A wonderful and marvelous healing has been given to us by the holy icon of the Lady Theotokos. By its appearance we have been delivered from spiritual and physical afflictions and from sorrowful circumstances. Therefore we bring to thee our grateful praise, O all-merciful protectress. O Sovereign Lady of the Inexhaustible Cup, bend down thine ear; mercifully hear our sighs and heartfelt cries that we bring to thee, and give deliverance to those who suffer from drunkenness so that we may cry out to thee with faith: Rejoice, O Sovereign Lady of the Inexhaustible Cup that quenches our spiritual thirst!
The angelic powers and choirs of the righteous unceasingly glorify thee, O Theotokos, Queen of all, intercessor for us sinful Christians, wallowing in lawlessness and continuing in sin. It is for our consolation and salvation that thou in thy mercy dost give us this miraculous icon, so that, gazing upon it as the brightest star amidst a multitude of stars, we may fall down before thy holy icon of the Inexhaustible Cup, calling out from the depths of our hearts: Rejoice, dwelling-place of the unapproachable Godhead; rejoice, constant wonder of mankind! Rejoice, perfect cleanser of our sins through sorrows; rejoice, healer of our infirmities through afflictions! Rejoice, bestower of heavenly mercy through thy miraculous icon; rejoice, joy of our grieving hearts! Rejoice, wonderful reconciliation of all with God; rejoice, eternal deliverance from Gehenna! Rejoice, O Sovereign Lady of the Inexhaustible Cup, that quenches our spiritual thirst!
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
I’d like to welcome all of you who are listening to this Ancient Faith Radio podcast. My name is Fr. Christophe Lepoutre. I am the rector of the Orthodox chapel of the Mother of God, the Inexhaustible Cup, which is located in Natural Bridge Station, Virginia. I am also the director of the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup, which is a non-profit organization of men and women who seek to maintain and develop sobriety and chastity and are committed to a daily prayer rule of about six or seven minutes, where we pray for one another using the akathist prayers to the Mother of God, the Inexhaustible Cup.
The Fellowship is fundamentally a fellowship which is a ministry of intercession. We believe that the greatest defense and the greatest movement of grace dispensed by the Holy Spirit comes from our acknowledgment of the Mother of God, the Inexhaustible Cup, and our willingness to include her, to intercede for one another and especially [those] afflicted with all manner of addictions. We are a non-profit organization, and we live by faith. We ask for a monthly contribution of $15 or more as part of membership, along with our six or seven minutes of prayer for one another, and we hope that anyone who is interested further in the Fellowship will consider our website, which is www.inexhaustiblecup.org. We invite further participation, and if you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact me, and to consider becoming a member. We would appreciate your participation.
The podcast that I’m going to offer over time is going to include three major parts. Before I get to that, I would like to acknowledge and publicly appreciate Metropolitan Hilarion, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, who has been responsible for ongoing love and spiritual care over the years, to me and my wife, and gives me the opportunity to be a ROCOR priest and included in the Russian Church Outside of Russia. I am very grateful for this.
This podcast is going to overview three major addictions, beginning with alcoholism and drug addiction. And then I will further go on and discuss the treatment of the sexual addiction. And then I will also include the treatment of an addiction which attacks relationships, which we call co-dependency. I do believe that this particular disease—co-dependency—which is an attack, first and foremost, on our childhood, often comes by having been either around an addictive parent or within a dysfunctional household. And we know that all of addictions are passed down over the generations, so most of us are afflicted with this ailment. And that particular disease will be expounded upon, but fundamentally is one that keeps us from developing a deeper and further relationship with Almighty God, the blessed Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—because we as children often have not overcome traumas and have not learned to forgive from the heart at deeper levels. And therefore sometimes we are looking to people for approval and always looking outside of ourselves for approval, rather than developing a relationship with Almighty God, which must require inner work and the work of the heart. We will discuss these further later on.
So let me begin this work by discussing the treatment of alcohol and drugs. I’m going to combine, during the podcast, three basic points of view. The first is the value of 12-step traditional fellowships around the world, which, as most of you know, began with Alcoholics Anonymous, then Al-Anon for those who have been in a relationship to an addicted individual, and then the wonderful fellowship SA, which stands for Sexaholics Anonymous, founded by a very devout Christian man. And their work I recommend because it not only comes from a very, very wonderful Christian perspective, but it’s also tested over time by many individuals, and the sobriety definition which they’ve come up with, which is sexual sobriety, is very good and can be of great help.
As we know, there are other fellowships, like OA, which deals with compulsive over-eating. There are issues with workaholism, and there are all manner of addictions, as we know, in the world today. But I’m not going to come from the point of view, having had first-hand experience, over many years, recovering myself as an adult child; I’m going to bring forth the value of 12-step recovery, and I’m also going to include clinical pastoral counseling work, thousands of hours of pastoral counseling, individually and especially in marriage, helping individuals recovering from addictions. And then finally there will be a very strong emphasis on the Orthodox method of treatment for addictions, healing addictions from the Orthodox point of view.
And that point of view will be relying upon, especially, the work of Metr. Hierotheos (Vlachos). And I will refer to three basic texts which I recommend. The first is the classic book, Orthodox Psychotherapy. We will be discussing, I hope, the value of the principles, the basic principles, of Orthodox psychotherapy. The sequel to that volume is called The Science of Spiritual Medicine: Orthodox Psychotherapy in Action. And then I will also include the work of A Night [in] the Desert [of the Holy Mountain] by Metr. Hierotheos. And this is a wonderful work which expounds on the prayer method of treatment, which we will discuss as we will go along the proper use of the Jesus Prayer and what the monastic tradition has offered the entire Church in this area.
Now, in order to set the record straight, I would like to share with you that there is tremendous value in participating in 12-step recovery fellowships. Our hierarchs have written and endorsed participation in 12-step recovery over the years, but it’s unfortunate that there are even today clerics and people who have a very negative attitude towards 12-step fellowship. And as we know, while I say that it has great value to participate in 12-step recovery, we know that it is not an end. It has always been a means to an end, and the end is a life with Christ, with the living God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So we will discuss some of the value of 12-step, but we will eventually end with the science of spiritual medicine, which gives us the greatest resource on how the Orthodox Church has considered the treatment of addictions over the years.
When it comes to alcoholism, I want to offer those listening, in my own way, re-defining what alcoholism actually is. Most people who are in recovery or have been around someone who is afflicted with alcoholism and drug addiction, they always tend to look at it from the point of view of how much a person drinks. Traditionally, when one loses control and loses too much—gets drunk—they eventually can conclude that they have a problem with alcoholism. I am going to offer a slightly different point of view, just based on experience. I want to define alcoholism, or at least have you consider that if we turn to any substance—alcohol, food, sex, anything that can become addictive, but beginning with alcohol—if we do some drinking and escape from reality, and we alter our consciousness by the use of alcohol, even if we’re only doing it some... For example, I’ve worked with Orthodox who enjoy having a drink two or three times a week or a couple of times a week, and my standard for whether there is an issue with alcohol or not is not just whether one has lost complete control over alcohol usage.
I begin with proposing that if someone turns to alcohol to get high, to change their mood, to change their reality, and is benefiting from it—or thinks they are—there is an issue with alcohol. And I say this because the Fathers of the Church clearly spell out and define the relationship between our soul and our body, which God created from the beginning to be extremely intimate. It was not part of God’s plan—ever—that the consequences of sin, which is our acts of disobedience, which came as a result of our fall out of grace and out of communion with the Lord, by our acts of disobedience. The consequence of that ultimately is death and the separation between the soul and the body. But Metr. Hierotheos makes very clear, especially in his work, Life After Death, that the soul and the body have a very unique, intimate bond and relationship. We know that the soul was created by God and has a beginning, but it has no end, and it is intimately connected and created for the body. Death itself, the consequence of sin, allows the soul to be separated from the body, which was never intended by God.
But the relationship is so intimate, from this perspective, when a person uses alcohol and changes their state of consciousness and attempts to fill the void or, often, kill emotional and spiritual pain—there are reasons why people to turn to alcohol and abuse it—but even when they do it some, it is devastating to the soul to a certain degree, and we are going to discuss sobriety as we go along beyond physical and technical. 12-step recovery often offers people a chance to recover and to, at the very least, acquire the gift of physical sobriety, without which the soul cannot heal.
And so it is of great value, but we as Orthodox have to take the Orthodox perspective and understand that sobriety goes beyond physical sobriety. It must include emotional and spiritual sobriety, and we are going to look to the saints and the models of the Church who have gone before us as the ultimate representation and witness of what sobriety must include. We are going to discuss the very important value of soul sobriety, which the saints and all Orthodox Christians should be committed to, as well as acquiring a basic life of sobriety. And again, there are a variety of created things that we can turn to that become addictive and destructive. I am discussing use of alcohol, but we have to consider all the different ways in which we can become addicted by choosing created things.
So while we want and desire and often require physical sobriety, I believe that the Orthodox Church has much to offer in regard to the fullness of the faith and the fullness of sobriety, which I am going to describe as emotional and spiritual in nature. I’m going to now move towards introducing one of the basic principles in Orthodox psychotherapy, but I hope that everyone that’s listening has considered that the use of alcohol is often dangerous and begins innocently with a little bit of escaping from reality, and in its own right it is not good, and we need to consider that it is a progressive disease as well, and not just look at alcoholism as: the one who’s been afflicted to the point where they lose complete control of drinking.
I say if we are turning to anything and we are using especially alcohol and I think the standard comes out into getting high or not, when we actually feel the effect of alcohol, we need to take a really good, hard look at that and become rigorously honest with ourselves, because that in itself greatly hinders our capacity to not only allow the heart to be healed, but especially the develop a life of prayer which we will discuss which allows the Holy Spirit personally to have reign over our hearts, and for all of us to be involved in our prayer and in our relationship to the Lord within the Orthodox Church, our relationship with the holy sacraments, our relationship with a spiritual father and mother, to include the action of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, to remove sins, to heal the heart, to experience forgiveness, the absolution that can only come from Christ, by a life of repentance, constant labor, to bring forth our ailments, our sins, in the light of the Holy Spirit, so that the action and the love of the Holy Spirit himself can be at work, healing us, his people. And one of the greatest obstacles is the use of some alcohol.
Let’s talk about one of the most fundamental principles of Orthodox psychotherapy as we discuss what soul sobriety looks like. As I mentioned, I’m going to rely principally on the work of Metr. Hierotheos (Vlachos), the metropolitan who is the overseer of the Monastery of the Birth of the Theotokos in Greece today. I had a life-transforming experience when I actually met Metr. Hierotheos years ago. Back in 1997, under the sponsorship at the time of the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension in Resaca, Georgia, that I was visiting frequently, they sponsored Metr. Hierotheos to come to this country, and they had a conference on Orthodox Psychotherapy. I attended that conference, and it was life-transforming for me, because I had been involved in the treatment of addictions for years. I began when I was 16 years old. I went on to study psychology at Vassar College and specialized in early child development. I eventually acquired a master’s degree in pastoral counseling at Iona College. During the whole time that I have been at work in the treatment of addictions and during my training, I had never heard of nor was given the gift of the work of the science of spiritual medicine as taught by the holy Fathers and Mothers of the holy Orthodox Church.
When I met him, and I’d already left my practice, and I was in search for why it is that I felt often short in trying to help people that were addicted, it was a wonderful and graceful time that I began to learn about basic principles of Orthodox psychotherapy. And then, under the spiritual care of my beloved spiritual father, Fr. Gordon Walker of the Antiochian jurisdiction, a spiritual father to both my wife and [me], Matushka Cynthia and [me], for over 23 years, from that point on I attempted to integrate the basic principles of the science of spiritual medicine as taught by the holy Fathers in my person, my marriage, my family, and my work in helping others.
One of the first principles that I want to discuss is the fact that the Fathers teach that the soul has several functions. We know that it has a pure part which they call the nous, but it has three primary functions. We will discuss the nous and its purpose, but there are three other functions, one of which we will discuss today, and that function is called the appetitive function of the soul. Let’s examine and define the appetitive function. Well, the word “appetite” comes from or is defined as hunger and thirst for God. When the Lord created us, he placed a function, he placed a capacity and a hunger and a thirst, a longing for, a desire for relationship with him. We know that, as a consequence of sin and acts of disobedience, all of the functions of the soul have been disrupted; they have become dysfunctional. The whole purpose of our spiritual life and the redeeming grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the wonderful holy mysteries that we participate in, especially holy confession and holy Communion, these mysteries and the whole action of the Holy Spirit is intended to heal and to remove the obstacles which have created the dismemberment of the functions of our souls, and, as a consequence, our inability to be in holy communion with the Lord High God.
This appetitive function from this perspective needs to be included as we discuss the topic of addictions because we will conclude that addictions—all addictions—are fundamentally our wrong choices, our looking to something which God created in attempts to fill the void and satisfy the soul. The function of the soul, the appetite, will never be satisfied by anything created. It can only be satisfied by the living God. So from this perspective, let’s discuss further what this function is about. We not only hunger and thirst for communion, but it has a great purpose in our lives. We are meant to learn to pray and to develop and to be restored to sanity, to be healed and to have our sins removed so that we can be satisfied and our thirst can be quenched by the living water that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to give us.
And only by communion with Almighty God will we ultimately be satisfied, our hunger and our thirst. The Lord has not only created this function—and we know where addictions come from as a result of the power that can come from choosing and abusing alcohol and drugs and other material things—but we know that ultimately the purpose of this function is great, and it is made with purpose. We must all re-establish our relationship with the Lord, which is often broken within our childhood experience, through reconciliation, through repentance, so that our relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are primary in our lives, and relationship with ourselves and others follow.
The entire Orthodox perspective and the science of spiritual medicine teaches that we heal the heart first, and we are going to need to address this appetitive function and how to satisfy it in its proper manner, intended by God before the fall of Adam and Eve, because in that restoration comes the holy communion and the life-giving grace which the Lord came, suffered on the cross, and died and rose from the dead, at a great price, in order for our ability to love him and to love one another to be restored. All of our need to be satisfied both from the hunger and the thirst must come from the love of God and from our reconciliation to him, because of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We must be committed to this.
I’m going to discuss just a little bit more about this and then end our podcast, and we will be expounding on other parts of the treatment of addictions as we go along, but besides the need to satisfy our hunger and thirst, I want to tell you a little bit about what I know and what has been taught about how the appetitive function works. The Lord not only satisfies and quenches our thirst, but he also—we know since we’re not in paradise yet, there are times when the soul, having been satisfied, will then, because of the reality of sin in our lives and because of God’s desire to give us more—he allows us to be hungry and thirsty more. So we have times where we could be satisfied by his love, and then we get thirsty and hungry. Of course, the consequences of sin bring on more thirst and hunger because of our wrong choices, but Almighty God ultimately is so great in his love—he is the Lover of mankind—he is so great that he uses our thirst and hunger to get our attention. He allows often afflictions to take place so that we will recognize our need to repent, avail ourselves within the context of hunger and thirst to him more, not to punish us because we have sinned, but to correct us and to lead us, like any good father would unto a son or daughter, into an experience of receiving more of his love. Our God uses our thirst and hunger because he is infinite in how much he desires to give to all of us.
Even when we have periods where we’re not satisfied, our whole motivation continues to look to him as our source and to seek the proper help within the holy Orthodox Church and to develop further relationship, through the sacraments and our prayer life and the ascetic life of the holy Orthodox Church, in order to be free and in order to receive more. We know that ultimately we are to end up in his holy presence in paradise, where one day our soul and body will be reunited. And it is his intent, and for those that are healed, our saints—we see them as models. It is our goal, and it is his intention, that our capacity to experience the love of God, his compassion and his mercy, is infinite. The great news of the Gospel is that his love has no boundaries. Our thirst and hunger is used by him in order for him to fulfill, in order for him to satisfy, and to give more and more and more of his love. We are intended one day to see the Lord, to hear the Lord, to touch the Lord, from glory to glory. His love has no bounds for those that have availed themselves [of] the action of the Holy Spirit, have committed themselves to a life of holiness and repentance and have sought the therapeutic methods which are treasures in the holy Orthodox Church which I will expound upon as we go along.
So the appetitive function is very wonderful, it has its purpose, but we have to recognize that we fundamentally have to come to the Lord like St. Photini did at the well, because even Christ acknowledged his thirst and began a relationship with her by needing physical water, going on to offering her the living water and offering her the opportunity for her thirst to be quenched. We need to acknowledge this thirst, we need to start recognizing that we are all prone to making wrong choices, recognizing that we are escaping from reality if we are, and beginning a life that includes more of the therapy to our souls and bodies that the Lord desires for all of us.
We will discuss later on the proper use of the Jesus Prayer, the hesychast tradition of noetic prayer, and I will rely heavily on the theology of St. Symeon the New Theologian as well as St. Gregory Palamas. I thank you for listening today. In closing, I would like to acknowledge and am grateful for the relationship that I have had, along with my wife, with Fr. Gordon, our spiritual father, over 23 years. We acknowledge that today, the 40th day of his repose, may his memory be eternal, that he has been a wonderful gift, and that he has been largely responsible for having had treated and having an ability to work with many afflicted with alcoholism, with sexual addiction, and all manner of addiction over the years, and has helped us greatly, together, to help learn more about the treatment of addictions. And I’d like to also thank all the members of the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup that have been faithful, both in their prayer and in their participation for helping us financially. And I appreciate the members of Ancient Faith Radio, Bobby Maddex and the whole staff, for this opportunity to offer this podcast series, and I look forward to further work, and I thank you for listening.
My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit. Glory to thee, O Lord; glory to thee. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.