“We all have ways in which we have fallen short of our promise. Persons who have the courage to face their challenges, in this case drug addiction, have both strength and vulnerability. Facing the latter and noticing the former – while in the company of others and experiencing the acceptance (and non-judgment) of those others – is a step towards noticing that one is worthy of bringing one’s self before the Divine without fear of scorn or rejection. For me, that is the power inherent in the group spiritual direction experience.”
QUESTION: My question is about how to go about starting a Journey Group for people who have been in recovery from drug addiction for 1 year, and whether it is necessary for a SD to be an expert in substance abuse recovery? Intuitively, it appears that having knowledge and experience around recovery folks would help, but I was wondering if you have a word of wisdom as to how we can be effective and supportive for these recovery folks who are hungry and thirsty for the Divine presence in their lives.
ANSWER: Offer the “bread” you have and remember that no one of us is an expert in everything. If the seekers of whom you speak are “hungry and thirsty for the Divine presence,” they are no different than other seekers in that quest. Your responsibility is to be welcoming, truly present with them and to join in constructing a secure sacred space in which they can probe their hearts and refresh their souls—which are originally given to us all in pure form by the Divine.
Spiritual direction is not offered, as best I know, in order to fix anything. I would hope that your group members would also continue their personal efforts to maintain sobriety. In addition, I would hope they have sponsors on whom they can depend when the intention to remain in recovery becomes challenging. I have great respect for the AA model, especially for its “day at a time’ approach.
We all have ways in which we have fallen short of our promise. Persons who have the courage to face their challenges, in this case drug addiction, have both strength and vulnerability. Facing the latter and noticing the former – while in the company of others and experiencing the acceptance (and non-judgment) of those others – is a step towards noticing that one is worthy of bringing one’s self before the Divine without fear of scorn or rejection. For me, that is the power inherent in the group spiritual direction experience.
The structure I offer in my book offers a scaffolding for a meeting; though it makes space for spiritual conflicts and concerns, the emphasis is on connection—the seeker to self, the group members to each other, and everyone to that which is both beyond our human understanding and, at the same time, waiting for us deep within. Groups take time to come together; trust is built one conversation at a time. Critical skills must be acquired or enhanced. Listening on behalf of another, noticing sacred whispers, identifying the vocabulary that captures both desire and discovery are a few of these skills.
To be practical for a moment: No recovery is perfect so there might be a time when someone slips. I think that it should be made clear at the start of a group that all are welcome but not if they are using some substance and are impaired at the time of the meeting. Once recovery has been reestablished, the member would be welcomed back without judgment.
In contrast to an AA model, group spiritual direction is not usually a drop-in experience, participants make certain commitments. The key one is regular attendance for a number of meetings agreed to at the outset. The group’s stability and efficacy depends on the literal presence of each participant.
This is your chance to ask questions about the practice and process of group spiritual direction and get answers from respected author and spiritual director Dr. Roslyn “Roz” G. Weiner.
SDI Press published Roslyn’s book Seeking in the Company of Others: The Wisdom of Group Spiritual Direction in late 2021. Soon afterward, Roz led an SDI webinar series about GSD.
The response to both the book and the webinar series has been lively and the conversation fruitful. So, we thought we would share your good questions and Roz’s wisdom with all the SDI community through this column, which will appear monthly in our SDI Stories section of our website.
Please email us your questions here, and Roz will offer her responses to one or two queries in this column on a monthly basis.
Dr. Roslyn G. Weiner, PhD, STM is the author of the new book from SDI Press, “Seeking in the Company of Others – The Wisdom of Group Spiritual Direction.” She is a seasoned spiritual director and psychologist, with 18 years of experience facilitating groups in spiritual direction. She earned a PhD in psychology from Yale University and an STM degree from the School of Theology, Boston University.