Give Back Group

Addiction Support Group

The Give Back Group is not your ordinary Addiction Support Group.  It is different than anything that exists in the traditional realm of treatment options for people suffering with any type of addiction.  

We strive to find the truth, to stop hiding, to help and support those that are suffering, to learn to love without judgment and walk in the light of Christ. 

The ‘Give Back Group’ is not a substitute for professional counseling. People who are dealing with psychological issues such as depression, major anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, addictions, etc. are encouraged to seek counseling. Our hope and prayer of the Give Back Group is to provide a social and spiritual support network encouraging healing from stories that bind us when addiction is involved with life's challenges.
The Give Back Group is also not a substitute for the sacrament of Confession. We hope that self-awareness will lead people and inspire one to participate in the mystery of Confession. 

Confidentiality is strongly encouraged, but cannot be guaranteed in the Give Back Group’.  It is our hope that the participants will honor the personal stories and keep that confidential.  Participants should, therefore, use discretion when self-disclosing in the Give Back Group’.
“Where two or three are gathered in my Name, I am in their midst.” 
- Jesus of Nazareth 
(Matthew 18:20)
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
- Apostle Paul (Hebrews 10: 24-25)

We are building a community one by one - for people to learn how to heal.  

The Give Back Group meets at Holy Apostles Church every other Thursday at 7pm. Please check our parish calendar for exact dates.

Read Our Latest Blog Post Below:

A Mother Shares The Story Of Her Daughters Overdose Death


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Me First

Thoughts From The Give Back Group:

 If a person in my family has an addiction I am either part of the problem or part of the solution.

Even if I don't suffer from addiction myself I would do well to keep in mind the words of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica:
“Instead of beginning with ourselves, we always want to change others first and ourselves last. If everyone were to begin first with themselves, then there would be peace all around!”

Changing my own behavior first; this is my part of the solution, facilitating change in my loved one when they decide they want to change.After years of my own addiction treatment, extensive reading, and most importantly immersion in the life of Christ in His Church, one thing is clearer to me now than had been: There is nothing I can do to change the behavior of another person. If I want to help a loved one who has an addiction, I need to change my behavior. And not just my behavior as it relates to my loved ones addiction, necessary as that is. My behavior is driven by what I want, by what is important to me. If I continue to pursue my addiction or my idol (be it money, cars, clothes, theology, being right, or what-have-you) then I am modeling behavior that shows my loved one that it is okay to pursue their idol, their addiction.What is amazing about the idea of changing myself to effect change in others is not that it is common in addiction treatment, but that it is Scriptural: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” (Matthew 7:3,5)

If only I could realize in my life the observation made by St Seraphim of Sarov: If I am saved, I will be the the vehicle of salvation for a thousand people around me. What helps those around me is not just that I have experienced healing through addiction treatment, but that I believe and know that God is good, and loves humankind, and I thereby may work out my salvation, my healing, in fear and trembling. At least that's what I keep praying. May God help us.

"Assuming the blame for your own sins is by no means identical to avoiding confrontation with others. It means refusing to be victimized. It implies freedom and control over one's life. If you are not in control of what you do, then someone else is in control of your life and you are dis-empowered from any action at all. The first step in personal change can only come from within. Assuming responsibility for your life, and doing something about it , is the beginning of a truly creative and meaningful life." -Dn. John Chryssavgis: In the Heart of the Desert

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Elizabeth Vargas: Her Battle With Alcohol and Confronting The Truth

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The Power Of Addiction


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Healing is Not Easy: But I Must Again Choose Life…

From an anonymous member of our group: 

"I've lived more than a handful of years, many of them spent with depression and anxiety as unwelcome yet close companions. I’ve been suicidal more often than I care to remember and felt overwhelmingly worthless too many times to count. My ‘good’ days were those that I didn’t think about dying. Anxiety has held me back in my career and relationships and coupled with its partner depression, has convinced me to be isolated.

I have served at the altar of fear for most of my life. Given this reality, I have always thought that healing would be a wonderful thing. I’ve longed for God to wave a wand and make me happy, make me not miserable. I’ve treated God like a waiter, demanding him to bring me what I want and to do it now. And along the way, I have wondered why I continue to wallow.

Over the past couple of years, I have been part of the Give Back Group and have found myself in the company of good, good people; people who struggle with various addictions and other challenges, but who share in many of the same underlying challenges of despair and loneliness.

I’ve begun to open up a bit, to practice trusting people with small bits of myself. What a gift this group has been, full of love, support, and good will. They have helped loosen some of the chains I have had wrapped around my heart.

And now, like Lazarus, I find myself being called out of the tomb, into the freedom of life in Christ in a way I have not experienced before: with peace. In the past six months, for reasons that are still not known to me, God has begun to restore my spirit to new life. My depression and anxiety, so often crippling companions, have faded in their intensity.

Over the summer, I realized that I was struggling much, much less than I had in the past. And yet I find myself hesitating at the edge of the darkness. I have found that even as the darkness is dissipating in the light, I am afraid to step fully out of the shadows. Healing is not easy, in fact, for me it is somewhat scary. How can this be, since I fully believe that the easing up of my anxiety and depression has come from God?

You see, I know depression. I know anxiety. I am good at them and we have a long history together. But they continue to try and drag me down. They are known, but they are not of God. I do not know how to live in freedom and peace. I do not know how to let the fear go and live as God’s safe and beloved child.

So today, I must again choose life, I must again choose to accept Christ and his healing. He is freely offering it, but I have to step out in faith to receive it. I must live in the here and now, in this moment that he has given, not in the past and not in the future. I am on the journey and I am learning to practice how to live in faith and love and God’s gracious peace. What a gift."

The Give Back Group is a support group for people and family members struggling with any type of addiction; food, drug, porn, alcohol, depression, anxiety, anger.

The group meets every other Thursday at 7pm.

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A Note From the Give Back Group

The first time I came to the Give Back Group was in March, during the final week of Lent. I was contemplating suicide, weeping constantly, and begging God for a way out of life. There was no area of my life that I felt control over, no area of my life where I felt hope. As I drove to the church, I had no idea what to do or say, and I was terrified that I would fall apart in front of strangers. Through my raging anxiety, I tried to listen as people introduced themselves and told me a bit of their story. I don’t remember much of what was said, but I remember a feeling of safety – that I was with people who were not judging or shaming, that they wouldn’t add to my anguish. So I fell apart in front of strangers. I cried and cried as I shared some of the pain that was killing my spirit. And they cared. The kindness blew me away. 

In the months since, I been better and I have been worse. I have had good days and I have had agonizing ones. My negative habits, thoughts, and poor health – they are still with me. These patterns of destructive depression and anxiety are not quickly overcome. But today there is hope and today there is gratitude. Because when I look around the room on those Thursday nights, I see the face of Christ in the women and men in the chairs, as living icons of His love. I hear His words of compassion coming out of the mouths of people from all walks of life, with all sorts of their own battle scars who are there to share and receive and to help other people get back on their feet. And I know this is good. I am grateful to be among these generous people who are living the gospel mandate to love their neighbor. When I don’t see or feel God in my life, I remember His presence through those who also journey on this road to health and recovery and I remember that I am not alone. Hope is a beautiful and powerful thing to have, and the members of the Give Back Group have held it for me when I could not find it on my own. They have truly borne my burdens and shared with me the love of Christ.

My path to healing is a long one, and I’m only on the first stretch. Doubtless, there are plenty more tears, more bouts with anguish, more challenges that will feel overwhelming. But there is also a lot more joy, more love and laughter, more life. My miracle is slow to unfold, but as God is rich in mercy and compassion, it is real. 

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Process of Healing from Verbal Abuse

Musings from a courageous woman taking her life back from the grips of Abuse

I was made very aware of the power of validation this week as I read, "The Verbally Abusive Relationship." It gave words to feelings that I never quite knew if they were real or not- to the thoughts of, "Something just isn't right." It was freeing because I've never been allowed to feel certain things before. I've always been "too sensitive" or at times, just plain crazy. I remember calling Father Tom, crying and saying, "I’m just so confused. I don't know what's right or wrong, real or false, healthy or unhealthy." I’ve come to understand that this confusion is the abuser’s best weapon.

When we are challenged by the addiction of abuse. I am calling it addiction because the perpetrator and victim always tell say that "they can’t help it", or that "they really don’t want to hurt the other or be hurt by the other". The addiction of abuse gets us to question our own instincts and reality and isolates us from others because we begin feeling ashamed of what is happening and we can’t speak about it.

It helped to sort things out in my head once I realized that my husband is not operating in the same reality as I am. When he tells me he loves me, it’s very different from how I love him. One reality is based in control and dominance. This kills the spirit. The other is based in co-creation and mutuality. This nurtures the spirit.
It was very important for me to realize that no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I pray or how sweet I am to him, he is the only one that can choose to participate. There is no "right way" for me to explain it to him so he will finally understand. 

The hardest part for me to overcome has been regaining my reality- finding truth. He took the liberty to define truth for me and under the guise of "trying to protect me" he has completely redefined my own reality. NO person should be given that chance or that power. This is hard to explain to someone who has never experienced this before. He took the way I viewed life and redefined it to match his version. I began to wonder, in time, if he even saw me as a separate person or if I was simply an extension of himself. 

It’s important to note that this clarity did not come all at once. There were many, many times I didn’t even realize I had allowed myself to be abused. Then over hours, or even days, I would start to just feel "icky." I would have to retrace my steps, much like you do when you’ve lost something, to think back to what happened and usually, I can pinpoint when the abuse occurred and how my response was not one of clarity, love, or health.

This clarity did not come all at once. There were many, times I didn’t realize I had allowed myself to be abused. Then over hours, or even days, I would start to just feel "icky." I would have to retrace my steps, much like you do when you’ve lost something, to think back to what happened and usually, I can pinpoint when the abuse occurred and how my response was not one of clarity, love, or health.

Somewhere between then and now I’ve found the courage and have been given the strength to seek truth, whatever the cost, and reside only in that place. I have consciously made the choice to serve Christ, and not my addiction to please my husband. I have chosen truth over illusion. The demand has been great and the suffering greater but what remains, now that the dust is beginning to settle, is a "peace that surpasses all understanding" and the beauty of being a witness to Christ’s healing power.

Thank you for giving me the chance to get these thoughts down on paper. It has been very therapeutic for me. Connecting with people, especially hurting people, ministers to my soul and I am given chances to heal through working through pain with others.

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Addiction Thrives on Secrecy: Taking on Porn

"Since I was a teenager, addiction has been part of my life. I took my first drink at 13. Later, I discovered prescription pain pills. As I continued the uphill struggle with these powerful drugs, my life went downhill. I entered into treatment at age 20 and soon attended Alcoholics Anonymous and found help there.

I continue to go to these meetings, as they help me live a better life clean and sober.

However, there is another addiction in my life that has deep roots: the viewing of pornography. As an adolescent I stumbled upon internet pornography on our family computer. I was ashamed, even embarrassed at first. The women on the screen before me smiled. They seemed to smile directly at me. They didn’t seem to care that they were doing. I shut down the site, petrified that someone would catch me. Even at this early point I had a strong feeling that there was something wrong with looking at these pictures.

As time went on, though, I found myself returning to these websites. I developed “favorites”, all the while knowing this behavior went against my beliefs. Having been brought up Episcopalian and later converting to Orthodox Christianity, I was aware of the Church’s stand on pornography. But this rationale did nothing to stop me. Over the years I tried several times to stop, but only with limited results. Most times I could stop for only a month, or two at best.

I became totally clean and sober from drugs and alcohol at age 22. My life began to regain order. I held down a decent job and moved out of my parents’ house. I met a beautiful young lady during a volunteer trip to Mexico. Afterwards, we began to date and soon fell in love and were married. During these happy days, my addiction to pornography seemed to take a brief hiatus. I told myself that I no longer needed these images; I was married to a woman in the flesh! Besides, I was living a clean and sober life. I finally had a handle on my addictions.

Months went by, and the honeymoon phase ended. Before I knew it, I was back at the computer pornography. I didn’t even seem to think about it. My wife found out. Saddened, she asked me why I looked at pornography. Baffled, I could not come up with a good answer.

She forgave me, but my addiction was progressing. That was almost three years ago. I came to Fr. Tom recently for help, and he invited me to the give back group he oversees twice a month. I decided to go. I was nervous to introduce myself. I feel that pornography is a taboo subject. I was not used to talking about it. The second time I attended the group, I nearly ran out of the room, because there were people present who attended my church and knew my wife and I. My wife was pregnant. These people knew that I was a father to be! I felt I could simply not share that I looked at women performing acts on a computer screen for my personal gratification. But Father Tom asked me to share why I came to the group, and, though choking on the words, I said that I struggle with addiction to pornography and told a bit of my story.

I have come to realize that this addiction thrives on secrecy. Its power over me comes through the secrecy in which I shelter it. Whenever I admit to people, whether in or outside the group, that I struggle with this disease, all the shame and humiliation I have felt since I was a teenager melts away, and love takes its place. I know that this is the road to recovery, and that this is how Christ loves me."

The Give Back Group is a support group for people and family members struggling with any type of addiction; food, drug, porn, alcohol, depression, anxiety, anger.

The group meets every other Thursday at 7pm.

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Reflections From the Give Back Group

My story doesn’t have a "happy" ending. Pain is my constant companion. Keith will not heal or get better from his addiction—it killed him, and with his death it killed parts of us. There is no longer a normal to get back to—that is gone. So, what do you do with the pain? That is what I’m learning at the Give Back Group.

The Give Back Group is about being real—real emotion good and bad, learning to heal, learning to live, learning to help others who are in pain in the midst of our own pain. You see addiction is about pain. It’s about pain, about anxiety, about depression and our incessant need to change the way we feel instead of learning to live with the feelings we’re experiencing.

I’m sorry to say pain will not kill you—sometimes it feels like it should, but it doesn’t. Pain is a symptom it tells us to slow down, both physically and emotionally. Maybe we need to examine our lives, maybe we need to see what is important in life. Why is it there? It’s like asking what is life? Why am I here? What is important? Why am I depressed?

Instead, many of us run from these questions by eating too much, eating not enough, exercising too much, drinking too much, working too much, shooting up, taking painkillers, watching porn, gambling, even taking legal prescription drugs, all so we can change the uncomfortable feelings that assault our senses. 

In our society if you tell the Doctor you’re unhappy—you get an anti depressant, you’re in physical pain—Hydrocodone, you can’t sleep—Ambien, you can’t concentrate—Adderal. There seems to be a pill for everything except a pill for your soul.

There are some things in our lives that we cannot make go away…no amount of food, pills, drugs, or even talking changes some of the experiences and thoughts we have. So what is that pill for your soul? 

For me, it is the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me a sinner. When the pain assaults me, I pray the prayer over and over and always without even seeing the pain leave a sense of calm will come over me and I can go on.


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Freeing ourselves from the obsession of thoughts

“We humans were created in the image of God.  Mankind was given a great gift but we hardly understand that. God’s energy and life is in us, but we do not realize it.  Neither do we understand that we greatly influence others with our thoughts.  We can be very good or very evil, depending on the kind of thoughts and desires we breed.” Elder Thaddeus

“We have Divine power, Divine life,  and Divine energy.  On the day of the final judgment we shall have to give an answer for the way we have used this Divine power, life, and energy which have been given to us’ whether we have contributed to the harmony in the universe, or have sown disharmony.”  
Elder Thaddeus

Repentance is the renewal of life.  It is not a looking backward but moving forward and leaning forward towards Jesus.  This means we must free ourselves of all our negative traits and turn toward absolute Good.
We need repentance.  You see, repentance is not only going to a priest and confession.  
'We must free ourselves from the obsession of thoughts.  We fall many times during our life, and it is absolutely necessary to reveal everything (in confession) before a priest who is a witness to our repentance.  
Repentance is a change of life, a change of direction, turning toward Absolute Good, and leaving behind all that is negative.  True repentance is rare, even among the pious, and this is why we suffer so much.  If our people were to repent, they would not experience the suffering that they are going through now.  We complicate our lives terribly by our thoughts and desires.  


+fr. tom

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