May 28, 2009

'Freedom fighters' appreciated

Thank you, Drs. Stanford, Diaz-Granados, Matthews and Dolan, for your dedication and research on the disease of addiction. Your article ("Freedom fighters," Spring 2009) inspired me to write this letter.

During my years at Baylor I was senior class president, permanent class president, and selected as an Outstanding Senior Man. I left Baylor with excitement, hope and a multitude of dreams for the future. I came from a loving, strong Christian family. My brothers, both Baylor graduates, entered the ministry.

I, however, ventured to California and by the late '80s was a full-fledged drug addict. I remember reading the Baylor Line and seeing familiar names being given some award and wondered what had happened to all my dreams. I hit rock bottom many times; eventually my only friend and literally the only person who would have anything to do with me was my drug dealer. I hung out in one of the seediest bars in L.A., lost several promising jobs and kept using until I was unemployable. I overdosed once and spent four days in the hospital recovering. I was brought to such incomprehensibly demoralizing lows that I prayed to die on a daily basis and could never understand why the Lord allowed my to live another day.

I tried to get clean many times, but I was penniless and about to be homeless, and could not afford even the minimal cost of a treatment facility. God had a different plan for me, however, and it manifested itself in my returning to Texas and living with my parents for a year as I struggled to get clean. I will never forget the day I arrived in my pickup to our house in West Texas.

There I was: a rail-thin 44-year-old complete failure with little or no future, not a dime to my name. And there stood my parents, waiting for me on the front porch, arms open wide with both deep sorrow and love in their hearts. I stayed for four years, three of those years clean.

On May 5, I will be celebrating my seventh Clean Birthday and share that with all the joy and humility of a recovering addict. It is only through God's love and the love of other recovery addicts that I began the process of healing and learning to love myself. Today, I have a master's degree and am one of only 30 teachers in the nation to have earned two National Board Teaching Certificates. I know these may be "small potatoes" to some, but for me, these are accomplishments that I never thought possible; accomplishments that are gifts due to the incredible mercy of God.

Only through the grace and love of God through Narcotics Anonymous have I been able to overcome my disease of addiction one day at time. I attend meetings every week, work the 12 steps, and pray for God's guidance and will many times during the day. I really don't ask Him for anything else, but rather thank Him for the miracle of life and recovery.

I know that sounds "pollyanna," but I never, never want to return to active addiction. Perhaps this letter will encourage someone else who is in the active throes of addiction to realize that there is a light at the end of tunnel. And there truly is. For me, it has been through the love of God via NA.

Thank you, Baylor Magazine, for being bold enough to address this issue in such a spiritually minded, yet practical manner.

Jonathan Smith, BS '75
Los Angeles

Having been around for a while, now 53 years, it is seldom that I am truly "amazed" with much; however, regarding the recent article in Baylor Magazine by Erika Snoberger-Balm entitled "Freedom fighters," I must admit my utter surprise and delight.

I am a recent graduate of the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies where I studied for a year under some of the best minds exploring this mystery called "chemical dependency." The refreshing admission on the part of the Baylor Addiction Research Consortium that the time has arrived for a closer look into dependency issues has breathed new hope into the idea that perhaps the Southern Baptist denomination is ready to actually roll up its sleeves and do something, as opposed to merely sitting on the sidelines, yelling from the bleachers, "DON'T DRINK!" 

The Southern Baptist church has gotten it partially right all these many years--that abstinence is the best policy if one is seeking a genuine Christian experience. Thank God BARC is finally putting some teeth into the effort! Baylor is to be commended.

Having graduated from Baylor with a degree in journalism in 1980, I am a former reporter, and in my opinion, the staff, especially Ms. Snoberger-Balm and her photographer, performed a first-rate job in carrying this message to the reader. My hat is off to Baylor, to BARC and especially to the staff of the Baylor Magazine. Job well done!

Scott Stephen Kirby, BA '80
Austin, Texas

I was disappointed in the article "Freedom fighters." Though much of what the authors do and said is very good, I wholeheartedly disagree with Dr. Sara Dolan's statement on page 23. She "explains how BARC exists to help victims' family, friends and support professionals understand that addiction is a chronic, brain-based mental illness," and later "it's the first step to eliminating the stigma that addiction is a moral failure." My question is: how can anyone who knows what the Bible teaches about moral failure say such a thing?

Since 1990 I have been pretty closely associated with addicts from a local drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, and for the past nine years I have served as GED coordinator there, assisting about 100 to get their GED certificates. I am not involved in the treatment, but because of my Christian commitment, many of them seek me out to talk about the things of God.

Many of them I pray for on a daily basis, and this is my prayer: "Father I come to you in prayer on behalf of all addicts. I pray that they will come to the end of themselves by realizing that only You can truly change them. May they see that their own choices have brought them to their present condition and accept the responsibility for those choices, not blaming others, the events or circumstances, nor the environment of the past. I pray that they will yield to You to make the changes they need and allow You to work in them the perfect plan for which You created them, for LIFE WORKS ONLY WHEN IT'S LIVED YOUR WAY."

Royce E. Curtis, BA '51
Fort Worth, Texas

In Response

Thank you for your interest in the "Freedom fighters" article. We are so fortunate to have been able to form the Baylor Addiction Research Consortium (BARC) to address issues of substance use, abuse and dependence in Central Texas.

In regards to your question of whether addiction is a moral failure, I would agree with you. There are morality issues involved with the behaviors that addicts exhibit: lying, stealing, etc. However, the disease of addiction has been proven to have biological components, as well, including genetics and brain dysfunction. And more importantly, while many scientifically-supported treatments do have a spiritual component (e.g., 12-step approaches), they also have biological (e.g., medication), psychological (e.g., changing thinking), and social-environmental (e.g., reducing access to drugs and alcohol) facets. In fact, most scientists and practitioners would agree that a holistic approach to treatment that addresses the patient as a biopsychosocial (including spiritual) being is most likely to produce lasting recovery. We at BARC are committed to that view and hope to continue to research and provide education on the complexity of the issues surrounding addictions of all types.

Dr. Sara Dolan
Department of Psychology & Neuroscience,
Baylor Addiction Research Consortium


It is truly refreshing to receive Baylor Magazine and read of the great programs and projects at Baylor University demonstrated through the students and faculty. Your positive reporting inspires pride in this great institution and helps to unite the Baylor community as we share in our love for Baylor. Thank you for your encouraging words and uplifting support of Baylor University.

Jenny Allison, BS '78, MS '80
Frisco, Texas

I always enjoy reading Baylor Magazine. I'm saving the current issue because I was so glad that it had the article on Baylor's teacher education program ("Teaching excellence," Spring 2009), a program that started with my graduating class. I was glad to see the article because I firmly believe it prepared me to a degree that no other School of Ed. can, and I was happy to see it get credit where credit is due--especially now that they're a few years in. Keep up the great work!

Katie Eller, BSED '05
Waco, Texas

Honoring the Honors Program

Your article titled "An honorable pursuit" in the spring 2009 issue was very disappointing. From the title of the article and the various subtitles--"The Honors Program at Baylor turns 50," "As Baylor's Honors Program celebrates 50 years of scholarship...," etc., one would assume the article would celebrate the Honors Program.

Not so. After brief references to the Honors Program in the first paragraph or two, the article morphs into an effusive paean to the Honors College. There is a difference.

A tribute to a 50-year-old scholarly program at Baylor might logically be expected to include something of the program's founding. Nowhere, however, is there a reference to the Program's origin. Nowhere is there a reference to Dr. James E. Wood, who was the moving force behind its founding. Nowhere do you see the names of Henry Robinson, Hayward Shuford, Cornelia Smith, Ralph Lynn, Ann Miller, Charles Tolbert, Bruce Cresson, Ray Perryman, Glenn Hilburn, Bud Duncan, John Belew, and many others who chaired and served on the various Honors Committees and spent countless hours teaching honors courses, leading honors seminars, and directing honors theses.

And the greatest injustice is the omission of the name Betty Christian, secretary of the Program, who provided stability and continuity to the Program for 30 years and offered loving care and a listening ear to generations of Honors students.

Now, if Baylor Magazine wants to pay tribute to the 7-year-old Honors College, well and good; but let the article be properly named and let it not usurp the recognition which rightly belongs to the 50-year-old Honors Program.

Dr. Rufus B. Spain
Professor Emeritus of History
Waco, Texas

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