We accept you for who you are and who you can become

PathwaysMost clients entering a treatment environment/ relationship do so with fear and ambivalence. The fear is fear of an alien environment, the feeling of vulnerability and lack of control, and the suspicion that they are in a place where they will not be understood and accepted… The earliest moments in the initiation of the treatment relationship must communicate the following to the client:

  • You are in the right place.
  • You are with others like yourself.
  • We understand you and the world you come from.
  • We accept who you are and who you can become.
  • This is a place where magic (change) can happen.

From: Pathways from the Culture of Addiction to the Culture of Recovery by William L. White

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Person first

hippocrates-1It is far more important to know what person the disease has, than what disease the person has.


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Do I see myself as a fixer?

Perhaps I'm the Wrong Tool by Tall Jerome

Perhaps I’m the Wrong Tool by Tall Jerome

“Many times when we help we do not really serve. . . . Serving is also different from fixing. One of the pioneers of the Human Potential Movement, Abraham Maslow, said, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’

Seeing yourself as a fixer may cause you to see brokenness everywhere, to sit in judgment of life itself. When we fix others, we may not see their hidden wholeness or trust the integrity of the life in them. Fixers trust their own expertise.

When we serve, we see the unborn wholeness in others; we collaborate with it and strengthen it. Others may then be able to see their wholeness for themselves for the first time.”

― Rachel Naomi Remen

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raising hope up and living our mission

speraFrom Victoria Safford via Maria Popova (emphasis mine):

I have a friend who traffics in words. She is not a minister, but a psychiatrist in the health clinic at a prestigious women’s college. We were sitting once not long after a student she had known, and counseled, committed suicide in the dormitory there. My friend, the doctor, the healer, held the loss very closely in those first few days, not unprofessionally, but deeply, fully — as you or I would have, had this been someone in our care.

At one point (with tears streaming down her face), she looked up in defiance (this is the only word for it) and spoke explicitly of her vocation, as if out of the ashes of that day she were renewing a vow or making a new covenant (and I think she was). She spoke explicitly of her vocation, and of yours and mine. She said, “You know I cannot save them. I am not here to save anybody or to save the world. All I can do — what I am called to do — is to plant myself at the gates of Hope. Sometimes they come in; sometimes they walk by. But I stand there every day and I call out till my lungs are sore with calling, and beckon and urge them in toward beautiful life and love…

There’s something for all of us there, I think. Whatever our vocation, we stand, beckoning and calling, singing and shouting, planted at the gates of Hope. This world and our people are beautiful and broken, and we are called to raise that up — to bear witness to the possibility of living with the dignity, bravery, and gladness that befits a human being. That may be what it is to “live our mission.”

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treat them with hope

minimalwall-hope-10-78-1“If you want to treat an illness that has no easy cure, first of all, treat them with hope.”—George Vaillant


by | May 30, 2015 · 5:51 am

Privileged access

charles outreach accept

Peg O’Connor offers an interesting perspective on self-trust in addiction.

Complicating the matter is the belief that each person knows herself better than others can know her. In philosophy we call this “privileged access.” On this view, each person has an access to her beliefs, desires, thoughts, emotions that no one else can have. Each of us can turn a light to even the darkest, most remote corners of our mind; no one else can see those corners and what lurks there.  On that basis of privileged access, each person can say, “I have the best perspective on Who I Am.”

However, the relationship between privileged access and perspective is muddy, and confounds the question of how much trust to have in myself.

I found myself experiencing a little ambivalence reading this. Reflecting on my own behavior and those of clients, so many decisions look and sound like acts of self trust. Running our lives into the ground, asking for help and then disregarding other’s experience and advice looks like hubris

In truth, when I disregarded suggestions given by others, it wasn’t that I had so much trust in myself. Rather, I had less trust that others fully appreciated my circumstances, options, needs, goals, motives, etc. On a scale of 1 to 10 my self-trust may have only been a 2, but my trust in your accurate understanding was only a 1.5.

However, it looks like there isn’t an way around the matter.

So, given all these complications, how can one end this vicious cycle of unreliability–>lack of self-trust –>untrustworthiness –>unreliability…? It involves embracing something of a paradox. Sometimes one has to trust others before she can trust herself. In a sense, one may have to borrow the trust someone else has in her until she can begin to generate it for herself.

The person who sees herself as untrustworthy may need to grant that someone else may have a useful perspective on her. Another has some distance and hence perspective on us. This is the equivalent of holding the printed page further away from the face.

That reminded me of two things:

First, Nadia Bolz-Weber’s observation, “I don’t think faith is given in sufficient quantity to individuals necessarily. I think it’s given in sufficient quantity to communities.”

Second, Bill White talking about the recovery coaches of Project Safe and their process of developing “hope-engendering relationships”.

It strikes me that we’re asking these very scared and frightened people to grant us “privileged access.” This is an honor and a gift. Helpers who treat it as an honor and a gift are much more likely to earn that trust.

O’Connor tosses in a little folk-wisdom from Aristotle:

More concretely, Aristotle has some useful suggestions. If we become who we are by what we do, we should act in different ways if we want to become different people. Aristotle instructs us to act as a virtuous good person does even if we do not yet have the same character. By mimicking, we can begin to act in ways that can become virtuous as we begin to develop a virtuous character. This is the philosophical forerunner of “fake it until you can make it.”

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Faith is given in sufficient quantities to communities

charles outreach accept

I recently listened to an interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber. There were a lot of keepers in the interview (even for a non-believer). She’s described as a recovering drug addict. Her recovery shines through in this, “fake it till you make it” discussion:

Ms. Tippett: So a sermon of yours I wish I could have heard is “Loving Our Enemies Even If We Don’t Mean It.”


Ms. Nadia Bolz-Weber: Yeah, I think meaning it is overrated. I mean, I think …

Ms. Tippett: I think this is profound. I really do.

Ms. Nadia Bolz-Weber: No, I’m serious. Like, my gosh, if God’s going to wait till I mean it, that’s going to be a while, right? So I think that the key is praying for them, not like feeling warm feelings towards people who’ve hurt you or towards your enemy. I don’t think it’s about feelings. I think it’s about an action.

That was kind of neat, but what she said next really leapt out to me. [emphasis mine]

…I think that’s what the sort of love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you means. I will actually ask other people to do it for me sometimes, like it doesn’t always have to be us. And so it’s like this thing like I don’t think faith is given in sufficient quantity to individuals necessarily. I think it’s given in sufficient quantity to communities.

Wow. It reminds me of my persistent despair many months into my recovery and Dave H. telling me, “It’s okay if you don’t believe it’s going to get better, just believe that I believe it’s going to get better for you.”

This reminds me of an aha moment I had when listening to Bill White describe the recovery coaches of Project SAFE. I remember listening to him and thinking of the clients in those stories as having no protective factors–none!–only risk factors. He went on to describe the assertive support and engagement that these workers provided. I realized that these workers were becoming and creating protective factors in the lives of these women.

It also reminds me something my friend Ben often says, “Too often I fail to notice how much of the time I’m carried by others.”

What a gift it is for our profession to have access to a recovering community that, a group and one-to-one level, provides so much hope, faith and tangible support.

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