There are so many different angles from which to criticize the current state of addiction recovery. Not only is it a culture, a permanent lifestyle, and a religious institution, but it’s an enormously profitable industry that thrives on its own failure (relapse is big bucks). But it seems that people who are participating in the progressive conversation on the big stage aren’t aware that addiction recovery is a parallel universe that influences popular culture. It’s imperative that progressive voices genuinely begin to challenge it, and I’m going to try to appeal to different arenas of the activist sphere and make a case for why addiction should be part of the conversation. Right now, I am hoping to put recovery culture on the feminist radar by offering a condensed version of this twisted world and the culture it has generated. I don’t have much of a feminist pedigree, but I hope I can make a good case for its relevance to feminist activism.
I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog throwing tantrums about the fact that addiction gets no play among the skeptic and new atheist writers out there – people who actively combat quackery and religious influence in public policy. How does it escape these people that a whole branch of public health has already been handed over to the faith healers?
I have a few theories about that. But my favorite is that, despite their skepticism, they’re still a little superstitious about the topic: Addiction is such a complicated and elusive condition. Who wants to touch that with a ten foot pole? The reason addiction is such a mystery, though, is that our conventional understanding of addiction has its roots in religious philosophy – not science, psychology, or medicine – and it has not evolved at all in 75 years. Neither has the way we treat it. The vast majority of addiction facilities in this country employ the 12 Step program for spiritual enlightenment as the basis for their treatment. Things we take for granted about addiction, for instance that it’s a “progressive, fatal disease,” are completely unfounded, but they put the sharpest critical thinkers in a bind. Doesn’t everyone know at least one person who believes that their life was saved by accepting their powerlessness? How do you start challenging that if you think that someone could die of it?
“I’d be dead without AA” is one among many thought-stopping cliches that keep criticism of addiction mythology at bay. Add to this AA’s own persistent misinformation campaign, its unimpeached reputation as a benevolent organization, their noble insistence on anonymity, the public’s general ignorance, and the amount of time and effort it would take for someone on the outside to piece together a big picture. This mess has allowed a fringe religious culture to spring up around addiction and quietly influence the landscape in ways that I think would be of enormous interest to feminists. At least I hope I can make a case for it: Continue reading Why Addiction Recovery Should Be A Feminist Issue