Father Dan enjoys his walks down Clark Avenue. The families seem happy and successful with well-groomed lawns and barbecue grills. But behind the nice-looking façades hide a few demons: Jim and Sarah, #306 Clark Avenue, struggle with debt because of Jim’s addiction to shopping; Louise, the recent widow at #514, numbs her grief with alcohol; Terry and Bill, #621, confront their son Brian with drugs found in his bedroom; Jennifer at #837 cannot leave her Internet connection; and Sharon, #852, is addicted to prescription pain medication.
Addiction is a demon that the average family cannot escape. Whether it’s one’s own, a neighbor’s or a family member’s problem, we must not ignore its presence. The beginning of healing is honesty. While admitting one’s addiction is humiliating, the acceptance of one’s weakness opens the door to rehabilitation.
We cannot go it alone. Whether it’s marriage counseling, a weight-loss support group or drug rehab, when addiction rears its ugly head, the best defense is an offense of a knowledgeable and supportive community.
With truth and support in place, the whole family needs to rearrange life patterns to erase old patterns of behavior. This could mean avoiding friends who use drugs, paying cash for purchases, moving the computer to a family area, etc. We need to shake things up in order for lasting change to take root.
We must also clean up the messes we’ve made. It’s time to forgive ourselves and ask forgiveness of those we’ve harmed by our addictive behavior. Everyone we love was affected by our choices. Saying “forgive me” is a healing balm.
Finally, the addict and those who love the addict must wrap all this good work in prayer. The power of intercession is a weapon that moves mountains—mountains of failure and years of dysfunction, pain and fear. God wants to bring wholeness to our wounded lives.
Clark Avenue looks the same from the street. Yet, the demons of addiction are being dealt with. There are no magical happy endings; it’s hard work to walk away from addiction. Jim and Sarah cut up the credit cards and work with a debt counselor. Louise joined A.A. and is learning healthy ways to cope with grief. Brian has changed schools, and he and Sharon spend Saturdays at the rehab outpatient clinic. Jennifer moved her computer to the family room. And on Sundays, when Father Dan sees them at Mass, he prays for the folks on Clark Avenue and their journeys to freedom.
(for praying alone or with others)
Preparation: Place a large bowl of water, a rock for each participant, a lighted candle and a Bible on a prayer table.
“Create in Me” by Bob Hurd (or other suitable hymn)
The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway
Taking, as he did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that he will make all things right
If I surrender to his will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in
And supremely happy with him
Forever and ever in the next. Amen.
“I invite you to take a rock. The rock is a symbol of a hard place in your life, an overwhelming wound, addiction, loss of freedom or dysfunction. It might be overeating, spending too much, alcohol, gambling, loss of control or bad temper. Let us sit in quiet for a moment and each name the rock for ourselves.” (Sit in silence for a few moments.)
“You are invited to come forward and place your rock in the bowl of water. It was through the waters of Baptism that God claimed you as his own. As you release your rock into the water, ask God to heal that place in your heart that suffers from the pain of addiction. Then, sign yourself with this water as a reminder of your Baptism, that you are God’s own. Pray to God for healing.” (Play quiet music during this time.)
“O Divine Redeemer, take our fragile spirits and restore them. Give wholeness to the broken. Remove any anger, resentment or fear that keeps us from freedom. Gently enfold us in your love, so that we may know your healing. Amen.”