Intolerance In The Recovery Community

This post, originally written for http://www.iloverecovery.com, has caused the biggest shit storm of my writing career. It’s been so bad I just stopped reading the comments. However, the reaction completely proved my observation, on one hand by the utter narrow mindedness and arrogance of some and on the other hand by the amount of people with similar experiences as mine. However, I shall continue to follow what works for me and applaud all others who choose their own path, regardless of what that is. I’m pretty much done with the constant put downs and nastiness. It’s truly amazing what people have taken from this essay. It gave some hope, it made others so angry they had to try and ridicule me, and others got things from it that aren’t even written in there. All I can say is, thankfully I’m recovered enough to be solid in my own perception, with my own thoughts and opinions and experiences and that no amount of bullying can drag me into dogmatic ideals.

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It occurred to me this past week, that the level of intolerance is rising within the recovery community at quite a disturbing level.

It seems to be stemming from the fact that people are choosing for themselves what their recovery process will be and especially because of the new thinking and concepts that are arising around recovery programs.

In some quarters, you’re always sick, you’re always selfish and your own thoughts, decisions and understanding is completely unreliable. And you are told that on a constant basis.

But thankfully, people now have access to a plethora of information and possibility to learn and understand from a vast array of teaching, philosophies and concepts. There’s no limit to what we can access when seeking to overcome our difficulties be it from addiction or any other self-harming behaviour.

I’ve been a member of the Addiction and Mental Health Recovery Community for over seven years now. At one point, as I’ve written about before, my perception of addiction and ill mental health was a limited one and my recovery options were even more limited.

So I decided to educate myself a little more because some of the stuff I’d come to define myself by was no longer true for me.

For example, I don’t see myself as diseased or having the disease of addiction. That just doesn’t sound or feel true for me so I don’t identify with it any longer.

I also don’t go to certain 12 step meetings anymore nor do I think it’s healthy to reinforce negative labels over and over again because of the type of person I am. That never worked for me and I feel a great freedom and empowerment from detachment from that no cure idea.

If these things work for you then it’s absolutely fantastic. I totally support you in that and applaud you for taking care of yourself your way.

I engaged in 12 step recovery for a few years and learned many great tools and met many great people. It was just time for me to move on to a broader concept.

I also know people who were in AA for years and now have a drink every couple of months and are living completely normal and productive lives.

I know people who were addicted to drugs who have an occasional drink without adverse effects and again, are living superb lives.

Shock. Horror. What is this blasphemy! How dare they find their own way.

I must stress, that these people, who are my friends, have done deep intensive mental, emotional and spiritual work on themselves. I am most definitely not advocating for anyone to go back to drinking or using again. Total abstinence is a must for some.

I as a person am progressive. I move forward constantly. I can’t read or learn enough and new ideas and concepts are what keep me alive and hopeful. They excite me beyond anything, and they make me want to care for and treat myself with the highest of respect.

What really disturbs me within our community of late, is the lack of tolerance for people’s growth and expansion and choice to think and do differently. It reeks of my childhood Catholic teaching that if you step outside the box, hellfire is gonna get ya. Everyone is wrong. We are right. You must repent.

Radicalised thinking at its best.

So here’s my understanding; most addiction and mental health issues are based in some form of trauma in our lives, and the results, if not dealt with effectively, manifest as addiction and for me depression and anxiety.

Trauma and the use of chemicals and obsessive behaviours change the functioning of the brain, which by the way, can be reversed and healed.

I didn’t make that up either. The healing part. That’s scientific fact.

Dr. Gabor Mate is someone who’s philosophy rings true for me and he has said that if we do not understand trauma then we cannot understand addiction. And pretty much any professional I’ve spoken to concurs with that notion.

So for me it’s been way more positive to understand that my brain has been disordered and that it can be fixed rather than telling myself that selfishness is at the root of my problems and that there’s no cure.

And I completely accept and respect people’s choices and viewpoints that are contrary. I absolutely love to engage in conversation about these topics, because that’s how I learn and discover and find out what truly works for me on a deep level.

And then you have this guy:

 “ Lol…ty for your concern Nickyo! Not that it’s a competition, but believe me, I’d stack up my service efforts, and how many suffering addicts are positively affected, against yours any day of the week. And, mine happen in the real world free from the shackles of advertising dollars, and ego attachment of being “in charge” of something.

You go on painting me as the “bad guy” if you need to :).”

This was in reply to me standing up for someone he’d torn to shreds with pissy, personal attacking  comments because she had the audacity to suggest that it was better and more productive for her to not identify with the disease model.

I’ll let you come to your own conclusion about what recovery path he engages in. Apparently love and tolerance is the basis of his much treasured programme. Oh, and don’t forget humility!

I will say also, that I know wonderful genuine people on this same path who would never treat others like this. They must have read the part in the literature where it talks about open mindedness, compassion and empathy.

And this woman, in reply to a comment I made on an artilce “Safe injection sites are a radical new approach to battling addiction”  saying I agree with the concept to save lives and there’s strong evidence in European countries that it’s effective. I mean if addiction is a recognised medical issue,  why not treat it as such and give addicts equal, sufficient, medical care like the rest of the sick people in the world….right?

Apparently, I’m completely off the wall!

“And that kind of thinking is so off the charts nuts it takes my breath away. For Gods sake, they are not all using dirty needles, in dirty drug dens. Engage a junkie? Go ahead I’d like to see you try. They have to hit rock bottom, they have to want to stop. Enabling them is a solution that works somewhere in the atmosphere. Look, I am sure your heart is in the right place, but I wish you do gooders would just shut up.”

These are just two of many this week alone.

Believe me, I’m used to this kind of personal attack. It’s part of the job for most writers and especially those who go against the cookie cutter social thinking. But recently it’s coming fast and hard.

I do know one thing. A high presence of aggressive ugliness and lack of tolerance, empathy and basic politeness comes from deep fear. Perhaps a subconscious knowing that your perception is weak, and that you are so attached to that perception you need to guard it violently regardless of the consequences for others. Pretty basic philosophy.

It cannot be denied that this low energy, aggressiveness is extremely prevalent in society at large. The world is most definitely engaged in revolt. It’s just really sad that this same revolt seems needed in a community that is supposed to support and promote the growth of others.

But it does show that change is coming!

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5 thoughts on “Intolerance In The Recovery Community

  1. I haven’t been able to go back to AA, I am finding my own way. Whatever works!!! I am more than convinced that total abstinence is necessary for people who have fallen far enough …drinking every now and again is just playing with fire and besides who wants to do that anyway? However you manage to maintain your sobriety is your own business. We should be more tolerant. I know my own path and my path does not include alcohol in any form ever. Been there done that. I know my brain’s pathways have changed forever as I’ve done enough personal research. I think the shocking part of your article for me is the mention of people having been in AA for years returning to normal drinking. This is troubling me…. Were they then never really addicted in the first place? Or did they swallow a magic pill or do enough therapy to return to normal drinking? Have they evolved so much that drinking is now a non-issue? I am having trouble with this and would like to find out what happens to these people a couple of years from now, are they still drinking every now and again or have they returned to their usual level or worse. .?

    1. Hi. Thanks for the comment. That part has troubled many people and I completely understand why. In my own experience and from what I have discovered about myself is that I was never physically addicted to alcohol. But I was most definitely a problem drinker. I had to dig deep to fix the reason for that problem drinking, which was a consistent occouranc of trauma in my life from a very early age. AA says to be a real alcoholic you have an allergy which makes you incapable of stopping drinking when you start and an obsession of the mind which makes you unable to stop thinking about drinking. They maintain just because you are physically addicted to alcohol doesn’t make you an alcoholic. Also the only requirement for joining is a desire to stop drinking. So, basically anyone can join whether your an alcoholic or not. Which leads to my next point…….I would suggest that many in AA are not alcoholics which means they come from a place of trauma and are self medicating. Everyone is thrown into a room all needing different help for different problems but all are calling themselves alcoholic when that’s not true. I agree that for most people who have had a problem with alcohol complete abstinence is the best option. The people I speak of do not drink like they used to and have no desire to. It’s an odd drink on special occasions. So, perhaps they are not and have never been an alcoholic. They have done deep work on their issues and basically have no need to numb or run from anything. I myself prefer my life without drugs or alcohol. I like that feeling of freedom and I too don’t need to numb or run. I don’t want to continue to punish myself because of traumatic events I had no control over. However, I respect people’s decision to have a drink if that works for them, having done extensive therapeutic work on themselves. Some can do it and some can’t. Each person needs to make that decision for themselves. The point if my essay was the intolerance of the community regarding different paths. If there’s a conversation started about it people get slammed and the hellfire preachers are out condemning and demeaning. And believe me I’ve been lambasted world wide for daring to write what I did and had every disgusting personal attack you can think of thrown at me. Hundreds of them. Anyway each to their own. For me having left AA gave me the opportunity to see much more clearly what my problems were and I was able to deal with them effectively. I do believe people can evolve enough that drinking becomes a non issue yes. That is my opinion.

      1. Perhaps problem drinkers can turn it around in time before their brain has changed permanently I can agree with that.
        The fact still remains that alcohol is a highly addictive substance, for all humans not just some. Admittedly some people are more prone to addiction than others due to a myriad of factors however no one is immune to becoming addicted with enough exposure to the drug. I’ve only been to AA a couple of times so have no idea how fanatical some people can be, it sounds quite scary. I think it’s a contentious issue and they must feel threatened somehow, They may be feeling that this ‘method’ they have used for so many years to save their life is under threat. There isn’t just one way of doing things. My personal opinion is that alcohol is a drug, just because it’s legal doesn’t make it any less harmful, dangerous or addictive than class A’s. Our society is operating under the illusion that it’s somehow normal and necessary to drink. This brings me to the point of the true ‘alcoholic’ disease model that you mentioned. I don’t subscribe to that at all. No one has been able to prove this genetic defect; it’s a red herring to distract us from the fact that anyone can become addicted to it. That’s just me 10 cents worth. ☺x

      2. I absolutely agree with what you said. It is absolutely addictive for anyone with enough exposure and is absolutely a drug. I agree with all that you said. Where tax dollars are concerned the larger societies welfare is not important so alcohol and prescription drugs will be pushed on an already vulnerable society to make easy money.

  2. Excellent article. Without safe injection sites here on the west coast of Canada, we would have so many more addicts die needlessly.

    In the NA Basic Text it talks about going outside the program for help. Most people I have encountered in the program that are scared to get help for their PTSD issues can become intolerant and judgemental. It is fear that drives their intolerance and judgement.

    When people in the program are critical of others, I simply ask which spiritual principles they are practicing. That usually is enough.

    Keep writing your articles. I enjoy all of them.

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