Unity or Alignment?

Michael King proposes that addiction and recovery advocacy movement give up on seeking unity.

He suggests unity may be unrealistic.

Take a moment and consider what goes into the process of assembling anything made up of separate parts into a single object. The pieces must fit perfectly together.

Instead, he proposes we focus on alignment.

He argues that as groups grow, you can no longer expect to make it to destinations as one unit. People have to get there in their own sub-units, in their own way, at their own pace.

Is this not precisely what we need to do in order to tackle addiction in our communities? We all agree on the vision, the destination to which we all want to arrive — losing fewer and fewer lives each year. But we don’t all need to drive the same car to get there. Some of us can focus on harm reduction. Other people can engage in recovery support services. And still more can do work in the areas of prevention, or treatment, or law enforcement.

Nobody need be asked to compromise beyond their point of comfort. . . . Alignment allows for everyone to continue their critical work, and does not force unlikely bedfellows. 

Let’s Not Unify…Let’s Align by Michael King

I suppose the real question is whether we all agree on the vision.

Is there a shared vision between harm reductionists and recovery advocates?

I don’t know if that’s true. I saw this image yesterday, and it reinforced this question.

There’s no doubt that there can be a shared vision between recovery advocates and the lower case interventions and practices. However, I’m not sure about a broad shared vision between the recovery advocates and the upper case movement. (For example, it’s not unusual to hear harm reduction advocates argue that abstinence is “unrealistic.”)

There’s a lot to unpack there but, at the end of the day, there are legitimate tensions between advocacy on behalf of drug users and advocacy on behalf of recovery (and access to recovery).

I’ve tried to unify recovery and harm reduction and have not succeeded at generating much interest.

This is an interesting attempt to reframe the discussion. I hope it generates some responses.