We're going to do a little opioid-related ghostbusting today.
As regular GetReligion readers know, our journalism-focused website is built on the premise that "millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news."
More from editor Terry Mattingly's introductory post in 2004:
They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there," editor Terry Mattingly wrote when GetReligion launched in 2004.
One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels. Something is missing in the basic facts or perhaps most of the key facts are there, yet some are twisted. Perhaps there are sins of omission, rather than commission.
A lot of these ghosts are, well, holy ghosts. They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Many of our faithful readers have become quite adept at spotting these ghosts and sharing them with us.
Today's tip comes via email from a reader who is a long-term member of a 12-step program. It relates to this recent story from the Washington Post:
The Post's compelling opening:
The chime on Rusty Bakalar’s phone rarely signals good news. But on a Friday evening in June, as he tallied rents he’d collected from the residents of Champ House, it brought a moment of hope.
On the line was Dalton Jones, 20, who the day before had walked out of the oddly shaped building in Bowie, Md., and vanished without a trace.
Disappearing is against every rule of Champ House, an against-all-odds place that runs on donations and goodwill, where up to 15 men at a time fight addiction through chores and camaraderie.
Their common poison used to be alcohol. Today, most are there because of heroin, prescription painkillers or synthetics such as fentanyl, the drugs that are driving down life expectancy across the country and setting records in Maryland for overdose hospitalizations and deaths.
Bakalar, a 56-year-old retired electrician and former volunteer firefighter, got sober at Champ House years ago. But he kept relapsing until he decided to move in and help others get sober too.
On this night, he listened as Jones acknowledged he had messed up.
Nearby, men were clearing the dinner table and putting away large jugs of iced tea. The counter held business cards, a first-aid kit and Narcan nasal spray, used to reverse the effects of an overdose. There was also a bereavement card with the photo of the most recent resident that Champ House had not been able to save.
“I’m wondering if I can come back?” Jones asked, his voice pleading.
Get the drugs out of your system was Bakalar’s answer. Then you can have another chance.
Keep reading, and it is — to a large extent — a hopeful, heartwarming feature.
But the reader wonders whether the Post is unaware of — or possibly ignored — a potential spiritual angle:
The writer visited a center focused on recovery from opioids and wrote that meetings run according to an Alcoholics Anonymous format? It is more likely a Narcotics Anonymous format. (as far as I know, they are not very different.) There is much good material here in individual interviews and personal stories. Did none of the residents talk of "spiritual principles of the program; powerlessness; turning over wills and lives to the care of God as we understood Him; making a moral inventory; and other phrases common to recovery? I imagine that they did and the writer missed them.
Here is the section to which the reader refers:
Nightly meetings, which follow the rules of Alcoholics Anonymous, are mandatory. Everyone is encouraged to work an outside job and required to be home at 5:30 p.m. for dinner, a family affair where white- and blue-collar workers, ex-cons and smart alecks trade silly repartee reminiscent of teenage boys away at camp. Mondays are gratitude nights, where each man talks about what he is thankful for.
“We’re normally people that would not mix,” Bakalar said. “But our addiction brings us together.”
What role does faith play in their recovery? The Post does not explore that question.
As the reader noted, the 12 steps — at both AA and NA — include "believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity" and making a decision "to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." Additional steps mention God, too.
One caveat from the reader:
There is a problem for reporters: AA would not comment. I doubt that NA would either.
Good point. But what are the odds that God did not come up at all in individual interviews? I guess it's possible, but it doesn't seem likely.