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33 Attend Addictions Recovery Training

Story by Taashi Rowe
Published 10/15/13

Peter Landless, MD, the General Conference’s Health Ministries director, and Katia Reinert, PhD, Health Ministries director for the North American Division, address attendees at a recent Adventist Recovery Ministries workshop. 
Some 33 people recently attended the first Adventist Recovery Ministries (ARMin): Journey to Wholeness training in the Columbia Union Conference. An official training of the North American Division (NAD), the training is generally offered at their annual Health Ministries Summit and also at a few unions every year, according to Katia Reinert, PhD, NAD Health Ministries and ARMin director. 
The three-day training, held at the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital Conference Center in Rockville, Md., focused on helping members recover from or minister to those suffering from various addictions through a Christ-centered, 12-step program. Participants received expert insights from Christian professionals working in the academic and clinical field of addictions, learned how addictions and obsessive-compulsive behaviors are formed and explored the relevance of creating a Christ-centered, 12-step ministry in their churches.
Some of the presenters included Reinert; Peter Landless, MD, General Conference Health Ministries director; and Ricardo Whyte, MD, psychiatrist and professor in the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University and director of the chemical dependency program at the Loma Linda Behavioral Center (Calif.).
Seventh-day Adventists have been involved in helping each other extinguish their addictions since 1986 when Hal Gates, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, formed a support group at a church he pastored in Seattle, Wash. However, only recently did addictions recovery officially came under the umbrella of NAD’s Health Ministries. The ministry had multiple iterations and was long known as Regeneration. In 2011 it became known as Adventist Recovery Ministries.  

Not Just About Drugs and Alcohol
 As a leader of the ARMin ministry at Allegheny East Conference’s Mount Olivet church and director of several treatment programs, Jimmy Jackson was sure he’d be bored attending the program. A longtime recovering alcoholic, Jackson said he expected, “everything to be a repetition of things I already knew. I especially thought everything would be focused on drugs and alcohol. It kind of surprised me that not only were we actually focusing on the underlying issues that lead to addictions in the first place, we also talked about a whole lot more than these two types of addictions.”
Jackson said this difference was critical. “While Regeneration has been very important to my recovery, some people did not want to be identified with a group that was so narrowly focused on drugs and alcohol. This worried me because I could see it becoming a dying ministry. But with the new direction that ARMin is taking, I can see this developing into an important ministry. I was also really excited to see that the training also focused on not just the resulting behavior—the addiction—but the underlying cause of the addiction.”
ARMin is needed now more than ever before, said Leah Scott, the Columbia Union Health Ministries coordinator. “Addictions cover a broader spectrum than just drugs and alcohol. Many people are suffering from addiction to food, gambling, pornography, technology, video games you name it. And if we are going to be reaching people inside and outside the church, we need to understand how to help them,” she said.
Addiction can be a difficult topic to address in our churches because of stigma, Reinert said. However, the “reality is that everyone in our church has addicted to some unhealthy behavior. As humans we are all ‘addicted’ to sin. ARMin aims to break the stigma and embrace everyone who is willing to recognize their own ‘unhealthy behaviors and compulsions’ to things that are hurting them or their relationships.”
One Chesapeake Conference member, who asked that her name not be used, said an earlier form of the program literally brought her back to church. Before there was a 12-step program in the church, she had been attending Al-Anon, a 12-step program for family members impacted by a loved one’s alcoholism. She wanted to know how to deal with her husband who was impacted by the disease. “I was so embarrassed by what was happening in my marriage that I stopped going to church,” she said. But Step 11 encouraged her to make contact with God through prayer and meditation. After doing so consistently, she knew she had to return to her Adventist faith. Soon after she found Regeneration.
She said the recent weekend training reaffirmed the importance of an anonymous, 12-step support group. “Sometimes we think we are beyond help but Jesus can help anyone, anywhere,” she said. “I also think it’s really wonderful thing to have much more support from the administration of our church.”
Reinert noted that NAD has long supported Regeneration (ARMin former name) and bringing this Recovery Ministries under the Health Ministries is part of the church’s mandate. “We have a message of health and wholeness to give to others in our communities. Our communities need healing and families, parents, youth and children are suffering as a result of addictions and unhealthy compulsive behaviors. … As a church we need to be able to embrace them with love and compassion and walk beside them on the path to recovery in Christ.”
The NAD, Columbia Union and Adventist HealthCare cosponsored the program. 
Click here to read about the ministry’s 25th anniversary celebration.

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