual behaviors. The multiple facets of addiction can make it difficult to determine appropriate responses. Still, addiction is not an issue that can be addressed by ignoring it.
What would happen if United Methodist Women were a “safe” place to seek help and support for families dealing with addiction? When we come together, each of us carries burdens. Some of our burdens are readily shared, but I wonder how many times our burdens related to addiction are kept secret until they are too big or too obvious or too well known in the community to hide any longer?
As a culture, we seem to have two responses to addiction and its companion risky behaviors: medicate or incarcerate. Neither of these approaches deals with the basic personal, spiritual and emotional components of addiction. Medical care can be helpful or even critical to recovery, but if prisons were rehabilitating, both the recidivism rate and the prison population would be much lower.
Who are the people who are offered the opportunity to seek treatment? Persons of means, persons with strong networks of medical providers, families and employers who may insist on treatment and persons with health insurance would all be on that list. Who are the people who are incarcerated for addiction-related offences like possession, dealing, financial improprieties, etc.? Although the number of women in prison is rising, today’s prisoners are disproportionately young black and Hispanic men. These statistics, which do not mirror addiction statistics, are their own indictment.
United Methodist Women must also think critically and ask who benefits from addiction. Check your investments. Consider your patronage. Vote your conscience.
Members of United Methodist Women are impelled to think critically and to love extravagantly because of the love God has for us and for others. May we “walk the talk” together.
Harriett Jane Olson
?Deputy General Secretary