Archive for May, 2015

A Revolutionary Re-Thinking of Addiction by Author Johann Hari Touches on the Heart of Abortion Loss and Recovery

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015



Johann Hari

Journalist Johann Hari:

It is now one hundred years since drugs were first banned… I set off three and a half years ago on a 30,000-mile journey for my new book, Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days of the War on Drugs, to figure out what is really driving the drug war… what I learned on the road is that almost everything we have been told about addiction is wrong…

Chasing the Scream is a compelling and highly readable book.  It offers a unique historical perspective with fascinating accounts from those he encountered in his travel and research.   The  author skillfully weaves his story to develop a revolutionary theme – our understanding about drugs and addiction is fundamentally flawed.

Johann Hari shares:

“Human beings have an innate need to bond. Healthy, happy people bond with other humans. But if you can’t do that because you’re so traumatized by your childhood that you can’t trust people, you may well bond with a drug instead.

What I learned is that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety…The opposite of addiction is human connection [my emphasis.] And I think that has massive implications for the war on drugs. Our laws are built around the belief that drug addicts need to be punished to stop them. But if pain and trauma and isolation cause addiction, then inflicting more pain and trauma and isolation is not going to solve that addiction. It’s actually going to deepen it.”

Angie: A Love Song to Heroin?

Given the fantasy lifestyle of fame and the grind of touring and recording, life at the top for a rock star can be isolating.   Celebrities can surround themselves with fellow wounded travelers and addicts.   In his 2010 autobiography Life, Keith Richards  wrote of how he composed the Rolling Stone’s masterpiece, Angie while recoverying from his heroin addiction:

 “While I was in the [Vevey drug] clinic (in March-April 1972), Anita was down the road having our daughter, Angela. Once I came out of the usual trauma, I had a guitar with me and I wrote ‘Angie’ in an afternoon, sitting in bed, because I could finally move my fingers and put them in the right place again, and I didn’t feel like I had to s–t the bed or climb the walls or feel manic anymore.”

Richards has shared elsewhere that the song reflects the end of his relationship with heroin and can be seen as a lament at the loss of his deep-seated connection with the drug.   Perhaps the poignant and beautiful melody is also a cry for more human and healthy connections in his life.  Brings to mind Johann Hari’s comment that “the opposite of addiction is human connection.”  Richard’s comments reveal that in the advanced stages of addiction ( though clearly dysfunctional) one can have an obsessive, even passionate love affair  with an addictive substance

Abortion and Disconnection

My professional social work career has focused in the last 20 years on helping women and men to find spiritual and emotional recovery after an abortion loss.  This experience left them suffering a variety of painful symptoms.  One of the common symptoms used to cope with the complicated grief and the confusing feelings and memories of the abortion event, is the abuse of alcohol and drugs (and/or other addictive or compulsive behaviors.)

Johann Hari’s perspective on addiction touches on a foundational aspect of recovery for people with complicated mourning and emotional trauma after an abortion experience.  While women and men have different ways of processing emotion and grief, the heart of healing is restoring the connection with the child that was rejected while in the womb.  This pathway to healing often requires a treatment process such as the program developed by Dr Theresa Burke, Rachel’s Vineyard.

Rachel’s Vineyard is a unique and very effective healing process that enables the participants to safely access their complex and often toxic feelings about their role in the abortion and feeling powerless and exploited by the experience.  Women and men journey through this painful material as they bond with other retreat participants and the leadership team.  They find a safe, spiritually positive healing environment, loving support, and people who intimately understand their loss and stories.   For the first time they are able to work through the pain, as they travel to what is at the heart of their healing journey – re discovering and re-claiming their connection as a mother or father to their unborn child.

Hari’s addiction perspective on the role of human connection touches on this core issue in abortion of disconnection found in the rupture in the physical and emotional connection with the unborn child in the womb, as well as the isolation and secrecy of the abortion event.  This can help us better understand why many women and men would seek solace in drugs and alcohol, or addiction to pornography, work, and other high risk / self-destructive behaviors after an abortion procedure.

Does it not make perfect sense (drawing again from Johann Hari’s addiction insights) that until you find a process to re-connect in love with that aborted child (or children) you will struggle to move away from your relationship with those addictive behaviors and substances and other destructive Shockwaves that can flow from an abortion event?  Regardless of your moral, spiritual and political perspective on abortion, unless you understand and accept this foundation healing element (which is naturally challenging for abortion supporters and apologists) you will be limited in helping people fully recover from a painful abortion experience.

In his book Hari points out the failure of the war on drugs and the philosophy of punishment and isolation in addiction treatment, especially of prisoners:

Ironically, the war on drugs actually increases all those larger drivers of addiction. For example, I went to a prison in Arizona — ‘Tent City’ — where inmates are detained in tiny stone isolation cages (‘The Hole’) for weeks and weeks on end to punish them for drug use. It is as close to a human recreation of the cages that guaranteed deadly addiction in rats as I can imagine. And when those prisoners get out, they will be unemployable because of their criminal record — guaranteeing they with be cut off even more. I watched this playing out in the human stories I met across the world…There is an alternative. You can build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world — and so leave behind their addictions.

Johann Hari’s book offers examples of policies and programs that get better results.  This is an important contribution to the addictions field and certainly helps us better understand the relationship of complicated mourning and isolation after abortion loss – and substance abuse.  This doesn’t mean the author offers all the answers and solves every complicated problem associate with addiction.  But it is well worth reading with an open heart and mind.  This is a national and international issue that is vital to our national security and the health and the welfare of our communities, families and to so many wounded people struggling to recover from the challenges of addiction and violence.

Perhaps, putting aside the constrictive and suffocating polarization between liberals and conservatives on this issue, we can begin to seriously re-think the massive expense and destruction that have been the deadly fruit of the “war on drugs.”

It may be even more challenging for our nation to re-think our legalization of abortion in 1973 and look honestly at the real life consequences for many of our fellow citizens.





Great Abortion Healing Resources from Fr Frank Pavone for Clergy, Ministers and their Congregations

Monday, May 11th, 2015



We recently celebrated another Mother’s Day.  Before you know it, June will roll in and we will be reminded in countless commercials that we need to go out and get Dad a golf shirt or the latest and greatest tool for his workshop.  Given the importance of mothers and fathers especially in our busy and ever changing society, we really need a whole month to focus on moms and dads.

The Shockwaves of Abortion Initiative presents important opportunity to focus on an issue that impact millions of women and men – abortion loss.   This is a very appropriate time for our religious leaders to invite, with compassion and love, those mothers and fathers in their congregation who have participated in the death of their unborn children to discover the gift of repentance and healing in Christ.

To assist in this effort, the Shockwaves of Abortion website has some very helpful tools developed by Fr. Frank Pavone to assist your clergy and ministers to share a message of hope and healing…not just for one day but for the whole month:

  • Please visit Shockwaves for special prayers, bulletin inserts, and preaching aids based on the bible readings for the months of May and June.
  • Email or share this information on social media. Better yet, next time you talk with your pastor make him aware of this great resource for God’s people and follow that up with a message with links to these resources.



Is Mother’s Day a Bad Time to Talk About Abortion?

Thursday, May 7th, 2015


Pregnant Mom

In this beautiful month of May as we celebrate our mothers, why introduce the painful and contentious topic of abortion?  Mother’s Day is actually the perfect time to look at this issue, but with a fresh perspective – through the lens of the physiology of motherhood.

The pro abortion movement has been successfully programming our society for many years to see abortion as a private personal decision.  A woman, who bears the physical responsibility of carrying a child, must have exclusive control over her body and decisions about pregnancy and parenting.

My body – My Choice – Right? 

It is an indisputable physiological truth that when a woman conceives a child, her body begins a process of change that will enable her to welcome and nurture this new life.  The disruption of menstruation, the increase in pregnancy hormones, morning sickness and other signs are the body’s way of shouting out…congratulations…you are a mom!    The female body is not ambivalent and certainly is not pro choice about a conceived pregnancy.  A woman’s body is naturally pro-life.

It is certainly true that many pregnancy situations are marked by anxiety, stress, pressure and even coercion to abort.  Yet regardless, the body will carry on with its job to protect and nurture the developing child.  The only exception would be if the unborn child for whatever reason does not thrive.  But even in these cases, a mother will experience the painful, but natural process of miscarriage.

However humans are not simply bodily creatures, but persons with minds and souls.   If there is anxiety and fear about the pregnancy, there can be a struggle to emotionally accept and bond with the child.  Parents of unborn children can turn to the medical procedures developed to disrupt this natural process.  Since 1973 in the U.S. there have been over 55 million legal abortions.

Abortionists use a variety of medical techniques to sever the connection of the unborn child to the body of its mother.  The cervix does not want to open to the abortionist so the physician must forcibly pass through the protective operculum (mucus plug) and enter the womb to suction out or dismember the developing fetus; the cervix and womb naturally fight to hold on to and protect the child.  In chemical abortions, the woman’s body is flooded with hormones leading to a traumatic rejection of the developing child.

How can you participate in an aggressive disruption of a very natural and complex biological process and not expect some physical and emotional complications?  The post abortion reality is very different from the propaganda we are fed by the media, health care and mental health professionals and “reproductive rights” organizations.   This is anything but a natural and benign event.

In the same way a woman or man facing an unplanned pregnancy can ignore the biological reality and reject their motherhood/fatherhood, women and men can remain in denial for many years about their abortion loss and minimize the pain this has caused in their lives.   There are those that will claim that their abortion was a positive and empowering experience.  For some women and men, on the surface, there may truly be a sense of relief and empowerment about their abortion.  Many years in post abortion ministry teach us that even in cases where only positive outcomes are presented, there are often deeper feelings and memories that have not been allowed to surface.

A Dwelling Place of Hope and Healing

As we celebrate Mother’s and in June Father’s Day, most of those that have participated in abortion decisions and procedures know the truth; abortion is anything but a simple matter of personal choice.  The Shockwaves of abortion have far reaching effects beyond the mother impacting fathers, siblings, grandparents and other relatives and friends who have been part of the abortion decision and procedure.

For moms with living children, as they are honored with those precious home-made cards and a breakfast in bed they are reminded that a child (or children) is missing from their celebration.  They can feel (with varying levels of awareness) guilt, grief and shame because they participated in the death of another little one who will not share in the joy of that day.  These feelings may be disconnected from the actual abortion event.  But symptoms such as depression, anxiety and insomnia can surface, triggered by the special focus around this holiday on motherhood.  For those who struggle with infertility (which can be directly related to a previous abortion procedure) this day can be especially painful.  Mothers can be tormented by the tragic choice to abort their only opportunity to love, nurture and parent a child.

But even in these tragic cases, death and despair do not have the last word.  In a healing program like Rachel’s Vineyard, parents can reconcile this loss and develop a spiritual relationship with their child as they go through the grieving and recovery process of the weekend.  The children lost to abortion can now be welcomed into their family and be remembered with love on Mothers/Fathers Day.  While there may still be a sense of natural grief, there is no longer despair.  Parents now have the living hope, rooted in the death and resurrection of Christ, of one day being united in Heaven with their precious child/children.

Susan Swander is a Rachel’s Vineyard team member in Oregon.  She shares this very beautiful reflection as a mother and reveals the fruit that awaits any mother or father that has the courage to repent and heal of their abortion loss:

-Yes, Mother’s Day can be a hard day.  But it can also be a day for women with abortion loss to celebrate being mothers.  So many women who have had abortions never thought of themselves as mothers, if they didn’t have any living children, until after a healing program like Rachel’s Vineyard.  And even someone like me who does have a living son, after doing my Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, Mother’s Day became a day for me to honor and celebrate my three aborted children & one miscarried.  So, now I have five children that I rejoice in.-

Jesus shares with us the source of this joyful hope:

 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  –John, 14

A blessed Mothers Day to all mothers and eternal peace and joy to those now with the Lord.

-Kevin Burke, MSS

A Special thanks to Susan Swander for her contribution and editing assistance.