A few words on tolerance

Not everyone in recovery is in a 12 step program.

Some folks go to church, for example. And some people do treatment that doesn’t involve 12 step stuff or 12 step meetings are just a small part of their recovery. The rehab in NYC I attended gave “drinking privileges” to the addicts at graduation and had only just started inviting 12 step meetings into the facility (ironically AA meetings!). When I was there a recovering alcoholic from Throggs Neck came in one night a month. It made me really nervous to learn about the drinking privileges, because by the time I graduated from that facility, I had already been to a lot of NA meetings, and I understood abstinence to mean complete abstinence from both drugs and alcohol. A lot of the guys I went to treatment with didn’t have these same concerns as me. So then at my own graduation, I made a commitment to AA and got a sponsor and started going to meetings and doing the recovery drill.

And then a few years later, after I had been sober in AA for maybe 4 or 5 years, I met a woman who was in AA, but also a counsellor at a methadone maintenance facility in NJ. When she mentioned methadone, I bristled about “those people” who (IMO) weren’t really in recovery, and she set me straight. Her thing was that if 12 steppers (on a whole) were more tolerant of people using different methods of recovery, her clients would have an important outlet for fellowship they so desperately needed, improving their chances immensely. It’s very hard for people in methadone maintenance to go to 12 step meetings without feeling judged (can you imagine?) Or worse, being guided to go off methadone against medical advice!.

That kind of tolerant thinking was a real wake up call for me, but has turned out to be a really helpful idea to embrace. I have family (not going to mention any names but someone I introduced to heroin and feel all the requisite guilty) attending church to deal with crack addiction. And don’t we all know people who had a problem with drugs or alcohol and just moved to a new city and started over? Or maybe someone else who found just the right person and started a family (Johnny Cash?) and made an exit from addiction that way.

It’s easy to look at them skeptically and ask if they’re really in recovery (I’ve done it, believe me), but on good days I can just feel secure enough with my own path to just accept they are on a different path than me, but that we’re all trying to get to the same place. 

Have a great day people!


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