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Come As You Are: Harm Reduction in Recovery February 17, 2022 @ 1:15pm

It’s essential to address how harm reduction strategies can empower people to come to a place of recovery. People have to remain healthy and alive before they can make that decision for themselves, and that is very much the role of harm reduction work. We must not define what recovery is to someone using drugs as this is us imposing our moral judgement and our expectations of how one should live concerning substances.

Recovery is a personal, individual goal that may not always include complete abstinence. Yet every tiny step along the way should be recognized as positive change.

For some, it may be the cessation of using a particular drug that affects their quality of life while continuing to use others. Another example would be changing the route of administration (from injection to inhalation) which is less risky, far easier on the body and encourages people to make small, healthier choices regarding their drug use. These instances are not perfect but far more realistic than expecting abstinence from somebody whose life we do not live.

We also must consider the risk of relapse. Many people slip in and out of active use before finding what they believe recovery from a substance. It’s common to see people go through periods of not using, then fall back to using as a coping mechanism that has provided them with a sense of security in the past. Try not to focus on this as a failure but a time of (even brief) success.

By building upon and celebrating the seemingly small recovery steps made, a person begins to feel supported and empowered to continue. We know for sure that being faced with stigma and punitive attitudes does not help support people suffering from addiction. We sometimes hear that harm reduction work is enabling someone to use it, but it is quite the opposite. By providing education, support, new supplies, Naloxone kits, etc., we are demonstrating that people’s lives matter whether they are using or not. By building solid relationships based on trust and non-judgement with the people we work with, we can prepare them to take the following steps on their path to recovery.

Turning Point is willing and able to connect people to various resources, including counselling, detox, opioid replacement therapy, residential treatment, peer support, groups and other supports. Our outreach staff can advocate for people attempting to access these services, as it can be challenging to navigate these systems alone. Please reach out to us if you are considering treatment or need recovery support.

Jenn McCrindle, Rural Outreach

Turning Point


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