On Sept. 20, Keaton Douglas, a 2017 alumna who received her M.A. in theology stood in the center of the Nursing Amphitheater. Before a small a gathering of students entered, she and a group of guest speakers and team members gathered in a circle and prayed for the event to be successful. They prayed that the students would be enlightened and leave with God in their hearts.
Douglas had come to speak about how spirituality can be a key component in overcoming addiction. Her three guest speakers were all recovering addicts.
Douglas is the creator of The Healing Initiative—Recovery, Spirituality, and Twelve Steps, or I THIRST.
Part of her goal with this program is to aid in the education about and prevention of drug use by strengthening listeners’ connection to God and helping them realize “they are worthy.”
“We believe this [addiction] is a spiritual disease with devastating physiological and psychological effects,” she said. Douglas explained that, to her, addiction is born from a disordered attachment to aspects of life that cannot fulfill people the way God’s love can.
According to Professor Melinda Papaccio, an instructor in the English department, it was this idea of mistaken or disordered attachment that inspired her to have Douglas come to speak to her “Journey of Transformation” students. She said that she read about Douglas on the SHU website over the summer, decided to receive training in I THIRST and began to think about how it connected to the class.
“What I would like students to think about, in addition to understanding the dynamic of addiction and what people go through, is how we all have attachments to things that don’t serve us well and how we need to examine our lives,” she said.
The three guests all shared their personal battles and how, no matter the circumstances, their roads to recovery eventually became a matter of prayer and asking God for help. Papaccio and Douglas drew parallels between stories of addiction and texts from “Journey of Transformation.” Particularly, they connected with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” in which individuals are chained inside a cave and eventually break free to discover the light outside or “truth.”
“When they [individuals with addictions] emerge from the cave, that light is too bright,” Douglas said.
“That substance becomes their lover, their God, their friend. They have a relationship, a false relationship, with this object of their attachment. So, when they put it down, they have to ask the question of, ‘Who am I?’”
Students said they learned a lot about addiction and how it affects U.S. society. Christian Fernandez, a freshman biology major, said, “I realized addiction is really a recurring problem and society isn’t really doing much to solve it, especially with the opioid epidemic. Society doesn’t really do much to help others and collaborate together to establish a community and recognize this is a problem.”
With September being National Recovery Month, this event proved to be timely. It also comes at a time when deaths related to opioid drug use are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “In 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and illegal opioids like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl) was five times higher than in 1999.”
With these statistics and Douglas’ personal mission, she said she has no plans of slowing down. “I got great teams of people that are ready to come in and teach college campus ministries, that are ready to teach seminarians,” she said. “I’m ready to go.”
Julie Trien can be reached at email@example.com. This story originally appeared on her blog “Campus Rundown.” You can reach her on Twitter @CampusRundown.