Mary Theresa Webb
Alcoholism, one of Russia's oldest and most widespread social ills, affects one in every three Russians. Scenarios such as the following are typical.
Roads to Recovery
Hope and help through the burgeoning 12-step spiritual program could check these problems. Since 1986 many pioneers have planted and nurtured the first Russian seedlings of 12-step Christian-based fellowships, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Al-Anon, a support group for families of alcoholics. Sergei, Irina, Volodia, and others join such programs on their spiritual path to recovery. Yurii Svenko, president of the Russian Association of Independent Psychiatrists, considers AA to be "a highly valuable movement in Russia." Two hundred such groups now exist in Russia, with about 30 in Moscow alone. Al-Anon, too, has grown exponentially since its inception in 1991. Narcotics Anonymous began later and now includes about 15 groups in Russia.
Many participants find God and seek to know more about Him through the church. As new Christians they constitute the nucleus of the OPORA Christian Prevention and Training Program, based on 12-step recovery principles. OPORA, Russian for support, provides a bridge between churches wanting to help suffering alcoholics and their family members and those who have joined 12-step fellowships. In 1997 American Presbyterian missionary Pam Brunson experienced a call to help Russians deal with the epidemic of alcoholism. A year later OPORA was born. Now a paid Russian staff of five, many volunteers, and a Russian/American Advisory Board make up the OPORA leadership. Pam Brunson and Irina Yakubova, director of the Moscow Alliance for Social and Cultural Progress, codirect the Moscow-based program.
Russian professionals team-teach a 45-hour training seminar for church leaders based on the bio-pyscho-social-spiritual disease model of chemical dependency. In September 1998 in a cramped auditorium of the Evangelical Christian (OMS) Seminary in Moscow, team members trained 71 church representatives. In January 1999 they trained 61 workers at Moscow's Korean Presbyterian Seminary. Since September 1998 Christian lay leaders from the Moscow region and other towns and cities such as Tula, Riazan, Vladimir, Voronezh, Ulianovsk, Tambov, Yaroslavl, and Izhevsk have attended OPORA seminars, with two more seminars planned for Fall 1999. Following a 12-week practicum with 12-step support groups, 60 of the 132 Moscow seminar participants have now completed the program. These Christian prevention specialists are qualified to assist alcoholics and their families in church centers around Russia. In April 1999 the Russian Department of Education invited OPORA to start a prevention school to train its teachers.
An ecumenical group of Russian Christian leaders, staff, and volunteers meet weekly to study the Bible and to evaluate how the program should be amended or supplemented. They are reaching out to the general public through two special radio programs featuring 12 testimonies from Christians in recovery.
Rev. Oksana Petrova, pastor of Holy Trinity United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg and national director of the United Methodist Russian Initiative, sent a staff member to the January 1999 OPORA seminar in Moscow and plans an OPORA-style prevention program in St. Petersburg. Methodists offer a 42-day recovery treatment program for addicts and their family members. Through an Adopt-a-Center concept, special OPORA-trained Russian/American mission teams held seminars in church centers in Ufa, Tiumen, and Kazan in Spring 1999. Seminars are scheduled for Tver, Vladimir, and Ekaterinburg. As a result of these seminars, OPORA support groups now exist in Izhevsk, Vladimir, Ulianovsk, Riazan, Serpukhov, Reutov, Pavlovo Pasad, Engels, Voronezh, Saransk, Moscow, and Kazan, with new groups beginning in other cities as well.
Over the past six years the Salvation Army has introduced in Russia its Christ-centered addiction prevention and treatment programs which have had exceptional success in the West. In Rostov-na-Donu, teams of prevention specialists raise awareness about alcohol, drugs, and AIDS issues in schools and work places. Local AA group members refer those who need treatment to a Most (Bridge) Program, a Salvation Army one-on-one counseling service for both abusers and family members affected. Functioning since August 1997, Most is a Salvation Army outpatient drug and alcohol treatment program, differing from recovery programs in that it provides group therapy, Bible therapy, and transactional analysis. While not a 12-step program, Most, like AA, relies on the affected person having a close relationship with a "buddy" who meets with the abuser once a week to provide spiritual guidance. Recuperating addicts can also attend weekly eleventh step Bible studies, in which they seek "through prayer and meditation to improve conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out." Salvation Army Captain Joseph Smith directs a relapse prevention program in St. Petersburg which helps addicts develop alternative coping strategies, inner strength to resist temptations, and a supportive group of friends.
Russian Orthodox Resistance
Many Russian Orthodox lay persons and some priests are involved in alcoholism recovery. However, the 12-step recovery movement has not been widely accepted by Russian Orthodoxy's conservative leadership. For example, Father Konstantin Ostrovskii, from Krasnogorsk, near Moscow, feels that people can recover from alcoholism by coming to church and not attending any group. The hierarchy often discredits Russian Orthodox who have combined Orthodox religious teachings with a recovery-oriented approach to treatment. In spite of this resistance, Dr. Evgenii Protsenko, a devout Russian Orthodox lay person who founded and directs the Old World Treatment Center, reports an 86 percent success rate for those who complete his recovery-based program. (Editor's note: See Dennis Bowen, "Christian Psychology in Russia," East-West Church & Ministry Report 6 (Spring 1998), 2-3.)
During a severe Russian economic crisis in August 1998, Ekaterina Savina, director of the Zebra Adolescent Treatment Center, noted that the only way she and her friends could cope was by following the 12-step spiritual path, by praying, and by surrendering to God's will and seeking God's guidance. By far the most successful Russian programs to help alcoholics are those that cooperate with 12-step recovery agencies or encourage the 12-step method. AA, NA, and Al-Anon fellowships appeal to the natural, collective spirit of Russians. They also are an amazing way to evangelize in a country hungry and hurting for a spiritual way of life.
Editor's Notes: 1) For further reading, see Tatyana Titova, "Alcoholics Anonymous Controversial in Russia," Keston News Service, 9 February 1999; Nina Belyakova, "Supporting Families of Alcoholics," East-West Church & Ministry Report 6 (Winter 1998), 7. 2) On 20-22 April 1999 Moscow's New Hope Church sponsored a conference on alcoholism and drug abuse led by alcoholism counselor and Assemblies of God pastor Jim Isom, of Budapest, Hungary. Pastor Isom regularly holds meetings in Moscow and St. Petersburg on alcoholism, substance abuse, codependency, and family dysfunction. For more information, contact Pastor Mark Currie, New Hope Church; tel/fax: 7-095-306-50-84; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Pastor Jim Isom, Budapest, Hungary; E-mail: JimIsom@compuserve.com.
Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb is director of Theodosian Ministries, Princeton, New Jersey, and serves on the advisory councils of Christian Recovery International, Brea, California, and the British-based International Substance Abuse and Addiction Coalition.
Alcoholics Anonymous - Russia
Tel: 7-095-391-62-39 (Konstantin)
Al-Anon and Alateen -- Russia
Tel: 7-095-908-62-46 (Elena)
Vstan [Stand Up]
117292 Moscow, Russia
>NAN Resource Center/Library
Sells and distributes all AA, NA, Al-Anon literature and other Russian books on recovery topics. Send for list of Russian titles and costs.
Narcotics Anonymous - Russia
Tel: 7-095-126-55-24 (Marina)
New Hope Church
Pastor Mark Currie
Tel/fax: 7-095-306-50-84 (home)
New Hope International
Mr. Carl Byrd
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-7065
Tel: 301-972-1890 (home)
Old World Christian Charitable Foundation
Dr. Evgenii Protsenko, chairman
l. Remizova, 5, "Dom Marii"
113186 Moscow, Russia
Pam Brunson, Moscow, Russia
Irina Yakubova, Moscow, Russia
Terry Webb, Princeton, NJ
Tel: 1-888-229-3045 (toll-free)
St. Petersburg City Narcological Hospital, 10th Department (under Christian leadership)
Viktor Vasiliev and Valentina Novikova
58, 5yi Pereulok, Vasilevskii ostrov
Salvation Army - Russia
Col. Kenneth Baillie, Commanding Officer, Moscow, Russia
Captain Joseph Smith, St. Petersburg
Svetlana Luzgina, Rostov-na-Donu
Dr. Mary Theresa Webb
30 Old Orchard Lane
Princeton, NJ 08540
United Methodist Russian Initiative
Dr. Bruce Weaver, Director
Dallas, TX 75359
Rev. Oksana Petrova, Chair
Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program
Russia United Methodist Church
ul. Telmana 40-357
193230 St. Petersburg, Russia
For English-language information on AA, Al-Anon, and NA worldwide, contact:
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services
New York, NY 10163
Web site: http://www.aa.org/
Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA 23454-5617
Web site: http://www.al-anon.org
Narcotics Anonymous World Service Office
Van Nuys, CA 91409
Web site: http://www.na.org/
OPORA sells the following Russian-language translations of English books
Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Bariiery [Boundaries : When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life]
OPORA Posobiia [FREED Manual, Overcomers Outreach] (for support group leaders)
Ron Ross, Papa slishkom mnoga pil [When I Grow Up I Want To Be an Adult] (for adult children of alcoholics)
Linda Sibley, Chuvstvo [All My Feelings Are Okay]; Vybory [I Always, Always Have Choices]; Obshchenie [Let's Talk, Let's Listen Too] (for parenting and prevention)
Anderson Spickard, Strast k spirtnomu [Dying for a Drink: What You Should Know About Alcoholism]
Terry Webb, Derevo Obnovlennoi Zhizni [Tree of Renewed Life] (on the Christian roots of 12-step programs)
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© 1999 East-West Church and Ministry Report