The last time you shared a nice steak dinner with your family, or if you are more adventurous, went on an exciting hike, or maybe did some exhilarating sky-diving, chances are, you were not thinking about a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger in your brain, called dopamine. In a normal human brain, dopamine affects the brain processes which control movement, emotional response, and ability to experience both pleasure and pain. It has been found that illicit stimuli, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, can temporarily increase the amount of dopamine in the synapse, or gap between one’s nerve cells, thus causing euphoria, or a prolonged sense of pleasure. The unfortunate consequence of this temporary pleasure enhancement is that the use or abuse of such drugs will ultimately disrupt the balance of dopamine in the nervous system, by desensitizing the nerve cells to what would be considered normal levels of this neurotransmitter. So, when an addict is in recovery, as the brain attempts to normalize, there is usually severe depression in the initial stages. The recovering addict is caught in a state where he or she, until normal living skills are re-learned, temporarily finds little or no pleasure in life. Regaining normal brain balance and function often requires years, during which the addict knows that a false sense of relief is just a snort away. I have observed the day to day struggles of such individuals, and although I’ve never been an addict myself, believe that I understand the struggle these folks must go through.The Worldwide Church of God parallel is self-obvious. The enslaving teachings of one Herbert W. Armstrong have acted as a type of spiritual dopamine inhibitor in most of our brains, and many exiters have had to deal with very real, severe depression along with cult-recovery. Herbert W. Armstrong, if nothing else, was a brilliant salesman, and he had the dope for you! He knew the classic sales formula, which is, expose a need, magnify the need, and then offer a solution. To create or expose the need, he first smashed everything in your little world which you found to be of value or pleasure. With great authority, from the power of his radio microphone and TV camera, he told you that the world as you knew it was coming to an end. There would be war, famine, disease, pestilence, and you couldn’t do a thing about it, period! From a standpoint of sheer shock value, what could be more devastating to your feeling of happiness and well-being than this? Talk about altering neurotransmitters! Suddenly, nothing in this world was worth your time, because everything you saw around you would soon come to an end. While you were attempting to recover from the disorientation of this all, he came in for the kill. He told you that now that you had this special knowledge, you were having your chance. Your life could never be the same. You had an opportunity and needed to act immediately, because you see, if you repented, accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and were baptized into His church, you could be spared the cataclysmic events soon to descend on the world. You could not have become part of the Worldwide Church of God without undergoing this painful initiation.
A good salesman often will re-sell the value of his product to you, and Herbert W. Armstrong was no exception. Every Bible Study, every Holy Day service, and every Sabbath service, he or his henchmen resold you on the product. The magazines and booklets were a constant reminder to you of what was soon to transpire, and he even had you reselling yourself on the product thru your daily prayer and Bible Study. You sat there in Sabbath Services, waiting anxiously for your fix! It’s the only thing that made it all work. If you just had the so-called knowledge of the end of the world, without the system of religion, you would have been totally depressed. Of course, you didn’t find this out until you began painfully considering leaving, or had that choice made for you. Upon exit, you were hit with the impact of your actions from years previous in which you had gradually alienated yourself from your blood relatives, old friends, and neighbors, as you became ever more enmeshed in this dastardly cult. Worse, when you left or were disfellowshipped, you even lost your surrogate family, as the brethren could no longer associate with you. At about the same time, you began to realize that your health might not be what it was supposed to be due to years of not seeing your doctor, your career had languished because the effort you might have put into it all went into the church, your children had become nerds because you had sheltered them so severely, you had no retirement savings, your house had been mortgaged to finance a Worldwide Church of God emergency, and all of your clothes were hopelessly out of style. See the parallels with recovery from substance addiction? If you’ve never volunteered at a mission or halfway house, try it sometime. The homeless and recovering addicts are facing these same challenges, brought on, of course, by an entirely different type of addiction.
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