Your Graces, Beloved Fathers and Presbyteres,
We live within the world’s delusions; our addictions condemn us to futile quests in “the distant country” (Lk. 15:13), leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled…we have wandered far away from our Father’s home. The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in “a distant country.”
In this quotation, the Catholic Theologian Henri Nouwen points out that the addict is one whose existence is both insatiable and segregating: often leaving one to be emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. He also illustrates with the addict, that no matter how distanced we are from it; there is always a longing for the “Father’s home”.
The term ‘addict’ is isolating, not only for the intended, but also for those around them. Addiction carries a societal weight that shames its conquered people into a dark silence. It discourages their family and friends from trying to understand the deeply rooted dysfunction. It carries with it a destructive stigma that subjectively determines the addict to only have him or herself to blame. The term leaves the suffering population feeling unworthy of care and their would-be supports believing that they have no choice but to disband their loved one. Ultimately, what began as a sickness of the body or mind, transforms itself into a sickness of the whole self that affects all those around the afflicted. 
Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us in the Orthodox Christian community have personal experiences, live with family members, or know someone who is currently suffering from the tragic effects of addiction. The regions of New York and Connecticut have been and continue to be plagued by a variety of addictions, several of which have proven to be deadly. Whether it is illicit substances, prescription drugs, alcohol, nicotine, other addictive, or destructive behaviors (such as gambling, internet abuses, etc.), as parents, pastors, relatives, or friends of addicted individuals, we are left with two choices: Neglect it or address it. 
There is no “middle-ground” with this type of destructive existence. Eventually we are faced with the harsh reality that addiction does not go away, it gets worse and will consume the lives of both the addicted and the people who love them. Incarceration, hospitalization, detoxification, rehab, crime, deception, lying, and cheating are all ‘partners’ of the addicted personality. By the current standard of “treatment”, the addicted and those who love them are engaged in a seemingly endless cycle, that rarely results in success.
To assist in breaking this cycle, through the supportive efforts of Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, and with the blessings of the His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, a confidential support group of concerned and caring individuals is being formed for all those who are either directly or indirectly suffering from addiction and substance abuse. It is called
Saint Anastasia’s Fellowship (SAF). 
This support group will have a trained Pastoral Counselor, with an addictions-specific background, to aide in the healing and/or recovery from chemical and/or behavioral addiction. Depending on the weekly topic, the group will utilize one of five models of support groups currently used in clinical treatment: Educational Groups, Support Groups, Cognitive-Behavioral Groups, Skill-Development Groups, and Interpersonal Process Groups. 
This group is not intended to be a substitute for clinical treatment, but rather a means by which the Church’s wisdom and remedies can be offered to assist one in their recovery journey.
On a theological level, group therapy is effective as a means of grace that the Lord promised – where two or more are gathered in His name, there He is among them (Mat. 18:20). Similarly, in Malachi it is made apparent that those who feared the Lord talked with one another and the Lord listened and heard (Mal. 3:16). When group participants input to one another, the confrontation and the encouragement can sometimes be received more openly than when a therapist or family member might say the same thing in a one-on-one setting. When participants hear that others are having some of the same thoughts and feelings, they don’t feel so isolated or insecure. By working together, participants learn from and ‘sharpen’ one another. The weekly group sessions are planned to be 60 minutes, followed up with voluntary (though highly suggested) participation in a Paraklesis (Supplicatory) Service to either Saint Anastasia the Deliverer of Potions, or Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri – both of whom have been recognized as great intercessors for the addicted.
Our first group will meet in the Community Hall of Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church on Thursday, February 3rd, 2022 at 7:00pm, and Paraklesis will follow at 8:00pm in the church. Following meetings will be posted on the church calendar page of our website. CLICK HERE to view the Prophet Elias website.
Whether or not you choose to join us in this quest of healing, please remember in your prayers this ministry and more importantly, those who are struggling to regain their lives from the devious trappings of addiction. 
Thank you for taking the time to consider this ministry, and may God grant you strength in whatever is needed. 
Your servant in The Newborn King,
Presbyter Nikolas Delaveris
Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church
Yonkers, NY – Presiding Priest
15 Leroy Avenue – Yonkers, NY 10705
o. (914) 963-3638 c. (614) 378-8242
If you, a parishioner, or a loved one is struggling with addiction, or if you would like more information on the topic, please contact the national helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800- 662-HELP (4357). Also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service, this is a confidential, free, 24-hour- a-day, 365-day- a-year, information service offered in English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information. You may also visit their website by CLICKING HERE .
Presbyter Nikolas Delaveris is the Presiding Priest of Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church. He holds a Master of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (2015) and a Certificate of Completion from the Addictions Counselor Education Program, University of Massachusetts, Boston (2015). Over the last seven years, he has served as an Addictions/Behavioral Health Counselor to a various Mental Health Clinics, Recovery Homes, and Outpatient Programs in Boston, MA and the DC Metropolitan area. Father Nikolas continues his ministry as a pastoral counselor for individuals and families across the United States.