Guest House Treats Alcoholic Priests

HERALD Columnist One of the most effective treatment and rehabilitation facilities in the world is Guest House, a center for alcoholic Catholic priests and religious in Lake Orion, Michigan. Since 1956 this center has treated over 5,000 priests, deacons, religious, and seminarians, helping them to break free of the bonds of addiction and return to their ministries renewed in their vocations. Guest House was established by Austin Ripley, a Catholic layman who recovered from alcoholism through Alcoholics Anonymous, Ripley was ahead of his time in recognizing that alcoholism was a disease and that often priests and religious were affected. He observed that few priests who tried A.A. were able to persevere in recovery and concluded that their special vocation meant they had special recovery needs. Ripley established Guest House as an environment that is serene, non-clinical, and confidential, where priests can feel safe and comfortable. Men who come there to begin recovery from alcoholism are treated with the utmost love and respect. The center develops an individual treatment plan for each man that includes medical examination and appropriate treatment, group therapy, private sessions with a certified alcoholism counselor, and comprehensive education on alcoholism and other addictions. The importance of a proper diet and exercise are also stressed. The treatment program of Guest House is firmly based on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, ensuring that the men begin to have a spiritual as well as a physical recovery. They are taken to A.A. meetings regularly. The philosophy of Guest House is that there can be "no lasting, quality sobriety without a spiritual awakening and continued spiritual growth." As the men begin to recover they can assist local priests at Mass, and they also have the opportunity to concelebrate or attend Mass daily with their peers. Their relationship with God, stunted for years by alcoholism, begins to return. Guest House is a non-profit, tax exempt organization governed by a board of Catholic lay people. Its income is from payment for rehabilitation and contributions from individual donors. Guest House promises to turn no one away because of inability to pay. In addition to its primary inpatient care program, Guest House offers an after care program of three return visits, a program of extended care for those who need it, and a free residential evaluation program. The education staff at Guest House will also send representative to a diocese or organization to teach clergy and lay leaders about the realities of alcoholism, chemical dependency, and recovery In 1994, the Guest House program expanded to include a treatment facility for women religious. With a program similar to the men's, "the goal is to see that every alcoholic or chemically dependent sister is returned to her regular duties and responsibilities, to a life full of joy and hope, free from the shame and despair of addiction." Guest House is sustained by a great love for priests and religious. It is committed to be a resource of hope for the Catholic Church. The people at Guest House know that when they help a priest or religious to recover from addition they are ministering to the whole Church in a special way. Donations may be sent to Guest House, P.O. Box 68, Lake Orion, Michigan 48361. Mary D. is a Catholic member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Questions or comments may be sent to Mary D., c/o the Arlington Catholic HERALD, 200 N. Glebe Rd. Suite 607, Arlington, Va. 22203. Copyright ?1997 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

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