Saturday, June 29, 2013

Harm Reduction


Transformation: The Alchemy of Harm Reduction video

The above link is to an hour long video. What do y'all think of the harm reduction movement? I have mixed feelings. Is it just the mother of all enabling behaviors, normalizing unhealthy behaviors?  Or is it a way to keep these extreme addicts alive long enough that they might find healing and health?

Some of the messages in this video were troubling to me...like "teaching" a relatively new IV user *how* to safely shoot up. Or the thought that "we want to save your life, not fix you."

I am most certainly NOT there. I want her fixed. I want her whole and healthy and vibrant and off drugs forever more. I am learning to be patient with the process she has to go through to get there....but I want her saved AND fixed. Is that too much to ask? Certainly, just because I am not there, doesn't mean they are wrong. Maybe this is something I need to look at more closely.  

I saw another video of a Christian nurse sharing her thoughts on harm reduction and her times of even injecting clients when they were unable to safely do it themselves. Again, I have mixed feelings, but Christ met the sinners in their sin and He changed their lives by just His touch. His love, compassion, and acceptance broke their hearts and opened them up to accepting the gifts He was offering. Is this something similar to that? Accepting broken people where they are, meeting them in their disease, in their times of irrational thinking and extending a hand to eventually bring them to wholeness?

Thoughts anyone?
Annette

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read recently that we all have different ideas of what an inch is. Just like we all think of ourselves as moderates no matter where on the political spectrum we fall. To me, harm reduction is similar to this. We each define it differently. I once read a well-known addiction specialist tout that helping a drinker decrease his intake of alcohol down to 4-5 drinks per day was an example of harm reduction. I totally disagreed with that and this particular expert lost all credibility for me. That said, I think that as family members we do try to reduce harm to our relatives as best we can.

Holly

Hattie Heaton said...

Annette, won't you come to Tennessee and stay with me for a few days....I would love to have a very long conversation about that very topic!!!! Have you read Gabor Mate's, In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts? He is a great proponent of harm reduction. I think that it is radical thinking indeed, but Christ was quite radical if you can recall where and whom he met and how his interactions where so different from those in the world. It is a bit scary to consider saying to your addicted loved ones, "I will love you no matter if you sit in front of me and shoot up." But, we will. It is not as if our saying that statement will make them run out to shoot up in front of us. It is all an illusion of control. I think that perhaps it will do the opposite. I had a friend lose a child to overdose and when I found out about it, I went to my son and said to him, "I will love you no matter what, even if I see you shoot up it will change nothing between us. Do I want you to? No, but if you do, it will not change the love that I have for you." Will this work? IDK. But, we can talk about the taboo now. And, since my own son OD'd in May, I figured that I had nothing to lose and if he did it again, and if he died in the street, I wanted him to know that nothing else mattered, nothing else but the fact that he is loved. I just know that love heals and that God is love. That doesn't mean I go out and buy drugs for him but if he needs something to fill his void until he feels enough love to quit on his own, I am not gonna turn my back on him. I have tried everything else....and I am no expert.......

Hattie Heaton said...

Annette, This subject is near and dear to my heart. I have read Gabor Mate's book, In the Realm of the Hungry Ghost. He speaks about harm reduction. After my son overdosed in May, I made the decision to stay connected (attached) to him no matter what. If he died in the street, it was important for him to know that he is loved. Harm Reduction is radical and I spoke with my marriage counselor about it and when I mentioned it his response was, "well Christ was pretty radical." I have been wrestling with the boundary of "the nomatterwhatness love factor and enabling. I talked with my counselor about it and he felt that the one missing component with the 12 step groups is the attachment aspect. I'm trying to repair attachment with my son now. I don't condone drug use but I love him enough to stay connected no matter what he does. We are having some very adult healthy conversations and he is learning (ever so slowly) to self regulate. For me and my family and our religious beliefs, this is the direction we've taken.

Mary Christine said...

Christ met sinners and loved them, but told them to "go and sin no more." He expected repentance.

I can tell you that if someone tried to soften the blow of my alcoholism, I would still be drinking today.

With my daughter, she always knew I loved her, but she knew I didn't accept her behavior. If people helped her be an addict, she would still be using. Or dead. I can't imagine trying to "manage" her bottom, and prevent her from God's own work in her life.

It sounds like a bunch of well-meaning, but harmful in the end stuff.

Annette said...

Mary, I was talking to my husband about this last night and he said almost verbatim what you just said. Jesus loved the sinner but He said go and sin no more and expected repentance which is turning from their/our sin. He asked, "Isn't the third step of your program about surrendering your will, or the addict/alcoholic surrendering theirs and accepting God's will as their own?"
Yes it is dear. I am processing what it would mean to love unconditionally without getting in the way. What that might look like, because I know it was Christ's love and acceptance that changed my life. I am not Christ, but I can model His behavior of unconditional love, but still have boundaries and limits. I can act them out with love and care and not anger and demoralizing punitory actions.

Anna said...

Harm reduction is more accepted in Canada and Europe. My mother in law who died in her late 90's told me that they used to taper an addict down on the same drug they were using. So, a heroine addict would get heroine but less each day.


I read the book Hungry Ghosts and found it to be very disturbing but he was dealing with hard core addiction which is very disturbing.

I would have to know what particular harm reduction strategy you are thinking about in order to have more of an opinion. My own daughter lived on the street for three years. Her life was brutal and in the end we were searching for her in morgues.

We helped her get food and shelter but not in our home. We came to the realization that not giving her food and shelter did not cure her in three years and it was driving us to the brink of insanity seeing her live a life that we would not subject our dogs to. I have spoken to many parents who told me that their kids turned around when they kicked them out but it usually took only a few weeks. Three years was all I could handle and I deeply regret those three years. OUr position during those three years was it is either a half way house, rehab or the streets. It was the streets for her. I am not sure it was just a choice as she is severely mentally ill.

Now, she has a subsidized apartment and a very small disability. None, of this money goes directly to her. It is only used for food and shelter. At least, I know that she is not being attacked on the street for lack of a place to go. Housing first is a harm reduction stategy that I agree with.

Recovery Helpdesk is a sight that talks about harm reduction.

Signe said...

I haven't watched the video, yet, but I will. In the meantime, just reading what has been written here, though initially I said no to myself as I read your blog (I agree with the go and sin no more) I also realized that maybe I am doing a type of Harm Reduction with the arrangement I have here. I don't condone the drinking when it happens, I just can't invite anymore (or the potential of anymore) harmful actions happening to or by by daugther by making her leave. When she drinks, I know she is in a safe environment, though we don't communicate until she is done. But then we talk and seem to figure out another aspect and she tries, again, which I think is good and hopeful. Who knows how much I've done wrong by this, but that inner voice in me keeps telling me that this is what should be happening, at least for now. Another thought provoking writing, Annette!