“Lead us not into temptation…”
Clergy, including priests, pastors, ministers, and rabbis, are just as human as everyone else. They are just as prone to process addiction, substance use or mental illness. As community leaders, the clergy explores the challenges facing humanity. However, they are not titanium clad, extra holy or stress proof. The individuals who preach the Word of God guide members and the community to avoid temptation. Unfortunately, we often hold them to a supernatural standard. The men, women and children in the fellowship lean on their wisdom, guidance and experience with a broken world. Navigating this earthly journey requires a faith community.
Standing Up for Our Leaders
We do not travel alone. We need each other. Clergy knows that God’s warning and guidance are intentional, a protection. So when drugs, alcohol or porn tempt the clergy, guilt and shame can multiply. Unfortunately, these feelings can prevent them from getting the help they need. I want to remind everyone – regardless of faith, moral or beliefs – that every human being can stand up to disease, temptation, and pain when others gather on their right and left to help them find the way through.
Risk of Addiction Among Clergy
Addiction does not discriminate against or exclude those who are called into a spiritual vocation. Accordingly, the clergy are at the same risk of addiction as anyone else. However, the demands of the ministry may lead to certain risks of addiction among the clergy. Clergy members have long hours, are often isolated, and feel obligated to be there for members of their congregation day or night. They are not used to being the ones who are in need of support or guidance from others. Again, we are all made up of the same organ systems, basic needs. Therefore, hopes and dreams for serving God are just as impaired for a member of the faith community as they are for a congregant when illness presents itself.
Porn addiction is one of the fastest growing addictions in our country. Indeed, researchers often compare porn to crack cocaine. Watching internet porn floods your brain with dopamine and opioids, drugs that make you feel good. In a 2016 study among pastors, experts revealed that 57% of pastors and 64% of youth pastors struggle with porn. Additionally, 87% of these pastors feel a great deal of shame and 55% are fearful of being discovered. Worried about the negative effect on their church or congregation, many clergies would rather hide their porn struggles than seek help. Over time, this will inhibit true human connection.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse Addiction
For those abusing drugs or alcohol, denial and hiding the problem are common. Moreover, for clergy in addiction, being a public figure heightens the risk of discovery. For all Americans, life and job stresses can cause us to drink one too many, but when it turns into an inability to stop drinking, an addiction is born. Addiction to prescription painkillers and the ongoing opioid crisis in America afflicts clergy as well. I urge everyone to take time today to pray for our pastors and spiritual leaders. We are all in the same fight: body, soul, and mind. Life is hard. Illness and isolation are inevitable to some degree. When we feel like we will be judged or lose the very connections that give us a place to feel safe and to belong, these linger and multiply into a disease process. Let’s rally around our spiritual leaders and stand with them.
Treatment for Clergy in Addiction
The more we talk openly about spiritual anguish, addiction, and mental health, we take the torque out of stigma and suffering. A neighborhood, workplace, church, synagogue, country, or world unite when eyes see beyond title, mistakes, or appearances. Our clergy dedicates their lives to serving the God of their understanding and their spiritual brothers and sisters. Therefore, they deserve the same prayer, consideration, kindness, and acceptance that the community expects to receive from them. If you are a faith leader struggling with addiction, we can help. Call us today and let’s take this journey toward recovery together.