Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Thanksgiving and Addiction

This past Thanksgiving weekend was largely given up to work around a friend with mental health and addiction issues. As I considered writing about this, I found myself getting angry, given that every day of the weekend—Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—was largely given over (by multiple people) to attending to this person, one way or the other.

The crescendo of my anger came as I thought of entitling this post, “You Probably Think This Post Is about You,” alluding to the song lyrics, “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.” And here I was again, in writing this blogpost, devoting time to the individual in question.

But I realize I am not writing this for that person, but for you, the reader who has, has had, or will have the experience. And for those who think a minister or a friend should not have anger about a loved one with mental health and addiction issues: I daresay you have not yet had the experience yourself. Anger is good for boundaries, for setting limits, for speaking truth to the power of demons overtaking another’s life and those who care.

Jesus himself rebuked crippling demons, disbelieving doubters, even his disciples when they got stupid in his presence.

The friend I write about is the same for whom we held out such optimism upon entering a recovery facility in March of 2016 in a post entitled, “Wounding God.” Despite everyone important to this individual participating in the recovery process at this person’s request, our friend eventually bolted when challenged by a counselor in a group setting. It happened the night I was attending a wedding rehearsal and dinner, and I was on the phone with our friend, who was still in the parking lot of the recovery facility. I urged a return to the group to no avail.

Since then have come many a reconciliation followed by reversals and “episodes,” some of which have been threatening, dangerous, or destructive. An otherwise privileged, well-educated, and gifted person “acting out.”

I believe our friend must exercise responsibility to take prescribed meds, attend therapy, and participate in recovery programs, but there is a factor I’ve observed that may weaken our friend’s resolve. When involved in a restrictive religious environment, everything could be held together tightly, including sexuality. But finally realizing that one can be gay and Christian, all the religious trappings that held everything closely bound together were loosened.

Our friend’s obsessive-compulsive disorder no doubt meshed with a church’s obsessive-Christian disorder, but sexuality, like spirituality, needs room to breathe.

Jesus’ friend Lazarus was neatly bound in funeral swaddling cloths. “Unbind him and let him go,” Jesus commanded. Resurrection requires loosening up, letting go.

The very term religion denotes being bound. But the only thing that should bind Christians is expressed in a song I alluded to in last week’s post:

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love.

To my friends in Southern California, please attend Pat Hoffman’s latest book launch Friday, Nov 30, 5:30 pm, in the Pavilion at the Museum of Ventura County, 100 East Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001. The memoir recounts her ministry of accompaniment with people living with AIDS. My blurb for her book, entitled Summoned and Shaped:

“When the church equivocated in the early years of the AIDS crisis, Pat Hoffman boldly initiated a ministry with persons with AIDS, many of whom were wary of anything religious. This moving and poignant story of how her own life prepared her to gently join them on their journey may help all of us who serve the ‘spiritual but not religious.’”

To support this blog:
Scroll down to the donate link below its description. Thank you!

Copyright © 2018 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. 


  1. Last year at this time I was dealing with a close friend and his severe alcohol use disorder. It was, to say the least, an EXTREMELY difficult time, made even more difficult by the darkness and cold of winter, the holidays, and other factors. It was AWFUL. AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL. I'm sorry to hear you and yours are going through this. There are really no words to fully describe the anger, pain, sadness, frustration of witnessing someone you care about lost in addiction. They are both monstrous and helpless, and it is exhausting.

    Almost miraculously, this friend asked me to bring him to detox on January 5. He has been sober ever since. He went to a residential rehab for 5 months. He is now employed, has his own apartment, and as I write this, he is at his AA meeting (he texted me to tell me "talk to you after my meeting" ;-) I am grateful EVERY DAY for his sobriety, and I know he is committed to it, but it is such a fragile thing, huh? I fear the return of the "episodes."

    Thank you for writing this post. Substance abuse touches SO MANY LIVES.

    1. Thank you for this hopeful story! May it be so for my friend! I am glad your friend had you to "be there." Part of my feelings--which you describe so well--is a heaviness of heart about this person's situation.

  2. Chris, thanks for this. I needed to read this for many reasons.

  3. I feel your pain. Even as someone who struggled with a serious drug addiction for many years, I totally understand the frustration and pain it brings to those surrounding the addict. It's a tragedy on so many levels. Even though I work with other addicts every day and see it as a mental illness, it doesn't keep me from wanting to give them a good kick in the pants every once in a while. The extent to which you support your friend is entirely up to you. You are under no obligation. Sometimes we addicts need to realize there is no longer a safety net for us. But I know that choice is a difficult one for someone as compassionate as you. Addiction sucks.

    1. Thanks, Mark, for your support, as well as your wisdom and experience on this. Always good to hear from you!

  4. Wow, superb blog format! Human Rights How long have you been running a blog for? you make blogging glance easy. The whole glance of your website is great.