“The greatest and noblest pleasure which we have in this world is to discover new truths, and the next is to shake off old prejudices.” Frederick The Great
The global world of recovery is a remarkable place; a place of heroes.
People who have found beauty and simplicity through sobriety and are passing on this truth, offering support, advice and a listening ear in those dark moments of the soul that all addicts endure. In my role as Recovery Coordinator at The Edge Café, I talk about recovery every day. I talk to people in recovery and their families; people in addiction searching for answers; professionals and volunteers.
What I find really interesting are the opinions of the customers of the café. Civilians, I call them. We are based on the site of a small hospital. Consequently, The Edge is patronised by professionals such as doctors, nurses and therapists including the staff of Inclusion, the Drug and Alcohol treatment centre based next door; patients and their families; builders from the nearby construction sites and people from the local community. Before we opened, we were concerned about the attitude of these people to a café run by addicts. Okay, we are in recovery but ‘addict’ is a pejorative word that conjures pictures of aggressive street drunks and junkies in alleyways
Our fears have been proved to be unfounded.
To start with, people love the café. The food and coffee are great and we are constantly complimented on the positive ambience of the place. We have a postcard on every table explaining our work. This card has started many conversations with staff about addiction and recovery. People are interested and, through these conversations, knowledge is broadened and innate human compassion and empathy is activated. So much of our opinion and belief system is built on words and the pictures they bring to our minds. Through true knowledge comes understanding.
In my daily conversations about recovery, I hear heroic and inspiring tales, I see understanding grow and the joy of people discovering the safe space we have created at The Edge. I have watched their confidence grow. I also hear tragic tales of relapse and death. I listen to families in despair and without hope. I offer support through our activities but know that it is the addict who must decide to change. Their families are powerless.
The world of recovery can also be a place of villains.
Some of the most judgmental things I have heard about addiction and recovery come from people who should know better. People in recovery themselves and professionals involved in their treatment. I have heard people with years of sobriety being called ‘dry drunks’. This describes a person who no longer drinks or abuses drugs, but continues to behave in dysfunctional ways. Any human claiming not to be dysfunctional in some way is deluded. I also recently heard the term ‘thirteenth steppers’. These are people with years of sobriety who prey on vulnerable people in early recovery. I was disappointed but not surprised.
We have recently founded The Edge Recovery Support Group. It is for people like me who can no longer access the Inclusion groups as their treatment has ended, and offers an alternative to more traditional support options. My hope is for it to be a conversation. So far, it has been a place of shared stories, empathy, friendship and laughter. Long may it continue in this fashion. Recovery is about people. Recovery is about connection.
Due to the all-encompassing nature of my role in the world of recovery, with all its highs and lows, The Edge Board of Directors have arranged for me to have counselling to give me support. I am very grateful for this. It is always nice to talk about yourself to someone who is paid to listen. I am half hoping for some answers though. Last year, I completed a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I had no blinding moment of self-realisation but felt it validated my views on reasons for my frequent descent into addiction. However, I am all too aware that this self-validation could merely be my addict brain continuing to choreograph my dance.