10 July 2010

Understanding the Addict as a Bahai

I have been a Bahai since 1962. Before I became a Bahai and in 1980 I was a full blown sick, dying, insane alcoholic/addict. I put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. That is desperate I was. The gun did not go off due to the fact I was too drunk/stoned to load the gun correctly. At that bottoming out point I was able to find AA and it found me. I was in AA for two years when Bahai was presented to me. On June the 4th 2010 I took a coin (an AA ritual) for 30 years of continuous sobriety. My friends threw a birthday party for me. So appropriate since I would not be around today without the tools AA gave me to live a full, rich, happy and sane life that now also for many years includes being a Bahai. I am writing this blog on July 10th and this is my belly button birthday. I am so fortunate to be alive and of service both in AA and with Bahai activity.
As Bahai's know we are discouraged (highly recommended) to drink alcohol and take illicit drugs. All we have to do is look around and see why. Today I work with alcoholics/addicts and give workshops on the subject. I gave a workshop for Bahai's in Portland on how to deal with an alcoholic friend, family member, etc. I would like to continue that if needed. Let me know.
To me drinking/drugging was a way to find a 'zone of comfort' a place I felt like I fitted in, a place I felt a part of, a place I felt good---in other words spiritual. When I got sober I found that AA offered a spiritual zone too and so does Bahai. I have all this opportunity to be in the zone and feel spiritual. Again, lucky. Alcoholics drink to feel that spirit. Bahai scholars refer to AA too. We need to be there to help them find that zone. But most alkies have a hard time with the God thing. Either feel guilty or angry or just don't believe. So there is much need to gain knowledge as to how to present the spiritual aspect to this population. Thats where the workshop come in.
I am going to post more later but wanted to start here. So good to be on a Bahai blog and thanks for reading and considering this.


  1. Greetings GP Kattan,

    Thank you for you thoughts on this subject area. In many ways it is difficult to share these types of topics to Bahá’í audiences because they generally fail to understand the cultural aspects involved. This can be verified by the lack of support this Bahá’í network receives http://www.bnasaa.org/.

    `Abdu’l-Bahá however had a very different approach. He was surrounded by Bahá’ís that had addiction problems and would indicate where they could safely acquire the means to move forward while dealing with their addictions with extreme courtesy. It is this that is so missing from the Bahá’í community at times. The interesting thing is the believers would gossip to `Abdu’l-Bahá and be transfixed as to what believer was helping these people in the hope that he would chastise them. He was of course the perpetrator. Perhaps the most famous story is that of his Japanese gardener, he adored `Abdu’l-Bahá, and every now and then he would find a bottle wrapped in brown paper outside of his door. On one occasion he was badly injured and was taken to hospital in a carriage. On waking he was mortified. This is because `Abdu’l-Bahá had assured him that he would meet his bride in death. He was saddened because he believed he had died and was being taken by carriage in the Abhá Kingdom to meet his bride. Some of the core groundwork in the Mansion of Baji was undertaken by this man, so next time you are on pilgrimage spare a thought for the Bahá’í alcoholic that helped to make the Bahá’í gardens what they are today.

    Developing a sin veiled eye is the way of life taught to us by `Abdu’l-Bahá.

    Good luck with your project.


  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences. They are a reminder of the transformative power of Baha'u'llah's teachings. Just as Jesus before him, Baha'u'llah came not for the healthy but for the sick, not for the strong but for the weak. Putting these teachings into practice requires hard work. Experience like yours is vital if we are to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

    Thanks again!

  3. I, too, am a recovering alcoholic. I'm coming up on a year and a half of sobriety. I had found the faith before I'd even began drinking, but was too young to understand what I'd found. Since beginning my recovery- in the Army, while stationed in South Korea- I have found a home in the Baha'i faith and declared.
    My mother is an alcoholic, too, though I'm at a loss as to how to help her at this point in life.
    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

  4. Alcoholism is one of many addictions that we can fall prey to. From experiences of alcoholics, and of assisting addicts, we can learn how to deal with all other addictions as well, some of which we may not even recognize as addictions (think of aimlessly watching TV or browsing internet - eating when we do not need it, sleeping when we do not need it, talking about 'nothing'). It seems some kind of addiction takes hold as soon as we fail to fill our lives with a spiritual orientation. Let's learn together.

  5. Thanks all for your comments. Sunshine, the best way to help your mom is stay sober and thus become a good example of where she could be if she chooses. My dad died of alcoholism but it was way before I became sober/clean and when I was in Haifa on pilgrimage I know I felt his smiles so somewhere he was celebrating my better life. The world is full of alcoholics/addicts who are angry, sick, dying, lonely, confused and frightened people that are all worthy of compassion and love and have just forgot they are actually hardwired to be noble authentic humans. We people in recovery and as Bahai's know how to lead them there. We are so lucky to have the experience, strength and hope to be able to serve in this way. Well, as far as support that seems to take time and of course I will/am doing what I can to help. What a wonderful site. More later as it unfolds. Grace

  6. Hi all, just an update on some activity. I am writing for the Portland Examiner (with pay!!) (not much but---) and known as the Addiction Examiner. Go check out some articles written on addiction issues if you feel for it. When I reread the above comments I sparked on this business of being spiritual. We are all spiritual but activating it can be a big deal. I was very spiritual when I was drinking. I drank to be full of spirit. I consider myself to be a spiritual being having a human experience. Who out there thinks that's easy? Anyone think being a Bahai is easy? Climbing out of my material human lower nature was extremely difficult but I was able, over time, to reach a real spiritual base and dance in the higher nature arena most of the time. But I have to be diligent. One day at a time I ask 'The Great Mystery' to keep me on the path so I can be of service to others. I am blessed and humbled by the process. Hey, more later. I am going to write another article tonight, work on my 3'd book and eat a gooood dinner, some great TV and peaceful sleep in prep for the day tomorrow. Later gaters!! Grace

  7. 10th Floor Bird Dance
    By Grace E. Reed
    (Dedicated to Stacy Lynette Maben
    who died by jumping May 22nd, 2011)

    I turned the corner on my way to Office Depot on 6th and saw a woman’s body face down on the cement sidewalk after just jumping from the 10th floor parking garage. The little red purse laying beside her burned it’s image into my mind. I was ill for a week after witnessing her tragic act. I wrote this story from the perspective of the purse. I did not know her but I do know how desperate, depressed, angry, addicted people feel when life lets them down and they can’t cope. So the story is a reflection on all of the people I have worked with over the years. I wanted to share this story with all who care. I want to appeal to you all that we support mental health centers and reach out to anyone that is in depression, fear, etc. A strong community can help prevent more tragedies like this one.

    "I am her little red purse. She bought me at Nordstrom. I was on sale. Before she bought me she checked my insides for pockets, nooks and crannies. She really loved the smart brass buckle on my front. She loved the color red. She noticed the adjustable strap. Some days she would lengthen it, some days shorten it.
    She bought me with her only credit card at 22% interest on new purchases. She left the two cardboard credit cards in the slots to demonstrate the many places she could put cards. She had one for Rite Aid and one for Safeway. The other 5 stayed empty. She was going to get one at Ross but forgot to fill out the application.
    Banks turned her down, she had bad credit. She put me on the counter at a downtown bank near where she lived when she tried to cash a check. The teller commented on me, said I was nice. I remember the paper they sent her. It made her cry and she tucked it away in the long slot where paper money would have gone. She cut up the credit card.
    She put her last AA token in the zippered coin purse attached at my back. I think it said “60 days”. I remember having many of these coins come and go and wondered what they meant. She seemed to be happier when she was carrying the coin. I had 3 places where she put her family pictures, one of her boy when he was a baby, one of her mother and one of a man I never saw. She took that picture out often to look at it. I remember her talking to him when she drank her wine.
    Once she threw me across the room up against the wall. Some-thing made her angry after a phone call. Her lipstick fell out. She put some on her lips. She was still a young woman. Her boy would come to her little studio apartment once in awhile. He would always ask her for money and cigarettes. She seemed sad when he left. I remember her saying she was worried and told him not to run with the gangs. She would get drunk after he left. Once in awhile a boyfriend would come, go, and then not come back after awhile.
    She didn’t eat much. She was up and down during the night. She would talk to the voices she heard in her head. On May 21st she paced all night long. She boxed up her few things and took them to the laundry room. On May 22nd she put on her brown dress, put on her flats, put on her rain jacket, picked me up and got a bus downtown. She was particularly quiet that day. She hugged me tightly. She opened me often, looked at the pictures, took the AA coin out of its place, put it back, then shortened my strap. She went to Rite Aid, bought something, then walked over to Office Depot, walked around upstairs and downstairs, got into the elevator to the 5th floor of the garage. She went to the rail, looked down, turned around, went back to the elevator and pushed “10th floor”.
    “Jump! Jump!” she swore she heard them shout.
    The obituary read “Stacy, age 44 with 2 daughters, a mom and dad, a grandmother with property in Molalla”.
    One of the stunned cops reached down to retrieve me with a finger. Now, stifled voices: “Only birds have wings,” I swore I heard them mutter as I was being taken to the black van.

  8. Poem from my book 'Needs'. Grace Eagle


    I need to know there is a place for me to land
    A place to go to when I am finally bent and broken low

    I need to know that the great messy slide out from some spot I landed in from young to old will go well

    I need to know that some remote God cares after all

    That some laughing Buddha is not laughing at me

    That some compassionate Jesus is resisting raising his eyebrows

    That Moses went back to pick up that third tablet so we will know the rest of the story

    That Mohammad would ride his magnificent steed toward me hand out to pick me up
    That Bahaullah really is Just

    And that Abdul Baha is my grandfather the Master of love

    Or are they all disappointed in my---

    I need to know that I will not have lived in vain that the empty canvass of me--- embryonic---was filled with striving acknowledged

    1. Grace, and others, I thank you for your honesty and courage to stand up and share. I'm sorry to see there have been no new posts since 2011. Congratulation on 33+ years of sobriety. This is a major accomplishment.