ComorbidityHerbert 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.

Click here for the National Institute on Drug Abuse facts on Comorbidity.

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.

8 Replies to “Comorbidity”

  1. Good information, and very pertinent. Several thoughts came to mind while reading and digesting this. I recently saw an Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey movie, called “Two for the Money”. The topic has to do with a young man having his conning skills refined by an older mentor. At one point, the younger man is going through a crisis involving the natural processes that comorbidity causes. Al Pacino’s character provides some personal examples, and then tells McConaughey “We’re all all fucked up”. And, he is right, of course. There is something that is less than optimal about every one of us. If our intellect is permitted to function properly for the aberrations, it will correct most of them so that we can be functional. The problem is that this natural corrective or compensatory process is blocked in Armstrongism, probably by design.

    The second thing that occurred is that even we ex-members probably re-infect one another with the symptoms as we expose and discuss them. I recognized that a long time ago. But the work in helping others is important enough that if we need to
    make that sacrifice to accomplish it, then in the end, it is all worthwhile. I am no longer angry, and the bitterness was long gone by the early 1980s. But, there have been people who for one reason or another have believed that I contribute to these sites due to continuing anger. I guess that is what their ministers tell them about us, and they just continue to parrot it as a sort of antidote to their comorbity issues.

    1. Byker Bob, it is gratifying that you have an apparent grasp of the topic, for it is not a simple or easy one to disclose, and it is difficult, at best, to render it appropriately. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that any but a small minority of Armstrongists will comprehend the import of the meaning of comorbidity.

      This is the ultimate in irony, for Herbert Armstrong claimed from the beginning that we were the ones (led by him) who were to be in the forefront of solving the world’s problems — he had the answers: All you had to do is get his booklets and “keep God’s Law”. Over the last decades, it is clear that not only could any of the Armstrongists not be trusted to offer solutions to the world’s problems, they couldn’t even begin to resolve their own.

      Herbert Armstrong was the center of the situation; after all, he was an alcoholic, seemed to have manic depressive illness, was a terrible father, a terrible husband — complaining in Ambassador College classes that his wife would not let him touch her breasts (there’s nothing like exposing your problems to those you are supposed to be teaching the world to live), allowed his son to run things even though he had to know Garner Ted Armstrong was an adulterer, philanderer, serial rapist, alcoholic and gambler. Herbert Armstrong never finished high school and yet was supposedly the chancellor of not one, but three colleges. He was a terrible money manager and had to tap the membership when he overspent in manic mode. Moreover, he was a terrible minister and leader who never really trusted his followers, threatening the WCG that he would leave them and start all over with his 8 Japanese sons, where he was so incompetent as to not realize that they had not one shred of loyalty to him and were more than happy to entertain him as long as he footed the bills and wined and dined them: He had terrible judgment and could not ‘read’ anyone, which is why we ended up with Joseph Tkach, Senior as Pastor General and who managed to deplete the WCG of its assets as well as all of its doctrines.

      Ambassador College was that dark and evil place where men and women went to be transformed into wicked henchmen and women to inculcate the membership with dysfunctional beliefs and practices which caused them to suffer severe group comorbidity.

      Explaining this to Armstrongists is like explaining rainbows to earthworms. They are so ignorant in their conceit that they still believe they will be solving the world’s problems without a clue that they have extremely serious problems of their own, so complex that it may take a lifetime for many of them to untangle from the mess of their lives. They also are blissfully unaware of the very negative impact they have on society and the people whose lives they touch, leaving a legacy of dysfunctional children to carry on their comorbidity raised to ever dizzying new heights.

      Where we present a three dimensional sculpture, they only see a two dimensional painting. They have extremely poor judgment because they have been trained to not listen and particularly not seek correction for the error of their ways, continuing to believe the very ministry that has betrayed them and left them to flounder in their own chaotic irrationality.

      1. “Explaining rainbows to earthworms” — I love it. Doug, your insight is telling of your wide experiences of dysfunctional groups– you see right through the facades.
        I remember sitting in WCG services many years ago and hearing that the newspaper reporting of HWA’s horrendous hidden side with tangible evidence was an attack from Satan and therefore not true, and not one person that I knew at that time questioned it…

  2. Back in the summer of 1996, for some reason, I was profoundly affected by the death of Margaux Hemingway. As investigative reporters attempted to provide their readers with an explanation as to how such a beautiful person could start so brilliantly, yet fall so far and so fast, becoming eclipsed by her younger sister, and battling numerous addictions, the cluster model emerged.

    In Margaux’s case, the core was identified as depression, which of course had run in the Hemingway family. Ironically, her Grandfather’s life had also ended in suicide. This depression was the cause for Margaux to indulge in a cluster of behaviors as unprescribed self-medications, all of which had actually deepened her sense of hopelessness and depression.

    This was breaking news long before I had first signed on to the internet, long before I knew that there were any WCG dissident sites. However, I could immediately recognize that this same cluster model related directly to the experiences of Armstrongism as were so eloquently enumerated in your article. Knowing this was greatly beneficial to the continuing healing process, as I hope your comorbidity article will be to many who are still involved with the cultic ACOG splinters. It actually opens up and explores the greater picture, even going beyond the concept of cognitive dissonance, a symptom which is most definitely part of the ACOG cluster.


  3. Late last century I contributed to a collection of alcohol abuse stories at this website – possibly my very first posting to an internet blog.
    In my story, I alluded to an ardent Armstrongist who claimed to have “the second greatest capacity for alcohol in the [local] church”. Apart from Armstrong and alcohol, he had many unresolved issues, some of which the local minister chose to ignore.
    Last year, I came across his obituary, and glowing tributes from those he had affected working in an inner-urban mission of a liberal Protestant denomination. The last time I had seen him was the early 1980s, and I heard that in the early 1990s the [now Tkatch] church had recommended he seek professional help for alcoholism. I came across a few post-1994 references to him from a non-COG group where he was still a staunch supporter of BI.
    I have no idea as to the actual sequence of events that transformed this individual from his WCG alcoholism to a sober Protestant. From the obituary, death was from natural causes.

    As for AC – I remember a sermon where a prominent minister said the female students were “stressed” while attending AC and felt relieved when they left. No surprise now.
    I wonder if in the WCG bizarro-world that a girl may have felt something was wrong with her if she hadn’t been hit on by GTA while at AC?

  4. There is no end to the shocking residual effects that are part and parcel of ACOG comorbidity. Someone who has demonstrated deep knowledge of the scriptures suddenly proclaims that the earth is flat on one blog. Another individual states that although he has heard rumors that dna refutes B.I., he has yet to see anyone post the evidence. And, there are so, so many conspiracy theories, because in Armstrongism such theories were invoked to explain practically everything for which there was no evidence or proof.

    Nothing surprises me any more. But, I have to remember the huge number of people with oddball theories that always seemed to hold court for anyone who would listen, right after sabbath services.


    1. Yes, the commenter that calls himself ‘Acts”, once part of Ronald Weinland’s PKG, firmly believes the world is flat — it stirred up quite the response, including limited moderation by the site Moderator.

      You know, there was a time when we might be able to overlook and even excuse Armstrongists, say, back in the 1960s, because of the lack of tools to ascertain facts and be able to mine out the truth, but today, what is the excuse?

      And no evidence that DNA refutes British Israelism? Where has that person been exactly?

      There’s always DNA Refutes British Israelism.

      Or if you prefer more evidence, there’s also Foundation of Sand.

  5. When it comes to dealing with one’s own problems,rather than actually solving, the drug-of-choice is usually complaining, blame-frames, and playing the roll of victim, especially if the problems are comorbid. Then again, maybe it’s not comorbidity but the original attempt that was at fault? Would you rather have it on good authority that someone else is to blame or the information that tells you to get your head out of your ass. Most people will be more comfortable choosing the “blame-frames” whereas the latter is more effective at resolving the problem.


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