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St. Jude, the Patron Saint of ...Substance Abusers?

By Mark Scheeren
Baldwin Research Institute

In America we have a serious problem. As one might expect from the title of this article, that problem would seem to be alcoholism and/or drug addiction. We see the face of substance abuse every day; the tragedies, the wrecked and warped lives on our tv sets, hear about it on the radio, or see it on blogs spread all over the internet. The struggles to stop using drugs, the relapses back to drink, and the sensationalized final loss of ultimate control are constantly displayed for all to see. It has gone so far that it has become acceptable to pay people to have their wretched, crushed lives recorded for primetime tv in docudrama shows such as 'intervention' and the like. But the truth is this; it is not alcoholism or drug addiction that are tearing people's lives apart right before our very eyes. No, underlying that destructive activity is a deep and reverent belief system that is the cause of such poor behavior. Without this belief, the damage created by alcohol and drug abuse would drop precipitously. The belief is this: that these inert substances (alcohol and drugs) are more powerful than the free will that God has placed in every one of us. That somehow God screwed up and made us with a faulty and limited sense of ourselves and when alcohol and/or drugs enter the temple, well... we are a slave to it, and always will be.

The problem is not the use and abuse of substances. Those activities have been a part of most cultures worldwide for millennia. It is the more modern belief system characterized by the idea that these habits cannot be broken once they are created; that separates today's view from that of even a century ago where choice and consequences were the prevailing thoughts on alcohol and drug consumption. In those days we had control over ourselves and our actions. For the last seventy years our American belief system with respect to substance abuse has become contaminated with ideas that are counter to common sense. The so called experts would have even the most religiously devout substance abuser believe they cannot fight the battle and win for good. That somehow this "disease" (which by the way has never been scientifically proven to even exist) will have them beat for life. This belief system leaves out the possibility that God has built within us a power of choice and freewill that is stronger than anything that can be thrown at it. Just ask survivors of the concentration camps of any of the wars in the last seventy years whether the human will can overcome anything. Or what about the cancer victim who overcame the odds after the doctors told them they had a month to live, yet today are cured and living productive, happy lives. Can it be true that alcohol and drugs are a more profoundly destructive and powerful force than those events! Talking to the millions of people who once were "addicted" and now live normal productive lives without any treatment whatsoever throws that theory out of the window.

No, it is not the use and misuse of these substances, but rather it is our cultural belief that they have ultimate power over us. Furthering this harmful belief is the next stop in the intellectual road to bondage that states that not only are you sick, but that you must admit defeat by proclaiming yourself "powerless" over the inert substance as a means to find God and get well. This backwards logic sounds good, even to the devoutly religious: "Surrender, and you will find strength." But, unlike surrendering to God, (who, by the way created the Universe) surrendering your freewill and life over to "powerlessness" and to alcohol just furthers the victim mentality. And, it gives more excuses for future relapse. Nothing has contributed more to deaths resulting from overuse of alcohol and drugs than the consistent belief that the self-imposed habit cannot be broken, permanently. The belief is so pervasive that the person using drugs and alcohol abusively has no control and that the spirit within is wilted to a non-functioning dormancy and finally Gods entire human creation is held hostage by the new agent that has entered the body. Never has such a modern culture held such a deep belief in the powerlessness of people who choose to drink and/or drug to excess.

America not only believes in this non-truth, but has built an entire industry around it. The rehabilitation industry uses this belief as one of the fundamental tenets to bring the person back to health. What a contradiction. It certainly sounds good, "Surrender to the disease and freedom will follow," the modern therapist will say. But freedom does not come to those who believe in giving up to substances.

What has happened to common sense? What happened to the belief that people must have responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of those actions? What happened to our fellow Christian brethren who have always had faith that God did, indeed, make us in his image, figuratively and literally, and that that belief gives us power to rebuild our lives no matter how far down the scale we have descended? What happened to the belief in the power of God, in and through, each of us in the community we call the Church?! Why do we find it so hard to believe that people really can beat alcohol, or cocaine, or methamphetamine, or heroin, with the powerful human will that God has placed within each of us? Free will and life, the two most important God given gifts, do not allow for addiction. Addiction is a belief, and with enough adherences to it, it becomes a manifestation of itself. It becomes something, and that something states just how powerless you are to it.

In 1988, I was 18 years old and very confused. I kept asking myself why I was so lonely. Why I was so insecure. Why I was told that I was 'diseased' with alcoholism, when lots of my friends drank and drugged like me, but seemed to not pay the price I did. From as far back as I can remember I was warned that if I drank I would become an alcoholic. This seed sprouted and grew stronger all through my adolescence. I felt horrible guilt when I drank, only giving me more reason to do it. Eventually, I just assumed I would die drinking, so I gave up trying to be a better person, and I simply drank all the time. But in my heart I knew the real problem was my fear of moving on with my life and facing adulthood. I knew I was just a lost kid who was getting closer and closer to the inevitability of adulthood. Frankly, that reality just plain scared me. Drugs and alcohol provided relief from my insecurities and made me feel, well,... good.

In December of that year I got into a drunk driving accident, as I attempted to out-run the police. I was arrested, and my drinking days, I decided, were over for good. I was mandated to therapy, drunk driver school, and Alcoholics Anonymous for almost 2 years. All of this "therapy" reinforced how I would forever be under the watchful eye of King Alcohol, and that I needed to be ever watchful of my latent, in-remission disease. All this banter made me hate myself, but deep inside my love for God and the truth of His love for me kept me asking why all this talk of relapse and disease was not making sense. I knew I chose to get high. I knew that I was not diseased. I searched and searched for an answer. I needed to find a path that would help pull me out of my depressions, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.

By December of the next year, after a year of white knuckle sobriety I ran into Jerry Brown, an ex GE research and development executive at an AA meeting. He was doing research on alcoholism and the treatment industry and openly criticized the message of disease and doom at the meeting. I was sincerely interested, as I found that most of the people in treatment around me were either relapsing or in some cases, were dying, not to mentioned the fact that my sobriety was filled with personal doubt and misery. I did not want to be labeled an alcoholic, an ex alcoholic or any such demeaning typecast. I wanted to be me, (whoever that might turn out to be) and Jerry Brown's research data pointed me in that direction. I went through the educational course he built and my life changed. In less than a year, I found peace, success and sustained confidence, as did 78% of the other 37 subjects in the initial research study. I never drank or drugged again.

So what does this have to do with Saint Jude Thaddeus? From 1990 through the end of 1991 I worked as Jerry's research assistant. In that span, both Jerry and I worked out the kinks in the program, wrote the initial cumulative study and decided to pass the research and program we co-developed to the local rehabilitation programs in the hope that they might place this new method (then called the Baldwin Program, now known as the Jude Thaddeus Program) into their already existing programs. The result was shocking at the time; none of the rehab programs wanted anything to do with a model that was not 12 step based even though it was 6 times more successful than their programs! The fear that our program might expose the 5%-20% success rates of their, then current 12-step programs caused an uprising within the local treatment industry. Whether the Baldwin Program worked or not, did not matter. The hostility that followed was unnerving and disturbing. We were threatened with lawsuits, the State of New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services was called into action to investigate both Jerry and I, and we were black balled in AA and NA. With no money left to continue the research, and no hope that there was anyone who was interested in this new method, we turned to St. Jude for help.

That was January 1992. We said our first novena. We asked, "St. Jude, if you will help us get this message out to the public, we will honor your work by christening the project with your name." It was decided between Jerry and me that we would not put St. Jude's name on the project until we knew we were doing the right things and our program had stood the test of time.

The decision was made that we would have to start our own retreat house, and in January 1992 we found a 100 year old Victorian mansion in Hagaman, New York. The kind Catholic women who owned the house let us move in and begin renovations immediately. She was also willing to push off the lease payments for eight months! For two people with no official addiction credentials, and no money this opportunity was truly manna from heaven.

This beat up old house became known as the Hagaman Guest House. We started teaching the Baldwin Program and for the next eight years we developed this program, conducted research, and helped hundreds of people. But all along we had no payroll, no vacations, and an uphill battle with the entire treatment industry and the State of New York. In 1992 through 1999 the Hagaman Guest House was the only private facility to say to the public that "conventional alcohol and drug treatment does not work" and "Alcoholism and drug addiction are not diseases." This culminated in people coming to us from all over the world: Africa, Australia, Europe. It became obvious as the years passed and we became the premier non 12 step based program, that the need for more retreat houses was necessary. This era also made both Jerry and I two of the most knowledgeable and well read treatment historians and experts in the field. Living at the retreat house for those eight years was an observational study second to none. It also pushed our spiritual and mental limits to the breaking point at times, as our guest population can be very demanding, especially on emotional and physical stamina. But our success rate continued to be the best in the nation, our commitment was unfailing, and most of all, both Jerry and I knew that God and St. Jude were the force within that kept us going all those years.

It was in early 2000 that we decided that the new name for the Hagaman Guest House would be changed to the St. Jude Retreat House and the Baldwin Program was renamed the Jude Thaddeus Program. Since those humble beginnings, St. Jude has helped us to become the nations most effective non 12-step program, with two more retreat houses, a Continuing Education Program that helps people with greater needs, and a paid staff of over fifty employees. We still help those in need worldwide, but do it in much greater numbers and with more efficacy as the years pass. St. Jude has built they most progressive program for substance abusers the world has ever seen. In the next ten years, the Jude Thaddeus Program model will essentially change the method of people getting over substance abuse from the current 12-step disease based model, to the Jude Thaddeus non 12-step, non-disease based educational method. What an exciting time.

Not only are the people we help seemingly hopeless when they come to the retreat houses, but the entire project of building this life saving model was hopeless. How many businesses succeed that: start with no money, are totally opposed to the current multi-billion dollar standard in the industry, have antagonistic competitors, and begin with only two people to do all the work? Was St. Jude needed? He was and he delivered!

Today, we are the standard in an ever growing alternative method market. People learn to be filled with power over their "addictions" and they do so permanently, not one fear ridden day at a time. If not for St. Jude this model would not exist. Without him two thousand substance abusers would be slowly dying without any solution to their problem. Is St. Jude the new patron saint of substance abusers? Well, now you too, know the story--what do you think?


Baldwin Research Institute NY, US
Mark Scheeren - President, 518 8422204



St Jude, America, Drugs, Alcohol, Help

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