The Truth About Recovery

Last week, I came across an article by The Recovery Society entitled, “The Truth About Suboxone Abuse.” At first I was intrigued by the title, as it suggests it might contain evidence-based facts about Suboxone abuse. I was extremely disappointed.

The first thing I read was a warning from The Recovery Society, stating the article was an “opinion piece,” not meant to “…offend or upset anyone.”

The article was a blatant attempt to scare, shame, and exploit people who might be using Suboxone by suggesting that ALL who use the medication, for “…longer than a month,” are “…still abusing and depending on another substance…” and therefore not “clean.” The author writes, “Until you completely relieve yourself from all mind-altering substances, you’re still considered to be struggling and battling addiction.”

Please keep in mind that this is an “opinion piece,” and not attributed to a physician or mental health professional. An anonymous author, who felt justified in speaking for the universe and all its considerations, wrote this article. There were no links to anything factual, outside of linking back to The Recovery Society, and another article sponsored by treatment facilities.

Garbage.

“Recovery” is a word used often in 12-step programs, referring to “the result” of working through the 12 steps. Many 12 steppers will claim that unless you are a member of the program, having worked the steps as they are laid out in the literature, you shouldn’t use the word. You are not in recovery.

The words “clean” and “sober” seem to also have been adopted by recovering individuals, who have apparently decided their definition is the only one that matters.

Let me be clear about the fact that I found my recovery in a 12-step program. The 12 steps changed my life. I will never speak poorly of the actual 12-step process or denounce 12-step recovery programs. There are however, many things about the herd mentality and blind faith in fallible human beings present in these programs that I don’t agree with. I did agree, once upon a time, but mostly because I was scared to death not to. I believed many things for which I had no evidence or reasoning, because someone said so. Who said so was irrelevant, and whenever I did question ideals, I was usually advised not to, “…try to rewrite the program.” After all, “it [the program] has been working since 1935.” Never mind the fact that because they are anonymous programs, no records are kept providing statistical information about how many people 12-step recovery programs don’t work for. Don’t ask.

No one owns Recovery. #addiction #shame

It has been my experience that there are many beliefs present in 12-step programs that trickle down from members with “long term sobriety,” who just know things the rest of us don’t. Loyalty to my program of choice has made it difficult for me to voice concern without feeling tremendously guilty for doubting my saving grace.

I tried for years to take what I needed and leave the rest, but have since come to associate many aspects of 12-step herd mentality with Fight Club. It has been my experience that the first rule of 12-step programming is often: Don’t question 12-step programming, even if something doesn’t make sense to you.

After a “strong suggestion” killed my friend, I became increasing disturbed by how often medical advice is passed around the halls/rooms along with the suggestion that people taking certain medications are not “really clean or sober.”

I quickly learned that questioning what “works,” was my ego or disease trying to talk me out of simple, life saving conformity. It was often suggested that perhaps I was just looking for a reason to drink/use. “Just trust the process, and it will work for you.” Just like fairy dust and Santa Claus, however, those who do not trust in the program 100%, may not get results. Sadly, this will be entirely their fault. We may even pity them because they just “can’t get it.”

I no longer believe that noise. I choose to believe there is hope for everyone, and that we are all entitled to our process in recovery, even if it makes other people uncomfortable. I choose to believe this even though it goes against almost everything I learned within my first ten years of programming.

Instead of changing with the times, and possibly reworking, not the twelve steps, but rather the ways in which we approach and handle addiction, based on new information collected over the years, we blame the addicted. In my opinion, that’s a cop out.

Now, to be fair, this is NOT the voice of actual 12-step recovery, this is the voice of some (not all) of its members. This is the voice of “Sit down and shut up. You have nothing to offer as a newcomer.” This is ego, wrapped in a glorious, shiny cape often labeled, “Old-Timer.” This is regurgitated bullshit, “passed down” from generation to generation, without question.

I believe in the powerful message of personal recovery. I’m all for sharing what has worked for me in hopes others like me might be willing to give it a try. What I am not on board with is shaming people who choose not to do things my way. I don’t agree with feeding into, and further perpetuating, stigma and stereotypes that might shame my friends to literal death. What I don’t support is an addict claiming to be doing “the right thing,” while pointing his or her finger at another addict for not.

The idea that once we’ve reached some sort of milestone in sobriety/recovery, we get a pass to judge how other people get and stay sober is absurd to me.

Opioid addiction kills. PERIOD. I don’t need to be an expert on anything to know that. The evidence is death. Every single day, parents are losing their children to opioid overdose. Children are losing their parents. We’re attending the wakes and funerals of our friends’ and loved ones, agreeing they were far too young to die, and apologizing to their families for their losses – OUR losses.

So, when I read an article like the one published by The Recovery Society, suggesting that people who have found a solution that works for them aren’t doing it right, it hits a nerve. The fact that it has been shared over 10,000 on Facebook invokes fear that someone who already feels shame will just give up. Since the article offers no encouragement, other than to write a check to a treatment facility if you’re taking Suboxone, I worry that those who might have a chance at a better life because of this medication will believe that fact-less bullshit and die before they find recovery.

Yes, the suggestion that everyone using Suboxone is abusing it is bullshit.

There are many people following maintenance programs responsibly, under the care of a physician, living productive lives. Perhaps people assume that because more people aren’t speaking out about their successful use of Suboxone, Methadone, and other medications like them, they don’t work.

I mean, really, where are all these success stories? Why aren’t more people screaming from the rooftops that they’re living proof that these medications work?

Here’s a better question… Why would they?

If association with medication maintenance is so clearly frowned upon, if most everyone who is choosing to use a medication as prescribed will just be labeled a failure by the “recovery” community – why would they share this information?

They wouldn’t. They don’t. They just head back to work, regain custody of their children, and move on with their lives. You wouldn’t notice though, because they’re no longer popping up in detox, treatment, incarceration, or overdose statistics.

They’re maintaining their recovery.

Recovery has many faces. It may not be complete abstinence, membership in a 12-step program, or belief in God or prayer. Your recovery may involve all sorts of things I can’t personally relate to or understand, but that doesn’t give me the right to judge your efforts or “should” all over you. I don’t get to decide whether you’re “clean,” “sober,” or “doing the right thing.”

There is no right thing.

There’s no right way to find peace, and there’s no wrong way to stay alive.

We don’t all have the same emotional and mental obstacles, and we don’t get to define recovery for others based on our own experiences. What works for me may never work for you, and that’s okay!

Shaming people to death cannot be the solution.

Here’s the truth about Recovery:

No one owns the rights to it. Everyone is entitled to his or her own process, and no one is doing it better than anyone else.

We’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got, and that’s enough.

 

 

Julie Maida founded Sober Mommies in May of 2013 after a bout of postpartum depression made it impossible to keep up with her previous recovery routine. She is the contributing Editor-in-Chief, and also runs the non-profit organization in Massachusetts; where she lives with her amazing husband and three children.

Thanks to the love, patience, and guidance of an incredible tribe of women, her recovery date is May 2, 2000.

Julie is eternally grateful for all the gifts of recovery and fiercely determined to advocate for, and connect, ALL women with the appropriate support and resources necessary to achieve their personal recovery goals.

She writes full-time about mothering with mental illness at nextlifenokids.com, and is the founder of the “#Mommitment Mom Movement” aimed at putting an end to the social “norms” of mom-shaming and judgment.

10 Comments on “The Truth About Recovery

  1. I am married to one of those old timers and he agrees with you 100%.
    Staying alive comes first.
    AA meetings are like churches sometimes you just have to keep looking for the one or ones that fit you and your recovery journey.
    I’m sorry about your friend.

  2. Wow. Just wow. What a well written article and I agree with your philosophy that there is not and does not have to be a one size fits all model for recovery. Fear, shame and guilt kill addicts and drunks every single day. Thank you for sharing this. – From an Old Timer, class of ’83. Hugs to you 🙂

  3. We have had the same experience as you! We actually remember you from Fields and a wedding 🙂 My husband and I were just talking about this yesterday, the fear that “medical advice” and judgement can be huge problems in the halls. I know a few people who won’t go to meetings anymore because they are on soboxone and embarrassed about it! That saddens me so much. I have said to so many people that if they aren’t sticking a needle in their arm and risking death daily, then keep doing what they are doing even if it’s methadone, soboxone, fkn Sesame Street porno, whatever! If it is saving their life then they should be applauded and not judged! I don’t care if it’s a “crutch” since that crutch can help them walk!

  4. I think it is awesome how you were able to stress the fact that the article you are responding to is merely an opinion piece, posted anonymously, with no facts or evidence to back it up. I’m impressed by your doing this for two reasons: 1) You obviously recognize the ( very possibly LIFE SAVING) importance of stating that information up front. And 2) There’s no way in hell I could have so maturely and kindly pointed out that that the author, who so clearly thinks of himself as THE * UNIVERSAL * AUTHORITY on any and all true recovery from addiction (and undoubtedly and absolutely believes his words to be true) still chose to publish his declaration ANONYMOUSLY. Whether due to 12-step program traditions or not- someone who has the testicular fortitude to make claims like this and then go on to actually PUBLISH it- should use that same confidence and gall to put their name on it.

    RAEGAN SMITH

  5. I love that you have cast light upon the most dangerous aspect of any group…and that is group think. It ruins businesses in the board room and in the recovery community can ruin lives. God gave me reason, and I use it. I accept nothing without doing my own research and drawing my own conclusion. Too often, the information espoused by certain members is received by the ill, the weak, and the scared. You are such a treasure m’lady. Honored to be in your tribe.

  6. I am one of the success stories that no one hears about. Because, like you’ve said, and it’s so true, that with such a stigma about maintenance therapy… I only am able to discuss it with a very few people. Most of family and friends have no idea how much maintenance therapy has SAVED my life, and allowed me to feel like myself again.
    Recovery comes in many shapes and sizes, it’s not one size fits all. Thanks for your article

  7. What a wonderful post! Thank you! All paths to recovery are valid. We are fortunate that there have been advancements in addiction treatment and that people have many more options along with traditional ones like 12-steps. This gives people a greater chance at finding recovery. Stigma kills so many people. This article will help.

  8. People in the 12 step community need to be careful when judging others, and need to be open-minded to other perspectives on the recovery process. In fact, those are spiritual principles embedded in the steps (i.e. non-judgemental, open-mindedness). A person may need to transitions through the use of maintenance therapy, harm reduction or prescription medications. However, physicians sometimes contribute to substance abuse and this topic is of a delicate nature. There are people who have become addicted to methadone and justify its use based on it being prescribed. There are others that have successfully used it to free themselves from more dangerous opiates. Many factors need to be considered and it should be based on the individual’s circumstances. Some paths to recovery do not lead to success, are not valid, and are dangerous. It all depends on the individual.

  9. Thank You For This!! This is True of How most people view anyone using Suboxone as it being a replacement. And it is why alot of people don’t speak out about its use. This has made me feel better reading this. Knowing that if even just a small percentage of people don’t see it this way makes me feel better. I’ve heard 1 to many times I’m trading 1 Drug for Another, and almost to the point of Truly believing So, which doesn’t cause any positive affects in a person’s life that is using Suboxone, and alters recovery to the point of not wanting to try on the personal developments that matter in the long run bc why try of I’m still an active user, the day will come when I won’t have it and then what, how will my mind deal with what views I’ve set in place for myself, will they even matter when that time comes. So THANK YOU for Writing this, from the bottom of my heart!! Suboxone has Saved My Life! And I’m Proud to say I live a “Normal” Life Thanks to It. I’m Able to function properly everyday and have that sense of Normality within mine, my childs, and my Partner’s Lives! God Bless!! May You Never Let Anyone Tell You How You Recover Isn’t Right..If your Living to Fight Another Day your Doing Something Right! #Amen

  10. I recently went on suboxone and you are right, this article is totally written for me!! I’ve always wondered why I am part of a society where it’s totally acceptable to continue relapsing and losing everything including the children you decide to bring into the world but you are judged and not taken seriously for taking a prescription medication that helps keep you on track, and continue to build a better life for yourself. So far amazing things are happening between the work I’m doing for my recovery combined with the proper intake of my medication and this article helped me realize I do not have to be ashamed of that. Thank you Julie!!!

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