DJ Mac recently picked up on Bill White’s post on the need to create and protect recovery spaces, given current trends toward legalization.
He followed up by sharing another blogger’s reaction to Bill’s post.
White asserts that “any policy discussions of marijuana legalization should include the voices of people in recovery and should include a serious discussion about recovery space. Such space must be protected regardless of the future legal status of psychoactive drugs.” I have a great deal of respect for Bill White; but I disagree strongly with this line of reasoning. I submit that in an atmosphere of true destigmatization of addiction and recovery, the identification or designation of “recovery space” becomes unnecessary and, in fact, perpetuates the stigma that we are working so hard to shed.
. . .
The world will never be recovery-friendly; but to ask our communities and legislators to be sensitive to recovery space perpetuates the misconception that people in recovery are passive victims, hopelessly susceptible to environmental cues and in need of sheltering. In this context, people in recovery will never achieve full empowerment.
All of this seems like a bit of a straw man. I re-read Bill’s piece and I’m not picking up on any anti-drug or pro-prohibition message.
Look at alcohol.
- We regulate advertising.
- We control outlet density through limiting the number of liquor licenses.
- We say it can’t be consumed in certain places–schools (except Ann Arbor Pioneer on U-M game days) and many parks, for example.
- We have open container laws.
- We impose some responsibilities on servers.
- We have age limits on purchasing.
- We have age restrictions on many events where it’s served. (All-ages shows can’t serve alcohol.)
We impose all of these regulations/restrictions (and more), and alcohol is still a celebrated and freely consumed drug.
I hear Bill saying that recovery is worth protecting in the same way that schools, churches, hospitals, community centers, etc, are worth protecting.
One can disagree with Bill on this, but I think we all could agree that some people live in recovery-hostile areas where there are no visible examples of recovery and that this inhibits people finding recovery. Isn’t in our community interest to address that? Isn’t in our public health interest to do something about that?
It’s not about creating a bubble.
How is hope to be kindled if there’s no visible living proof of recovery? This reminded me of another post from a couple of years back on “the adjacent possible”.
During an interview he discussed the concept of the adjacent possible and it’s importance in forming new ideas. During the interview, he described it as the building blocks of new ideas. Without the right building blocks, any innovation is not possible. He described it another way in a WSJ article:
The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.
The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.
During the interview, he pointed out that it doesn’t matter how smart one is, it was not possible to invent a microwave in 1650, because the building blocks, the adjacent possible, just wasn’t there.
One factor is that the physical building blocks did not exist. The other factor is that the imaginative/inspiration building blocks did not exist.
This reminded me of a metaphor Bill has used when talking about hope-engendering relationships offering kindling for hope.
So, back to our critic. I admire his bootstrapping spirit, but, like I said earlier, he seemed to be arguing with a straw man and he seemed self-contradictory at times. In one paragraph, regulation is good,
. . . the legalization of marijuana is not about making it more accessible. Marijuana has always been more accessible to those under the legal drinking age than alcohol; which suggests that regulation will actually reduce its availability.
In another, regulation is bad,
Recovery space will not be achieved through restriction or regulation of those who can enjoy the recreational use of substances, legal or otherwise.
It seems that what he really wanted was a debate about legalization, which is a fine thing to debate. He just picked a piece that, rather than arguing against legalization, was suggesting that we be mindful enough to mitigate a potential pitfall of legalization.
UPDATE: The author of the original piece, Adam Sledd, sent the following comment directly to me because comments are now closed:
“Thanks for the thoughtful discussion. Sorry I am late, I just discovered this thread. Dirk Hanson has captured the spirit of my argument with his “hothouse flowers” analogy. I have a background in special education and disabilities, so I am sensitive to over-accomodation and its contribution to stigma. Of course there will be recovery space, and I am all for it. When this is mentioned in the context of marijuana legalization, I think we need to be mindful of the message we send in the name of recovery.”