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Family Clubs of Sobriety. 20 years in Russia

Тезисы, подготовленные для публикации на конференции в рамках III Международной научно-практической конференции «Аддиктивное поведение: профилактика и реабилитация», Москва, МГПУ, 6-7 ноября 2013 года

Baburin А., Magay А., Gusev G., Ikonnikova E.

Interregional social movement in support of family clubs of sobriety

Keywords: Family Clubs of Sobriety (FCS), orthodoxy, church rehabilitation, spiritual the focused dialogue, Baburin, Hudolin, Florenskaya.

Family Clubs of Sobriety (FCS) as the program of Alcoholism and Addiction rehabilitation have been functioning in Russia for more than 20 years. Their work experience was reported in a research conducted in 1994 by Baburin A.N., Yermoshin A.F., Zhohov V.N., Karpova M.N., Nikulin A.V., Turbina L.G. The research was published in the “Journal of Addiction Problems” [1].

Since the last publishing there were significant changes in Clubs’ activity whereof we would like to specify in this article.

Clubs’ program was founded by Croatian psychiatrist Vladimir Hudolin, world-established authority in Alcoholism problems [2].

First Clubs were founded in Zagreb in 1964, in 1979 Clubs were opened in Italian Trieste. Currently Clubs are functioning in 34 counties [3].

According to Hudolin’s methodology – addiction to psychoactive substances is integral ecosystemic anthropologically-spiritual bio-psychosocial problem. Research of this methodology has occupied most of the professional activity of clergyman of Russian Orthodox Church, psychiatrist, senior scientist of the Mental Health Research Center of the RAMS, archpriest Alexey Baburin. Under his guidance in 1992 was founded first Russian Club – in Romashkovo village, Moscow Region. In 1995 Alexey Baburin began to supervise meetings in one of the Clubs. Comprehensive experience of archpriest Alexey Baburin representing more than 15 years of Clubs’ background was reported in September 2007 on the First All-Russian Orthodox Doctors Summit [4].

Club is the community of families willingly united for handling the problem of chemical or non-chemical addiction of one of the family members. Club is integral to society with all the problems natural to it. Club welcomes families with various problems which arose from the consumption of psychoactive substances. Club aims not only at resignation of alcohol or narcotic – but much more at a complete change of a person’s lifestyle.

In accordance with Item 3.8 Attachment 1 of the Order of Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation “On Drug Rehabilitation Centers” drug rehabilitation centers should participate in establishing of public psychotherapeutic and rehabilitation groups outside the center (Clubs of alcoholics in treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) groups, etc.)” [5]. Thus Clubs’ activity is reflected in a principal document of the state medical branch.

In contexts of current development of scientific knowledge it is explicit that the solving of addiction problems is not restricted to medico-psychological methods of treatment of addicted and co-addicted groups of people. Very important is a social atmosphere, attitude of a person and state to a healthy life-style generally. There is rather common opinion that alcoholic and narcotic problems solving is possible only upon condition that an individual willingly resorts to spiritual life, full of superior sense and values.

Thus spiritual-oriented conversation is a priority of the Clubs’ activity. This form of work is very important in opinion of Florenskaya T.A., Doctor of Psychology, whose dissertation was dedicated to spiritual-oriented dialogical interview. Necessary conditions of such an interview are attention to a conversation, creation of admissive, sympathetic atmosphere, and non-sharing negative emotions. According to Tamara Florenskaya conversation and understanding of a partner, being on side with his spiritual self and voice of his conscience — allows “not to manipulate but to influence” and by this means motivate the partner on a conscious changing of priorities [6].

One Club unites from 2 to 12 families. More than 12 families would impede conversation and free speaking of every member of the Club.

Club members meet once a week for two hours in an agreeable atmosphere with a cup of tea and discuss significant for everyone subjects, except politics. Qualified specialists (clergymen, psychologists, doctors) often attend the meetings. The Club also invites people who have a wide life experience and “veterans” of the Club who have conquered addiction and have been leading a sober life for a long period.

As a rule most important for everyone questions are becoming the subjects of discussion. It may be discussion of family relationship, upbringing of children, problems on a job, and cautionary life examples of one of the Club members. Pathologic addiction to psychoactive substances which has brought people to the Club necessarily should be the subject of discussion. Coming of a new member initiates renewal of this conversation. “Veterans” of the Club with a long abstinence experience share their experience with newcomers. In the process they consider medical aspect, stages and laws of development of alcoholism or addiction, as well as conditions which may stop destructive force of addictions. When relatives or friends of addicted are joining the Club — more emphasis is put on co-addiction problems. The discussion focuses on psychological analysis of pathological attitude of co-addicted to their relatives and breaching of this attitude. Much attention also is paid to ethic aspects in the context of a person’s behavior and relationship in a family.

Mutual support and urge to share another one’s pain and suffering are the basic principles of communication which allow to join people with different problems, views and life experiences. At the Club’s meetings everyone has the right to speak up, to express one’s opinion or tell about experience of one’s own. Naturally in the atmosphere of informal communication some of the Club members try to obtrude their opinions upon others or deviate to value judgments. But long-term experience testifies that positive changes in the lives of families are possible only in the atmosphere of a sincere companionship.

So participation in the Club’s meetings means training in medicine, psychological skills and abilities to deal with communicational problems as well as development of spiritual abilities. All these teaches a person in a difficult situation to reason about good and evil, understand the value of one’s own actions, discipline one’s own behavior and suppress rough emotional reactions.

Creative, cultural-enlightenment work and sport activity are also very important for returning addicted people to abstinent life.

On every meeting of the Club its members make documentary diary records, on the basis of which was created a performance “Along the very edge”. This performance is on the sage of a professional Russian drama theater “Chamber stage”. Club members established a Community theatre directed by ex-addicted stage manager, who is the only professional artist among the cast. Participation in creative process benefits emotional life of the “actors” and serves to implementation of re-socializing person’s talents and aspects of character.

There is a Film Club on a regular basis under the guidance of a professional expert, where Club members may discuss their impression from a morally significant film.

Sport work is also very important in the rehabilitation program of the Clubs. It is reflected in sport festivals twice a year – biathlon in winter and team plays in summer. The process of achieving a team goal allows fostering a common touch, mutual understanding, close emotional contact, confidence in partners and responsibility for one’s task.

With reference to various methods of rehabilitation and re-socialization of addicted people also should be mentioned journeys to the cultural and historical centers of Russia and Foreign countries. Sightseeing of the historically significant places strengthens spiritual core and patriotic feelings, motivates addicted person to change former style of life. Often such journeys are intrinsically pilgrimages and are of a great importance for the people with a religious world view.

Summarizing should be mentioned that changing of world view and the whole lifestyle of Club members overcoming addiction is followed by reunion of broken or ready to break marriages. People who by some reasons were far away from marriage are getting married and have children. But the most valuable for Club members is that people earlier distant from God and Church are starting to attend church services and demonstrate vivid interest in the questions of spiritual life. It is an evidence of spiritual and moral revival of a person.


[1] Baburin A.N., Yermoshin A.F., Zhohov V.N., Karpova M.N., Nikulin A.V., Turbina L.G. Work experience of Family Clubs of Sobriety.//Journal of Addiction Problems. – 1994. — №2. – P.91-94

[2] Web site of the Clubs of alcoholics in treatment in Sardinia http://www.hudolin.it/

[3] Web site of Italian association AICAT — http://www.alcoholnet.net

[4] Report of archpriest Alexey Baburin on the First All-Russian Orthodox Doctors Summit in Belgorod in September 2007 at the official FCS site — http://modskt.ru/dokladyi_i_lektsii/Protoierey-Aleksiy-Baburin-Dushepope.html

[5] Order № 76 of Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation “On Drug Rehabilitation Centers” from March 18, 1997 – http://www.med-pravo.ru/PRICMZ/PricMZ1997/76/Pric76-1-2.htm

[6] Florenskaya T.A.. Dialog in a practical psychology. Science about spirit. Published by “Vlados”, 2001.

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