Monday, December 27, 2010

Separating Addiction from Culture Not Easy

Interviewed by the Chosun Ilbo, a priest, Fr. Heo, recounts the story of the student addicted to Internet games who killed his mother and himself. Addiction, whether or not it leads to actual death, as in the case of the student, will gradually bring the addict, he believes, to the despair of a death-in-life experience. If we are to change this culture of death to one for life, not only are the addict's efforts necessary but society must also be more involved in efforts to help.

To help society move in this direction, Fr. Heo founded The Movement for a Sound Mind and Sound Culture, which will look at addiction primarily from a cultural vantage point. The Church has been involved in this work for many years; now there will be a concerted effort to show what we as a society can do to end the problem of addiction.

Fr. Heo said he has taken an interest in the problem because of an earlier addiction of his own. When he was younger, he liked to drink--a lot.  From the time of his Mass in the morning to the time when he would go to sleep at night, he would be drinking.  There were times he did not say Mass because of his drinking. He tells us of an episode in his life when he was the late Cardinal Stephen Kim's secretary, and they were attending the commencement ceremony at the Military Academy.

" I drank so much with the soldiers," he said, "I lost consciousness." The Cardinal took him to his living quarters where he was cared for; he no longer felt like the Cardinal's secretary, he said,  but had to acknowledge that, because of his actions, their roles had been reversed: the Cardinal was now acting like his secretary.

His excessive drinking lasted for about 10 years, starting from the time he was an army officer.  During this time, he damaged his stomach and liver and was admitted to a hospital where he was treated for addiction. He has since written two  books that helped many: "If At That Time I Did Not Drink," a book of poetry, and "I am An Alcoholic."               .

Fr. Heo felt the support he received from the Church has helped him to maintain an alcohol-free lifestyle and prompted him to do something for society. He has worked in counseling, given lectures, and worked in the treatment of alcoholism.

The problems of alcoholism are many. There are today, in Korea, an estimated 4 million who abuse alcohol and 2 million who are addicted to gambling. And internet gambling and gaming, drugs, and many other addictions continue to plague society. Fr. Heo is helping to change this. Because of his efforts--his books and his Movement, which has drawn the attention of many to see the intimate connection between having a sound, addictive-free  mind and living in a culture that discourages addictive behavior--we can look forward to having more recovering addicts who can again take their rightful place in society.  

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