From the /r/LDS archives – 18 year olds and alcoholism on Missions

A few of my posts from earlier times have been resurrected from the subreddit  I produce them whole cloth without edits or updates over the next few pages.  I will also link back to the originals but please be aware the subreddit could shut down again at anytime killing the link:

Original Link

With the reduction in missionary age, several things flashed though my mind. One of which was how ill-prepared I was at 19 to deal with alcoholism in people I met. Someone right out of highschool would be even less prepared.

So I want to set the record straight. To be clear, this is not an attack on the church, this is not intended to deter people from going on missions, and this is not to revel in the exmormon stance either. This is because I know the suicide rates of people trying to get off of alcohol, and I am more aware now that it’s fairly likely I may have driven people to death by how we taught the word of wisdom principle, and I see this as a real chance for missionaries to do some good in the world and to help out.

This is me, after years of learning, trying to teach a younger me not to hurt people, and hoping others benefit.

1) Not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic.

  • Why this matters: Because if you walk around after getting a guy who has a beer with dinner once in a while to stop drinking beer, claiming you helped cure alcoholics, you’re not only wrong, you’re a danger to others (That’s coming).

Alcoholism is a bad term. Alcohol dependence is preferred, and once you leave the Utah scene (I’m assuming I’m talking to a younger version of myself, many of you may, in fact, have seen the difference) you’re going to see the difference.

Alcoholism is more than just “likes to drink”. It’s where the person is dependent on the drug. Let me repeat that, they DEPEND on the drug. Shaming them, attacking them in front of their spouse and kids, or other things for not quitting drinking so they can be baptized can be very dangerous and will probably not work. If you think it did, odds are they hid the drinking from you because they DEPEND on the drink at that point, and recovery is not miraculous or immediate.

2) Teenagers should not drink –

Why this matters. Odds are, you’re going to see a lot of this in whatever country you go to. Drink of various types is embedded in the culture. Vodka, irish beer, scotch, all of them have some connection to the culture. People drink certain drinks during celebrations. This is just normal for them, and has been for years. Knowing the science behind why teenage drinking hurts kids can really help you prevent future damage to people.

But realize the social pressure is enormous. Not just in the “Hey, buddy, wanna beer” way of American society, but it is a rite of passage to manhood in many countries to have your first beer.

3) The recovery system of the church is taken from the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Knowing the 12 steps, what they are, and how they work can be very beneficial when you meet your first addict. And if your mission is anything like mine, you’ll meet lots of them Something about missionaries attracts the drunk, even more than the hot girl.

Knowing how to deal with a drunk (forget rationality and make your arguments make no sense if they get aggressive/combative, the confusion is your best chance at disarming them) will be very valuable, but the addict you care about will be far more challenging.

Know this: only about 2-5% of people in alcoholics anonymous make it through the program. Got that? 5% tops. That means that out of 100 people you try to help, if you follow the system perfectly, 5 of them will recover (on average) (source is a 1980’s statistical study, more recent studies place it at20% for the first year after.

Here’s the kicker, the 4th step of the 12 step program is basically repentance. One has to write out a list of everything they’ve ever done to hurt someone, and try to make restitution in some form. According to the AA professionals I met and worked with on my mission, suicide rates during this step are about 32%

That is, about 5% recover, and 1/3rd end up dead.

This is an enormously difficult task. The pain is amazing.

4) Numbers vs. Humans

Why it matters: You’re going to want to get numbers of baptisms. You’ll say to yourself now, “I won’t care about numbers, I’ll care about people”, but once you have an AP a Zone leader and a mission president asking where the numbers are, you’ll struggle. It’s hard to resist that kind of peer pressure.

And it will /seem/ like Mr. Foster (or whoever) is clean and should be baptized this week. But the thing is, Alcohol dependence is for life. He has to shift his entire mental philosophy.

But then there’s that number, shining in front of you, so easy to get.

The mission president, zone leaders and AP’s may even encourage you to “Move on”, “forget them if they won’t convert or show progress”.

But remember, you’re looking at a 33% suicide rate, while this person is in the most difficult step, that portion where they try to make amends (Something they’ll be thinking about during preparation for baptism).

You walk away from them, and you might be signing their deaths. You shame them, or mock them, or push them in front of their families, and you might as well have handed them the loaded gun (Suicide, as far as I can tell, is “death by embarrassment”, very few suicides happen without embarrassment).

So if you are still reading this, and you head out on a mission later, remember these words. This isn’t a game. It isn’t just about a plan of salvation, or joy, or whatever; it’s real people with real struggles that odds are, at 18 or 19, you’ve never had to face.

Go out there and be serious, be helpful, and forget the numbers if someone really needs you and be a good person.

Craig Ferguson backing up what I’m saying

Penn and Teller about 12 step program and recovery

Penn and Teller, round 2 on 12 step

This entry was posted in Current issues. Bookmark the permalink.
Last edited by Mithryn on June 19, 2015 at 7:18 pm

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