Advocacy

December 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Areas of Service

Faith Partners acknowledges and supports individuals and family members whose voice is a powerful tool for progress and hope. Advocacy in its purest form is simply speaking in favor of something or someone. The American Cancer Society identifies five levels of advocacy: self, case, public, organizational, and legislative. Individuals progress through these levels as they grow in their own self-confidence, knowledge, and healing. The first level is self-advocacy – this is where it starts – something we do when we speak up for ourselves.

We need to first be comfortable with our own story and then begin to share it with others we trust. In the faith community, this can happen in a one-to-one conversation, a prayer, a class, a Bible study, committee meeting, or worship service. It seems by breaking the silence; we can enjoy recovery more fully. We begin to take care of ourselves and advance further by helping others.

This leads to the next level described as case advocacy, which often involves helping someone deal with a complicated situation. Often the first to seek help is a motivated family member. The faith community can help by being ready to reach out a hand to those who suffer and help guide them to the resources in their congregation or in the community.

Public advocacy, which works to educate the community and start the conversation, is critical to creating understanding. Permission to openly discuss alcohol and drugs, without automatic judgments, is the hallmark of a healthy and healing congregation. Conversations about alcohol and drug use, misuse and addiction are rare and uncomfortable in most congregations. Though one family in four has direct experience with someone with an addiction experience, the subject is seldom raised.  Addiction disease strikes with equality individuals and families of every faith, every culture, every income level and every community, a subtle taboo often keeps the subject in the closet until a crisis occurs.

The faith community has a special role to play in the prevention, intervention, and assistance in the recovery process of alcoholism and other addictions. One major step in organizational advocacy is the development of a position statement that highlights the faith community’s beliefs about these issues. When the church is a nurturing supportive community addressing spiritual needs, prevention and intervention of alcohol and drug problems can occur.

Many people hesitate to get involved in advocacy because they equate it with the fifth level of advocacy, legislative advocacy. Often that can include activities some aren’t comfortable with, such as demonstrations on the courthouse steps or a public protest. These are legitimate advocacy strategies, but they are only part of the story.  Advocacy covers a range of activities broad enough to include just about everyone, in just about any kind of setting. Many advocacy activities are things we already do for our neighbors, our friends, and ourselves. Legislative advocacy just carries it into the public arena. It is vital for citizens to speak out on certain policies and laws throughout our country, but this is often not where a person starts in finding their voice. The first step is getting comfortable and embracing our own story then sharing it with a friend, a family member, a clergy, or a supportive group of people. Hopefully, that means a congregation.

Prevention

December 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Areas of Service

Prevention is often misunderstood – the confusion often lies in what we are trying to prevent. Are we trying to prevent addiction? Many chemically dependent people state that they were addicted before they took their first drink or drug. The only sure fire prevention in this situation is to never drink alcohol or use drugs. When chemical dependency is in the family there is a genetic vulnerability to the disease, much like any other disease. In this case abstinence is the safest option and needs to be supported.

But to stop there is to miss the boat for the majority of the population. Most individuals will not become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, but can still experience alcohol and other drug use problems like family tension, injury, job loss, and such. The two main goals of prevention are to delay the onset of use and reduce the risks associated with use. Research shows those under 15 years old experiencing regular use are four times more likely to experience alcohol and other drug abuse as an adult.

Karen Pittman, noted researcher from the Center for Youth Development states: “When we speak of “prevention” and “Youth Development” we must be articulate not just about what we are trying to prevent, but what we are trying to promote. Being problem-free is not the same as being fully prepared.” In the faith community the argument that health as well as healing ministry is rooted in the gospel is based on the understanding that salvation means wholeness and healing restoration to wholeness. Wholeness is what God intended from the beginning, and wholeness is what God intends to fully restore in the end. If this is so, then it follows that wholeness needs to be maintained as well as restored.  An ongoing ministry of prevention or health promotion is necessary for the whole congregation as individuals and families navigate life’s trials and tribulations.

Prevention is for everybody! Everybody in their lifetime will be faced with the decision to use alcohol or other drugs. It is during these times that a person needs certain elements to guide them through safely. One element is information – for instance the knowledge of the interaction with us as a child of God, the influential world around us, and the addictive nature of alcohol and other drugs. But information alone is often not enough – a person needs the skills to walk through these times using decision-making, communication, assertiveness, and resistance skills.  More importantly, a person needs guidelines from those they know and respect to make safe and responsible decisions and certainly the support from others to make these positive choices. Using the evidence-base strategies we work to address alcohol and other drug use prevention problems throughout the transitions in all of our lives.

Recovery Support

December 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Areas of Service

Many view addiction as a sickness or disease. However, others think it is caused by personal weakness or that it is a result of sin. Faith Partners Inc. believes one’s response does depend upon one’s beliefs. We also believe that central to an effective drug and alcohol ministry is a clergy who understands addiction and is committed to providing personal and congregational pastoral care to those who are afflicted and affected.

Alcoholism (and other drug dependency) has long been established as a disease by the medical community. Research is available on brain changes. Family history is a big predictor. Yet often it is interpreted as a personal weakness, something the person could have avoided with better decisions. What we don’t know is when in the development of the disease the capacity to decide was compromised by loss of control. So, yes, personal decisions contribute. But they are not the reason a person crosses the line into addiction.

Rev. Brian Gould of Albany, NY builds on this idea of dis-ease, “I understand addiction (and co-addiction) to be a disease, but not just in the narrow clinical sense. It is helpful to think of the illness as ‘dis-ease’ – that which prevents us from being the persons that God created us to be. The more broadly we interpret the disease of addiction, the more observant we become of the pervasiveness of addiction in our midst – both the chemical and non-chemical varieties.”

Our collective pastoral care must address timing. What approach is most appropriate when? It must also ask which approaches are effective with the alcoholic/addict. When people are sick with addiction their control becomes impaired. They lose the capacity to make good decisions about use. When they begin to recover they bear the responsibility of their actions, learn to make amends, and put their lives back together.

Recovery is a process not an event and there are many stages along the way. Education and information help the addict see that they are dealing with a disease, brain changes and compulsivity. Addicts when hearing that addiction is a disease, something out of their control, become more open to help. They become less convinced that they can handle it on their own. If we give them permission to see the need for help they will one day have to address their responsibility in both the development of the disease and recovery from the disease, just like any other disease.

It seems our primary task as people of faith is to convey the love of God to others, to convey God’s desire for healing and wholeness. A measure of our attitude or practice might be to ask ourselves these questions as we respond to persons afflicted or affected by addictions. Is our attitude conveying the love of God? Is there good news in what we are saying? Doing? Are we offering resources people need to move toward health and healing?

Referral Assistance

December 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Areas of Service

Do you know or have ever known the feeling of desperation concerning the alcohol or drug addiction problems of someone very near and dear to you?  Have you ever wondered what to do about someone else’s drinking or drugging behavior?  Anyone involved with an addict, alcoholic or problem drinker is affected one way or another by the addiction.

Usually the first person to reach out for help is a family member.  Mutual help groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon offer free and confidential support for anyone affected by an alcoholic, problem drinker or drug abuser.  This includes parents, grandparents, spouses, partners, coworkers, and friends.

Both groups are designed to help friends and relatives of addicts and alcoholics recover from the effects of living with an addicted relative or friend. Family members are reassured that they can create a happy, successful life for themselves despite the choices that their alcoholic or drug addicted loved one is making for herself or himself.

You may discover that one needs more than a mutual help group, you, yourself do not have to assess or diagnose the person you are concerned about.  There are professionals available for this. Also known as screening or evaluation, an assessment process leads to an accurate diagnosis along with recommendations designed to help individuals make informed decisions about the next step. The assessment may be a simple phone interview with a clinician or perhaps a face-to-face meeting with a counselor.  Recommendations may include substance abuse treatment, if warranted, or referrals to physical and mental health practitioners, family counselors, or other helping professionals. Whatever the form, an assessment is a good place to start. It is important to know that no single treatment approach is appropriate for all individuals. Finding the right treatment program involves careful consideration of such things as the setting, length of care, philosophical approach and you or your loved one’s needs.

The faith community is vital for the spiritual development of its members and supporting its congregational members through the challenges of life. It is important for those caring persons doing this ministry to recognize their limitations in helping and when to refer to known community resources. The Faith Partners approach works to connect individuals and families needing help with the resources and services available in the community.

Early Intervention

December 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Areas of Service

Most of us will experience times when someone we know may be using alcohol or other drugs in dangerous or unhealthy ways. We observe behavior that is not the norm in a person’s life. When that happens, what is our role? What should we do when a family member or friend is drinking too much, or using illegal drugs? What should we say? What we do or don’t do in that moment of concern is significant to moving people toward help and healing.

Our society is filled with messages that tell us to keep quiet when we see behaviors that concern us. Many remember a mother saying, “”If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.

Or “If you are going to live in a glass house, you had better not start throwing stones.” Others remember religious traditions that say, “Judge not lest we be judged.” Add to this a feeling that many people have that they simply don’t know enough about problems such as alcoholism and other drug addiction to know when to talk to someone, or exactly what to say.

A recent Gallup survey found that 94 percent of Americans feel it is their responsibility to speak to a friend who has problems with alcohol or other drugs. But only 38 percent said they felt “very confident” or comfortable in speaking up to a friend about it. According to this poll, the issue isn’t lack of concern or responsibility, but being confident how to express this concern. The result is that far too often when people observe risky, illegal or inappropriate behavior, they say nothing. By saying nothing we risk that the person or our peers will either think we approve of their behavior or that we don’t care. There is a solution.

A drug and alcohol ministry offers a way for congregations to see and respond to difficulty as a matter of course, whatever the difficulty might be. A trained team addresses that point where early symptoms can be observed and suggests methods of intervention and referral that are useful and appropriate. Teams that demonstrate open and accurate information on alcohol and other drug issues are able to observe behaviors of concern earlier and apply interventions long before crisis. Sharing Concern is a simple and straight-forward approach to letting someone know you are concerned. As a parent, friend, or peer, none of us can control what a person says or does in reaction to what we say. But we can control what we say, how we say it, and where and when we talk to a person about whom we are concerned.

Congregational members who learn to share concern and appreciate the stages of change are better equipped to support individuals and families and create a climate that advances growth and healing for everyone. Supporting people through the change process is both productive and rewarding.