As someone who works within the field of addictions (like many others in this area no doubt); I’m getting a little sick and tired of the almost constant ‘us and them’ debate around the good and bad of mutual-aid in recovery.
I see the debates on an almost daily basis, and some of them actually get fairly heated, sadly. Could the reason in part be mostly due to; a continued loosening of the historic grip around mutual-aid that was previously the monopoly enjoyed by so many recovery fellowships?
Irrespective of all the perceived rights or wrongs in the ‘professional’ approaches to supporting recovery, ultimate success in the final outcome should always be the most important factor we strive for. The promotion of ‘informed’ personal ‘choice’ in the individual’s chosen road on their specific journey, must be that desired goal.
The journey of recovery from substance addictions, or any type of addictive behaviour, isn’t something that is likely to occur at least with any degree of success, when the individual concerned is continually pushed along any particular pathway. Especially if they see that road as a dead-end, or perceive it to be a cul-de-sac that once travelled presents them with an almost inescapable destination. And one that they actually have no control over.
It is the one simple fact that so many ‘12-Step Fellowships‘ aficionados constantly struggle to grasp, let alone understand. Many people actually want to ‘recover’ from their issues, they have no desire to be labelled under a badge of recovery for the remainder of their life. But I can hear the indignant calls… “How could it be that someone doesn’t want to believe what I believe?” Or suggestions along the lines of “the fellowship approach to mutual-aid is the best approach ergo it must be the only approach!” The Fellowships ‘sales team’ beliefs are partly understandable especially when you hear them pronounce; “the vast majority of treatment services promote our approach so how can that be wrong?” Perhaps it’s the ‘professionals’ and not those suffering from addictions that need to open their eyes and ears?
For mostly historical reasons, as opposed to any medical or science supported reasoning, previously there was no viable alternative to the type of mutual-aid support provided by fellowships. That is no longer the case and hasn’t been for several years now. Unfortunately for personal/professional credibility reasons (and probably some financial ones too), many working in addictions treatment are still unaware of the options. More worrying are those who are unwilling to adopt and promote alternative options, especially if that decision-making process is born out of financial or bigoted considerations.
In our ever-increasing secular society, perhaps more so on the Eastern coasts of the North Atlantic rather than on the West; any decline in those willing to fully embrace a programme perceived to be (at least partially) based upon religious dogma, is wholly understandable. It is also wrong but don’t sit on any side of who is right or wrong and in addition, it’s my contention that this continued debate actually promotes a malignancy in desired outcomes… on both sides of that opinionated divide.
It’s your road…and yours alone… Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. No matter what path you choose, really walk it…(various)
The above quote is variously attributed to Gautama Buddha and Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (commonly referred to simply as Rumi). Who actually spoke or wrote the words is mostly immaterial, as is the fact both are considered in part to be spiritual leaders in some way. An understanding and following of the ethos is far more important than any religious connotation.
One profound and dominant aspect of our human psyche is; people don’t like being told they are wrong, even fewer can readily accept the fact they actually could be however; what right does anyone have to make that assumption about another’s personal belief(s) in any case? None, I would argue. In today’s so-called free thinking world, with a myriad of human rights legislation suggesting we are free to form and follow our own personal beliefs, can it ever be right to forcibly or coercively cause people to act and think on the basis of any particular ideology?
Far better that we aid others to arrive at their own informed conclusions and beliefs, whether or not they transpire to match ours, or not. Any attempt to push your particular brand of beliefs into the mind of another is indoctrination and little better than brainwashing. The resulting ‘cult’ perception, which many people also hold about fellowships, is also likely to be as direct consequence of their own predominant sales pitch.
In my experience, more and more people want to see some structure and progress on their personal road to recovery. All the better if they feel they can navigate towards their own chosen destination on that journey. Who knows, perhaps they might even graduate from “I’m in recovery” to actually pronouncing “I’m Recovered” – what gives any of us the right to remove that choice from people?
We need to stop the bickering once and for all because one thing is for certain; mutual-aid (of any brand) along with its capability for the development of social inclusion, is the foundation of most ‘recovery’ success stories. Why would any of us want to damage that process? Unless, our own personal interests and beliefs are in some way more important than those who we aim to support that is?
As a final consideration, it is worthy of remembering; many social ills along with so many wars and conflicts can be attributed to little more than spiritual or religious dogma in the past, do we really want that to be a causation factor in any declining success in addictions recovery?