Rehab without religion

Rob Johnston, a man from Winnipeg who has struggled with alcoholism for 40 years, recently filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission because he can’t find a nearby rehabilitation program that doesn’t make use of religion or spirituality, CBC News reported March 8.

Johnston said people battling alcoholism are particularly vulnerable in the search for solutions and should not be offered new religious beliefs as part of the treatment process.

Professionals at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba assert that the recovery process depends on some element of religion or spirituality, whether it be organized faith or a concentrated state of self reflection.

It’s unfortunate the province of Manitoba doesn’t seem to have a suitable option for Johnston, when areas like Toronto offer plenty of faith-free rehab organizations. A push for non-religious alternatives in Manitoba would be a positive step.

But it’s also important for non-religious patients to maintain an open mind when entering treatment programs and to not simply reject important self-reflective phases of the process because they bear loaded labels like “spirituality.”

It would be misguided to assume people who struggle with addictions are unstable because they lack a connection with a higher power, but religion can play a powerful role in the recovery process if a patient is willing.

Downright dismissal of faith-based rehab centres is unproductive. These systems do a lot of good. But it’s important for alcoholics to have the choice of which treatment method meshes best with their personal beliefs.

Johnston makes an important point about addicts’ vulnerability at the point they seek treatment. Forcing religious elements on unwilling patients is exploitative, especially because these people have addictive personalities and are likely to grasp onto whatever aid they are offered.

Many established rehab programs happen to contain essential elements that liken them to organized religions, including a central manual, emphasis on indoctrination and the importance of having faith in the system.

It would be beneficial to offer treatment options with fewer religious connotations, especially if this is a concern preventing other addicts from seeking treatment. Religion can play a very useful role in the recovery process, but creating some more secular options in Manitoba wouldn’t hurt.

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