A new diocesan group, Calix Society, has launched in Arkansas with the mission of assisting people of all faiths battling addiction. The chapter held its inaugural meeting in January.
Often inaccurately maligned as "Catholic AA", the purpose of Calix is not to replace established 12-step programs, such as those offered through Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon. Instead, Calix Society works in concert with these programs, specifically Step 11.
11th step toward recovery from addiction
"Step 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous states we seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand him," said a group member. "Calix Society gives us the opportunity to achieve that spiritual growth through our Catholic faith."
The group meets every third Thursday at 6 p.m. in Fletcher Hall at St. John Center in Little Rock. Meetings, which include a Mass and a discussion or speaker, last approximately 90 minutes. Anonymity is guarded as one of the group's highest priorities, for obvious reasons. No one contacted for this article would allow their names to be used.
"The society's attitude toward public relations is the same as Alcoholics Anonymous, that is we practice attraction not promotion," said one member. "It's also about the principle, not me. If I stumbled in my sobriety tomorrow, the principle would still be sound, that is maintaining contact with God."
The society was founded in 1947. Headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., the organization supports chapters in 22 states as well as several international chapters. Full membership requires the person be enrolled in a 12-step program, but anyone, including friends and family members, can attend a meeting and no one is required to speak, share or otherwise participate while they are there.
Members repeatedly stress, however, that someone attending Calix meetings in lieu of treatment is not addressing the root problem.
"Addiction is one of those things that block the sunlight of the Holy Spirit," said one member, "Anyone struggling with an addiction should first seek out a program that deals with the addiction."
The Little Rock chapter is the first in Arkansas and while the announcement of the first two meetings were limited largely to modest pieces in parish bulletins around the state, the resulting word of mouth produced a response beyond anyone's expectations.
"Expectations for a new unit is to start with a core of five or six members," a member said. "At our first meeting we expected four or five people and 30 showed up. So yes, attendance has exceeded expectations."
While that is a positive sign that people are willing to exercise resources to help them on their journey, it also speaks to the breadth of addiction that exists in parish communities. Calix Society units are designed to accommodate up to 100 members, so growing pains aren't considered an issue at this early stage. However, given that some Catholics are driving up to an hour to attend meetings, expansion of the program to other communities seems a logical next step.
People attending the meetings thus far represent a fair cross section of the population. There are no age requirements or limitations, nor are meetings tailored to a specific type of addiction. The Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program has been licensed to more than 300 groups dealing with all kinds of addiction, according to one member. As Calix focuses on the program -- specifically the 11th step -- and not the target of the program, it can help a teenager dealing with food addiction as much as a 30-year-old cocaine addict or 60-year-old alcoholic.
"Anytime you see something that gives a kind of spiritual growth, you want to be a part of it," one member said. "And, I hope that this provides a level of fellowship that allows members to support one another. After all, spiritual awakening isn't the end of the journey, it's only the beginning."
For more information, call (501) 664-0340 ext. 336 or e-mail .
The 12-step program was originated by Alcoholics Anonymous to outline its spiritual principles as a way to recover from the addiction of alcohol. Other addiction programs have adopted the 12 steps. The Calix Society was founded to address the 11th step: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out."
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