Streams in #Addiction #Recovery

Constrained by the box?There are probably just as many pathways out of addiction as there are factors that lead to the problems however; many people have no idea about what causes addiction. Or why people become ‘addicted’ to a substance, or an problematic behaviour. But does that really matter?

The word ‘addiction’ holds a diverse meanings for different people and sadly, many of the definitions that people offer up are based upon social perception, many are inflamed or distorted by media and political hype and most, like the simple but derogatory term ‘addict’, actually have the tendency to create and perpetuate stigma. So what do we mean by the term addiction?

Sometimes these definitions find their basis in opinion, rather than science or fact, but even more worrying is when they’re tainted with the personal traits of any individual offering his or her take on the word. Traits that include;

  • Sycophantic – obsequious and obedient or attentive to an excessive often servile degree. A sycophant imitates your tastes and opinions, often sharing your opinions enthusiastically and sometimes, this is taken to absurd lengths.
  • Evangelical – Of or according to the teaching of the gospel or the Christian religion. Zealous in advocating or supporting a particular cause or belief.
  • Subdued – unassuming and not claiming attention for oneself; retiring and modest with a demeanour that is reflective, thoughtful and self-effacing.
  • Secular – not connected with religious or spiritual matters. To be secular is to maintain a naturalistic worldview in which belief in anything is always proportioned to the evidence available.

In my opinion, only the latter two of the above are (partly) acceptable!

Many people start out implacably opposed to any kind of religious or spiritual driver on their road to recovery yet, often in relatively short periods of time, suddenly become overtly evangelical in their cultish support of that particular pathway. Generally the pathway that has (thankfully) worked for them. So how or why does someone turn from ‘non-believer’ into a zealous advocate of a particular method or process?

The drivers here, in addition to any personal joy derived from being ‘saved’ is the fact; too many successful individuals that achieve recovery suddenly become ‘experts’ but, they can only claim this exalted status for their own personal journey.

Yes, there are undoubted strong values in the learning gained from another’s individual lived-experience. The power of the mutual-aid process is often critical to sustainable long-term recovery and should never be underestimated however; most moves to parade an individual as a Recovery Guru, be that their personal choice or one foisted upon them by a third-party, should be avoided.

But what about the advocacy for ‘visible recovery’ in support of others achieving their goals? Being able to see that recovery is possible and achievable in others is another powerful support tool, but also something that gets used to excess.

In addition to the individual nature of recovery from addictions, I’m also of the opinion that some of the methods, programmes and celebrations in support of recovery don’t travel well between differing nations and/or communities. They present cultural and social implications for overall acceptance or rejection. But ultimately and importantly, their overall efficacy and successful outcomes can be reduced.

 The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language – George Bernard Shaw

Despite Shaw’s comment being made in the 1940’s, many of those cultural differences still exist today. Particularly (but not exclusively) in the field of substance misuse, alcohol use disorder and subsequent recovery support processes. The methodologies employed in the USA and the UK are often, in many ways, still worlds apart.

As an example and in my experience; the inherent evangelical approach to addictions and recovery, which is evident in a great deal of American support process, tends not to travel across the Atlantic too well.

What works in America won’t necessarily achieve the same desired results in Britain… or England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland or indeed, their constituent communities. Cultural and social diversity, in differing parts of any country, can and do have important impacts upon how addiction and recovery are understood and perceived.

Support structures that ignore this difference, either intentionally or accidentally, are probably creating additional problems that need dealing with. Being too precious around any specific recovery pathway or support methodology simply compounds the problems.

Dragon Boat drummers can beat their drum louder than their peers in the other boats but, the race will always won by the efforts of those doing the paddling, irrespective of the flow in the stream.

I’m not suggesting the expertise of American addictions ‘specialists’ should be ignored, just tempered by cultural diversity factors. Along with the majority of the Western World, the UK followed the USA in how to ‘best’ deal with drugs… look how that has ended. Maybe we should apply some ‘home-grown’ expertise a little more.

How would you define the term addiction?

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