Building big tents and finding our lane(s)

August 1, 2020
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Faces and Voices’ blog has a new post arguing that social justice advocacy is in the recovery advocacy lane.

I don’t get to pick recovery justice outside of the frame of social justice because recovery justice is social justice. This doesn’t mean I need to be an expert on all social justice issues, but I don’t get to stay on the sidelines. Infringement of civil rights regarding recovery is no different than the infringement of civil rights based on race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, or ability. To act like we stand for one but not the other is at a minimum disingenuous, and worst-case scenario, supportive of systemic oppression.

While this might seem to some like a course change, I would argue that we’ve always been social justice warriors. The passion and energy I have seen regarding recovery issues is truly something to behold. We’re just widening the road a bit.

This is our lane!

this is our lane by Phil Rutherford

Bill Stauffer recently posted here on the same subject, but didn’t share Phil’s certainty:

Decriminalization of drugs, social justice, basic human rights are all issues of deep, substantive concern for so very many of us, but are they our central focus? To what degree if any do we incorporate other issues of broad concern? What is in our “lane” and what is out of our “lane”? What do we risk if anything if we expend our energy on these other issues? I am not sure. But what I can tell you is that it does matter to me profoundly that we stay true to a common purpose and that purpose remains stronger than issues that would otherwise pull us apart.

Fostering Big Tent Recovery by Bill Stauffer

I’ve recently have frequently found myself frustrated with discourse around nearly everything — COVID, elections, school and business re-opening, social justice, recovery advocacy, etc.

I am particularly frustrated that so many words are devoted to what others should say, should not say, attacking character, complaining about the other “side”, criticizing others without offering meaningful counterpoints, etc. Too many responses seek to end conversation rather than start or engage others in conversation.

Like any movement, the recovery movement carries many questions that may never really be answered with finality and must be re-asked and re-answered. Those answers may expand or narrow the scope of the movement. For example, we must ask questions like, “who do we exist for?”, “who are we accountable to?”, “who do we represent?”, “what are our values?”, “who needs to be involved to discern the answers to these questions?”, etc.

There was a time when the recovery advocacy movement probably identified as existing for people in recovery and people seeking recovery. It then expanded to people with addiction. Many now see the scope expanding to people who use drugs and people at risk for a drug charge. These matters are important and worthy of discussion.

At any rate, I want to celebrate Phil and Bill for exploring these questions in a way that invites more dialogue and exploration. I hope others continue the conversation.

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