Dear Donagh, Thank you people for your website. I often go to it and find it helpful. I wonder if you can give me some help with my son who is 24. I know that he has been messing with drugs but from what I hear from his friends he hasn’t been on heavy drugs and it isn’t very serious. Two of them told me this and I can believe them. His problem was finding money, they said. I can't separate these two things in my mind. I think it’s all one problem. But there’s another side to it now. He was approached by… [a religious group] who have taken him in hand. They seem to be trying to get him away from us and from his friends. I don’t trust these people, I'm fearful that they will only mess him up further. He’s easily led and I feel that these people have no interest in him for his own sake, they only want to recruit him…. What can I do without making it worse? Can you suggest anything? … May L.

    Dear May, thanks for your letter. I have met several people in similar situations and so I have some awareness of how you must feel. I share your apprehensions about that particular group, and I would be suspicious of anyone who offers to help you on condition that they can play with your head. He seems reluctant and yet constrained to go to their meetings, you said. There are many such groups that zoom in on vulnerable people, to recruit them. Help without hooks attached is a rare thing and we have to know where we are likely to find it.
    I gave a retreat recently to a group from Alcoholics Anonymous, and I am full of admiration for their programme. (I have to add that AA does not sponsor any activities such as retreats; very wisely it sponsors only AA meetings. The people who attended the retreat were individually AA members, but were not meeting as AA.) A zen master has said that AA has been America’s great contribution to spirituality: that while Spain gave us John of the Cross and Germany gave us the Rhineland mystics, America gave us AA. At any rate it is now a worldwide movement, and it has been extended to the management of other addictions: there are now many groups (such as Gamblers Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) under the general heading of ‘Twelve Step Programmes’….
    I have done some research and I am sending you information about NA meetings in your town. Your son will have to approach them himself: unlike the religious group you mentioned, these do not recruit members. Besides, they are interested only in supporting him in his struggle with addiction: in that sense they are a non-religious group. That leaves it to ourselves to decide what real religion is: playing with people’s heads, or helping people in a disinterested way.
    If your son needs help to extricate himself from that group, you can find all the information, the links and the help you need by looking in , then click on the Irish flag. It's an organisation based in Denmark, with sister organisations in several other countries, including Ireland. It's an ecumenical trust supported by all the mainline Churches.
    I hope he can find all the help he needs at this time, and that he will choose his friends wisely. Sincerely, Donagh
Donagh O'Shea

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