A Meaningful Life Is Not Searching for Meaning

Zero Theorem PosterA few weeks ago I watch Terry Gilliam’s latest strange adventure called The Zero Theorem. In it, a sort of hacker, Qohen Leth (which is incidentally strangely close to “Qoheleth,” or Ecclesiates – the “gatherer; teacher or preacher”) is given a problem to solve with a strange computer program. He takes to this new problem by working alone in a massive abandoned church in the city. His goal is to isolate and persist uninterrupted.

But he is interrupted regularly by his supervisor, a virtual call girl, and a whiz kid. He is given the opportunity to experience love and happiness and these moments pop up for him both in the world outside of his cathedral and inside the virtual world of his screen.

Yet Leth persists in his obsession to crack the code of this “zero theorem” which is going to open an opportunity to get a phone call he has been waiting for – a phone call to tell him the meaning of his life.

The search is all he has. And that is the problem.

A life spent searching for meaning is a meaningless life.

This is the fundamental truth of the film. If we spend our days taking quizzes to determine our strengths, personality type, the kind of introvert or extrovert we are, the best career for us, and so forth it is all a search for meaning which is an ultimately meaningless activity. A life of meaning is not one where we seek the meaning of our lives, but one where we do meaningful things with people.

We don’t need to search for meaning in life. A life lived with others is meaningful enough on its own.

Torture is Never Justified

Abu Ghraib interrogation

Abu Ghraib

I lived in a place close to “the pile” and saw hundreds of pictures posted all over of missing people. I was angry and wanted to bomb the entire Middle East. But that was raw emotion.

There comes a time when law is necessary even in war. How we handled alleged terrorists in this situation follows the legacy of Truman’s internment camps which are a stain on our country that we just don’t talk about enough. So the law:

The Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (GPW) 6 Article 17, paragraph 4 provides the general rule for interrogation of prisoners of war:

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

These were not isolated incidents as we once thought, just covertly handled. It was mismanaged and the information extracted is highly suspect as to its utility.

Unless it’s acceptable for our troops to short-chained to the floor in awkward positions, forced to mimic sexual acts, have food shoved up their asses, stuffed into hot boxes, and water-boarded, then we just can’t justify the same treatment of our prisoners.

Don’t Pray for Healing

Michael Brown - Dead on the street

“It is time to heal.”

“May we begin the healing process.”

“Prayers for healing.”

The white refrain for healing has begun. I have heard many times before.

I despise racism. I also want our society to heal from its persistent violence.

Racism is painful and appalling. There is no comfort or serenity in a cycle of violence that does not seem to be going away any time soon. Racial violence is just as it was in the 60’s and well before the Civil Rights Movement just as terrorism existed well before 9/11. These things have not gone away, they have only been pushed around. Ferguson in Missouri and ISIS in Iraq are two acute events in a chronic and persistent set of problems that will repeat.

They will repeat because we will work on only the symptoms long enough for the problem to “go away.” That’s what “healing” really means in the end. We want to have the illusion that racism, injustice, torture, inequality, abuse, and so on can be healed with the wave of a magic wand (or prayer). Saying “Prayers ascending” on a Facebook post, liking someone’s passive aggressive link to an article, retweeting someone else’s thoughts on an issue, and the white conscience is once again free to do as it would without hindrance.

The prayer for healing is too often the white cry of the annoyed and bothered.

This wound is too bloody and too gaping for healing yet. This body is way too riddled with bullets to be sewn up. Let’s continue to examine the dead body of Michael Brown and to pull the bullets out before we pray for healing. We need to be disturbed by it. This is grotesque stuff that messes up all boundaries and we need to be uncomfortable. I need to be uncomfortable.

This is still trauma and we haven’t the right to push Michael Brown’s body in the recovery room where we think someone else will deal with it. In recovery is the only place where we can start talking about healing. Who among us believes that we are there just yet?

Biblical Literalism is Scientific, but Not in the Way You Think

The argument assertion goes something like this:

Number 1:

  • Evolution has never been directly observed.
  • It is based on of a theory created by one man (Darwin).
  • Therefore it is not science.

Number 2:

  • The probability of the ordered universe emerging out of chaos is infinitesimally small.
  • You can’t get the order of the universe without direction.
  • Therefore a Designer must have made it that way.

Let’s table the fact that what we see here is a total lack of understanding of what the scientific method is, what a hypothesis is, and how all of those observations and predictions create theories. The scientific method is in itself a process of creating order out of chaos.

If you can stomach it, this fellow goes through the tired assertions of the above argument. Not to mention he is basically calling his atheist interlocutor stupid which is ironic since the supposed atheist seems to understand 5th grade science better than Mr. Feuerstein.

Literal readings developed when both German biblical criticism and science began challenging the construction of knowledge itself. The process by which knowledge is created in ways not related to God gained traction as research based education grew. LIteral readings of the text emerged as a response to the growth of a more or less agnostic presentation of knowledge through science and rationalism, but did so in a strange way. Fundamentalism, and similar evangelical streams of religious thinking, actually made a move to make the bible more scientifically relevant. That is to say, the bible was based in observable fact even more so than science. It is like an epistemological pissing contest.

However, this fundamentalist understanding of knowledge relies on a Baconian scientific system that rooted in pure observation. Science is not in itself the problem. The hypothetical testing process is what, and still does, have the biblical literalist sort in a tizzy. They argue that because you can’t “see” evolution, it is a faith claim and therefore not science. Yet faith in God is formed out of experience and belief in the authority of the bible as a testimony to actual events people witnessed. Because it is authoritative by divine mandate, it is more “factual” and based on “observation.” See how that move works? It argues that a literalist reading of the bible is more scientifically valid than the science of evolution! How’s that for irony.

We should pay attention to how we make sense of the world. Watch how this way of constructing knowledge persists even in post-fundamentalist thinking where the process remains the same, while only the content changes. A kind of self-pity emerges because when one system is destroyed, no alternative means of knowledge construction is there. I call this the depressed liberal. You have new content for what you believe, but you no longer have a viable structure to make sense of all of it and manage it. Thus, the blanket term “postmodern” is thrust upon it as an explanation for something that isn’t even there.

Here is where science and religion converge. Science is an act of refining and making more precise what we know about the world down to the smallest building blocks of nature. The practice of knowing God is a disciplined program where one comes to understand oneself in relation to God down to the smallest fraction of time and through the most mindful of behaviors. In both, a kind of awareness develops about the cosmos and how everything is somehow intelligible and mysterious at the same time.

While Feuerstein and his ilk see this relationship between two understandings of reality as a war, I see it as a dance.

Refusing the Gangster God

Why did Jesus die?

I was baptized Catholic and then went through a few stages of Protestantism as my mom sought a different expression of her faith. If memory serves me correctly, she had become alienated from the Catholic focus on original sin and persistent guilt. The idea of “if you don’t follow these rules then you will go to hell” was no longer something to settle for. Catholic guilt was the real deal in my family. When my family was going through some rough times the way God looked was alienating.

When my mom married my step-father we joined him in the Presbyterian Church (USA). As she puts it, that church was the first time she heard the Gospel preached and she met God there. It was a powerful experience for her and she has remained Presbyterian ever since. I was just in junior high school so at church, I pretty much just fell asleep.

In between naps, it was there that I hooked into evangelical Protestantism. I found an identity there. Evangelicalism eventually fit. It was my first real faith journey and it lasted from the end of junior high school through seminary. I was a Calvinist, evangelical through my middle year at seminary. However, the fit was never as comfortable as I thought it needed to be in order to fit a solid evangelical mold. I felt out-of-place and as I got more honest about my faith, the friction intensified. So what changed?

Doctrinally, the change came down to one idea: I could no longer accept the notion that God needed to satisfy His own law and its consequences by killing off His Son. The idea that Jesus died to fulfill a legal contract God made with a humanity that didn’t keep up its end of the bargain seemed absurd. It was as if the presence of Jesus himself was relegated to a background status because none of that in itself was meaningful in closing the deal on sin.

God the judge. God the gangster. God made an offer that we couldn’t refuse. Since we refused it we deserved death.

Since we could not possibly satisfy a king and judge like God, God had to suck it up and do it for us. It is as if God was shackled to His own Law. Love is in the service of justice and Jesus serves justice on the cross. Jesus came to die. My exposure to the church Fathers beginning with St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation turned my understanding of God upside down.

Saint John's Orthodox Church of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, Old Church

Saint John’s Orthodox Church of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, Old Church

In Orthodoxy Jesus didn’t come here to save us from God’s wrath, He came in order to heal what was broken. The most broken aspect of human life is death itself. That’s the Gospel I heard in the narratives. This was the same God who raised Lazarus, who welcomed prostitutes and tax collectors, gave sight to the blind, and told a man to pick up his mat and walk.

God is a God who heals wounds in spite of the fact that we cut ourselves open every day.

God healed death by dying and rising from death. He did this not to satisfy an immutable Law, but because the very nature of God is Love. God’s salvation is not a legal contract, it is a radical healing of the very structure of nature for it to be what it was always intended to be: undivided from God Himself. As the Paschal Troparion is sung:

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling down death by death
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life.

Love, Life, Grace. That’s a God for whom I am will to work. That is a God for whom amending my life to get closer is completely worth the effort.

This is something of a preview to what I will be speaking about at the 2014 Wild Goose Festival. Hope to see you there!

Wild Goose Festival 2014

Wild Goose Festival 2014

Being Christian after Religion

“Religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.”

Those in programs of recovery from drugs and alcohol have no doubt heard this expression. For a while I thought I was alone in thinking that it was dreck. Now I know I’m not.

Religion is more than seeking a spiritual experience – it is a way to structure life around the search for deeper connections to the world, to each other, and to a sacred reality. With the vast options for religious structure in the world, spirituality without a religious structure doesn’t own the market on coming out of hellish and torturous experience.

Archbishop Rowan Williams made a not-too-startling admission that Britain has become “post-Christian.” The facts seem to support his claim:

  • 56% consider Britain Christian where the remainder either consider it non-religious or are not sure.
  • 38% of those who consider themselves Christian do not practice regularly.
  • More Christians feel threatened to talk publicly about their beliefs.

None of this is all of that new. Steve Bruce (2002) argued this trend and its implications:

“Our critics might gloss our work as predicting the imminent disappearance of religion, but this is not our view. Our case can be summarized as saying that religion diminishes in social significance, becomes increasingly privatized, and losses personal social salience except where it finds work to do other than relating individuals to the supernatural” (p. 30).

Similarly Grace Davie (2002) argues that while Europe is seeing a decline not only in the practice of Christianity but in religion in general, this is an exceptional case when compared to the United States, Latin America, Africa, and the Far East.

“In short, many Europeans have ceased to connect with their religious institutions in any active sense, but they have not abandoned, so far, either their deep-seated religious aspirations or (in many cases) a latent sense of belonging” (p. 8).

While the condition of these “deep-seated religious aspirations” seems to be failing in health, the personal connection of religious belief to institutions also looks unhealthy not only in Britain and Europe, but also in the US. What remains is the desire for connection to a sense of belonging and meaning.

However, maybe Bruce is wrong. Maybe there is another salience to religion other than a connection to the supernatural. David Putnam (2000) argued that while our social connections have lost value, they are still vital to a happy and good-natured society. It’s more likely that the value of these connections is something we continue hold dearly, but we no longer know where to find it. If so, existing networks can, and should, be reconfigured to create space to recoup the value of social connections. Religion is one structure that can continue to provide a function to cultivate the value of deep connections to each other, the world, and deeper meaning.

As Christina Patterson from the Guardian writes:

“There is a place to go when we don’t have the words. There’s a calm, quiet peaceful place where someone else will supply the words when your heart is too full and your mind is too weary to come up with words of your own. There’s a place that will give us the solace of ritual. Human beings have always needed ritual. And the rituals we’ve developed in our still-quite-Christian country are on offer to everyone, and make almost no demands.”

There is a value to social connections, ways to structure our beliefs, and space to explore deeper questions about life without fear or threat. Much of religion today may over-value an intentional lack of structure. But what people seem to need most is a safe place to structure their experience of being together.

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Sources

Bruce, S. (2002). God is dead: Secularization in the west. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers.

Davie, G. (2002). Europe: The exceptional case : Parameters of faith in the modern world. London: Darton Longman & Todd.

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of american community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

The Master of Divinity is Not Helping the Church Survive

Help WantedBecoming a pastor is competitive business. I had a solid seminary education, passed the Presbyterian (PCUSA) ordination exams on my first shot, passed the psychological evaluation, and was free to seek a call to be a pastor of a church.

But I didn’t go the route of a pastor and chose instead to pursue work in higher education.

Part of my reasoning was the job market for pastors. Maybe I was too picky with unrealistic expectations. I went to Princeton Seminary where graduates generally expect serve at big churches. I was not even thinking about the small church life. It was the data balanced by my expectations that switched my career path. I wanted to get in the pulpit to preach and organize education programs right out of the gate. I found that to be an unrealistic goal when I saw where most graduates were landing in their first positions. As someone who neither liked youth ministry nor the small church life – I had done both – I got out of the system.

There are many recent seminary graduates and current students who have the same expectations and experiences I did. They are accepted into M.Div. programs throughout the country and after earning a master’s degree they expect to be employed. The Master of Divinity is a professional degree. This means that you earn it as part of a training program in order to enter church leadership. In the latter half of the 19th century, higher education introduced professional degrees in law, business, and medicine. Charles Eliot, president of Harvard (1869-1909), sought to give the vocation of the pastor as much credibility and validation as these other professions in order to maintain and justify the divinity school at Harvard. It was this kind of thinking that transformed the Bachelor of Divinity, which had been the seat of training for ministry, into a professional graduate degree we now call the Master of Divinity (M.Div.).

It may have been a good idea at the time when the mainline churches were large and growing. But today, the degree has serious problems. The average time it takes to complete an M.Div. (90) is on par with or more than business (MBA – around 60 credit hours) or law school (Juris Doctor – around 85). A Master’s in Health Administration requires about 40 credit hours whereas the nursing profession requires a B.S.N. and a passing NCLEX score. Even then there are accelerated programs which take only 11-18 months to complete. Granted the cost of a degree like the MBA or J.D. is much higher than an M.Div., but so is the return on investment. Moreover, the M.Div. is also used as a gateway to doctorate degrees in theology and religion which means that the curriculum itself complicates academic programming outcomes at theological seminaries. Thus, a terminal degree in theology can take a longer time to earn than in some other fields.

Adding to all of these problems are denominational ordination requirements which seek the same rigor as other professional fields like law or nursing. These require candidates to endure multiple hoops of examinations both written and oral. The process can be very long, expensive, and arduous for a job that will offer a median income of around $35,000. This is just above the poverty level which in 2012 was about $23,000 correcting for location. M.Div. graduates can barely make payments on the interest of student loans acquired not only from undergraduate education, but from the M.Div. process. Undergraduate debt is now over $29,000. They have to eat and pay basic bills too. Carol Howard Merritt reflects on this burgeoning problem:

The truth is that it is very likely that you will go to seminary and never be able to get through the ordination process. I usually tell them my story. I graduated with great grades. I had been a Teacher’s Aid, Tutor and Research Assistant in Systematic Theology, Church History, Greek, Hebrew, and Practical Theology. My internship went well. The church hired me when the internship was over, because they wanted me to continue in the position. I had wonderful recommendations. But I couldn’t pass one of my Ordination Exams, so I couldn’t look for a job.

Some institutions have sought to cut down on some of the problems in the system with accelerated M.Div. programs. But the result is just not helpful enough. Liberty University’s accelerated program still requires 75 credit hours and a thesis. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary offers an Advanced Master of Divinity that requires undergraduate study in religion with a 3.3 minimum GPA. But even here, the M.Div. and still requires 79-80 credit hours to complete. The degree itself does not go below 80 credit hours as the standard. Thus, no amount of acceleration will give a student much of a break. This hardly compares with the other accelerated programs or innovative ideas to accelerate the Ph.D., especially in the humanities. American University’s Ph.D. in Communication is particularly “out-of-the-box.”

So where is the M.Div.? I don’t know. Mainline church membership is continuing to decline, there is a glut of candidates for the ministry, and M.Div programs along with the denominational requirements are putting unrealistic expectations and pressure on those just respond to a call to serve God and people in a small community. Where churches often face frustration levels so high that they pass over into resignation over declining numbers, the denominations and their seminaries are not moving enough to restructure the training requirements for prospective ministers. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Seminaries and denominations have got to innovate and restructure the educational requirements for the M.Div. and for ordination. Why this cannot be a 60 credit degree or a 2-year fast track is baffling. It’s time to stop asking questions and to start acting like the rest of graduate education that understand what and who they need to serve.

Are Natural Scientists Smarter and Therefore, Less Religious?

 

According to one study, the answer is yes.

In a survey of IQ measures in “elite” institutions, researchers argue that physical scientists (biology, physics, chemistry, etc.) have overall higher IQ’s than their social scientist counterparts. They then argue that the kind of reasoning in physical science is superior because of its reduced emotional influence.

“[Physical] scientists are overwhelmingly atheist,” Dutton said. “This is predicted by their high IQ, which allows you to rise above emotion and see through the fallacious, emotional arguments.” Arguments about God are all emotional arguments, he added.

There are very obvious problems in the research. First, it focuses on a particular sample of scholars where even if the data is true, science demands the method be tested to see if the conclusions are even valid. Second, the use of IQ as a measure of intelligence is suspect. Numerous papers have been published arguing the validity of IQ as a measure of intelligence or aptitude.

Finally, the claim that arguments about God are all emotional is made with no evidence to support it. It is hard to imagine that massive works of logic and reasoning about God such as St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, or Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, or the centuries of theological thinking are all emotional in nature. In fact, at one point theology was called “the mother of all sciences.” Therefore, this assumption perhaps reveals a hidden agenda that is ironically rooted in emotion. Similarly, Richard Dawkins likens theology to the study of leprechauns and that it has no business as a university discipline.

Research probes the truth, no matter how uncomfortable. It may be true that scholars of physical science have high IQ’s. However, it is an unscientific stretch to say that their reasoning is superior and such superior reasoning is why they are correlated with atheism. Good science means that we cannot confuse a correlation with causation. Thus, the research conducted here is unscientific and shoddy at best.

Lent Isn’t Depressing, Anymore

As one who has life-long issues with depression I resonate with the sentiment that Lent can be a time to feel even worse. As a Catholic and then a Presbyterian, Lent was a time to feel guilty. Guilty for consuming too much, loving too little, giving not enough, and reinforcing the idea that I am a bad person by some mysterious genetic seed given to me by God through the curse of Adam. It’s enough to drive the clinically depressed to madness – or defiant agnosticism. The latter was exactly what happened.

The reward was a ceremony to remember that God is angry with me for sins I have no real say in eradicating. Nothing I do is actually all that pleasing to God because none of it meets up to His standards. In fact, God can’t even look on me without some disdain for abusing the body and mind that are supposed to be in His image, but are so broken that it’s impossible to reflect it. The Good News is that Jesus stands in the way so that God can’t see me at all. Jesus is my protector from the Bully.

Now whether this is good theology or bad, it was what was the logical place that made sense with what I heard in the teaching I had been given. Jesus substituted his life and received the punishment I deserved for my sinful nature. It’s only because he rose from the dead that God is able to love me at all. Lent was about dwelling in that space of guilt that I cannot do anything to relieve since it is only my faith that Jesus is standing there between me and God that gives me hope I can get to heaven. So I prayed and crossed my fingers.

I entered the communion of the Eastern church a couple of years ago. For the first Lent in which I participated there, I learned that this was not a season to feel guilty, but a season to heal. It is true that I am broken. I have depression, I have been a hopeless drunk, I have a fantastic list of sins that could rival Martin Luther’s. I am imperfect and often feel an unbridgeable gap between my sometimes sordid state of mind and the source of my being in God.

Lent is now about accepting that I have these issues, but these issues are not me. Lent is about focus. It is about honesty and confession. It is about making my life transparent before God and practicing love, justice, and mercy in the world. It is a time to focus on being compassionate and patient towards even those I resent. In fact, it is a time to heal those resentments and apologize to those I may have harmed in the past year. All of these actions are actions of healing myself, my relationships with others, and my relationship with God. My work means something now. I participate in my salvation, rather than close my eyes and cross my fingers that I am not one of those predestined to hell.

The point is that I have a choice to squeeze through the briar patches of life to meet a God who continuously walks through them to meet me in the middle where there is a garden of life.

Lent is about life, not death.

As Monica Coleman writes in her reflection that inspired this post:

Lent gives me the chance to look for those opportunities.  It gives me a season – every year – to turn over rocks, crouch down and look under the bed, sweep together the remnants of my last year, of my life, of the current day in search of whatever beauty may be there.  It’s my chance to look for the life that can be found in the midst, or something after, death.

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

Mary Elizabeth Winstead drinking in the shower in Smashed.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead drinking in the shower in Smashed.

We know that celebrities like Philip Seymour Hoffman die of addiction. He is not the first and sadly will not be the last. Addiction taken to the point just before the addict dies is a hopeless condition. Right at that breaking point before death is the best time to admit that he or she needs help.

There are millions of people in the world right now who are at that breaking point. I would not be surprised if the majority of people in the world at least know someone who has been an addict at some point. It is that ubiquitous. I was at that breaking point a few years ago. I stood at the turning point between death and doing something else. I chose to do something else. I stopped drinking.

But I want to qualify this a little.

I stopped drinking not because I believed I was an alcoholic. I believed alcohol was actually solving my problems on a daily basis.  Nothing in my life had become totally unmanageable to me. So what if I was unemployed, depressed, scared of life, lonely, morally bankrupt, and in debt. Everyone had those problems once in a while. So what if I drank a few glasses of wine (at least a bottle’s worth) followed by a couple of gin and tonics and maybe a couple of white Russians to cap a night off. Going to bed a little drunk helped me sleep. I hated myself, but I could always rely on alcohol to make me feel better when I needed it to. Normal stuff, right? Alcohol was my solution not my problem.

Until I stopped.

Two days after I stopped I was like a lion in a cage hungry for a steak. I paced around the house with anxious sweat hungry for a hit of my favorite juice. As the anxiety increased, I knew something was wrong. This was Wednesday. By Friday I was sitting in my first meeting shaking and holding back tears. I could barely hold a cup of coffee, and my mind raced faster than it had before. I knew that my drinking habit was not normal.

Most people can have a drink after a meal and put it down. Most people can drink half of a glass of wine or not finish a beer and be ok with that. Most alcoholics will drink until they can’t physically drink any more. The last time I got really wasted I was in Louisville, KY to celebrate with a good friend. Before we even got to the bar I secretly pounded two beers. I drank a pitcher at the bar. Everyone else left to go home. I hooked up with another group of people and collected all of the half consumed pitchers from my previous group and finished all of them. I then got back to my friend’s place where I drank three more beers and had two glasses of wine to cap off the night. To me this was a normal pattern. I drank like this when no one could see it. I drank with friends and then got drunk alone.

Upon waking the alcoholic will either have a drink to stop the craving, or will crave all day until the clock strikes “drinking time.” This craving is like drinking water in the blazing summer heat. Yet you always feel parched no matter how much water you put in your system. Even as your stomach can’t hold any more, you are still thirsty. Imagine stopping with that feeling in your mouth. It would drive you insane. That is kind of how an alcoholic feels after he or she comes full stop. It is agonizing.

The problem starts in the mind that says, “I must drink to feel normal.” Then it becomes physical where the body says, “I need to keep drinking because I cannot stop whether you like it or not.” Getting out of that cycle requires long-term re-wiring of the brain and that means approaching life in a totally different way. This is a chronic illness of the mind and body that requires ongoing treatment. But you have to want that continued treatment for it to work. As soon as the addict stops that treatment they are at risk of dropping back into the vicious, self-devouring cycle of the body and mind.

There are millions who are trapped in that cycle right now. Some are well aware they are in it and are either not sure how to break free or are too damn scared at the prospect of not getting the next hit. Some are using alcohol and drugs to subdue symptoms of mental illness they are unaware that they have. These are the people who want to stop, but are so trapped and broken they don’t even have a clue where to start.

Those who really don’t want to stop their addictions or who want an easy way out won’t stop feeding. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t expect everyone to walk into a 12 Step group and stay sober. Once in a while – it could be 22 years from the first day of sobriety – that thirst will creep back in and without a group of sober people to help ward off that feeling of needing a drink, the addict places him or herself in great danger. Staying connected with sober people on a regular basis is the path to continued sobriety.

I am glad that one death has sparked a national conversation about addiction. My fear is that after the media bump dies down, addiction will be a news story that bores us unless God forbid someone like Robert Downey, Jr. gets drunk again.

Here are some places to get information and lifelines if you think you or someone else needs them. Remember, this works only if you want it. Sobriety can’t be forced, it must be chosen.