Recovery Community: No more agreeing to disagree

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

As we begin 2018, I have no doubt that many meetings will be held throughout New Hampshire and beyond. Meetings on – What more can we be doing to curb the addiction crisis? What else can we try? Who/what else can we blame? While meetings are good and produce some valuable outcomes, I can’t help but think we are starting each one off on the wrong foot.

I long for a day when the recovery community in New Hampshire and beyond can work together to agree on some simple interests. And yes, I said interests – not positions, stances, or opinions. We must get past all these if we are to work together in implementing solutions to the current crisis. Many solutions deemed controversial among recovery communities and the public do not invite positions or opinions. They are based in peer-reviewed, untainted, and uncompromised research, and it is time we stop ignoring those facts.

The State of New Hampshire and the entire country is currently experiencing a public health crisis and emergency concerning addiction. There is no arguing that fact. However, there is a true narrative underlying this crisis that for some reason remains a secret. That secret is: “If there is a natural progression for people with alcohol or other drug problems, it is towards remission and recovery,” (White, 2012). Once again, individuals living with addiction are naturally progressing towards remission and recovery says the overwhelming research on the topic. If we grab hold of this undeniable truth, our focus should be on two interests – to keep people alive and to shorten addiction careers while mitigating harm to self, others, and society.

To accomplish these two interests, then we must agree to the following:

1. Any solution must align with agreeing that addiction is a chronic, treatable, medical condition. If you believe addiction to be something else (choice, moral failing, spiritual malady, learning/developmental disorder, etc.) then let’s at least agree that all these beliefs have the solutions rooted in learning of some kind.

2. Since learning is rooted at the center of addiction, we must create the best opportunities for people to learn how to manage their chronic, treatable, medical condition and live in the recovery of their choosing.

3. We must employ harm reduction techniques, tools, solutions, and skills to mitigate harm of self, others, and society.

4. We must agree that a person with an addiction is a human being first who has a chronic, treatable, medical condition and needs to have opportunities for all the things that other human beings need.

5. The messaging of “bottoms” needs to cease as well as the drama around reoccurrence (relapse). If we believe that a person with an addiction is a human first, then a reoccurrence would just a part of the journey of all humans that are managing a chronic, treatable, medical condition.

6. Opinions on recovery pathways need to cease. They cause harm and can kill. They promote isolation – the space where addiction breeds. Individual recovery pathways and stories of pathways are powerful examples of recovery being possible. They are NOT, however, a recovery prescription for everyone.

7. If addiction truly is a chronic, treatable, medical condition, then options for individualized care for treatment and recovery should be explored and available. Options that work for the individual and are recommended based on their problem severity and complexity.

8. This is a public health crisis/emergency. There is no arguing that fact. Therefore, we must activate all resources, and most importantly, we must activate the public to create an “all hands-on deck” approach to ending this crisis. In past crises, the public was asked by the loudest and most powerful leaders in this country to do their part. We must treat this addiction crisis the same and ask the public to do their part.

Everything counts. Everything matters. It is all worth it. We need everyone. Every single person can directly impact someone’s opportunity to be alive in recovery today. We as a recovery community must share this message. We must bring everyone into the solution, to keep people living with their condition in the light. And, we as a recovery community must find a way to agree. Now is the time. You are the answer.

Agree to disagree? Have your own soapbox to climb up on? All thoughtful points of view are welcome here. Send submissions to, subject line: The Soapbox.


Bernadette Gleeson is a recovery innovator, speaker, and educator and is the founder of BAO Communications – a company dedicated to harnessing and activating the public to help combat the addiction and opiate crisis.