By Douglas Becker
Herbert Armstrong created a cult which introduces and aggravates comorbidity within his followers. This is pernicious, creating confusion about the symptoms and treatment of the insanity induced by the cult environment.
For individuals struggling with an addiction to alcohol or other substances, overcoming such an addiction can be compounded by the need for treatment of co-occurring disorders or “comorbid” disorders such as depression, anxiety, or even physical problems such as liver disease.
Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
The tragedy of comorbidity of substance abuse and mental illness in particular is that both conditions exacerbate one another. As a person’s tolerance to alcohol grows, for example, they will require more and more alcohol to feel relief from their mental state. Conversely, alcohol and substances increase feelings of depression and anxiety, causing a downward spiral in the user, who may become physically addicted to a substance as their body requires it to function.
Co-Occuring Addiction Treatment
Fortunately, current methods of treatment of alcohol and substance abuse are designed to approach the problems associated with addiction from the perspective of treating underlying issues, as well as the addiction itself. Individuals being treated will often experience counseling and support groups to help them understand how their coping mechanisms have shaped their approach to problems, and the families of those in treatment greatly benefit from similar therapy programs.
While we do not endorse the specific treatment program in the following video, it may help to explain the concept of comorbidity:
The issues concerning Armstrongism within the sects of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia are not as easy as treating, say, either depression or alcoholism, which occur frequently in the various sects of Armstrongism — rather, Armstrongism itself, with its extreme insanity creates conditions that are co-occuring, such as alcoholism with depression or bipolar disease with PTSD and diabetes. Having to reconcile insane and very wrong concepts, such as British Israelism with the supposed eras of the church while attempting to reconcile the unacceptable behavior of the leaders of the cult, such as the incest committed by Herbert Armstrong, creates insane chaos of mental instability. Reconciling the absolute requirement of tithing with profligate unnecessary spending, such as David Pack purchasing Steuben Crystal for desk paper weights or Ronald Weinland being convicted of felony Income Tax Evasion creates severe mental instability attempting to make sense out of conditions which should never exist in a healthy environment. Striving to believe prophecy which has not only never happened but obviously never will and remain faithful and loyal to obvious lies creates brain damage through distorted perceptions and useless compartmentalization.
Let us take a common and very real example of comorbidity which did occur within Armstrongism.
By 1972, Garner Ted Armstrong, by his own admission, had date raped some 200 Ambassador College coeds. Considering that these virgin maidens were ensconced within a highly religious environment, one would have expected that they would just give the #2 man in The Work a solid “No” when approached, but they did not. It is a wonder that they were neither were protected by the Holy Spirit nor did they have sufficient integrity to resist his advances. Garner Ted Armstrong was not only an adulterer and serial rapist, but he was also a boozing alcoholic and gambler. The women that he date raped later graduated from Ambassador College and became wives of ministers. Let us select one minister at random for purposes of illustration.
The minister had been a professional with a University degree working for a Fortune 500 company when he encountered the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia. He abandoned what he had and attended Ambassador College where he met his wife. She had been date raped by Garner Ted Armstrong. After graduation, he went out a minister to be preaching elder, pastor, Regional Pastor and finally an evangelist with this background of having Garner Ted Armstrong as his boss, hating him, because he knew what GTA had done to his wife. As the decades rolled by, the minister made it clear to his congregation that he had been abused by his parents while he was a teenager and was the son of alcoholics. Furthermore, he expressed his concern, particularly during the days of the instability of the Worldwide Church of God after Herbert Armstrong’s death, about his continuing salary and retirement. It also turned out that he was a parent of his gay son (who had abandoned his wife to be with his guy). During sermons he would say he was depressed and then said he wasn’t depressed. We observed that he made frequent trips to another state, where it just happened a psychologist in the church resided and had his practice. When the psychologist moved to another state, the minister made frequent trips to the other state. It’s clear he had multiple problems and these multiple problems exacerbated and magnified each other. The question is, where do you begin to resolve a situation like this? There are far too many points of focus to work on just one at a time.
It would be easy to say that he should have just left the toxic environment of the Worldwide Church of God — put the issues of the past behind him. Certainly, to remain indentured to a man you absolutely hate who has so much power over you would be quite the incentive. Perhaps this one resolution could have allowed him to attain a tipping point in his life — to be free and build a new life, but he chose slavery instead, all the time thinking he should be in charge.
This is a great problem with the various Armstrongists: They remain faithful to an extremely toxic environment to never really address their situations, and, hence, remain in miserable lives of slavery to people who see them as nothing more than components to a giant cash machine. People may have financial problems along with severe family problems, long term health problems along with delusions and fantasies of prophecies which will never occur, lending additional toxic frustration and anxiety. Sometimes some of them may look to resolve one problem, say, alcoholism — which is a very great scourge in Armstrongism, unaddressed by the so-called leadership too selfish to be concerned about the welfare of their congregations — and even perhaps solve that to a degree, but even with some improvement life remains miserable because of the interactions of other difficulties in their lives, particularly the narcissism of their psychopathic leaders.
To understand comorbidity, consider this presentation by Brittany Fichter that shows how she deals with her disorders:
Understanding comorbidity and its treatment is a relatively new development. Much of the development of treatment programs, such as that at The Way Out, have only developed over the past decade. Since it is relatively new (even though elements of it have been understood by medical professionals for quite some time), there is a lack of understanding within general society and certainly within the Armstrongist community. That is why we have the insane situation of the PKG still believing the insane lying false prophet psychopath Ronald Weinland. The same thing could be said about Roderick Meredith, David Pack and so many others like Robert Thiel.
Make no mistake: Armstrongism is toxic and is itself a presentation of comorbidity, creating an environment conducive to creating, aggravating and amplifying problems.
It is also the best reason to debunk the idea that we should keep the social groups of Armstrongism together — they should be totally abandoned because the interaction of the membership keeps the toxic misery alive.