The opioid crisis is a major concern in our world today. This epidemic affects everyone, regardless of vocation, profession, economic status or race. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a somber statistic: “From 1999 to 2017, almost 400,000 Americans have died from an opioid overdose (including Rx and illicit opioids).” At Guest House we are acutely aware of the opioid crisis and its impact on all populations, including the population we serve. We encourage everyone to learn more about the nature of opioids, the extent of the current opioid crisis and the signs of opioid use disorder. Please consider visiting cdc.gov/drugoverdose for useful, detailed information about treatment options and prevention.
It is important to realize that those who serve the Church are a microcosm of the general population. Whatever the general population experiences eventually surfaces in one way or another in the lives of individual clergy and religious. Some even argue that the lifestyle expected of clergy and religious increases their vulnerability to addiction and many other challenges facing the general population. Despite possible increased vulnerability to addiction, clergy and religious are less likely than others to receive timely treatment. This situation is largely due to the fact that clergy and religious struggling with addictive disorders experience a unique stigma and shame, making them reluctant to come forward to seek help (Grant, 2008).
Compounding the problem is the fact that clergy and religious are often afforded a level of respect disguised as deference. They are frequently placed on a pedestal. Even physicians and other healthcare professionals may be unwilling to question clergy and religious whom they might suspect of substance abuse or dependence.
Additionally, the unusual work schedule and living situation of many clergy and religious offer an abundance of privacy, making it easy to conceal addiction and other unhealthy behaviors. Today, it is common for clergy and religious to live alone. Unlike the days when they lived in larger communities, warning signs among those living alone are more easily dismissed or downplayed by friends or superiors. In many ways, “the Church behaves like an alcoholic family system, accommodating to its ‘problem children’ far too long and helping to create an atmosphere where addiction can continue and grow” (Grant, 2008).
On our website homepage, we share the following thought: “Some wonder how God’s ordained and consecrated could be in need of such services. The individuals who serve God and the Church are people first, and they are vulnerable to illness and disease in the same way any other person is.” Although difficult for many to comprehend, this truth has informed the mission of Guest House since 1956.
In the face of the opioid crisis, we take comfort in knowing help is available for those living with addiction and treatment works. The good news in the midst of the opioid crisis is recovery is possible, and this good news of recovery is evident every day at Guest House as our clients experience healing and hope. Filled with a sense of overwhelming gratitude, Guest House alumni walk with the “God of Second Chances,” sharing the same healing and hope they experienced in treatment with the people of God they serve.
Written by Guest House Staff Writer
Grant, R. (2008). “Healing the soul of the Church: Ministers facing their own histories of abuse, trauma and addiction.” Guest House Institute.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Opioid Overdose.” Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/.