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Accepting the Things I Can’t Change and Changing the Things I Can: A Personal Story of Harm Reduction & Recovery

I have had the honor of working in the substance use field for over 30 years. I have worked in detox programs, out-patient and residential treatment and harm reduction services. I have developed harm reduction services at a drop-in center and provided services for syringe exchange programs. My life work is working with people who are drug injectors and working to ensure they have access to quality medical, social services and quality life support. I feel my professional and personal life has offered me a broad range of experiences working with people who currently use drugs and others who made a choice not to use drugs.

I have been on both sides of recovery during the last 30 years, using, then being in recovery for 16 years and using again for 10 years. I had never been in a treatment program but this last time I needed to be physically removed from my environment in order to stop using. Treatment gave me the opportunity to begin the journey of recovery. Recovery offers a way for me to have self reflection and accountability, I have been fortunate to have been able to make it back into recovery. It is a difficult road to stay on and I have discovered this road is far more interesting and exciting than when I was using.  As I have become older, my health has become more important to me and recovery has offered me the clarity to make healthy choices. Recovery has offered me away to explore ways to be more peaceful in my spirit, which is allowing me to do the kind of work in the world that I believe is my life’s work and still have the compassion I need to keep going. Many of the principles of recovery have allowed me to continue to work with people who are still using and help create programs to reduce barriers to access to services, such as “live and let live”, “keep the focus on yourself”, “detach with love”, so recovery has offered me a way to “accept the things I can’t change and change the things I can”. Those principals are helping me to work with others who don’t always understand Harm Reduction is part of a recovery process for some people. I understand recovery is a better way of life for me.

-Joy R.

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