The Radical Road to Recovery by Jost Sauer
Bingeing on amphetamines is not how a drug and alcohol counselor is supposed to spend their weekends, but in the eighties this is exactly what I was doing. During the week I would try (unsuccessfully) to get my clients off drugs using the standard ‘repent and reform’ approach of the day, but come Friday I’d be hanging out for a hit. The first one would inevitably lead to another and that, in turn, would usually kick off 48 hours of non-stop drug-taking. This was after I’d quit, too.
There was definitely something wrong with that picture. For a long time I thought it was me. But years later, after I became an acupuncturist and (accidently) began specializing in addiction recovery, I found myself treating scores of drug-users who had been through rehab several times.
They weren’t getting off drugs either, using that same old approach, and most believed they were powerless, diseased or failures.
It seemed nothing had changed in recovery and it made me start thinking that maybe the problem hadn’t been me after all, maybe it was everything except me. Maybe it was the outdated and judgmental thinking underpinning recovery, a population more than happy to go along with this approach, and drug-users too weakened by their substance intake to have any input. Going forward, I’m still seeing the same situation.
People trapped into focusing on the negatives of their past drug use and plagued by guilt and shame. This is not useful.
Everything about drugs has changed from the user demographic to the drugs themselves, so the attitude to addiction and recovery urgently needs an update.
The old system, which I had been trained in, saw drugs as ‘the problem’ and quitting as ‘the solution’.
My clients too, see drugs as the problem, they tell me how drugs ruined their lives, their relationships or their career, and they need to get off drugs.
It’s always all about ‘the drugs’, but it should be about what the drugs provided.
My advice is ‘forget about the drugs’ because if you go head to head with a problem in that manner, all you are doing is hardwiring it into your system.
In fact, I think that one of the main problems is everyone thinking that drugs are the problem, and focusing on the drugs: on blaming drugs, decriminalizing drugs, legalizing drugs or declaring war on drugs.
All of this is connected to the old ways of thinking when it was assumed that something must have gone terribly wrong for people to have turned to drugs.
But the clients I treat for addiction now, are rich, poor, old, young, happy, unhappy, male, female, successful, failures, from broken homes and from happy homes.
They take drugs not because there is anything wrong, but because on drugs they feel something right.
This is a major shift that has to be engaged with. Drugs are not a problem to be solved. They are a catalyst, a merchant of change, they boot you through a doorway to somewhere else, they deliver something millions of us want.
The recreational drug industry is a massive global business and millions of people are saying, and will continue to say, ‘yes’. This is not going to change any time soon.
So it is time to look at the whole industry from a fresh solution-based perspective, one that hinges around identifying demand.
Instead of looking at drugs as the problem, we have to look at what they delivered and find more sustainable ways to get that. And on using drug-pasts to create a more productive future.
Non-judgmental and positive is the new way forward.