I mentioned a few minutes ago in a text that I’m writing my first blog for Recovery Review. The text back asked “what’s it about?”
“It’s about guilt,” I texted. “Guilt because Jason started this blog in October. He asked me to be a contributor and I have yet to contribute.”
For a couple months I used the excuse of recovering from rotator cuff and bicep tendon surgery. Friday, I got pushed to do some writing in another area. And tonight, I decided to give it a try.
There isn’t much to this blog. No citations. Just some reflections from 29 years of recovery and 26 years in the field. So here it is.
What was good for my recovery became an obstacle when working in the field.
I’m questioning whether this is a good place to end or if more is required. Maybe a part 2.
Of course, there were a number of reasons for being inadequate as a helping professional (i.e. an absence of training, supervision, support, stable workforce…), but one factor I’ve thought a lot about is how the very thing that was so essential to my recovery could harm those I worked with. It took a long time to recognize this.
I was introduced to addiction recovery mutual aid groups at the age of 16. I entered recovery, quite unintentionally, 10 days before my 19th birthday. I was the youngest person in the room at addiction recovery mutual aid groups and I had a lot of trouble figuring out if I belonged.
There were two life-giving messages I received:
- If you want our help, we’re only interested in how we can help you; and
- Focus on the similarities, not the differences.
It took a lot of practice to focus on the similarities, but eventually I got good at it. It became natural. I could see beyond the differences and find the commonality.
This gave me a life and led to a career. Once in the field, however, it prevented me from seeing the vast differences among individuals with alcohol and other drug problems.
People differ greatly in onset, course, and duration of substance use problems. They differ in culture and context from which problems and solutions emerge. This could go on for paragraphs. People differ.
I am deeply grateful for the messages that helped me initiate and sustain recovery. And am equally grateful for those who wrote, trained, and educated our field on concepts such as problem severity, problem complexity, recovery capital, and cultural pathways of addiction and recovery.