You’ve probably heard people state that addiction is blind to status, fortune, and situation. It’s often said when talking about drug or alcohol addiction and you’ll be directed to the sad deaths of the rich and famous to make the point all the more resonant, offering a stark alternative to the stereotypical image of the gaunt, penniless, criminal heroin addict so often depicted.
The statement may in fact be truer than we realise at first. Read, for example, Bruce Alexander’s The Globalization of Addiction and you will find a compelling narrative that sets out how, in today’s post-modern world, most of us have ‘severe addictions’. They may not be addictions to drugs or alcohol but that doesn’t necessarily make them any less dangerous. The growth in ‘the compulsion for money, power, work, food, or material goods’ is our preoccupation as individuals and as a nation. They are our addictions… and little we do seems to be having a significant impact.
I’m drawn to Alexander’s work largely as it recognises addiction, as well as recovery, as a social issue that cannot be divorced from a broader social and economic context that concerns us all. And as such, it requires a whole community response that doesn’t simply focus on a single issue whether that’s recovery, well-being, mental or physical health, and so on. He points to the ‘four pillars’ of traditional responses to substance misuse as an example: treatment, prevention, law enforcement and harm reduction. They have ultimately failed and we need a radically different approach.
Unsurprisingly, I think that’s what ABCD offers; a radically different approach that focusses on community building – not ‘Recovery Community’ building – as a method for individuals and whole community transformation. It is an approach that speaks to the broader social and economic contexts in which people develop addictions and recover from them. It’s an approach that asks, if we’re all addicted then don’t we all need to recover?
These are big issues for exploration and we’re looking forward to pursuing them through our growing community-based work across the UK, our training and our online and offline discussions. I hope you will be part of our exploration!