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Catholic in Recovery: Discussing Addiction and Faith with Scott Weeman

Many in our communities and families face the devastating impacts of addiction. Scott Weeman, the founder and executive director of Catholic in Recovery, joins the show to discuss a new resource called “The Catholic In Recovery Workbook: A Guide to the 12 Steps.

Weeman is a marriage and family therapist who also has battled addiction, and helps others integrate faith into the recovery process. He says that the nonprofit Catholic in Recovery is “not the substitute for other 12 step groups, but rather supplemental to them, and in many ways serve as a bridge between recovery and the Church.”

“Addiction is a very isolated and self-centered disease., I call it a spiritual disease,” Weeman continues. “So the solution has to be other-focused, it has to be getting out of ourselves and sharing what we’ve been freely given.”

LISTEN: Confessing an Addiction

He describes the overlap between different parts of the 12 steps and Catholicism, especially that both require a “surrender to a higher power and mission, and that we are in need of a savior.” 

Father Dave expands on this and notes, “One of the fundamental principles that’s very early on in these steps is the concept of powerlessness. We live in a very power centric, power grabbing, power hungry society…I think that’s hard for any modern person to go to that step.” Weeman agrees saying, “It takes a great deal of honesty, self-discovery and humility in order to get through some of those challenging self-reflection moments within the steps. And so it has to start with the first step. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable…Now I’m willing to surrender my life over to the care of God. We need to be very clear about our own powerlessness over addiction.”

Weeman describes his own experience in Alcoholics Anonymous saying, “I didn’t think that the solution would apply to me. I thought that I was a victim of my disease, of my alcoholism and other addictions, compulsions and unhealthy attachments. But unity and fellowship are a necessary part of the solution…a man darted across the room after that first meeting, looked me in the eye, said, ‘I know exactly how you feel. You don’t ever have to drink again.’ And that just opened up a little window of hope. And what he was doing, in turn, was also maintaining his own recovery.”

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He explains that “addictions, compulsions and unhealthy attachments” can come in many forms, such as alcohol or drugs, but also gambling, technology, pornography, or disordered eating. “It’s any time that we’re seeking something outside of ourselves to fill what Saint Augustine would say, ‘a God-shaped hole within our hearts.’ We’re seeking something that is not of God and that might just begin as a coping mechanism with life’s highs and lows, but over time becomes its own monster in itself.”

Weeman concludes that many don’t seek help due to misconceptions about these issues. He says, “The idea that the presence of an addiction is some kind of moral referendum of who we are, or the presence of an addiction is some moral referendum on our family. Part of our mission is to educate the similarities between the spirituality of 12 step addiction recovery and the traditions of the Catholic Church, but it is also to dispel a lot of myths and misunderstandings around what addiction is or is not.”