For our gathering on Feb. 12, we had as our conversation partner Merritt Benz, LCSW and Owner/Director of the Bedford Therapy Group here in Kansas City.  She has a lot of wisdom and experience in leading people in complicated conversations, and we asked her to help us with the questions, “How do people struggling with addiction find hope and healing instead of shame?  How do faith communities help or hinder that process?”

As part of that conversation, Merritt had a list of questions for everyone to answer.  Below are a few of the ones we pondered:

  1. Define addiction in your own words.
  2. When I hear the word addiction, I think of…
  3. If addiction were a color, it would be…
  4. If I could taste addiction, it would taste like…
  5. My symptoms of addiction include…
  6. I know I am addicted when I feel…
  7. I can talk about addiction with…

Afterward, we went through the same list of questions, but then substituted the word “faith” for addiction.  It was interesting to share our results from both lists of questions about addiction and faith!  Merritt also noted that each of us struggles with addiction in some way; perhaps it is not as obvious as a substance addiction, but we all have those things that we automatically reach for–without even thinking–when things aren’t going well.  These are the things we have a hard time saying “no” to, even when we know they are harming rather than helping us.  Addiction isolates us, which is why connection can be the cure for addiction.  It is the reach that gives life.  Faith communities are one of those places where people can find connection, to God, others, and self.  Unfortunately we in the church have sometimes messed that up royally by contributing to the stigma and shame surrounding addiction.  For that, we are truly sorry, and want to make The Open Table a welcoming place where difficult conversations and authentic connection can happen.

If you weren’t able to make it, you can still listen online to the podcast of Merritt’s talk.  She also suggested the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, so check it out if you want some further reading on the topic!

Sunday, Feb. 26 will be our last gathering in the addiction series, but we also have a follow-up retreat planned for March 5 which will help move us all in the direction of health and compassion for ourselves as well as others.  There will also be a smaller group setting in which we will set aside time to share our own stories of how addiction has touched our lives.  Nick will be leading that and it will happen later in March.

Stay tuned on our Facebook page and e-newsletter for more info on these and other upcoming events!  And thanks for reading (we know there are a few other things to read on the interwebs).