By Patrick B. Craine
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, March 11, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Winnipeg man who struggles with alcoholism is complaining that he is unable to find a recovery program the doesn’t include a spiritual focus, reports CBC.
Rob Johnstone, an alcoholic for 40 years, has filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission hoping that the province will develop a program without reference to religion or spiritual practices.
"I should not be forced to participate in someone else's religious beliefs. I shouldn't have to add to mine," he told CBC. "I have my own beliefs and I'm happy with them."
Johnstone attended the program offered by the provincially-funded Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM), an intense residential 12-step approach, but reportedly was asked to leave because he wouldn't participate when he was told to find strength in God or a higher power.
Johnstone argues that the programs are exploiting vulnerable people. "We get involved in mood-altering substances and mind-altering substances," he said. "That means the person is very vulnerable when they come in and that person should not be subjected to someone else's religion."
Laura Goossen, the AFM director in Winnipeg, defended the use of spiritual elements, however. "Spirituality … is part and parcel of everyone's life,” she told CBC. “For some people, their spirituality is more important than others, but it's a dimension of all of our lives as human beings.”
A spokeswoman for Manitoba Health also indicated that spirituality is important to these treatment programs, while adding that participants are not required to subscribe to a particular religion in any of the 12 provincially-sponsored programs.
"Some degree of a spiritual component is common as these types of programs are believed to be more effective," she told CBC. "It is important to recognize that spirituality is not the same as religion. People in recovery tend to benefit from self-reflection, examining their lives, where they've come from, who they are and where they're going."
David MacDonald, a Christian musician and recovered alcoholic, told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that in his view a spiritual approach is essential for recovery. “Alcoholism is largely a spiritual problem and any program that tries to use purely psychological means will have a success rate approaching zero,” he said.
“As a Christian guy who has been through a provincially subsidized treatment facility I can say that provincially paid recovery programs are not pushing anything specific at people ... they are very open ended about their spirituality,” he continued. “In fact, I think they'd have much better success rates if they would stop being so spiritually wishy washy and just said it like it is… Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and he is the author of recovery. Admitting that is when I really started to get well.”
"It's pretty hard to recover from alcoholism and at the same time run around trying to sue the people who are trying to help you,” he added. “If the human rights tribunal picks this up they will be proving once again that they are too politically correct to be any earthly good."