Challenging the Disconnect of Behavioral Health Authorities from Authentic Human Realities
Through profound introspection, the analysis of lived experience illuminates the societal isolation imposed upon individuals grappling with addiction—a sense of being a foreign intrusion within society's fabric. From this divide emerges a recovery culture born out of the division and marginalization of those who turn to substances as a coping mechanism in the face of unfair challenges imposed by larger social systems.
Yet, it beckons us to ponder: Is this division a consequence of problematic behavior, or does it stem from deeper societal issues that predate it?
They say that hurt people hurt people, and I firmly believe that many individuals embark on the path of substance use due to profound wounds inflicted by the very system they exist within.
No one—mark my words, absolutely no one—awakens one day with the intention of surrendering themselves to a relentless spiral of self-destruction and harm toward others. Rather, it is borne out of emotional, physical, spiritual, or psychological anguish—a consequence of a collective consciousness that prioritizes personal material gain over the holistic well-being of humanity.
The initiation into the realm of recovery culture begins with a deliberate separation from society. We are informed of our divergence, convinced of possessing an illness that sets us apart from the rest of the world. And, we are forewarned that diverting our gaze even momentarily would unleash its wrath upon us. Thus, we construct these distorted realities within the confines of dimly lit meeting rooms.
In these sacred spaces, we bring forth our pain and anguish, only for them to be amplified. We encounter countless narratives of shame, regret, guilt, and resentment. Within these rooms, we find kinship not in our shared flaws, but rather in the profound spectrum of humanity that unifies us all, regardless of our struggles with substance abuse.
Then, we are taught that it is our resentments that perpetuate our sickness. We must relinquish our grievances toward a society that has treated us as disposable beings and, instead, channel our energy into serving others who have endured similar mistreatment throughout their lives. Yet, how can this burden fall solely on our shoulders?
The systems responsible for our mistreatment evade personal repercussions, seamlessly advancing fueled by fear, greed, power, and monetary gain.
I, too, have experienced numerous instances of mistreatment, and regrettably, such treatment continues to plague my existence. I have mustered the courage to defend myself, only to be met with even greater adversity. I have championed the cause of those subjected to similar maltreatment, and to this day, I remain an advocate for those who suffer injustice. In fact, it seems as though I possess an innate magnetism for attracting such challenges. This phenomenon is known as empathy.
As an empath, I possess a profound ability to perceive and empathize with the emotions of others, to see the world through their eyes, and to comprehend the intricate tapestry of their human experiences without casting judgment. However, before I recognized the value of this gift, it often left me vulnerable to exploitation. Codependency, enabling, and people-pleasing—many empathic individuals, particularly women, can relate. We find ourselves irresistibly drawn to those who embody the archetype of the "bad boy" or the "bad girl."
Yet, within this innate gift lies immense potential. Once we learn to navigate and honor these capabilities, they become transformative mirrors, allowing us to reflect back and assist others in untangling the depths of their pain, empowering them to embark on their personal journey of healing.
Nevertheless, we must remember that these gifts are indeed precious, and we owe them to no one. We are under no obligation to be selflessly generous. Instead, we must wield our energy strategically and purposefully, mindful of the profound importance of preserving our own dignity. Alas, recovery culture often overlooks this fundamental aspect.
The central focus of recovery culture centers primarily on the concept of "recovery." But what exactly are we endeavoring to recover? By definition, recovery denotes a return to a "normal" state of health, mind, or strength. Yet, "normalcy" is a harmful construct perpetuated by society, one that I consciously choose to disavow. Moreover, my essence has never fit within the confines of normalcy, rendering the notion of a return to it wholly implausible.
Another interpretation of recovery involves reclaiming something that has been lost or stolen. However, this presupposes that the object must first be discovered to be misplaced or pilfered, rendering this definition illogical. Other definitions speak of bouncing back, coming back, rallying, rebounding, and snapping back.
Humans, like all elements of our vast universe, undergo constant evolution and change. The idea of snapping back to the person we were yesterday is simply unattainable.
Consider, instead, the term "re-cover." It suggests the act of adorning oneself with a new cover, donning an alternate mask or facade. This is precisely how the 12-step program felt to me—an alternative path of concealing my authentic self. It merely provided yet another confining route in the pursuit of conformity and normalcy.
Personally, I eschew the label of being "in recovery." Instead, I view my journey as an odyssey of self-discovery. Abstaining from alcohol, a mechanism of coping, is an intentional voyage of self-exploration—an arduous, painful, unwavering, and yet blissful expedition. It represents the natural path for every human being; it defines our purpose on this Earth. And I choose not to partake in it by consuming alcohol, period.
It was when I dared to challenge the foundations of the 12-step model within those hallowed rooms that I began to glimpse the truth. Unwilling to conform, I embarked on a personal evolution—an individualistic growth, learning, and metamorphosis. However, when I shared these discoveries, cynicism and judgment were hurled my way.
This is the modus operandi of the anonymous recovery system. Deviation from the established status quo leads to alienation. Sadly, this is also the prevailing pattern within many of our societal systems.
Consequently, countless individuals find themselves ensnared in a revolving door, subjected repeatedly to harm by a system that stigmatizes their existence and relentlessly attempts to force them into preconceived molds. When they fail to conform, shame is heaped upon them, reinforcing internalized messages that they are unworthy of this world. Yet, in truth, it is this world that falls short of deserving their extraordinary essence.
In the realm of profound wisdom, as seen through the lens of lived experience, the problem at hand transcends the individual, for it is the system itself that harbors the roots of behavioral health issues. Reluctant to dismantle the confining walls of its own box, the system assumes an authoritative stance, convinced of its omniscience and superiority. Little does it realize that true enlightenment comes from embracing humility and acknowledging that the walls must crumble for authentic transformation to unfold.
In contemplating the presence of behavioral health authorities, one cannot help but perceive an intricate web of artificiality, severed from the harmonious ecosystem of life. These constructs, devised to govern and regulate, have unfortunately deviated from their intended purpose, becoming tools that perpetuate power dynamics rather than embracing the innate balance of existence.
Regrettably, the crisis we find ourselves in is poised to exacerbate, for the cause itself remains blind to its own role as the problem. The very systems tasked with rectifying and ameliorating behavioral health struggles fails to recognize its complicity in perpetuating the very issues it seeks to address. Only through profound self-reflection and a willingness to relinquish oppressive power structures can we hope to navigate towards true healing and transformation.