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All across this country in small towns, rural areas and cities, alcoholism and drug abuse are destroying the lives of men, women and their families. Where to turn for help? What to do when friends, dignity and perhaps employment are lost?

The answer is Palm Partners Recovery Center. It’s a proven path to getting sober and staying sober.

Palm Partners’ innovative and consistently successful treatment includes: a focus on holistic health, a multi-disciplinary approach, a 12-step recovery program and customized aftercare. Depend on us for help with:

What Is the Real Measure of Success in Recovery?

What Is the Real Measure of Success in Recovery?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Working in the blogging and social media sector of the world-wide web you get to see a lot of differences of opinion on a lot of topics; from the most mainstream to the most infamously controversial. In fact, pretty much anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has exposure on a regular basis to a variety of intense debates and collective views. Of course another thing the internet does is provide us with perspective and statistics, and some of those data inventories actually make a strong impact on our own opinions. However, some figures may miss the mark when it comes to truly all-inclusive data. This is especially true when it comes to the measure of success in recovery from addiction.

Some people claim that the majority of support groups and programs don’t have very impressive or even adequate rates of success in recovery. Others will go as far as to claim that these support groups and recovery programs hurt more than they help. If you dig deep enough, there are plenty of people claiming that nothing out there works for helping addicts and alcoholics who need help.

But is that accurate? Truthfully, I have more than enough reason to doubt these claims for a very simple reason…

Who is truly capable of quantifying someone else’s “success”?

Instead of asking if drug treatment is successful, maybe we should be asking the real question… what is the real measure of success in recovery?

Talking about Treatment

Back in 2013 TIME magazine wrote that because there is no standard definition or what “rehab” is, there is no standard metric for measuring their success. The therapeutic community at one point said they could only claim a 30% success rate. However, the source also indicated that they only count ‘success’ by those who complete the entire program, and between 70% and 80% of people drop out of aftercare around 3-6 months after treatment. To sum that up, some people just stop reporting on their progress, so their ‘success’ could not be confirmed.

Other treatment providers will measure their success rates on how many patients report being completely abstinent for an extended time after leaving treatment. However, as we discuss later in the article, abstinence is not the requirement in the definition of success.

The fact is, because there are various addiction treatment models, to measure the success of recovery based on the numbers even treatment providers themselves gather is actually inappropriate and ineffective.

Focusing on the Fallen

When was the last time you saw a story on the news about an overdose victim? These days if we go 24 hours without seeing one it is surprising, right?

Well… when was the last time you saw a story on the news about a recovered addict who owns their own business, or is working a 9-5 and volunteering in their community? When was the last time you saw a breaking report about the alcoholic who went home to be an amazing parent to their newborn child or started a foundation to help the less fortunate?

I’ll wait…

I thought so. But allow me to blow your mind… because these people do exist!

This is probably one of the greatest injustices dealt to the recovery community. I’ve written about this before, and about how changing the communities views means overcoming stigma. Media outlets are always itching to give a dramatic account of every drug overdose or crime committed by an addict. Thus, that is all the rest of the world sees. It should be no surprise that people claim the recovery programs and support groups are failing, because no one pats you on the back for being a decent person. The only time people seem to applaud recovering addicts in the media is when they’re a celebrity.

It is easy to claim that drug addiction treatment doesn’t work when someone only focuses on the overdose rates in their community. It is easy to point to the individuals who have fallen, who need another chance at getting healthy, and say they are proof that the institutions are broken. Raising awareness on all those who still need help is important, but it is counterproductive to use them as indication that no progress is being made.

Anonymous Recovery

One conflict with measuring success is with 12 Step programs, mainly because they are anonymous programs. As a member of a 12 Step program I am definitely not trying to discredit these methods. The reality is true success rates of 12 Step programs are such a matter of contention because the standard of anonymity. Many people will simply not wish to be involved in studies based on their desire to remain anonymous.

When trying to debate the success rates of 12 Step programs we have to take any statistics with a heaping serving of salt. Out of the pieces of data available, those numbers are not an all-encompassing assessment.

Also, the only data for success in recovery from 12 Step groups is ongoing sobriety percentages, measured by years. And just about any member will tell you time does not equate sobriety. And limited data means the programs may help people to find a meaningful life, but if they do not remain members then they are not included in those success rates.

Some will only measure their success in recovery on a 24 hour basis, because they take life a day at a time.

Even 12 Step literature will point out that they have no monopoly on spirituality or recovery. 12 Step literature acknowledges that some people reach a point where their drug abuse or drinking caused great physical, personal and professional damage, but after intervention and treatment some can turn their lives around without a 12 Step program. Of course abstinence is often suggested as the best course of action for most recovering addicts and alcoholics. Once drugs or drinking create enough devastation, turmoil and helplessness many people find it is far too late to ever go back. Yet, abstinence is not necessarily the requirement for “success in recovery”.

Success in Recovery is Subjective: Speak Up

What truly transcends the debate over effective drug treatment is how we measure success in recovery in the first place. How do we decide someone is successful in life? Because isn’t that what recovery is; building a life that is happy and whole? So how do we calculate the extent of someone else’s transformation?

In essence, that is what we are talking about; discovering a fulfilled and meaningful shift that allows freedom to pursue happiness and connection. Given this description, success in recovery is definitively subjective. The meaning of recovery is more conjectural.

The measure of successful recovery should be a more fulfilled life.

Not just with material wealth, prestige or surface value but with connection, contribution and genuine gratitude. In the end, men and women who struggle with drug abuse or alcoholism recover in innumerable ways. Some turn to religious bodies, while others thrive on support groups. Some focus on physical fitness and mindfulness. There is no way to measure every success story, because they are life-long journeys through self-awareness. Each puzzle piece makes a different picture.

In order to show that there is hope, I hope more of us speak up about our experiences in recovery from alcoholism and addiction. There is so much emphasis on the bad, there is more of a need than ever to show the world something good. This means shattering the stigma that stands against us. People will never know we can succeed if we don’t try to show them how we already have. Recovery from addiction should be outspoken more often. Not because I think anonymity isn’t important; I have great respect for the traditions of 12 Step fellowships.

But… I do believe that if we don’t speak up for ourselves, stigma is going to keep speaking for us.

Every community, including yours, is filled with people who have empowering and inspiring success stories after overcoming drugs and alcohol. It all begins with a foundation. It is up to you to measure your success, but it’s also up to you to take action and make your success story possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

 

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The Genetic and Psychologocial Science in Each of the 12 Steps

The Genetic and Psychologocial Science in Each of the 12 Steps

Author: Justin Mckibben

Here we are going to discuss some expert opinion on the molecular neurobiological aspects of each of The 12 Step Program.

Understanding of the neuro-molecular biological keystones of The 12 Steps may actually be an important step toward sobriety for some, especially those who rely heavily on the tangible logic of scientific reasoning. To understand and embrace principles of molecular neurobiology could ultimately lead to a better quality of recovery from addiction.

  1. Step 1- We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.

There is science behind the “powerlessness” of the first step. Admitting personal powerlessness over addiction is actually supported by the mechanisms involved in the neurobiological circuits of our brain. Stress and the toxic-effects of the drugs themselves induce changes in brain functions such as:

  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neurophysiology
  • Neurochemistry

These changes create:

So scientifically it is very true that the individual is powerless. The substances themselves continually short out the circuits in the brain that are meant to give people control. The recipe requires genetic predisposition and environmental elements, but everyone is technically susceptible depending on these variables.

  1. Step 2- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Breaking down the wording of the step one could infer:

  • Sanity- sound judgment
  • Insanity- repetitive behavior despite the harm

Poor judgment, or “insanity,” could be a cause of unusual substance seeking behavior despite risk of harm. These decisions are made worse by environmental factors including:

  • Drug availability
  • Non-nurturing parents
  • Social-economic burdens
  • Stress

The individuals sanity also may be impacted by their relationship with a “power greater than themselves.”

In this case, let us look at relapse. The prefrontal cortex and cingulate gyrus are critical areas involved in relapse regulation. Impaired neurochemical functioning of these regions obstruct recovery and induce relapse, typically due to:

  • Genes
  • Toxic substances
  • Toxic behaviors

Understanding the molecular biology of the brain reward system highlights the importance of positive input from a fellowship such as the 12 Steps offer. Positive input from peers can offset unwanted gene expression. Ultimately, this can enable an individual to achieve a state of sanity and make right choices. The power greater than yourself can simply be the environmental element of your recovery.

  1. Step 3- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

Will-power is extremely difficult to regulate in individuals born with a compromised reward system and low levels of endorphins. Will-power is based on both the interplay of genes and environmental elements in society, such as stress or shock. Early stress can cause substance use disorders in adult life as seen with epigenetic effects on Glucocorticoid receptor express.

Because the hard wiring of our brain’s reward circuitry is so difficult to override, it only makes sense the recovering addict  seems obvious to look for reward outside of our genome. So in this step, the idea is to turn that focus away from drugs and toward something such as the fellowship or a spiritual path.

  1. Step 4- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Fearless moral inventory must include the drug of choice and other Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) related behaviors. A particular drug or behavior is not the only element of an addiction, it includes a range of observable characteristics resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment..

However, the inventory cannot be labeled as “right” or “wrong” because it their own evaluation of self. To understand that there are genetic and environmental aspects to addict means to understand that blame and guilt are not conducive to true self-appraisal.

  1. Step 5- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

This step involves open reflection on our issues with using drugs. This includes the toxic effects of recurrent exposure to these substances on our minds and how that translates into our actions that impact others.

The damage of drugs on the brain’s reward networks is very physiological, and these physiological changes can result in psychological effects such as anxiety or aggression. By evaluating the inventory we have taken, we can consider the “nature of our wrongs” as being the psychological deterioration caused by drugs.

  1. Step 6- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Many would argue that technically our character is shaped by genetic (evolutionary) forces far outside our individual control. So in that mindset it is not necessarily within our ability to change who we are genetically speaking. So, wouldn’t it be up to something greater than us, be it a ‘God’ or our own evolution of perspective, to remove the character traits that do not serve us?

With that said, our environment may influence how we have developed our responses and attached meanings to circumstances. Achievement of step 6 requires:

  • Deep character analysis
  • Painful realization
  • Ability to dissociate the present self from the past self

By rethinking in terms of the “wrong” or “right” of an individual act, we can leave behind our attachments to actions or behaviors and offer up our character defects to the province of a higher power.

  1. Step 7- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Humility is accompanied with gratitude and grace. Spiritual faith and humility challenge someone to accept that good intentions and honest effort alone will not always be enough to succeed. This could lead to chronic depression and relapse, especially with genetic predisposition.

However, the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions together ask the person to believe that evil, injustice and cruelty will not necessarily always win either.

Humility and faith are not necessarily synonyms for passivity. They actually support the belief that our shortcomings can be removed by our willingness to believe that things can work out. Positive feelings translate to positive epigenetics in the brain, enhancing the chances of removing our shortcomings by expressing more effective and positive genes.

  1. Step 8- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Behind part of this step is the old saying “water seeks its own level,” because it may be an effect of a genetic association. People often seek friends who not only have similar characteristics, but similar genotypes.

So by making amends which may eliminate certain friends that would not be conducive to recovery, an individual is truly going against the genetic grain on a molecular neurobiological level.

A form of happiness is that people exist in comfortable networks of social collectives. So as we reach out to those we have hurt to amend our relationships and our character, we reconnect with a new source of happiness.

  1. Step 9- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

In Step 9, the achievement of making amends is subject to correlations among:

Relationships and happiness are based on neuronal hard wiring. So overcoming relationship issues is both an arduous challenge and a clear answer to achieving healing.

The degree to which someone can make amends is crucial to a healthy recovery. This is partly because mending of relationships is a gateway to the attainment of happiness. Making amends can also activate a natural release of dopamine in reward centers of the brain.

  1. Step 10- Take personal inventory and admit to being wrong

Step 10 is the maintenance for Steps 4 and 5. It continues the practice of taking personal inventory in the 12 Steps to evaluate the self. It is important that addicts realize that depending on their genetic risk taking inventory and feeling good about the self-appraisal is a temporarily “dopamine fix”.

Beyond just having the ability to keep yourself in check and have a positive impact, when addicts continue to “work the steps” on a daily basis it also gives them a primary source from which to replenish dopamine in the brain.

  1. Step 11- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Meditation and prayer, as suggested in step 11, increases the release of dopamine at the synaptic level. Applying the process of step 11 on a daily basis will also offset the genetically induced “hypodopaminergic brain function” by continuing to release dopamine in the synapse.

Increased dopamine will result in a subsequent proliferation of dopamine receptors, even in those with the most sensitive predisposition. The increase in D2 receptors translates to enhanced dopamine function, which will ultimately promote:

  • Greater confidence
  • Better comprehension
  • Stress resistance

Looking outside the 12 Steps, most who study spirituality know the positive effects of prayer and meditation on the brain.

  1. Step 12- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Here it says that working all the steps can allow an individual to have spiritual awakening. For some, one of the most fulfilling experiences they can have is sharing emotions with others. This experience itself and the impact may be decided by the synthesis and release of the brain chemical oxytocin.

Oxytocin is an important human bonding neuropeptide. However, independent of personal genetic makeup, alcohol and opiates significantly impair the synthesis and release of this chemical. So it is important to take advantage of this opportunity to create positive emotions while establishing connections.

So, by carrying the message and sharing experience we can bond further in our recovery, which helps us to rewire the brain with expressions of positive genes while also letting us detach from old meanings and produce more dopamine. All in all the 12 Steps have a pretty decent formula for working with the science of the brain to recover from a pattern of destruction.

The 12 Steps and similar programs of recovery are all very powerful tools. A holistic treatment program like Palm Partners respects the science of addiction, and many seek help here in order to establish a strong footing to move forward. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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Drug Addiction: Is It an Allergy or Not?

Drug Addiction: Is It An Allergy Or Not?

Author: Shernide Delva 

A common way to explain addiction is to describe it as an allergy.  Not everyone who does drugs will become addicted.  Just like not everyone who eats a peanut will have an allergic reaction. The general understanding is that addiction is a chronic, progressive relapsing disease of structural and functional brain abnormalities. The understanding of addiction as a disease has allowed for better treatments and has made tremendous progress in reducing stigma.

However, when it comes to the allergy theory model of addiction, many question the accuracy. Does addiction really stem from an actual allergy? Time to get to the bottom of all of this.

Dr. Silkworth: The Allergy Theory (March 1937)

The allergy theory of dependency was first thought of by Dr. William Silkworth, M.D., in 1937. The theory was later inserted into the “Big Book” of Alcoholic Anonymous in a section titled “The Doctor’s Opinion.”  It was Dr. Silkworth’s opinion that chronic alcohol addiction was, in its way, an allergic reaction. It was a phenomenon only present in certain people.

Silkworth noticed that people treated for alcoholism responded in two different ways. Person A would completely heal after treatment and return home to either drink socially or not drink at all. At first, person B would respond to treatment in a positive manner. However, they would lose control of their drinking if they ever tried to consume alcohol again. To explain this distinct difference, Silkworth concluded that there must be some allergic reaction present in person B that makes drinking an uncontrollable behavior. Otherwise, why would the two patients respond to treatment so differently?

The rationale behind Silkworth’s theory of alcohol addiction was quite sound. Those who are psychologically powerless to alcohol are also physically powerless. Just like an allergy, in some people, vital organs in the body fail to produce certain enzymes required to complete the decomposition of alcohol (or more scientifically ethanol.)

The Addict vs. Nonaddict Conclusion

In a non-alcoholic person, the body produces the right amount of enzymes to break down ethanol which reduces the high risk of uncontrollable drinking. In an alcoholic person, the body processes alcohol the same way as a non-alcoholic person, until it reaches a point within the liver and pancreas where there is not enough enzyme production to complete decomposition. This may be why there is an intense “craving” to continue drinking that prevents alcoholics from being able to control the amount they drink once they begin.
Ultimately, he concluded:

“The inevitable conclusion is that true alcoholism is an allergic state, the result of gradually increasing sensitization by alcohol over a more or less extended period of time… some are allergic from birth, but the condition usually develops later in life.  The development and course of these cases are quite comparable with the history of hay fever patients…”

Further he notes:

“such patients may be deprived of liquor altogether for a long period, for a year or longer, for example, and become apparently normal.  They are still allergic, however, and a single drink will develop the full symptomatology again.”

80 Years Later: Is It Really An Allergy?

Although Silkworth was on the right track, addiction is not exactly an allergy. An allergy, by definition, is a reaction of the immune system to a given chemical. A skin test can easily detect allergies. If alcoholism were an allergy, it would respond to a skin test. Alcoholism is not a true allergy in the same way that peanuts, soy, or bee stings are allergies.  AA believed the allergy theory of addiction was helpful in explaining the serious physical and psychological effects addicts endure after one drink.

“The doctor’s theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex-problem drinkers, we can say that his explanation makes good sense. It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account.”

Furthermore, defining addiction by comparing it to an allergy is an accurate way of describing the disease. Although Silkworth was scientifically incorrect, he was on the right track. Despite his error of concept, Silkworth made many concise, astute observations in an effort to identify the root of addiction.

In 1975, AA finally addressed the allergy concept stating, “alcoholism is not a true allergy, the experts now inform us.”

While addiction may not technically be an allergy, Silkworth’s allergy concept has been enlightening. It helped us develop a mode of treatment that is useful in helping individuals abstain from addictive behaviors. Addiction is a disease, and anyone struggling with it knows how powerless it can be. We have the tools to get you living a healthy, sober, productive, fulfilled lived. Don’t wait—call us today.

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Kid Cudi Checks Into Rehab for Depression

Kid Cudi Checks Into Rehab for Depression

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Just last week, Kid Cudi opened up about his battle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.  Cudi was remarkably candid noting that he’s struggled with depression his entire life and “hasn’t been at peace” as long as he’s been in the public eye. Now, Cudi is finally seeking help for his condition by checking himself into rehab to deal with his mental health issues.

The post was emotionally raw and unexpectedly vulnerable of Cudi, but perhaps the most concerning part of his post was the amount of shame Cudi feels about his predicament. The note concludes with him stating he feels awful and is “so shamed.” He continued apologizing to fans multiple times for “letting them down.” He even describes himself as a “damaged human” and says, quite simply “I’m scared, I’m sad.”

Cudi came to prominence with his 2008 mixtape “A Kid Named Cudi” and its hit single “Day ‘n Nite.” He was first signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music record label and has gone on to form his own labels, direct music videos and compose film scores.

Opening Up About His Depression

The rapper posted the message to his fans about his suicidal urges and lack of peace.

“I checked myself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges. I am not at peace,” Kid Cudi wrote in the post. “I haven’t been since you’ve known me. If I didn’t come here, I would’ve done something to myself. I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday of my life. There’s a ragin’ violent storm inside of my heart at all times. [I don’t know] what peace feels like. [I don’t know] how to relax.”

Cudi’s struggle for internal peace is not an uncommon one by any means. According to Healthline, one in 10 Americans is affected by depression and the number of patients diagnosed with depression increases by close to 20% each year. Sadly, over 80% of people that have depression are not being treated at all.  Around 121 million people in the world struggle with depression and most fear to admit they are suffering.

“It’s been difficult for me to find the words to what I’m about to share with you because I feel ashamed,” Kid Cudi wrote on his Facebook status. “Ashamed to be a leader and hero to so many while admitting I’ve been living a lie. It took me a while to get to this place of commitment, but it is something I have to do for myself, my family, my best friend/daughter and all of you, my fans.”

Moving Toward Healing

Cudi also announced that he wouldn’t be promoting his new album, “Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’,” which has been delayed in publication. He informed fans that the album is still on its way but for now, he needs to get his head on right first.

“My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it,” he wrote. “I can’t make new friends because of it. I don’t trust anyone because of it, and I’m tired of being held back in my life. I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me? I guess I give so much of myself to others I forgot that I need to show myself some love too. I think I never really knew how. I’m scared, I’m sad, I feel like I let a lot of people down and again, I’m sorry. It’s time I fix me. I’m nervous, but ima get through this.”

World Mental Health Day: Spreading Awareness to Others

Today, October 10th  is World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health Day is a day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy.  On this day, thousands of supports come together to spread awareness about the effect of mental illnesses like depression. There is a great need to provide information on treatment options and support available to those who struggle with mental illnesses. There is no reason to be ashamed.

Cudi has decided to take the necessary time to get the help he desperately needs. Cudi is only focused on revamping the direction of his future. Over time, depression can lead to alcoholism, drug addiction, and even worse suicide. Fortunately, sufferers from depression can make a full recovery and return to regular life.

We must commend Cudi for opening up about his depression and getting treatment to make a full recovery. His admission will help in de-stigmatizing the act of reaching out for help to treat mental illness. If he can be brave enough to seek help for his mental illness, you can too. Do not ever be afraid to admit the need for treatment. You are not alone. We can help. Call today.

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Racists Anonymous Uses 12 Steps to Fight Racism

Racists Anonymous Uses 12 Steps to Fight Racism

Author: Justin Mckibben

As hard as it is to admit, that’s the first step.

Once upon a time the forces of evil gave us this great conspiracy that we are separate; the truth is we never were. We have been lied to long enough that we are defined by our differences. We were told the borders mankind created for each other are valid reasons to hate and hurt one another. They said the shades in our skin and the climates and economic categories we live in made some of us better or worse… and the greatest tragedy is- we believed it.

The 12 Steps and the ‘anonymous fellowship’ model of recovery are actively used all over the world for those looking to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. There are even other addictions such as gambling or over-eating that people use the 12 Steps’ strategies to overcome. Anonymous support groups meet to work with one another to fight the obsessions that rule over their lives.

While some debate the effectiveness of groups like AA or NA, thousands upon thousands of people in over 150 countries all over the world have found their salvation from substance abuse through 12 Steps.

So, the question is… will it work for racism?

Some would insist that to even suggest racism is still a reality in America is to contribute to the race-baiting that drives division. However, the truth is no matter how far we like to think we have come- racism is still real. Now, Racists Anonymous (RA) aims to help those struggling with their own prejudices to overcome them.

Racism in America

While it may be hard in a politically-correct America to understand the gravity of it, racism is not extinct. No one likes to admit they are racist, especially in the modern society that preaches tolerance and acceptance. It is probably much easier for some to admit to their innermost self they’re an alcoholic or an addict than it is to admit they suffer from a serious racial bias.

Today we are still bombarded with police-related shootings involving young black men and women in the media. Meanwhile, we have the biggest protest by Native Americans in our history happening right now, and the brutality being inflicted on these people is truly deplorable.

Regardless of whether or not you believe that race is responsible for these injustices, the nature of these events leads some to think discrimination is the only explanation. The way these events are shown impacts the country, also driving a wedge between its people, inspiring even more division. Tragically, despite having an African American president, many insist this is the most racially divided we have been in decades.

One pastor in Sunnyvale, California is so concerned with the status of stigma and racial tension he is taking the unlikely step of offering a 12-step program for people who wish to heal from racism.

Racists Anonymous

Pastor Ron Buford of the Congregational Community Church knows well that the first step of basically every recovery fellowship is to acknowledging the problem. He stated,

“That is something that we as Americans don’t want to do. We all swim in this culture of racism. It’s impossible to not be racist to some degree.”

Pastor Buford, who is himself an African American, makes no effort to point the finger and say this is a problem unique to one race or another. Back in 2015 Pastor Buford began to host meetings of the newly formed Racists Anonymous in what he says was a response to the police shootings all over America, exacerbated by the shooting rampage of Dylan Roof at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Slowly but surely the fellowship of Racists Anonymous did actually grow! Since its conception, at least a dozen people regularly attend the weekly Racists Anonymous meetings. The RA meetings host a majority of Caucasian members, but also various other races are adamant attendants. Seems like having members who would not normally mix is a big understatement here.

Still, the Racists Anonymous fellowship follows the path set out by the original 12 Steps. For example:

  • Making a list of people they have harmed
  • Making amends to those they have hurt
  • Taking personal inventory
  • Admitting and recognizing racist behaviors

RA meetings also include sharing experiences and feelings regarding race.

One thing very different about RA from most 12 Step fellowships is these meetings is the mediator. RA meetings have someone working to directly confront members with scenarios. The mediator, typically Pastor Buford, then challenges members to explore their attitudes and actions concerning other races. This kind of mediation is not the norm for many 12 Step meetings. What many might call “cross-talking” seems to be acceptable in the RA format.

Expanding the Fellowship

Beyond the reach of Congregational Community Church, over 30 other churches across the country are in the process of establishing Racists Anonymous groups. Buford says he hopes to make RA just as available as AA or NA all over the U.S. of A. Still there are many hurdles to overcome before this fellowship can hope to grow.

A large obstacle is that not many people are willing to admit they are racist to a group of strangers. Reverend Nathan King of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Concord, North Carolina, introduced the meetings to a mostly white congregation. Reverend King said,

“People are in different places. Some say, ‘I’m a racist.’ Or they say, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure.’”

Some would protest the comparison between alcoholics and racists. One might say that one is a choice and the other is a disease. But then again, some people still claim alcoholism or addiction is a choice, but anyone who has been there or been on the frontlines in fighting addiction knows better than that. So, is it fair to say that the idea of supporting people in recovering from racism is not a worthy task?

Stephen Mosier, a 74-year-old RA member is a retired college administrator who stated,

“We have all got some residual racism in us no matter how good we think we are at it,”

Pastor Buford believes that racism could very well be a lifelong issue one struggles with. Whether you believe people choose racism or not, the hope is to eliminate the spread of racism for future generations. Either way, this seems like as good a reason as any to try and make a change.

Racism is an Addiction

In the end if we are all as introspective as we can be, we will see that as imperfect people we have a tendency to make assumptions or misconceptions based on the ideas we were conditioned with throughout life. In a combination of our environment and the more drastic experiences we have, we can subconsciously create stereotypes or expectations, and our culture may only feed these beliefs. But it is our responsibility to fight back and grow out of these lies.

We become addicted to these stereotypes and presumptions. We may even realize we are wrong, but somehow we cannot let go of the crutch of our conditioning. The truth is, no one is born racist. Racism is taught. So love and tolerance must be learned in order to escape these archaic lessons. RA may not be the only way to teach love, but it’s an interesting take on an old way of working for an awakening.

While many are far from able to take that first step, others who have fought to overcome drugs and alcohol already know just how difficult of a step that can be. Having that clarity isn’t always easy, but once you see the problem for what it is you have a window of opportunity to get the help you truly need to change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now!

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