Pastoral care that meets addiction at its source

Sonia Waters sees pain and trauma at the heart of this particular type of soul sickness.

While reading this book, I kept hearing the voices of the people I work with daily in detox and addiction treatment. It’s not that Addiction and Pas­toral Care offers clear answers to the wrenching theological and spiritual predicaments of people in the midst of addiction. But by treating the problem of addiction with an unusual level of dignity, medical understanding, and theological seriousness, Sonia Waters gives vivid life and meaning to my patients’ spiritual outpourings.

Waters, who teaches pastoral theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, starts by pulling apart the two most popular models for talking about addiction: the moral model, which regards addiction as sin, and the medical model, which re­gards addiction as disease. She shows how each of these models has reinforced stereotypes, contributed to structural oppression or injustice, and fundamentally failed those with addiction issues—even when intentions were good. The shared failure of these two models, she contends, is “defining the problem through its symptoms” instead of through its source.

Waters identifies the source of addiction as a drive for survival in response to pain and trauma. She believes that addiction occurs when regular people “caught in an effort to survive their inner and outer world” find that effort “decidedly turned against them.”