Is there a “right” way to Recovery?

“Why in the heck did you tell Frankie to go to the doc? He isn’t sick — he’s a drunk and needs to get his ass to a meeting,” Joseph said to me after he learned that I had referred a cousin of his, Frankie, to a medical doctor to discuss either Acamprosate or Narcan (Vivitrol) as an adjunctive to treatment for his alcohol dependence.  See, Joseph has been sober for five (5) years and found great support through the AA community.  I am grateful that Joseph found sobriety and that AA was useful.  However, Frankie tried AA and just simply didn’t like it.  He was uncomfortable in meetings and felt that he wasn’t a good fit for AA.  He came to me for a consultation and assessment and in talking with him; I felt that he was a good candidate for pharmacological intervention.  Frankie took my advice and discussed his treatment with his primary care physician.  And he discussed my advice with his cousin Joseph.

“Well,” I said to Joseph.  “I can’t discuss anything about Frankie with you, one way or the other.  But, I am surprised that you would be so against something not spelled AA.”  I said that, but I wasn’t surprised.  Joseph’s attitude of passing judgement is common, not only in recovery, but also in any circumstance in which someone has found a path towards health that worked for him or her and has come to believe that his or her path is THE ONLY path towards health.  Once he or she believes in the path’s “rightness,” than any other path is simply wrong.  In Joseph’s case, he felt that since he found sobriety through AA, then AA was the only path towards sobriety and anyone who tried any other form of treatment was “doing it wrong.”

The problem with this type of judgementalism is that it presents inherent risk within the person who feels he or she is in a position to pass judgement.  See, we don’t just speak ideas, we internalize them.  Therefore, as long as we are in the “right,” then we can pass judgement. However, when we fail within our right path, then we beat the crap out of ourselves for not being “right” anymore.  For Joseph, if he ever falls off the wagon (May God forbid it), then I think he will head down a path of self-destruction that will make his previous drinking seem experimental in comparison.  If Joseph were truly sober, in my opinion, he’d see that, while his path worked for him, there are a lot of other ways to skin to recovery cat and he should celebrate any attempt towards becoming a healthier person, even if that attempt isn’t done his way.

I subscribe to the “by any means necessary” school of health.  That is, I think any path towards true health is right, as long as it results in healthy outcomes.  If it’s AA, cool. If it’s SMART recovery, awesome.  If the path is substance abuse counseling coupled with pharmacalogical intervention, great.  There is no wrong way up the sobriety, as long as someone climbs the good climb and does so in whole hearted truth, then to me, there is no wrong way. Really, not one of us is in any position to judge anybody else, so I believe that we should celebrate others’ efforts to align their lives in healthy ways, mentally, psycho-emotionally, and spiritually.  It’s just a healthier way to be.

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