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Christian Rehab

By Susan ~

Imagine, for a moment, that you have hit "bottom" as an alcoholic. You find yourself jobless, homeless, physically and emotionally ill, and alienated from family and friends. After a relative drives you to a detox center, you spend five days medically withdrawing, and then are picked up by a staff member from the recovery center where you will be spending the next 90 days. What you do not realize, however, is that you will be spending the next three months being heavily indoctrinated with Christianity. This happens around our country every day. It happened to me. There are many people in America unaware of what exactly goes on in faith-based addiction treatment facilities. I am here to shed some light.

detoxification (Photo credit: sillydog)
I grew up in a fundamentalist household but managed to stop attending church when I left home for school at age 18. After a year at the university I no longer believed that Christianity was the ultimate truth, as I had when I was younger and had experienced years of hard-core indoctrination. Looking back, I would consider myself a universalist. By my second year, I was aware of the fact that drinking alcohol was becoming a problem for me. I drank more (and more often) than the other students (which you can imagine was quite a bit, being in college and all), and would always drink to get drunk. These early years were only the beginning of what was to become a decade-long battle with alcoholism.

After graduation, things were good. I had a great job, a nice place to live, and lots of friends, although my drinking was beginning to escalate. If you or someone close to you is an alcoholic, you will probably recognize the pattern of events which brought me to the rehabilitation facility mentioned at the beginning of the story: my drinking became progressively worse until I could no longer function. I ended up losing my job, my apartment, my fiancée, and most of my friends. After emerging from the five-day detox, I was at my most fragile state. I thought I had lost everything. I had no one to turn to. I was an emotional wreck. And where was I going to receive help for putting my life back together? A fundamentalist Christian drug and alcohol treatment facility.

The facility consisted of a dormitory, a few trailers, an old church, and a camp-style dining hall. Were there any licensed therapists, psychologists, or medical personnel on staff? No! After spending a few lessons learning about addiction and attending a few outside AA meetings, the real indoctrination began. We learned about Christianity day-in and day-out. Jesus would solve our problems. Jesus would take away our addiction with earnest prayer. I thought it was first. After the first month, the religious indoctrination of my childhood began to kick in. I began to remember bible verses and stories, as well as hell and the Devil. The Devil wanted me to drink; he wanted to prevent me from returning to Christ and being a witness for God. After all, I left the church and now look at me! I am nothing without God! There were even posters on the wall that said "I am nothing without God," reinforcing the garbage being forced on patients by the "staff." And just who were these staff members? Some of them were formers addicts who had been through the program, all of them were fundamentalist Christians, and none of them had a certification or degree in counseling, psychology, or medical training.

When I left this rehab after 90 days, I was outwardly well but inwardly sicker than before I entered. I was completely brainwashed on religion. I would spend the next four years back in the clutches of a fundamentalist hell. My deconversion began while attending a strict, Calvinist congregation. I sat attentively every week and listened to the preacher teach lessons from the Bible. Instead of being inspiring, I began to hear them for what they actually were: misogynist, racist, child-hating, brutal, bloody, inconsistent, incoherent, and utterly outrageous and unconscionable stories. I had no choice but to leave the church and Christianity forever.

In retrospect, I believe that I never would have been re-introduced to Christianity had I not been preyed upon by Christians looking for an easy target. There is no place for religion in addiction treatment. It only serves to make the patient sicker, their mind enslaved to an imaginary god. As for those who will argue that a Christian treatment program is better than no treatment, I would emphatically say that a Christian treatment program is not a treatment program at all. Not really. It is a setting in which Christian proselytizers can control the weak and impressionable...the same way that they target children in vacation Bible school. I actually left AA because of its similarities to church. Twelve-step programs are not the only way to maintain sobriety, there are other methods available, and absolutely no one needs religion or God to stop drinking. Those who escape addiction are ultimately doing so by their own power.