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Addiction is a worship disorder, narcotics officer tells church group
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Addiction is more than a physical problem.

It’s a disease of the soul.

That was the message Langlade County narcotics officer Dan Bauknecht brought to Hoffmann Hall at St. John Catholic Church Tuesday as part of the congregation’s Lenten soup and sermon program.

“Addiction is first and foremost a worship disorder,” Bauknecht said. “It flows from an idolatrous heart that is consumed with its own desires.”

Since joining the Langlade County Sheriff’s Department in 1999, and becoming its chief narcotics investigator—“reluctantly,” he says—in 2006, Bauknecht has given dozens of presentations on the topic of addiction, drug abuse and enforcement.

Tuesday was different. It focused on “the cross of addiction.”

Bauknecht rolled through the startling facts, noting that over two-thirds of American families have been touched by addiction to drugs or alcohol, with an estimated 52 million people over age 12 using prescription pills non-medically.

But he spent most of his hour-long presentation discussing the spiritual reasons for those addictions.

“We must not forget that the human person, unique and unrepeatable, with his or her own interior life and specific personality, is really at the center of the problem of drug dependence,” Bauknecht said. “The problem, in fact, is not drug abuse itself, but the sickness of spirit that leads to it.”

Hope lies in the Gospel, he said.

“No matter the carnage you’ve left behind, the lies, theft and destruction, today is a new day,” he said. “Every day is a new day. There is hope.”

Bauknecht offered examples of how families have been fragmented and lives ruined by addiction calling it a “fundamental problem of all people.”

Addictions range from problems with drugs and alcohol to being an overprotective mother or career-driven father, he said, and they all carry a degree of self-righteousness.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, that wasn’t me, that was the cocaine...the meth...the alcohol,” he said. “Addicts are famous for making excuses for their behaviors and for claiming their behavior was not the real me.”

That self-righteousness extends to former addicts as well, he said, to those who express their disdain for people who “don’t get me...can’t understand...because they haven’t been through what I’ve been through.”

Addicts fear others will find out about their addictions. They have guilt over the costs they have paid, and there is shame over the embarrassment they bring to themselves and others.

That guilt, shame and fear leads to even more self-righteousness, he said, and to a belief that everything is someone else’s fault.

No one wants to be an addict, Bauknecht stressed. No one wakes up hoping to get hooked on bath salts or prescription drugs or alcohol.

“You drink or take drugs for a reason,” he said. “It leads you to your object of worship, like the moving sidewalk at the airport.”

Bauknecht pointed to a 45-day time frame during which a person on synthetic drugs will see their life implode.

“Nobody sets out to have that happen,” he stressed.

People turn to drugs for a myriad of reasons—to forget, cure pain, manage emotions, and keep loneliness at bay among others—but in the end, the drugs turn from a friend that captivates into a enemy that captures.

“To the addict, dope is their God, it is their Supreme being, the Higher Power,” Bauknecht said. “He or she is subjected to its will, he or she follows its commands. To the addict, the drug is the definition of happiness and gives the meaning of love.”

He called each shot of drugs in veins, each hit of the pipe or nip of the bottle, “ a shot of divine love” to an addict.

To combat the problem, Bauknecht said it is necessary to help addicts understand their inner world, lead them to discover, or rediscover their own dignity, and help them bring about the re-emergence and growth of the personal resources which drugs have submerged.

“Many forms of battle are needed to combat drug abuse effectively, but there is a central one without which nothing can be achieved,” he said. “We must restore, in its full force, the conviction about the awe-inspiring, unrepeatable value of man and his responsibility for free self-realization.”

Bauknecht ended the program by returning to his core message—the heavy burden of the cross of addiction.

“Addicts worshiped their way into addiction,” he said. “Through Gospel and prayer, may they worship their way out of addiction.”


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Dan Bauknecht, narcotics officer with the Langlade County Sheriff’s Department, spoke on “the cross of addiction” Tuesday at St. John Catholic Church.
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