Focus on the Issue

Do you care what political views others hold? Do you care what religious beliefs they embrace? Should everyone be just like you? Are you in charge of their preferences? Think everyone should go to college and all women should work outside of their homes, leaving all child rearing to??? Or the opposite, all mothers should stay home full time, pulling warm homemade cookies out of the oven just as Jr. walks through the door from school? Should everyone have the same dress code as you do? Should all people have a dog? A child? How far do you take these prejudices?

If the best orthopedic surgeon in town is a member of a political group, religion or race you object to, and you have a broken leg, would you allow him or her to help you? I hope so. Likewise, if you want recovery from addiction, would you let experts in the field, regardless of their politics, hair color, food preferences or anything else, including their past behaviors, teach you how to recover? Those who have found their own recovery and learned how to live happy, healthy and productive lives without the use of alcohol or other drugs are the experts.

Unlike treatment for the broken leg, appendicitis, or strep throat, there is no surgical procedure or medication to cure addiction...but there IS recovery. The recovering addict is not necessarily expert in anything else (although he may be a talented musician or athlete, famous author, or well respected lawyer, clergy, educator, etc.), but he knows how to not use drugs. If you want to learn how to live life drug free, remembering that alcohol, too, is a drug, learn from someone who has done so...regardless of his politics, religion, socioeconomic status, profession or lack thereof. Stories of individuals removing campaign buttons before entering 12 step meetings and of refusal to discuss religion or other volatile subjects while in support groups indicate how seriously they take recovery. Healing from addiction is about healing from addiction. Period. Those who have done this know how to focus on the issue. The point is that if we put aside prejudice and judgment, we can respect personal differences...even in politics. We can then become open to learning, giving and accepting help for something specific, from someone with whom we otherwise have little in common.

12 step groups, at last count 125 different ones addressing recovery from assorted addictions, or dealing with mental illness or abuse, have no opinion on issues outside of the purpose for which they were established. The tenth of the 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous includes a specific warning that, "no A.A. group... should ever express an opinion on outside controversial issues, particularly those of politics, alcohol reform, or sectarian religion. The A.A. groups oppose no one." 12 step groups have existed with this policy and helped millions recover from alcoholism and other addictions since the 1930's! Something must be functioning quite well...perhaps sticking to the issue, in this case, recovery from addiction to alcohol.

The rest of us can take a clue from these traditions and attend to our goals without allowing irrelevant distractions. Put aside personal prejudices and focus on the issue. For those who want to recover from addiction, learn from those who have been there. Want to work on physical health or have a happy marriage or learn a new skill? Find someone who has done it successfully and ask how they did it. Hint: if you are using alcohol or other drugs to cope with life, you will not be able to work effectively on anything else. Take care of the drug problem and other stuff will fall into place...with some time and hard work. We all get the same 24 hours in a day; how we use them is up to us. With very rare exception, addicts have access to recovery; how you use, or decline to use a recovery program is up to you.

Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. She teaches a communication course to medical students at the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver info@docdawn.com.


 

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