For a very long time, I have been somewhat of a ‘preacher’ to the residential recovery experience. I have spoken many times and on many platforms about how residential recovery saved my life. Now, as I find my way into the world of advocacy, harm reduction, and narcofeminism, I have come to view my own journey from a new and somewhat challenging perspective. I will declare here that I did need residential recovery to stop my destructive alcohol and drug use. However, am I going too far when I say it saved my life? And at what cost to me and my own self-identity? Why was recovery the hardest thing I’ve ever done? Why did recovery have to be so painful? Why do I still look back at who I was pre-recovery as though that part of me and my life were ‘bad,’ and now am I ‘good’?
I have, for a long time, been acutely aware of an undercurrent, a “vibe” of what I have now learned is ‘toxic positivity’—something I always felt in the residential recovery space but didn’t have the words or understanding to articulate. The constant struggle to believe that life is better without drugs and once you can learn to live with, accept reality, face your pain and suffer through it your life will improve. A totally flawed ideology for a human who has suffered trauma often so horrific that without the creative adjustment of drug use simply wouldn’t have endured. Why can’t we just say it? Drugs saved me.
This of course didn’t fit into the positive narrative of recovery and for some reason I got really good at faking it, when in reality I was suffering more than I ever have. I got really good at making the recovery journey ‘seem so easy’? I was confronted with my peers’ saying things like ‘it’s easy for you,’ and I carried what I can now name up as “resilience resentment”. Was it that I was just a great actress? Was I exceptionally good at buying into the ‘toxic positivity’ agenda? Pushing down all my real feelings and emotions and steamrolling them with this toxic ‘positive narrative.’ Pushing through and remaining resilient when all I really wanted to do was scream, cry, and snap syringes, so angry at a Fucking white powder for making me love and miss it so much!
I needed to talk about all the times that I had trauma, and my best friend (favorite drug) was cocaine, how it made the world sparkle! The times when my drug made the days move quicker, and the distance from my trauma was longer, and moving away from it accelerated. All of these memories and experiences weren’t allowed to be shared in the recovery space. I wasn’t allowed to speak of the times my drug use saved me. The times when without it I simply wouldn’t have survived my trauma wounds.
Sharing these memories was seen as ‘drug positive,’ and frankly, reflecting on this, they would have been so much easier to let go of if they had been openly shared. I have come to understand this after my recovery experience and am now working as a lived experience advocate.
So, to share some profound (albeit obvious to the drug-using community) insight, it’s really just sharing experiences of drug use through the third person that empowers us. Learning through others’ experiences in drug use is the most powerful tool we have in recovery and out of recovery. Trauma triggering enables us to work through our own attachments and mechanisms. I’ve suddenly come to understand that the very thing that is shut down in the recovery space is the very thing that heals. It’s all the quiet secret conversations we have with each other and with ourselves. It’s all the internal conversations we have when we are missing our drug of choice and saying goodbye to it.
Telling it we miss it and thanking it for saving us.