By Kerry Porth
Earlier this year, I attended a talk on the Global Drug War. After the talk, audience members were given an opportunity to ask questions and I was struck by a comment made by a member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU). After introducing himself as a heroin user of some 35 years, he declared that “abstinence should not be viewed as a victory but rather, a defeat. It represents the complete and utter failure of self-will.” I was surprised to find myself in enthusiastic agreement with him.
For 23 years, my regular attempts to “recover” from addiction were facilitated by the 12-steps. This model posits addiction as a chronically relapsing disease. The medical detoxification facilities I attended (12 times in as many years) required daily attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings and group therapy sessions where we were told that the only positive outcome was complete abstinence from all drugs and alcohol. We were told that we must no longer associate with anyone who uses drugs or alcohol and that we should avoid “slippery” places such as bars or areas where we used to score drugs. We were told that we could never control our use or have just one drink. Drug addicts who had never abused alcohol were told they couldn’t drink and alcoholics were told they couldn’t smoke pot. To do so would mean an immediate relapse into hard-core addiction. We were told we couldn’t make any decisions for at least a year. We were told we couldn’t enter into a romantic relationship. Basically, we were told that we were an extreme danger to ourselves, we were sick, incurable, and would never have self control. Indeed, the first of the twelve steps is an admission of powerlessness.
Well, I call bullshit. Continue reading