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Removing the Mask

Personal Narratives of Addiction Throughout the Christian Community

STAFF NOTE: The idea for creating a healthy discussion around the topic of addiction in the Christian community was rooted in the struggles so many of us have seen in our our friends and family, both in and outside of the Harding community. Paul told us in Galatians to carry one another’s burdens, and this coverage is an attempt at telling our brothers and sisters that their burdens don’t have to be carried alone.

Written by Emily Nicks, Opinions Editor

A couple of questions must first be answered to understand the complexity of addiction: what is addiction, and who is at risk?

David Donley, assistant professor of biology, said addiction is a process that occurs deep within the brain after repeated exposure to a stimulus changes the way one thinks.

“Addiction, kind of by definition, is a miscommunication in the brain,” Donley said. “So over time, what happens is you become addicted to something when you fail to gain the proper reward from things that are supposed to be rewarding, and you gain too much reward from things that are fake rewards: drugs, food, whatever else."

According to Juli Lane, assistant professor of nursing, there are multiple factors in addiction development.

“Like all psychiatric illnesses, addiction is kind of a two-headed monster in that there are biological factors as well as environmental factors,” Lane said. “It’s not just one or just the other. Generally, we almost always connect both of those.”

Lane said there has been specific research conducted regarding the children of alcoholics. Biologically, children born to alcoholic parents are four times as likely to develop alcoholism later in life, according to Lane.

Donley agreed that genetics and environment play major roles in addiction.

“Genetics are primarily responsible for predisposition [to addiction],” Donley said. “Genetics really plays ... an indirect role in changing how neurons are processing the information and how the reward system is built.”

He went on to emphasize the power of environment.

“Environmental factors are important because what we know is that reward circuit is very strongly tied to memory,” Donley said. “Seeing cues are really hard and that’s why, you know, a lot of drug treatment programs and things try and take you out of the environment that you are in.”

As the director of Harding Counseling Center, Lew Moore has experience regarding the treatment of people addicted to substances, pornography, digital media and other things.

Moore discussed how the Harding Counseling Center proceeds when contacted by a student struggling with addiction.

“Primarily, our role is to be able to meet with the student, figure out what they need, help them find the resources that they need to address them,” Moore said. “Sometimes it’s medical. Sometimes it’s a treatment facility.”

Moore emphasized red flags to look for in oneself as well as others.

“Disconnect is one of the biggest problems there is with any addiction,” Moore said. “A change of habit, a change of pattern is one of the first indicators you’re going to have of anyone who’s struggling, and then if that change of habit includes a substance and it’s used perpetually, there we have the making of an addiction.”

Lane said after becoming aware of the possibility of an addiction, someone struggling should avoid environments that are dangerous and seek professional help.

“People with addiction have to avoid — be aware of — and avoid those kinds of triggers,” Lane said. “The next step would be to go see a counselor or your family doctor to get an evaluation.”

Illustration by John David Stewart

SCROLL

How does society grapple with 21st century technology and a constant desire to be connected?

Written by Emily Nicks, Opinions Editor

Internet Addiction Disorder was first brought to light in a 1996 paper by Kimberly Young, a psychologist who became an internationally renowned expert on internet addiction. Since then, the topic has been researched extensively and thoroughly. The results are staggering: digital addiction is a fast-growing issue.

President Bruce McLarty, who is regularly active on social media, said, “I think it’s a very opportune time for us to talk about and address some of these things.”

The Basics

Dopamine, sometimes referred to as the “feel-good hormone,” is a chemical in the brain that, when released, is associated with feelings of happiness. Positive social stimuli, such as affirming words and laughter, trigger the release of dopamine, connecting those positive emotions with a physical neurological experience.

According to Harvard University’s “Science in the News,” digital exposure can essentially overwhelm the dopamine exposure within the brain.

“Smartphones have provided us with a virtually unlimited supply of social stimuli, both positive and negative,” states Trevor Haynes in a 2018 article on the website. “Every notification, whether it’s a text message, a ‘like’ on Instagram, or a Facebook notification, has the potential to be a positive social stimulus and dopamine influx.”

Professor of Communication Pat Garner is well-read on the topic of digital communication and its effects on people. Garner, who recently had to trade in his flip phone for a smart phone — which he detests — said he is wary of the impacts digital addiction can have on the human brain and psyche.

“There is [separation anxiety] when you lose your phone,” Garner said. “People panic when they lose their phone because it’s their life, and of course they’re addicted to it.”

In addition to affecting individuals, digital addiction influences relationships and communication within communities. McLarty said he has witnessed digital addiction walking across campus and elsewhere within the Harding community.

“[It could be] a beautiful, sunny day, and you’re here with 4,000 other young people, and what are you doing?” McLarty questioned hypothetically.“Probably a concerning number of people are in a room, isolated, maybe with a friend, playing video games.”

McLarty said he has felt the draw of technology himself.

“When I’m out around campus, there are times I feel like I need to make a post or something like that, and I have my phone up,” he said. “I know there are people who walk by me, and I don’t engage with them.”

According to MarketWatch, Americans in 2018 spent over 11 hours each day interacting with the media. That is almost a two-hour increase from four years prior. This amount of almost constant exposure makes digital addiction a different phenomenon from other traditional forms of addiction.

While she would not have ever considered herself addicted to media, junior Rebecca Stratton recognized her unconscious habit of spending time immersed in her phone, especially with social media apps.

“I noticed any time I got a notification, I’d go to check it and then spend 10 or so extra minutes just scrolling around,” Stratton said. “I’d get on it without thinking about it at all and just mindlessly scroll.”

Digital Addiction From a Generational Viewpoint

With Millennials and those considered to be part of Generation Z engulfed by media for the majority of their lives, digital addiction may be thought of as a problem experienced only by the younger generations. But is that really the case?

Garner believes the problem runs deeper. In fact, he said younger generations may be even more aware of the all-encompassing nature of media than the older generations.

“I think more young people are ... becoming more circumspect about it,” Garner said.

He went on to recall an experience he had while teaching a few years ago.

“I said, ‘How many of you find it irritating to be wanting to talk to your parents, and they pull out their phones and don’t engage you?’ And the hands went up,” Garner remembered. “And so the adults have a big problem with it. It’s not just young people, certainly.”

McLarty said he, too, thinks digital addiction is something that is felt by more than just young people.

“[A professor on the spiritual life committee] said he thinks you’d be surprised how many students feel that they have had to pay a price in their lives for their parents’ digital addiction,” McLarty acknowledged. “It’s not something that starts with this generation. It is a cultural phenomenon in modern culture that knows no age.”

Kay Gowen is the director of Abundant Living, an outreach from Harding’s office of church relations aimed at Christian senior citizens. As someone who spends significant time with both college students and senior citizens, Gowen has a different view of the generational gap, especially in regards to technology.

Gowen said she would classify seniors’ digital use as mindless but would hesitate to call it actually addictive. “I doubt that too many overdo it, although I think it’s easy,” Gowen said. “I mean, you can start playing a game of solitaire and think you’re going to do this for 15 or 20 minutes. The next thing you know, it’s been two hours, and maybe the TV was on the whole time ... and in a way, it’s kind of what you call downtime.”

Digital Addiction From A Spiritual Viewpoint

According to McLarty, digital addiction is not just a societal issue but also a spiritual one. He said Harding’s Spiritual Life Committee read and discussed the book “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked” by Adam Alter after McLarty became aware of the need for a conversation last year.

Garner said he feels the spiritual implications of technology use, too. He pointed to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 10:23 as a reminder for Christians to use things without being mastered by them.

“I think it’s very important that [Paul] says ‘Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive, so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,’” Garner paraphrased. “So, he’s calling us to say ‘yes, this is permissible, but not everything is good that’s permissible.’ Certainly, we need to be users of things in the world but not controlled by them.”

McLarty said he thinks the combination of technology’s addictiveness and its tendency to be mean-spirited makes it particularly dangerous.

“We can tear people down or build people up, and that’s the fundamental decision,” McLarty said. “The addictive nature of [technology] makes it especially insidious that we get drawn into a world where I think a lot of people get more negative and cynical than they realize ... I think that’s part of why our culture seems so angry these days.”

Getting Past Digital Addiction

Stratton, who found herself mindlessly opening her social media apps and scrolling without fully realizing it, deleted the apps from her phone for a month during the fall 2018 semester. She said this gave her a chance to get rid of the distractions they had become.

“I definitely would tap on where the icons used to be out of habit without even thinking about it, and that made me realize how mindless I was being,” Stratton said.

Although she decided to redownload the apps to her phone, Stratton said she is more thoughtful about her use of social media now, and she would recommend it to anyone who would like a chance to refocus.

“My relationship with social media is better now,” Stratton said. “When I redownloaded [the apps], I moved them to a page on my phone that I don’t scroll to very often, so I wouldn’t see them as often. I definitely got on them a lot less after this.”

If someone is worried about missing important information such as club announcements, Stratton suggested turning on email notifications for Facebook groups; she said this allowed her to get necessary information without being on the platform itself.

McLarty suggested finding an accountability partner to help monitor your digital use, similar to how his wife, Ann, helps him refrain from using sarcasm or potentially harmful words on social media.

“[Our phones’ screen-time features] would be a great accountability baseline for people,” McLarty said. “‘Our goal is no more than x amount, and every Monday night we’re going to check each others’ phone on that.’ You know? It would be a wonderfully, fairly non-intrusive way to help each other be accountable for something.”

Garner said he thinks being aware of your digital use is a good first step toward making changes in how you use technology. Once aware, he said you can implement strategies to monitor your usage.

“We can’t escape it — none of us can — but we really can begin to monitor how much we say and do,” Garner said. “There are ways. You will have to work to do it, but there are ways that you can navigate around some of this. I think we can do it. I really do.”

McLarty said while digital addiction may seem overwhelming, he thinks the Harding community is still socially engaged.

“For all the problems we’ve got, we’ve got a lot of good things going,” McLarty said. “We’re all in it together, and I think the conversation needs to continue.”

Illustration by John David Stewart

DESIRE

Does pornography skew God's design for human creation and desire?

Written by Kaleb Turner, Editor-in-Chief & Luke Humphrey, Student Writer

'A War Not a Battle'

Senior Jacob Chesney was only 10 years old when he first found himself victim to a new corner of the internet that would define his relationships and self-perception.

Years after he first discovered pornography, Chesney realized his viewing habits might have started to become a problem that would prove to be difficult to solve all at once and on his own.

“I was dating a girl, and I felt bad that I was watching porn while I was dating her,” Chesney said. “I tried to just put it away and stop looking at it. Over a few months, I just realized that I kept coming back to it no matter how hard I tried.”

The solution, Chesney said, has never been as simple as a cold-turkey approach.

“Over the last two years or so, I’ve had times where I will go a month without pornography, which was great, but then I’d get back into it just as heavy,” Chesney said. “Over time, those long streaks grew. I think it is a war and not a battle.”

Also at 10 years old, senior Brennan Puryear found himself with the internet’s possibilities at his fingertips. Like Chesney, Puryear said he realized a problem existed when he was in high school.

“With pornography, it’s so easy,” Puryear said. “It’s on your phone, in movies, etc.”

Both Puryear and Chesney felt they could not fight this addiction alone and sought solace in others.

Chesney began seeking help for his addiction when he came to Harding. During his sophomore year, he sought counseling services at the Harding Counseling Center, and while he said that put him on the track to recovery, he soon realized others must become a part of his internal struggle.

“I thought I could overcome my addiction on my own, so that’s why it took me so long to seek help,” Chesney said. “It sounds simple — just don’t watch it or just don’t do it. But it’s way more complicated and takes so much more effort and thought. ”

Puryear’s road to a resolution also began by telling someone else, and he said that step was one of the most challenging parts. “One of the harder things I did was tell my parents,” Puryear said. “For me, that was really rough. For the longest time, it felt like there was a barrier between us, but I think talking about it and acknowledging that you have a problem is a good start.”

After taking the first step in telling someone, Puryear and Chesney found that friend groups became a trusted resource in dealing with their years-long addictions.

Kraig Martin, assistant professor of Bible, talks about pornography and sexual ethics in his classes and said the commonality of pornography addiction is found in 21st- century technology.

“The literature suggests that with ... easy access to high- speed internet, you cannot find college-aged or older males who have not consumed online pornography,” Martin said.

As Chesney and Puryear found solace in their personal communities, Martin said a similar sentiment is echoed in seeing students embrace one another when discussion about the topic arises in his classes.

“When students find the courage to speak up, I’ve never heard anyone be shamed by it,” Martin said.

The average age of exposure to pornography is now eight years old, according to Ryan Butterfield, one of eight trained therapists at Searcy’s counseling clinic The ReGroup. He said they receive more people struggling with pornography or sexual addiction than substance abuse in the college age group.

Due to the drop in the age of exposure and ease of access, he has seen a significant change in the frequency of pornography addiction in the past five to 10 years.

“More people, even in high school, struggling with the issues [come] to college or [get] out of their parents’ house, where they have a little more freedom without somebody looking over their shoulders, and it’s kind of exploding a little bit,” Butterfield said.

Chesney and Puryear said they wish they had known many things early on. They wished they knew they were not alone, and they wished the church would have been less taboo on the topic. They wished they knew to rely on strong relationships, and they simply wished they had known to do all of this sooner.

“In high school, I never talked about this,” Puryear said. “I put it into my head that I was the only one struggling with it. I don’t think I’d be willing to fix it if I weren’t at Harding.”

'Great Expectations Got Us All Imitating'

“We’re secretly out of control, nobody knows me, and my friends all addicted to porn, can’t keep a girlfriend; Cause the great expectations got all us imitating.”

These lyrics from singer-songwriter Jon Bellion’s “Morning in America” hit home with Puryear when he first heard them. “I remember listening to that song and thinking that was me,”Puryear said.“I had a relationship where I felt a lot of guilt because of the porn. It felt like I was in the relationship where I wanted other things out of it.”

His friendships suffered, too. Pornography had quickly become something that was no longer just a “me” issue.

“For a man, you see women differently,” Puryear said. “I have female friends now, but I had none in high school because there was always something in my head that caused that to not happen. There’s the part of your brain that seeks pleasure that I got used to so quickly.”

Seeing women differently is just the tip of the iceberg when considering pornography use, according to Martin. Under the surface, Martin said viewing pornography results in misconstrual of sex, desire and fulfillment in a way that is outside the scope of God’s original intent for creation.

“Sexuality is so broken in our culture that we don’t even have a vision of what it’s supposed to look like, so it’s hard for us to understand how it’s going wrong,” Martin said.

Long-term pornography use can also result in brain images that look similar to that of cocaine users, according to Butterfield. He said research about pornography is still ongoing, but there is already material about how much dopamine, a chemical in the brain that causes pleasure, is released by different chemicals.

“There must be an extreme amount of dopamine that’s being released with the pornography use if it’s matching what looks like cocaine use,” Butterfield said.

Understanding is a key part to moving past an addiction, according to Martin.

“Sex — the way it’s supposed to be — is something that connects us to another person and fulfills our need to be known and loved.Pornography use is not that,”Martin said.“It’s done in isolation, alone and disconnected from other people.”

A Means to an End

Chesney, Puryear and Martin all say that one crucial step in the process of overcoming a pornography addiction is for society and the church to destigmatize the topic.

“By never talking about it or mentioning the word, we have given it a lot more power than it deserves and that it actually has,” Chesney said.

Personally, Chesney has found his experiences in the church completely lacking in any conversation from the pulpit or the youth group classroom.

While Chesney said he thinks the church largely keeps away from the topic to keep from stepping on toes, he believes the negative repercussions of avoidance are surmounting.

“In doing that, it has put this false image in a lot of young people that people in the church do not struggle with it,” Chesney said. “When youth groups don’t talk about it, it very easily makes it seem like you’re the only one who watches it and that no one will understand.”

While Puryear found his church experiences to be plentiful in conversations about pornography — he said his pastor at home has been open about talking about addiction and never turns anyone away from the topics — he believes Harding has some strides to make in removing the stigma.

“I just really want Harding to be a place where [it’s okay to] acknowledge that porn is a problem,” Puryear said. “It’s always ‘If you’re struggling, here’s a meeting.’ Sometimes, it’s difficult to just rely on God. Truthfully, you also need to rely on other people. With a group, you can do that for God.”

One such group is Castimonia, a 12-step pornography program that meets at New Life Church on Tuesday nights and at Fellowship Bible Church on Saturday mornings.

Butterfield also participated in the Mouse Trap Series last year, a series of sermons at the Cloverdale Church of Christ which explored addiction and sexuality.

Martin said society has started to identify the real biological and emotional distresses rooted in pornography use. “We’re hitting a stage where people inside and outside the church are starting to realize something is wrong with the pornography consumption,” Martin said. “The shift that I’ve seen is the recognition of something being broken. I think you can see that shift has happened by examining governments that are pushing for this to be a health risk. The language around it is changing.”

Chesney, Puryear and Martin agree that capitalizing on society’s progress with the conversation around the topic is another big step, but Puryear and Chesney said it will never be as easy as just saying no. It is an ongoing struggle — a war and not a battle.

“Eventually, it will get better, but it takes time,” Chesney said. “There’s probably a lot of days you want to quit, but it’s worth it to get away from it.”

In putting in the hard work to move past it, Puryear said that he sees an understanding of sin and struggle as human nature is key.

“I know there have been a lot of chapel talks about how it’s sick and it’s wrong,” Puryear said. “Well, it is sick and wrong, but I think it should be approached as, ‘It’s sick and it’s wrong, but it’s OK.’ I want to talk to anyone who is struggling with it and say, ‘I know what you’re going through. It’s a long process, but it can be done.’”

Photo illustration by Emily Griffin

A HUMAN PROBLEM

Written by Danielle Turner, Lifestyle Editor

A study done by Covenant Eyes, an internet accountability and filtering service, found that 79 percent of men ages 18 to 30 said they watch porn more than once a month. In that same study, they found 76 percent of women ages 18 to 30 watch porn more than once a month.

While pornography addiction is primarily referred to as an issue for men, many women also struggle with pornography and feel too ashamed to talk about it.

Director of Upward Bound Stephanie O’Brian said it is harder for women to speak up about their struggles with pornography because society does not view or accept women as sexual creatures in the same way men are.

“We always focus on guys and pornography and it is sort of labeled as a male issue, but in terms of the number of students who have talked to me about it, it is probably equal,” O’Brian said.

O’Brian said isolation is a common struggle in addiction and that feeling stems from unwillingness to have conversations about taboo topics. Junior Jessica Pigott said she never spoke up about her struggle with pornography because of shame associated with women watching porn.

“Women are not allowed to be sexual beings, but if you are sexual, guys are supposed to like you,” Pigott said. “You come from a place where you are trying to fill that void and then you realize what you’ve done, and you feel disgusting and shameful, and then that void gets bigger and deeper and then you’re just repeating that cycle over and over again.”

In addiction, women are rarely addressed when having conversations about the harmful qualities of pornography and its long-term effect. Dennis Rine, a guidance counselor at Harding Academy, said many girls start watching pornography to learn how to be accepted by boys and, in turn, create a skewed, damaged view of sexuality.

Rine said over the past few years, he has seen the church make strides in its willingness to have an honest conversation about pornography, but there is still hesitation to admit that the issue affects women as well. Pigott felt the same way growing up. In her youth group, church leaders would address pornography as a problem for boys, adding that girls needed to support the boys through their struggle.

Terri Rine, adjunct professor of Bible, teaches an all- women’s section of Christian Families and spends time looking at God’s plan for sexuality. Pornography is often brought up to recognize what is unhealthy for relationships.

“We’re not immune to this,” Terri said. “I recognize we don’t have as big of a problem as men, but we have a problem. There are a whole lot more women involved in it than you think.”

The Covenant Eyes study also found that women prefer romance sites and erotic stories over any sort of graphic sexual content. Freshman Abbey Richter was introduced to pornography through erotic stories and said she would justify it because it was different than watching it.

“I just ... wished that someone had said straight to my face [that] reading it, watching it, thinking about it ... is all terrible for your health and your walk with God,” Richter said.

Richter said she loves seeing the Porn Kills Love signs around campus. Porn Kills Love, a movement by Fight The New Drug, is an organization that aims to educate people about the harmful effects of pornography on individuals and relationships, summed up the issue by stating, “Porn is not a dude problem, it is a human problem.”

Illustration by John David Stewart

CRAVE

What fills the hole in the heart when drugs, alcohol and smoking do not do the trick?

Written by Kaleb Turner, Editor-in-Chief

Fitting In

For many within Christian communities, the reality of addiction can often become one that is easily lost in the notion that it simply does not exist, but for one Harding student, that was far from the truth.

Junior Jake Gainey was a sophomore in high school when his parents found out about his use of marijuana and alcohol. In seventh grade, the Gainey family moved from inland Florida to the coast, uprooting what consistency young Jake had during a pivotal moment of adolescence.

“ ... I was trying to make new friends in whatever way possible,” Gainey said. “I was sacrificing some things I really wanted in friendships to just get to know people and hang out with them.”

The day he was caught by his parents was one Gainey remembers well, but it is also one that he and his family embrace.

“I got done with class one day, sophomore year, second semester, and I got a call from my dad,” Gainey said. “He was like, ‘You need to come home now.’”

He specifically remembers his mom crying that day. Gainey said his parents’ confrontation changed his course.

“After we discussed everything, and after my parents said, ‘You’re our son, and we love you,’ I think I felt almost a relief, like a burden was lifted off my shoulders,” Gainey said. “I was happy, in a sense, that I got caught just because I didn’t have to do it anymore.”

Gainey said what had transpired out of that pivotal move was a deep desire to feel loved. Instead, he put on a mask that covered up the human need for affection.

“I do remember that feeling of relief, like I didn’t have to keep it up anymore or try to keep this mask on,” Gainey said. “It was kind of like someone took my mask off and said,‘What is wrong with you?’ It was like I didn’t even know I was wearing the mask in the first place.”

The Actual Problem

Gainey said that while problems exist in personal habits and ease of access, the actual problem is much deeper.

“The reason you do drugs is to sedate the actual problem, so I never really fixed my issues, I just stopped smoking weed,” Gainey said. “My heart was slowly healing through hanging out with these guys and their families.”

At the end of the day, Gainey said the smoking, drinking and drugs cannot cover up a hole that exists in the addict’s heart.

“Through smoking,all I wanted to do was be loved,”Gainey said.“That’sallIwaslookingfor—justsomesortofloveand affirmation from someone.”

When Gainey’s Harding experience started off on the wrong foot in struggling with old habits, he started to become bitter about Harding and its people.

Then one day, his friend set him straight.

“He was basically just like, ‘You need to leave. I’m tired of hearing this. If you want to dive into this and get better, I’m here for you, and I’ll set you up with good people, but if not, I can’t hang out with you anymore,’” Gainey said.

When it comes to someone who is willing to call out those in their lives who are struggling, Gainey said it makes all the difference.

“A lot of times, we don’t really know what we’re doing — we don’t see the different side of things until someone points it out to us,” Gainey said. “What I was doing was really just hurting myself, and he was willing to point that out, which was amazing.”

Out of Darkness

For Gainey, real change did not happen until his parents stepped in and completely cut him off from the harmful relationships and habits.

“... In taking me out of everything, they set me on a different path ... and I’m thankful that they did that,” Gainey said.

Intervention is a key piece of the puzzle for John 3:16 Ministries, a “spiritual boot camp for men with drug and alcohol addictions,” according to their website. The ministry program, located 60 miles north of Searcy, has had more than 1,000 “graduates” of their program since it began in 2003.

Matt McDaniel, an instructor at John 3:16 Ministries, said substance abuse can be a difficult subject to come to terms with intheChristiancommunity.

“The Christian community in general can be very condemning whenever it comes to the subject of substance abuse, and they don’t like to talk about anything bad or taboo,” McDaniel said.

While organizations like John 3:16 Ministries work to approach intervention from a faith-based perspective, McDaniel said there is still room for the Christian church to embrace members of their community who struggle with addiction.

“In regards to church, churches need to remain faithful, available, and teachable at all times,” McDaniel said. “No matter what denomination or doctrine that particular church teaches, they have to be willing to take whatever steps necessary to meet the needs of those stuck in darkness.”

Those in darkness are the lost that Jesus desires for his followers to find, according to McDaniel.

“Jesus Christ is light and darkness flees from light,”McDaniel said. “As Christians, it’s not our responsibility to judge but to seek what’s lost just like Jesus did.”

John 3:16 Ministries is just one outlet close to Searcy for those struggling with addiction. Celebrate Recovery, a ministry at Downtown Church of Christ on Monday nights at 6:30 p.m., offers assistance to those dealing with life’s “hurts, habits and hang-ups,” according to their website.

Capstone Treatment Center, a treatment program just north of Searcy, works with “troubled teens or struggling young adults and their families,” according to their website. Their treatment includes but is not limited to topics such as substance abuse, sexual addiction and mental health issues.

All of these ministries employ faith-based means of intervention to offer light to those who, like McDaniel said, are “stuck in darkness.”

Ultimately, Gainey said his decisions and those interventions early in life pointed him to what really mattered.

“God has really just used Harding and the path I grew up on to really point me toward the only things that really matters in life: soul care, loving other people and doing whatever it takes for people to heal themselves,” Gainey said.

Gainey said the missing piece to curing addiction’s puzzle is for the addict to know that the present darkness does not have to be experienced alone.

“I want them to know that it’s not their fault — that it’s very easy to get trapped in your head, and I understand the darkness they’re in right now,” Gainey said.

masks

Written by Jake Gainey, junior

You lucrative beings,

You who weave across the faces of the lost.

Sown shut the sounds of pain,

Those sounds that make you feel the same - a bit insane.

Run from me, you may,

But my heart is in disgrace.

I lean back and give you my face,

To sow is your wish

To sow is your place.

From chin to ear

And nose to eye,

You weave and thread

Til i’m disguised.

My friends cannot cry,

Though they see what you have done.

There is a smile on my face,

From which I cannot run.

Photo illustration by Emily Griffin

NOT JUST A 'ME' PROBLEM

Written by Abbey Watson, Asst. Copy Editor & Emily Nicks, Opinions Editor

Families, friends, loved ones and a neighbor in passing can all be affected by someone with an addiction. Addiction is not just a “me” problem.

Caitlin Forcier works as a child advocate at the Child Safety Center in Searcy, an organization that provides services and a safe space for children who are victims of multiple types of abuse. When the center and its staff encounter a child who is from an unhealthy home environment — where addiction has extended to the family and is no longer a “me” problem — they serve as a go-between with the child and agencies as an investigation into the situation is conducted.

Forcier said their staff specializes in trauma work with children because of how serious certain cases can be. “Research has shown that living in a home with a parent who is actively using drugs, that is a traumatic experience for children,” Forcier said.

Junior Lindsey Walsh has first-hand experience of how a situation at home can turn traumatic. Drugs, alcohol and death surrounded her childhood.

For the longest time, Walsh said she never knew anything different from what she had grown up experiencing.

“[Family] told me I needed to be quiet because ‘drugs are actually better for you and society doesn’t understand that,’” Walsh said. “And I was young and I completely believed them ... You always think that they’re like the Google of life. They just know everything.”

For children like Walsh, Forcier said, from a logistical perspective, the Department of Human Services intervenes to conduct drug tests and investigations to determine whether or not the child is safe in the home.

Forcier said the logistical and physical components are not the only components that create a successful intervention for a child who is in a dangerous home situation.

“Focusing on the mental health, not just the physical location, is paramount in letting a child mend and move forward,” Forcier said.

The focus on mental health, Forcier said, is crucial — both past and present — for children of addicts and abuse. Sometimes, helping a person heal can involve being open to their established coping mechanisms, healthy or not.

“They need someone who loves them and understands that some of the behaviors they see that may be really frustrating — that may be very concerning — are this child’s attempt to survive the system,” Forcier said.

Like many of the children who come across Forcier’s path, Walsh eventually ended up in the foster care system.

In the foster care system, Walsh found through classmates at school that drug culture was not OK. Despite these hardships, Walsh has found solace and comfort in God.

“I always saw God as a father figure ... He was the only father who didn’t lie to me, and he didn’t need to abuse substances to spend time with me,” Walsh said. “No matter what, he will always be completely flat-line and good.”

God is always family for Walsh, despite losing multiple family members to addiction. She said the family culture on campus is great, but students should be more aware that there is room for improvement.

“... There’s such a big family culture on campus and maybe we shouldn’t always assume that everyone’s family is good,” Walsh said. “Maybe we can flip it to let’s all build really good families and learn how we can do that.”

Illustration by John David Stewart

As vaping's popularity rises, what side effects could surface?

Written by Elizabeth Shores, Beat Reporter

According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights’ Foundation (ANR), there was a 900 percent increase in electronic-cigarette use among high school students between the years of 2011 and 2015.

Almost five years later, the high school students in that study are now in college, and professionals are unsure of the effects of electronic cigarette usage, which is banned by the Harding University student handbook.

Dr. Anupama Kaul, pulmonologist and director of the medical intensive care unit and sleep center at Unity Health in Searcy, said consumers may not be aware of how much nicotine is in vape products because they all contain different levels.

“We were telling patients,‘you can use them for getting away from cigarettes,’but now we’re not really sure,”Kaul said. “We don’t know if [e-cigarettes] are safe or not.”

Kaul said “smoking” refers to the use of a cigar or a cigarette, and vaping, on the other hand, first started with the introduction of electronic-cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes such as vaporizers, better known as “vapes,” can be purchased in a variety of models; some look like pens while others are much bulkier and box-shaped. Juules, another variety of the e-cigarette, have the size and shape similar to a flash-drive.

In addition to vaping at school, students have begun to use vapes on church properties, which violates many churches’ rules. Zachary Schrick, director of youth ministries at the First United Methodist Church in Conway, Arkansas, has first-hand experience dealing with teenagers vaping while on the church premises.

“It was right here in one of the classrooms here in our building,”Schrick said.“I had called that person’s parents, and they confirmed that there had been issues with not only him, but his group of friends as well.”

Schrick says he believes teenagers are getting into vaping because it is a “communal” activity. According to Schrick, teenagers in his youth group have said they always see at least one person vaping in the bathroom at their public schools.

Robin English, a counselor at Riverview High School in Searcy, said vaping is becoming a large problem very quickly among the Riverview student body. English said lack of information about vaping has contributed to issues the school has faced when deciding what to do about vaping.

“It’s still something that we’re becoming more educated on,” English said.

Riverview High School does not currently have any programs specifically designed to prevent vaping, according to English.

“We have a lot of things that are facing our kids in terms of suicide awareness [and] opioid addiction,” English said. “I don’t want to say [vaping is] taking a backseat to other issues, but like I said, it’s still so new.”

Robert Bennett, director of outpatient services at Counseling Clinic, Inc. in Saline County, believes students begin to vape because they do not see it as a harmful activity.

“They all believe that it’s a safe alternative [to smoking], but there’s no data to back up that claim,” Bennett said. “And all the evidence supports the idea that it’s as harmful as cigarette smoking. But they love that it’s all very cool that you can mix all the flavors and pick a Juul. So it’s much more socially acceptable.”

According to Bennett and his staff, 31 percent of male students and 22 percent of female high school students in Arkansas have used e-cigarettes, with most students using e-cigarettes beginning in the ninth grade.

Kaul said smoking can cause tar build-up, various form of cancer, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and vape users can experience similar harmful health effects as traditional smokers due to nicotine intake.

Kaul encourages young people to avoid smoking of any kind,including vaping,calling the products “landmines”that will figuratively go off if a person persists in using them.

“I tell my patients, ‘you have a choice: choose lungs orcigarettes...orvapor,’”Kaulsaid.“Youngpeoplehave to understand it’s a very, very slow poison. Nothing will happen in one year, two years, three years — but it’s building up slowly, slowly. ... It will get you in a bad way sooner or later.”

Kaul recommends using any non-harmful means possible in order to quit smoking or vaping – medications, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, nicotine gum and patches – anything without potentially harmful side effects. People looking to quit smoking or vaping can contact 1-800-QUIT-NOW, (1-800-784-8669) or a local physician.

Illustration by John David Stewart

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME

Examining the consequences of exercise turned addiction

Written by Jack Allen, Sports Editor

In high school, senior pitcher Eric Hansen trained for baseball 365 days a year. Some nights, he would stay at his school until 11 p.m. to finetune his game. After being home only a few hours to sleep, he would head back to school for 4 a.m. workouts. Despite multiple injuries and long nights, Hansen’s love for the game has not wavered. For some athletes and Harding students, however, this passion for exercise can turn from healthy competition into an unhealthy addiction.

Identifying Exercise Addiction

In 2013,the American Psychiatric Association took the step to include behavioral addictions as mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Although the DSM did not go so far as to list different types of non-substance addictions, it did lay the groundwork for ways to identify behavioral addictions in individuals using the same criteria for substance dependence.

According to the DSM, substance abuse can be identified by determining if an individualshowssignsofwithdrawal,lackof control, a desire to reach a buzz or sense of accomplishment, inability to stick to a routine, an increase in time spent exercising, reduction in other activities and continuance despite pain. Using the same criteria, researchers hope they can also identify exercise addiction in individuals.

Brian Cox, professor of sports psychology, said it is particularly hard to define exercise addiction because it has not been officially recognized as a disorder.

“The definition is basically when exercise has a negative impact,” Cox said.

Cox said exercise addiction is often associated with other disorders like anorexia and bulimia because they all typically deal with people who struggle with personal body image.

Exercise and eating disorders can both be unhealthy ways to deal with that struggle.

“Because exercise is beneficial, it is a matter of when it becomes maladaptive that we start seeing it,” Cox said.

Once identified, an individual struggling with exercise addiction will often be referred to a counselor who can prescribe methods for dealing with the addiction and other potentially associated disorders.

Effects of Exercise Addiction in Students

One of the major effects Cox said students struggling with exercise addiction experience is decreased social activity.

“Some of the red flags include when it starts to affect relationships,” Cox said. “So, you would rather exercise than be with your friends or do things with your significant other.”

According to Cox, people struggling with exercise addiction often exercise alone multiple times a day. They also tend to miss out on other significant life experiences because they are exercising.

Exercise addicts are also at an increased risk for injury or harm because they continue to exercise even when they experience pain. By constantly adding to their workload, they can put themselves in situations where their bodies are pushed beyond their physical capacities. This can result in further injury or pain.

Differentiating Athletes from Addicts

When considering the average college athlete, it can be easy to see similarities between their characteristics and the listed identifying traits of exercise addiction. For example, athletes often spendmanyhourspreparingfor,engaginginand recovering from exercise.They also often see a decrease in activities outside of sports and can struggle to keep up with the routine of school.

Athletes may not struggle with exercise addiction, even though they may exhibit many characteristics of it.

In high school, baseball was Hansen’s sole passion.He played all 12 months of the year,often missing weeks of class to play in tournaments throughout the country. As a catcher, his body took a beating from the day-to-day grind, but he remained injury-free until his junior year.

Hansen tore his hip flexor his junior year, broke his hand his senior year and then slipped a disk in his back his sophomore year of college at the University of Indiana.

Each time, Hansen tried to come back stronger, fighting through injuries to get back on the field. He transferred to Harding after his sophomore year.

“My trainer used to joke with me,” Hansen said. “He would ask if I was fine, and we would joke that my ‘fine’is not like everyone else’s ‘fine.’”

His injuries left him sidelined for months at a time. During long periods away from the game, athletes are more likely to exhibit the effects of exercise addiction.

“They start experiencing irritability,” Cox said. “It can doesn’t prove they have an addiction, but it does show they thrive on exercise.” affect their sleep patterns ... That According to Cox, when athletes are injured, they can suffer from Sudden Exercise AbstinenceSyndrome(SEAS).SEASoccurs because athletes are immediately removed from their normal, day-to-day activity. The sudden change is too much for their bodies to adjust, causing them to struggle.

Marilyn Freimuth, a leading researcher on the subject of exercise addiction, breaks down exercise into four phases: recreational, at-risk, problematic and addiction.

At the heart of her research, Freimuth determined the distinguishing factor between recreational and at-risk exercise is motivation.

“An addiction is more likely when the primary motivation is not enjoyment from the activity, but rather relief from stress or other types of dysphoria or to improve self-esteem,” Freimuth said.

Hansen said his motivation to recover every time he was injured was simple; he did it for the love of the game. He plans to become a coach and dedicate his life to the sport of baseball.

Athletes are distinguished from addicts by their enjoyment of their sport. It is only when the sport becomes “life’s main organizing principle" that athletes encroach on addiction.

Students who believe they struggle with exercise addiction can seek help from the Harding Counseling Center.

Photo by Emily Griffin

SEEK

Where can help be found for students with an addiction?

Written by Jessie Smith, News Editor

Students who are grappling with addiction can seek help at several places on and off campus.

Craig Russell, director of Public Safety, said his office rarely hears from people asking for help with addiction, but students sometimes report concerns about someone else. “We have a web-based reporting mechanism and a telephone tip line,” Russell said. “We just forward that information to the appropriate official on campus, so if it was dealing with alcohol or drugs or something like

that, we forward it to the Office of Student Life. What we get — the very limited amount that we get through those tip lines — would deal with alcohol or drugs. Alcohol would be the most common.”

Besides alcohol and drugs, other common addictions include pornography, video games, eating disorders and nicotine, according to Klay Bartee, an assistant professor who works in the Counseling Center.

Bartee defined addiction as an abnormal relationship with a substance, object, event or person in which negative consequences as a result of the relationship do not lead to a change in behavior. Addictions other than alcohol and drugs, while their consequences may not be illegal, can emerge as neglectful to homework, relationships or health.

However, Bartee said those addicted to alcohol and drugs often do not approach the subject of their addiction soon enough.

“When [students are] dealing with substances, drugs and alcohol, they generally won’t try to come get help until way deep in the process,” Bartee said.

When students request to go off-campus for help, the Counseling Center sometimes refers them to ReGroup, according to Lew Moore, director of the Counseling Center. ReGroup is a counseling clinic in downtown Searcy.

“They have expertise in addictions and have a good reputation,” Moore said. “Most of them I know well, and the majority graduated from Harding.”

On campus, HUNAMI is a student organization that spreads awareness about mental illness among Harding students.

Does Policy Prevent Addiction?

Written by Nora Johnson, Features Editor & Erin Floyd, Head Copy Editor

The student handbook address the university’s policies related to substance use and addiction, including tobacco, alcohol and the use of controlled substances in “Section Five: Social Wellness.” “Section Four: Social Wellness” discusses the university’s stance on pornography. The handbook explains that behavior related to any of the aforementioned is “against the mission” of the university, and if caught, students may be subject to disciplinary action.

These policies, as well as those regarding other controlled substances, are elaborated upon in Section 13, “General Information.”

The question of policy’s effectiveness in preventing addiction is a national discussion.

What is the Policy?

Harding’s mission, as stated on its website, is “to provide a quality education that will lead to an understanding and philosophy of life consistent with Christian ideals.”

As dean of students, Zach Neal said he plays a role in deciding what consequences follow a violation of the student handbook.

“In the handbook, there are a list of possibilities that may happen for any given situation, and then it’s the deans — lovingly and with discretion, and with the goal of treating all students with fairness — that would communicate a consequence,” Neal said.

Neal and the student life deans practice the stated discretion in an approach to addiction he described as holistic. While there are policies in place that hold students accountable for their actions, there are also options for students to receive help.

“Involving a student handbook and trained counselors allows a safe environment to receive support and also beheldaccountable,”Nealsaid.“Tosaywhichoneis a deterrent more than the other would be hard to say.”

Stephanie O’Brian, counselor and director of Upward Bound, said there are many support groups available for students, both through the Counseling Center and the Original Rock House of College Church of Christ. She said the need for formal support groups exists, but getting students to be vulnerable enough to share their struggles to a group of peers is difficult.

O’Brian added that while students can find help in support groups, there is also opportunity for students to bring concerns to administration, especially concerning how policy regarding topics like addiction is handled.

“As faculty, staff and administration, we may not always see things the way students do,” O’Brian said. “I am only 30, but in some ways, even I feel out of touch with some of the students. ... We need students to advocate for themselves.”

O’Brian also described Harding policy as one that has been created over time to protect students but also allows them to have access to help.

“I think Harding policies have continuously been evolving the last several years in an effort to help students who need the most help without fear of discipline,” O’Brian said. “Is it perfect? No. But it is progress, and although sometimes progress is slow, I will take it. The best policies do not happen overnight and are not reactionary, but rather developed with a holistic perspective.”

How Does Policy Relate to Prevention?

O’Brian thinks that Harding’s policies on the topic of addiction have students’ safety in mind and are effective but only to the extent of the students’ free will.

“If a student really wants to look at porn, do drugs, drink alcohol ..., they are going to find a way to do it,” O’Brian said. “I do believe that Harding helps to curb many of those things though because the places those things can occur is limited, as well as the accessibility.”

A 2016 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration titled “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health,” describes three types of preventative interventions used by public health officials to prevent substance addiction: universal, selective and indicated interventions.

Harding’s handbook policies most align with the category of universal interventions, which attempt to reduce specific health problems throughout an entire community. The university’s no-drug, no-alcohol policies apply to the entire student body, and the surgeon general reports that this type of policy “tends to have the greatest overall impact on substance misuse and related harms relative to interventions focused on individuals alone.”

The remainder of Harding’s policies, specifically those related to disciplinary action, fall into the category of indicated interventions. These policies are directed at individuals who have misused a substance and may be on the verge of an addiction. The surgeon general’s report refers to this type of policy as generally less effective in addiction prevention but does conclude that it can be beneficial over time.

There is no public record of the number of students who have received disciplinary action due to substance abuse, and consequently, no record of the number of students who have received disciplinary action because of behavior related to addiction.

Neal said he attempts to treat each situation that passes through his office on a case-by-case basis while carefully balancing accountability with intentionality.

“How do you help somebody with an addiction?” Neal said. “It’s all of the above: you love them, you counsel them, you support them and you hold them accountable.”

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