Pubdate: Thu, 05 Aug 1999
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 1999, New Haven Register
Author: Bonita Grubbs 


Is there anything good about substance abuse? I think not. It holds
people hostage to an ugly, craving-controlled present, arrests their
plans for the future and ruins their quality of life. It can also
result in institutionalization or incarceration if the abuse is
protracted or connected to criminal behavior.

If that is not enough, it has a negative impact on others. Children,
family members and friends are held captive and suffer tremendous and
traumatic economic, social and spiritual distress. Employers' cost of
doing business increases because of absences, lateness and decreased
productivity. The community at large feels victimized and unsafe.

No matter where I turn I see nothing but bad news, except when I come
into contact with people committed to the cause of setting people free
from the bondage of substance abuse. People continue to care about and
commit their lives and professions to reducing the abuse and its

Treatment centers and other supportive services have been established
by individuals who believe that clinical relief and counseling will
make a difference. Continuous efforts are made to increase
availability of treatment beds and improve access to other essential
services that attempt to meet current and growing needs.

In that regard, new approaches are being considered all the time. Many
of them have received both considerable endorsement and opposition.
One of them is harm reduction. This approach emphasizes recovery as a
process that involves personal struggle, relapse and making lifestyle

Another approach is the needle exchange program. New Haven is
certainly a national leader; it was one of the first cities in the
United States to implement this program. Other cities in Connecticut
and throughout the country have followed suit.

Not Washington, D.C.

Just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down funding
for a needle exchange program. In the same action, they also voted
down the legalizing of marijuana for medical purposes, an extremely
controversial proposal.

A new approach mentioned in a recent edition of the Register is the
Children Requiring a Caring Community, or CRACK, an organization that
started in Anaheim, Calif., and expanded to Chicago. Briefly put,
women on drugs who wish to be sterilized are offered a $200 bribe so
that babies who are addicted will not be born. Both praise and blame
are laid at the feet of the founder, Barbara Harris.

These approaches, especially those that are legislative or judicial,
produce good results. However, the ones I am drawn to are spiritual in
nature. Self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Christ-centered
ministries, like Teen Challenge, have had tremendous success in
helping people live alcohol- and drug-free by focusing on spirituality
and personal transformation.

I believe in these approaches, mainly because of my experience with
people in recovery and the power of their testimonies. That is why I
want to share information about two New Haven-based efforts.

On Aug. 29, an event called "United By Faith, Make a Miracle
Happen/Live Drug Free" will take place. It is an opportunity for
people of faith to walk from various sections of the city down to the
New Haven Green to stand in solidarity with people in recovery and
support those who live in environments where substance use and abuse
are rampant. It is also a time to show the power of faith in
overcoming addiction and celebrate the reawakening that only comes
from God and making a spiritual connection.

This event is a prelude to the launching of a new undertaking within
the Fighting Back antidrug program's overall strategy of working
intensively with families in and around public housing, improving and
increasing access to treatment and services within the system of care,
increasing public awareness and pushing for changes in public policy.

Called the neighborhood congregations program, it's aimed at enlisting
faith communities in hosting support groups, assisting those who are
in recovery with practical issues of daily living like housing and
jobs, setting them free from the bondage of drugs and alcohol,
increasing neighborhood safety and advocating for change.

This program is designed to replace the bad news of spiritual death
from addiction with the good news of spiritual life and addiction free
existence. That is news I like to hear.
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The Rev. Bonita Grubbs is executive director of Christian Community
Action, 168 Davenport Ave., New Haven 06519.

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