Letter: Addicts in recovery can offer unique insight and expertise


I take exception to Jeff Conners’ letter of Nov. 16 (‘The unsuccessful drug user as expert’) and find it barren of logic on a number of counts.

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First, former drug addicts and alcoholics who are in successful recovery are not “unsuccessful” drug users, in derogatory comparison to those Conners deems successful, in his words, “those who have good relationships with substances they use”.

Addicts are the 10 per cent of the population who, for whatever reason (perhaps to numb a childhood trauma, as suggested by Gabor Maté), are incapable of using drugs and/or alcohol normally.

I assume Conners lumps himself in with the other 90 per cent, those who can use without having their use destroy their lives.

Wouldn’t someone who has the propensity to become addicted, and has surmounted the impulse to use, have a great deal of insight and expertise to offer the addict — particularly in comparison to someone who is able to use normally and can’t understand why a person might use irresponsibly?

Secondly, Conners’ driving instructor analogy is invalid.

Taking drugs and drinking are not skills, like playing an instrument or driving a vehicle.

Swallowing pills and liquids doesn’t take any special learning effort. You don’t get a gold star and a clean-drinking-record for your “normal” use.

There is no call for Conners’ thinly veiled self-congratulations that a non-addict uses substances “better” than those who suffer from addiction.

I do agree that decriminalization of drugs would solve some societal problems.

These include, for instance, violence and greed associated with drug dealing and the “cool” cachet that drugs have for some adolescents, who dip into criminal activities as part of their normal, age-specific rebelliousness and then find themselves addicted.

But alcohol is decriminalized and alcoholism is on the rise. Gambling is legal and gambling addicts are losing their shirts all the time.

Decriminalizing drugs won’t solve the core problem.

Nor, I suspect, would having addicts listen to a non-addicts, or those in deep denial of their addiction, brag about what a successful user they are.

Addiction-recovery programs and counselling led by recovered addicts have massive positive impact.

Russell Brand’s recent book, Recovery, and his leadership in recovery from addiction is helping millions of addicts across the globe.

Those of us who have struggled with addiction have often seen the wagging fingers and puzzled expressions of “normies” who feel that if only we would use like them, we would be just fine.

I find it startling and disturbing that someone with “20 years of experience in the mental-health and substance-abuse field” would write such a letter.

Katie Welch

© Kamloops This Week



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