Who was St. Valentine, and why does his name invoke a spirit of love and appreciation every year on February 14th? Some scholars say that Valentine could have been one of several people with the same name who was persecuted by the Roman church in the third century. Of the many myths about St. Valentine, three of these stories have become the most circulated.
Myth Number 1: Swooning Soldiers
It may have been a belief of the Roman military that soldiers were much more effective when unwed. There could have been a marriage ban for Roman soldiers, much like there’s a ban on priests getting married in the catholic church. According to this particular myth, Saint Valentine unofficially married soldiers to their lovers. When the governing bodies at that time found out about these secret Christian weddings, they promptly executed St. Valentine–but not before he forged a legacy of fighting for the right to love.
Myth Number 2: Valentine as a Romantic
This version takes the first Saint’s story a step further. In addition to performing secret weddings, this Valentine healed the blind daughter of a Roman noble, restoring her sight. The miracle caused the entire household to adopt Valetine’s Christian faith—meriting his torture and execution by the Roman government. However, before his death, he managed to send the young girl, the object of his affection, a love note signed “Your Valentine.”
Myth Number 3: Scattered Saints
In this third story, several Valentines in the 500s were known for healing lethal or incurable sickness. Their miracles often triggered group conversions to Christianity. These conversions are what led to their executions.
How Does Saint Valentine Relate To Substance Abuse and Recovery?
While we can’t know for sure who Valentine was, all of the stories associated with him suggest he fought for freedom: to love, to heal, and to practice a certain religion. Freedom is the key here, as opposed to romance and boxes of chocolate.
When someone suffers from addiction, they are not able to exercise their freedom. The biochemical effects of alcohol or painkillers rob the human brain of free will. Substances hijack the brain, making it very difficult to control impulses and cravings.
Treatment and recovery entail the long process of regaining the ability to control one’s reactions and behaviors. Successful long-term recovery, then, is the nuanced process of regaining the freedom to be ourselves. If we can’t be free to be who we truly are, chances of recovery probably aren’t too high.
What Saint Valentine represents is a person committed to being free in his actions, his words, and his thoughts. Here at St. Gregory Recovery Center, it’s not just St. Valentine’s freedom-seeking reputation that we love: it’s his total embodiment of our organization’s seven virtues as they unfold in our recovery program:
- Love (Charity)
- Fortitude (Courage)
Each of these virtues, when practiced alongside the others, culminates into freedom. When we have faith and hope that we can succeed, we do. When we practice self-love and good habits, we invite love and sound decisions into our lives. When we seek justice and do what’s right for the sake of what’s right, we feel validated and strong. This bolsters our courage and our ability to be brave in the face of triggers and stress. At that point, we’re able to moderate our desires and appetites in a way that cravings don’t ruin our day or cause us to question the beauty of the freedom that we exercise in sobriety.
Valentine’s Day and Recovery in Iowa: It’s All Love
We know that a sober life can’t simply boil down to love. Sobriety requires critical thinking, struggle, discipline, and sometimes even relapse. This is why St. Gregory Recovery Center, with locations in Bayard and Des Moines, offers several treatment types:
- Family program, where we spread the love and education to your support system
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), where we continue to enforce and strengthen a sober framework in everyday life after completing a residential program
- Renowned equine therapy, where you can spend time with sensitive animals and learn to care for and love them just as you learn to love and care for yourself
We know it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s why we invite you to join us as we move toward the type of freedom that Saint Valentine represents. Make this February the month when you decide to take back control of your life.