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Harm Reduction…is it realistic?


What does this word mean…”sober?”

The word befuddles my poor strained brain.

For that matter, what is meant by…”clean?”

What do we call people who really have succeeded in bettering their lives tremendously without being able to abstain 100%?


In the 12-Step philosophy, we are taught to accept an all-or-nothing proposition.

To be certain, such a policy is for the good of millions of addicts and alcoholics who have found the ability to adhere to this rigorous path.

But my dear friends, current trends in recovery for hard core abusers is the “reduction” in use.

This “reduction” commonly translates to a parallel reduction in the harm caused by the former levels of use.

Is this possible? Is it really correct to believe that for some people abstinance cannot be maintained, but moderation CAN succeed? Is moderation the lesser of two evils when one is so out of control that no other methods have worked?

It seems this is so in some cases.

Does this give ME permission to “pick up” a drink or a drug? Certainly not.

The spirit of this finding is that for many who are chronic relapsers, the pursuit of abstinance is a futile journey leading only to self-defeat, feelings of worthlessness, and loss of respect for oneself and by one’s fellows. If there were an answer for these poor souls, other than the stolid mandate for complete abstinence, what would that be?

In Harm Reduction clinics the answer is that abstinence is not a requirement for worth, for peace, for function.

The premise is that users use for a reason, that they are filling a void. In harm reduction, while the suffering individual tackles the void with substances, the healing voices of therapists gently guide them to find peace in other pursuits…in medication, meditation, in positive affirmations.

Abstinence is not always the goal with Harm Reduction. Sometimes a person is helped to find a happy medium in their struggles. A peaceful compromise.


As a result of this philosophy, many are the heroin addicts who have risen from homelessness into productive employment and have rejoined with families. Many are the children who have regained their fathers and mothers. Parents who rose from the streets and destitution to resume a semblence of normalcy.

And why does this work? Obviously the answer to that question is complicated. Suffice it to say that people who sputter and flounder at the bottom of society are in part held there by the stigmas and dictates that “normal” people use to oppress them further. With Harm Reduction, these souls are treated with dignity to the extent that even THEY begin to believe they are worthwhile, with or without a drug or alcohol problem. Unbelievably, and against all dogma to the contrary…people with drug and alcohol use problems can even flourish.

Once they have arrived at this nirvana wherein they are functioning parts of society, do they then put down their substances of choice? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. But always, with Harm Reduction, they have that choice and whatever they choose…their life continues to be a celebration of what they have regained.

Just my random thoughts.


Syck and tired of being Syck and tired.