I am a rehabilitated alcoholic who has been an active member of various support groups around Nairobi for five years now. My spouse, however, thinks the support groups have restricted my life and it is time I moved on and gelled with friends. How soon should one stick to support groups after rehabilitation?
Other than attending support groups, what else do you do with your life? Do you go to work? Do you spend any time with your wife and children? What hobbies are you involved in? To what extent are you a full member of your community making a positive contribution to society at large? In other words, have you substituted one addiction (alcohol) for another (group work)?
A few years ago, a man preached a sermon that caused much unease in his congregation. He told a story of two women who spent all their time in the church. Their day started with Holy Communion at 6.30am. At 8am they cleaned the church with a group of other dedicated women. After tea at 10am, came hospital visits with the group called hospital ministry. Afternoons were for prayers and meditation, with yet another group and most evenings she hang around the church serving tea to those arranging funerals for their loved ones. She often got home after 8pm, too tired to talk to her husband. The priest made the (correct) point that this type of service to the church was neither desired nor healthy.
He urged moderation in all that we do in life. He went on to explain that the Bible does not prohibit the use of wine. Indeed, wine is in regular use in church even today during Holy Communion. The Bible however is clear about drunkenness being a sin. In this regard, it is the excess use of the alcohol that is a sin and deemed unhealthy.
In a similar vein, we are taught that the love for money is sinful. The making of money is itself a good thing as long as one does not fall in love with the money to the exclusion of all else.
In this regard, the story of the master and his servants is relevant. When he travelled, the master left his servants in charge of some assets. In the Biblical story, one buries his in the sand, while the other multiplies them and he has much to show for his efforts. The one without investment skills has the little he has, taken away and the one with skills gets even more.
Money is therefore not a bad thing (in the Bible) as long as one does not fall in love with it. Substituting alcohol for daily group work amounts to another addiction. It is possible that this is what your wife is trying to tell you. She might be encouraging you to continue with the good work of rehabilitation for yourself and others with similar challenges, but she is also telling you that there is more to life than just groups. She might also be telling you that there are bills to be paid!
This is also what the priest was saying to his flock. By all means support the church but do it in moderation. You have many roles to play in this life. As a husband, father, son and neighbour, you must, as, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) be able to demonstrate that you are in enjoyment of complete mental health.
According to the definition, good mental health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
The route to addiction is personal and no two people who are addicted are the same. The journey out of addiction is also personal and each person takes his own route. Your spouse is therefore right. Continue to attend the groups because they have been shown to be supportive but also demonstrate return to good mental health by participating in other aspects of life as defined by WHO. Specifically, you will be judged free of addiction if you can look after yourself and the family and are able to contribute to your community.