Faith works in the battle against drug addiction

By Lunar Loops · Jul 25, 2006 ·
  1. Lunar Loops
    Praise the lord, live like a monk and cut yourself off from the outside world and you can beat your addiction. There is little mention of what happens to the people who undergo this 'treatment' when they leave the community (apart from the brainwashed few who become mentors). Am I the only one who finds all of this a little bit sinister?

    This from The Times (UK) (,,61-2282664.html):

    Faith works in the battle against drug addiction

    By Tara Holmes

    MANUAL labour and prayer are a powerful combination, and a new UK charity is championing it as an alternative therapy for those whose lives have been ruined by drugs.
    The charity, Friends for a UK Cenacolo Community (Cenacolo UK), claims that 90 per cent of addicts who spend two years or more in its system never touch drugs again. Unlike a conventional rehabilitation unit, the model used by Cenacolo — the Italian word for the Last Supper — does not use the services of doctors, psychiatrists, psychotherapists or counsellors. Recovering addicts live in a sheltered, semi-monastic community that has little contact with the outside world. They follow a strict regime of prayer and strenuous physical work. Radio, CD and DVD players and internet access are banned, although residents are occasionally allowed to watch a football match on television.
    Each community is self-sufficient, growing its own vegetables and keeping animals such as cows, chickens and goats.
    Life in the community is centred on work, prayer and spiritual healing. From baking bread and scrubbing floors to chopping wood for the fire and building a new shower block, each task is interspersed with regular prayers in the chapel.
    Each community is self-policing, with the more experienced members acting as mentors or “guardian angels” to newcomers who are still battling their addiction. At times, this can mean being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and sometimes praying in the place of a fellow addict or taking on their domestic chores.
    Most members have little or no religious background, but all are expected to engage fully with the process.
    “Everyone benefits from discipline, whatever their stage in life,” explains Mary Godwin, the founder of Cenacolo UK. “With drug addicts and alcoholics, their lives are totally chaotic and time doesn’t mean anything. Having discipline helps them to think and enables them to become responsible for what happens in their lives each day.”
    Cenacolo UK is part of the worldwide Cenacolo Community, founded in 1983 by an Italian nun, Sister Elvira Petrozzi. More than 50 communities have sprung up in countries throughout Europe, South America and the United States in the past 23 years.
    Cenacolo opened its first UK house last year in the Lake District. Nestling on a hillside dotted with sheep and cows, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs House in Dodding Green, Kendal, is home to eight young men from four countries. It is a peaceful spot on a quiet lane next to a stream.
    Four of the men are British. The others are from Italy, Germany and Austria. Wolfgang Tfingstnar, 30, from Vienna is leader of the house. He recalls how he was pressured into taking drugs for the first time at the age of 24 by a girlfriend addicted to heroin.
    “It gave the illusion of true happiness,” he says. “I didn’t think I was addicted. I woke up the next day and thought this is brilliant. I started taking heroin every weekend, then in the week and eventually every day.”
    Tfingstnar’s fortunes took a turn for the worse when he was promoted to a job in Italy. He was working up to 90 hours a week. The pressure of the job led him to take cocaine.
    “In the beginning, cocaine meant I could go 72 hours without sleep,” he recalls. “It gave me strength to keep working. As time passed, I became paranoid.”
    In the meantime, Tfingstnar had found a new girlfriend but she ended their relationship when she discovered his drug use. He returned to Austria and started to take heroin and cocaine together.
    “I lost my job and my home,” he says. “I had to sell all my possessions to buy drugs. I stole from my parents. I teamed up with a group of addicts and they showed me other possibilities — stealing from people on the streets and breaking into petrol stations.”
    Tfingstnar reached breaking point in the summer of 2003. He was about to start a drugs detox programme when his mother told him about Cenacolo. He joined a Cenacolo community in Austria and came off the drugs without medication.
    “The first week I thought that I was dying,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep, but I gradually got my strength back with the help of the community.”
    In the UK, Cenacolo recruits young people through weekly meetings for addicts, their families and friends in towns and cities throughout the country. Some new recruits may begin their journey in a Cenacolo community abroad before returning to the UK. John Stanley, 35, from Wirral, spent two years in Italy before moving back to this country in 2005 to become a guardian angel to newcomers in Kendal.
    He recalls how he started taking heroin at the age of 15. “I fell into drugs at school,” he says. “It was a drastic step. I started with cannabis and then moved on to speed and eventually heroin.” He became a drug dealer and landed himself a two-year prison sentence.
    During his time in jail, there were no drugs available so he filled his days with workouts in the gym and study. It was a period of enforced abstinence that didn’t last. The moment Stanley stepped outside the prison gates, he went off in search of heroin.
    “There’s a mentality that once a drug addict, always a drug addict,” he says. “I hit rock bottom. I felt destroyed physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When I heard about Cenacolo, I knew I had to join a community or I’d die.” Stanley had tried many mainstream rehabilitation programmes before discovering the community. But none of them, he says, had helped him or the many hundreds of addicts he met during the 15 years he was on heroin. “Cenacolo helped me to get my feet firmly back on the ground and rebuild my life in a way I would never have previously thought possible,” he says. “Now I want to help others do the same.”

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