Guest blog by Bernadette Gleeson. Bernadette Gleeson is a recovery innovator, speaker, and educator and is the founder of BAO Communications - a company dedicated to harnessing and activating the public to help combat the addiction and opiate crisis.
I am completely honored to be writing the inaugural post for the New Hampshire Recovery Hub blog and I don't want to let any of you down - so let's get busy!
As many of you know, there is an absolute urgency that lives at my core. It is an ache. It is a calling. Each time I share the larger picture of recovery, I feel the ache subsiding and the call being answered.
That being said, I do long for a day when the recovery movement in NH and beyond can work together to agree on some simple interests. And yes, I said interests -- not positions, stances, or opinions. We must get past these if we are to work together in implementing solutions to the current crisis. It is worth mentioning that many solutions deemed controversial among recovery communities and the public do not invite positions or opinions. They are based
We need to lock our arms together in a game of Red Rover to keep our fellow citizens out of the darkness where addiction breeds and lead them into the light where learning and the recovery of their choosing
The state of NH and the entire country is currently experiencing a public health crisis and emergency concerning addiction. There is no arguing that fact. However, there is a true narrative underlying these larger and individual crises that remains a secret for some reason. That secret is: "If there is a natural progression for people with Alcohol or Other Drug Problems, it is towards remission and recovery" (White, 2012).
Once again: Individuals living with addiction are naturally progressing to remission and recovery. So says overwhelming research on the topic.
If we grasp this undeniable truth, our project is to affirm the following interests:
1.) To keep people alive, and
2.) To shorten addiction careers while mitigating harm to self, others, and society - as people living in their addiction go on their journey to initiate and sustain the recovery of their choosing.
To accomplish these two interests, we must agree to the following:
1.) Each solution must align with agreeing that addiction (SUD) is a chronic, treatable, medical condition. If you believe addiction to be something else (choice, moral failing, spiritual malady, learning/developmental disorder, etc.) then let's at least agree that all these beliefs have solutions rooted in learning of some kind. If we fail to message this as a chronic, treatable, medical condition, it will be difficult to convince decision-makers to change policies that punish people for their condition and instead concentrate on policies for people to gain the access to services they need.
2.) Since learning is at the center of addiction and thus the journey of recovery, we must agree to create the best opportunities around motivation and change for people to learn how to manage their chronic, treatable, medical condition and live in the recovery of their choosing. We can benefit from ample research on learning and motivation and change as early as the 1900's.
3.) Depending on state of addiction within the individual, we must be employing harm reduction techniques, tools, solutions, and skills to mitigate harm of self, others, and society. In this process of 'meeting people where they are at', we are creating opportunities for people to learn how to take care of themselves and to stay alive as they learn to cope and manage their condition and to find the recovery of their choosing.
4.) We must agree that we are human beings first that also have a chronic, treatable, medical condition. Thus, if we are human, we need to have opportunities for all the things that other human beings need so that we can get our basic needs met, to be happy, and to self-actualize.
5.) We need to cease the messaging of "bottoms" and stop with the drama around reoccurrence (relapse). If we believe that we are human first, then it relapse would just a part of the journey of all humans that are managing a chronic medical condition. We are falling down, getting up, learning, growing, negotiating, thinking, and feeling. We must stay on people's journeys to keep them connected, to interrupt their addiction, and to link them back to other opportunities to find the recovery of their choosing. A relapse is only a crisis if we make it so.
6.) As addiction is a chronic, treatable, medical condition, we must agree that "Recovery is led, designed, and directed by the person with the condition" (Diamond, 2001). Opinions on recovery pathways kill. They promote isolation – the space where addiction thrives. Our individual recovery pathways/story or the pathways/stories of people we know are powerful examples of recovery being possible. They are NOT, however, a recovery prescription for everyone.
7.) If addiction truly is a chronic, treatable, medical condition, then people should have access to choosing the clinical/medical help, mutual aid support, and anything else they feel like they need for their treatment and recovery. We should have options for individualized care for treatment and recovery that work for us and are recommended based on our own problem severity, complexity, and any other necessary components which must be addressed.
8.) There is NO replacement or solution that can leave out the ecosystem and "access points" of the person with an addiction (SUD). We are in our world when we get sick and that is where we are going to be when we get well. We need to harness every member of each "access point" within someone's ecosystem in order to create the best environment for learning. In addition, opportunities and solutions must also exist outside of professional and paraprofessional services and systems. Relying on a narrow, overburdened system of professional care to respond to addiction misses the mark every day, year, decade…
9.) Finally, to hammer the point -- this IS a public health crisis/emergency/epidemic. There is no arguing this. All the epistemological standards have been met currently to categorize the state of addiction this way. Thus, we must activate all resources, and most importantly, we must activate the public to create an "all
Everything counts. Everything matters. It is all worth it. We need everyone. Every single person can directly impact someone's opportunity to be alive in recovery today. We must share this message. We must bring everyone into the solution, to keep people living with their condition in the light. You don't need to have walked a mile in anyone's shoes to learn how to powerfully show up