I spent sometime yesterday with Alex DeLuca MD. His conversation and company led me to reflect on the events of the past month.
The egregore that has emerged from the fellowship of MM is seeking out its own kind. Individuals and organizations that have been in existence for decades, often alone, often isolated, are realizing that each other exist. Dramatic events and common objectives are melding these parties into a larger more powerful and purposeful organism.
One of the most encouraging things that happened for MM this year was the invitation by Dr. DeLuca, to hold a meeting at the Smithers Treatment Center. The meetings started in early March and flourished through early July. Then something terrible happened. Something violent. Dr. Alex DeLuca resigned as the Director of the Smithers Treatment center. Our welcome there expired at the same moment. Our relationship with Smithers was a bright but sort lived success. We were asked to leave, and never return.
Forced from Smithers, we were welcomed into the arms of the Harm Reduction Coalition whose members opened my eyes to the reality of the Harm Reduction War.
This is my recollection of how this all happened.
New York Magazine published an article entitled ‘Drink Your Medicine’. They reported that The Smithers Treatment Center was offering an option where the patient was encouraged to participate in defining success. Moderate drinking could be considered an acceptable recovery goal.
This article so threatened the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, that they placed a full page advertisement in the Sunday New York Times, that conveyed this message taken from: http://www.smithersfoundation.org/
"The Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, its president Adele Smithers-Fornaci, her son Christopher B. Smithers, and the board of directors of the foundation would like to make it clear that they are in no way associated with the treatment program bearing the Smithers name at Beth Israel/St. Luke's-Roosevelt hospital.
The Christopher D. Smithers Foundation's philosophy and mission is rooted in the conviction that alcoholism is a disease that requires abstinence-based treatment, and that controlled drinking, under any name, whether it be "moderation management" or "harm reduction," is not possible where the disease of alcoholism exists."
Unfortunately for them and their bent crusade, the disease of alcoholism does not exist as a medical diagnosis anywhere. What does exist is a large percentage of the population with drinking problems that manifest across a spectrum of intensity. Most of whom have no place to seek help because their drinking problem is not severe enough.
Apparently, Adele Smithers still has some influence over several real and potential funding sources for the Smithers Treatment Center and St.Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. Because of this influence, the life affirming career of Dr. DeLuca at Smithers, was terminated in favor of an endowment over which a misinformed widow has a hint of control. A widow who, based on her current behavior, might have been the primary cause of her husband’s problem drinking.
Adele Smithers, with her Sunday New York Times full page artillery barrage, had hoped to destroy a part of the MM Network, and inhibit the harm reduction movement. She did not understand that the Thursday evening MM meeting is not fueled by the availability of space at the Smithers Treatment Center. It is fueled by people with the conviction that a Thursday evening MM meeting must exist in New York City. By forcing MM out of the Smithers Treatment Center, she created a catalyst that compelled MM to develop a relationship with the Harm Reduction Coalition. This was something that the membership of MM had never considered before.
I called the Times to price an advertisement like that. They told me $102,173.40. Adele could not have done more to advance the work of MM if she had donated an equal amount to our treasury.
Not only did the Harm Reduction Coalition invite us to have MM meetings at their offices on West 27th Street, they invited The MM Network to base our national office there as well. They have given us space, the use of telephones, computers, high-speed Internet access, and copying machines. They have given us a legal address that resolves to a genuine place of business and not somebody’s kitchen table. Why are they doing all this for us?
I cannot speak for them, but I have a notion. The leadership of the Harm Reduction Coalition has known something for many years, that we of MM are just beginning to contemplate. Problem drinking is just a segment of the much larger spectrum of harmful behaviors, in which individuals choose to participate. From this prospective, missing a day of work because of a hangover, and missing the rest of one’s life because of a heroin overdose, are not dissimilar events. Any protocol, that reduces the risk associated with any harmful behavior, is a good thing. Both MM and The Harm Reduction Coalition are both champions of these protocols.
It is not just MM and The Harm Reduction Coalition that are playing happily in the same sandbox. A woman known as Apple has a delightful presence on the Internet at http://www.aadeprogramming.com/. She is one those people who learned to moderate her drinking on her own, and has grown into a marvelously balanced woman. She has offered to come to a Thursday meeting soon and share her experiences.
We have many new friends and allies. We have a national board of directors composed mostly of MM members, not treatment professions. We have an office. We have the ability to raise funds. We have the ability to use those funds to continue the work that Audrey Kishline started in 1994.
That work is to create and support live MM meetings in every community in America. To displace the current single solution mentality which dominates our culture, we must make an option readily available to problem drinkers everywhere. We must create communities of real flesh and blood people, looking each other in the eyes, sharing their problems and creating new solutions.
A war is never over until the infantry occupies the disputed territory. Artillery, bombers, fighter jets, battleships, and satellites all contribute to the winning of a war, but it is the foot soldier, standing his ground, that defines the win.
Alexander DeLuca, M.D., FASAM.
Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved. [Top of Page]
Revised: July 5th, 2001.