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Chauvinism in Recovery

The following was written by Matt Robert who asked me to post it for him. He took over the McLean Detox visits for me recently , and this is his reflections on the experience.

It is wonderful in many ways – You be the judge

Chauvinism in recovery

I’ve been spending a lot of time these days going in and out of locked detox units. And it’s interesting because in most important ways, they haven’t changed very much at all. But I’ve changed, and the reason for my going into them has changed as well. Now I go into them because I want to, and I leave because I can.

There is a particular flavor of desperation endemic to detoxes. The atmosphere is rife with anger, self-loathing, guilt, shame and defeat. People seem to bounce between calm acceptance, denial and hair-trigger reactivity, along with the emotions that trail behind all three. The writing is on the wall everywhere: the realization that one is about to lose everything important and that the way to arrest this decline is clear. But alongside these realizations is the driven inability to stop, because of the meager solace the addiction once provided, and is now decimating, one day at a time.

And when I see the contention involved in this recovery enterprise, it saddens me. The desperate longing of the addict to maintain the addiction, yet to be free of all its destructive consequences; the tired perseverance of the caregivers who devote themselves to getting the addicts through this life-threatening yet life-affirming time, and the unintentional arrogance of all the well-meaning recovery groups whose method is the “only way” that works. The recovery enterprise is a fundamental example of humans being human. “If it worked for me, it has to work for you.” And all the inflammatory rhetoric about powerlessness, choice, and whether or not it’s a disease, or is heritable, is nothing but a mundane distraction that serves only to confuse and impede recovery, not bolster it.

The important thing about SMART is not that it stands in opposition to other “non-scientific” methods, but that it meets people where they are. It recognizes that everyone is an individual with a unique development, and background and set of needs, and that the recovery that works best is the recovery that works best for each one of us. It will be different for everyone, and the journey to being free of one’s addictive behavior involves discovering the unique combination of things that work. The beauty of support groups is that they provide a safe place to work on this with an array of alternatives to choose from. There is no one size fits all in recovery, regardless of what some may assert.

If we could stand up on a mountain and look down at all the different recovery groups, we’d see that they’re all doing the same thing. The purpose and objective is identical for each. And that is to achieve and maintain sobriety. Period. Not to advance some treatment agenda, or get funding for research, or compete in any way.

It’s not that the exigencies of funding shortfalls are unimportant. Or that changing the attitudes of the powers that be is a trivial enterprise. Or that there is no merit in showing people the fastest road to recovery and allowing them to get their lives back. But for the lonely addict staring out a window on the locked ward of a detox, this contentious posturing is just a distraction from the dire situation at hand, and from the task of piecing together a recovery that works.

Name of author

Name: Bill Abbott

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