A Stirring Program, An Unsettling Struggle

Today I attended a workshop designed to draw together faith based organizations and churches in the effort to help our community better deal with addictions and mental health issues. The Faith Partnership Initiative was held at the Walking in the Word Family Church in Monroe (wonderful hospitality). The day started with an eye-opening challenge from Executive Director of Northeast Delta Human Services Authority, Dr. Montiec Sizer. 

The resource speaker for today was Drew Brooks, Executive Director of Faith Partners, a non-profit organization that provides leadership, training, and consultation for a congregational addiction team ministry model.  Mr. Brooks has over 35 years of working in the prevention, treatment, and public health fields with Hazelden, Johnson Institute, and other organizations. He made his presentations with enthusiasm and the voice of experience.  Although the program ran from 9-2, it felt like a week’s worth of material and information encouraging churches to interlink in their efforts to deal with addiction. Emphasis was also placed on referring to organizations already operating in the field. This workshop was “Readiness Training”. There will be follow up meetings and I encourage every pastor/minister in NELA to be present, and also any interested individuals. All during the event I kept thinking of people I wish were there with me. I just didn’t know what it was all going to be about.

Since there was so much to take in, and I’m still processing it, I will only offer a few notes I took and also mention some of the people I met. 

REFLECTIONS AND NOTES FROM THE DAY

Key among the principles talked about was the fact that spirituality plays a significant role in addiction recovery, thus people of faith are called to play vital roles in reaching out to those in recovery.

The first person I met was the pastor of New St. James Baptist Church, Vance Price. Though we soon were placed into separate discussion groups I enjoyed getting to meet him.

“We are wounded healers – there are those who are unhealed wounders.”

Adverse Childhood Experiences can influence adult trajectory. 

Addiction impacts every person. Some, more than others. One quote I wrote down:

Book Recommendations:

*Addiction and Grace by Gerald G. May

*Thirst: God and the Alcoholic Experience by James B. Nelson

94% of clergy surveyed consider substance abuse to be an important issue. 38% find alcohol abuse involved in half or more of family problems. 12% of clergy report having had any education on substance abuse in their seminary training.

Stable alcoholism recovery is not reached until 4-5 years of sustained remission, longer for other drugs. 

Another person I met was Denise Breard, who works with Well-Ahead, a statewide initiative of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. We had a good conversation about how churches can be resources of information on wellness. 

In breakout groups we discussed whether or not the faith community as a whole has communicated a clear, consistent message regarding the use and nonuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. I was surprised by the conversation because my initial reaction was that we have a strong message about these. Upon further reflection I noted that sermons on tobacco addiction have been absent from my experience. 

I had a good conversation with Gail Durbin, a Compulsive Gambling Treatment Provider leading our area in helping those gambling addictions find recovery. (Gambling Helpline: 1-877-770-STOP). We talked about how the problem with gambling is that it remains secret. According to her material:

For help you can text “nonet” to 66746 or have a live chat at www.helpforgambling.org

As today’s News Star has a story about introducing a bill to allow casino gambling in Monroe, the opioid crisis is growing (along with reinvigoration of heroin and crack cocaine addiction), alcohol and tobacco addictions continue to pose issues for our country, this event was very timely.

I look forward to the next event and moving further toward preparedness, availability to help, and searching for ways for faith based organizations and churches to work together to make Ouachita Parish a safer, healthier, and more productive place to live. I love our parish and I want to do all I can to help make it a better place. 

My thanks to all who made today’s workshop possible.