I was moved and inspired by an interview with a harm reduction activist who is also in recovery. Kevin Jaffray is quizzed by writer and broadcaster Ruth Jacobs. Using his own experience as illustration, he reveals insights and reflections on the relationship between harm reduction and recovery. And he does it with passion. Answering criticisms that harm reduction might just enable users to keep on using he says:
Speaking as someone who came into abstinence kicking and screaming – thankfully with my health intact – after a number of chaotic years in addiction, I have to say with my hand on my heart that I would not have got this far if I had not spent a number of years being educated around the risks of my chosen lifestyle and gently guided through the years of chaos with a non-judgemental and non-enforced guiding hand of harm reduction.
For him, harm reduction was not only helpful, it was essential:
Those who reached out to me during that time carried me through some of the most destructive years of my life and kept me safe when no one else took the time to care. So being alive and healthy is actually quite a significant positive outcome in my opinion.
And keeping up the theme I’ve touched on frequently of trying to help service users achieve their goals, he says:
…we do not shoot our wounded; we care for them and nurse them back to health or recovery. No matter what it takes or how long it takes, regardless of who they are or what they stand for, we overlook the divide and provide the care needed at a pace that supports the individual safely and humanely back to a place where they feel comfortable with their life and its surroundings.
And he’s really clear on helping people move forward safely:
For some this may not mean complete abstinence, and who am I to judge their preference? My aim is to support them in any way I can to achieve whatever it is they set as their goal in the safest way possible.
Jaffray is motivated to reduce suffering and loneliness in those with addictions, because he remembers those feelings himself. He is actively involved in supporting people to abstinent recovery and he is actively involved in harm reduction delivery and in activism. He’s not blind to the tensions between recovery activists and harm reductionists and also touches on other controversies frankly. But he has answers too. Practical ones. What can individuals do to make things better?
Support your local mutual aid groups; if there aren’t any, think about starting one up. Join online forums and add your voice to the already existing campaigns. Run events in your area. Get out there in your community and talk to people, find out what’s missing. Look for the deficits and fill them. Your community can always be improved. Asset map your community, don’t try and reinvent the wheel, just build more spokes from what is already there.
It’s a good interview and an honest one at that. Read the whole thing here.