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ATTC Messenger September 2021: Decolonizing Recovery: Restorative Justice as a Treatment Plan

September is recovery month; this is a time where we reflect on how far many individuals have come along in their journey to sobriety and their commitment to their recovery. It is also a time to be honest about what recovery looks like, and why it may not be inclusive to marginalized individuals who experience discrimination based on gender, race, and sexuality.

So, you want to be an addictions counselor? You decided that you want to help people overcome adversities and help them become their best self. Congratulations, you have spent many years in school, interning at some of the best rehabilitation centers and medical facilities that you were able to get into, and now you have the degrees and certification to prove this. You’re all set to go! However, what if I told you that treating addiction requires more than what is brought to you in a classroom or clinical setting? What if I told you that in order to be an effective therapist you are going to have to do the inner work and dismantle your own white supremacy?

Now, I know the knee-jerk reaction is to declare that you don’t contribute to white supremacy, or that you’re not racist. However, I encourage you to really look at how white supremacy and racism has contributed to the foundation of our society today, which includes the substance use and mental health treatment systems. We also must be mindful that to talk about white supremacy and colonialism, is to talk about the binary of gender and sexuality; we must be honest about how marginalized people are affected in every part of society, including in substance use treatment and recovery services.

I have worked in HIV prevention for over a decade, with an emphasis on educating and advocating for transgender women of color; the issues of homelessness, substance use disorder, and mental health were some of the main themes that constantly reappeared whether it was on the prevention side of HIV or maintaining care.

September 1, 2021
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