The Harm reduction ethos believes that you are entitled to look in the mirror and see a person with problems, not a problem person. This is something I strongly advocate for within the recovery movement. For some, myself included, complete abstinance, although daunting in the beginning, has proven to be the only way I can maintain any form of sustainable recovery. I’m afraid with me one is too many and a thousand is never enough, I agree totally with the allergy concept, when I take drugs I break out in criminal activities, jail sentences and frequent visits to the hospital.

However, this is not the overall goal of many who use substances. Abstinance is not the only journey and should not be sold as such. You can achieve a good standard of living without being abstinant, the harm reductoin way. For example….if alcohol is contributing to weight gain, have you looked at just how much excercise you are getting in. You don’t have to quit drinking to go to the gym or take a walk round the local park on a daily basis. If you’re having relationship problems, you can still get councilling or therapy without giving up the substance that may be causing ‘some’ of the problems (that is if you can find a therapist who will talk about the relationship without putting the unrealistic task of quitting first). It is possible to have safe sex while high on cocaine or speed. You don’t have to give up heroin to eat better. You can always drink water, sleep more, take more excercise. All of these things are managable although some may take practice. You don’t have to label yourself, nor be labelled by others, as an alcoholic or addict in order to examine your using and make sensible decisions. What you do need is to be armed with the facts around what it is that you are using. For many people this has been their chosen journey, some have gone onto abstinance, some have not. That is their choice and always should be. If abstinance is not the chosen destination then there are, for some, safe practices for using whatever their ‘substance of choice’ may be.

Recognising where you ‘want’ to be on this journey and not being railroaded into where you ‘have’ to be is a given right that is all to often taken away or not explained properly, which in effect is the same thing. What you ‘need’ to make sure of is that you get real, unbiased, nonjudgmental information and get armed with your rights within and without services.

Just a little anecdote to end this with. If an individual has a car accident which resulted in him/her losing their legs. From the minute they start working towards finding ways of dealing with and living their life to the fullest despite them not having their legs, they have began their journey of recovery. It would be a sad state of affairs if they had to wait to grow new legs to be accepted on the recovery journey now wouldn’t it. What I guess I’m trying to say here is that despite their disability they are still making informed choices about what they want and how to go about getting it, with the support of physio. They are not restricted in any way due to that disability and neither should anyone else by restricted for theirs.

If you are active in a service, does your keyworker respect you as an individual….do you feel listeneed to….do you feel supported. Are you in full control of your care/recovery plan or does it feel ‘guided’. Is it all about your needs or are there also some wants on it. Is it all focused on you as a substance user or is it geared toward you as an individual, supporting you to become a member of the community that you live in. In a nut shell is it all therapeautic or does it include community involvement.



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