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Harm Reduction Happy Hour

Who am I to say the best way to deal with someone else’s drug or alcohol problem? But if I am honest, even with this new intellectual understanding, I still felt an internal nagging.


I will admit to a knee-jerk reaction when I got the email invitation to the Harm Reduction Happy Hour. The event was a book signing for the release of the second edition of Over the Influence by harm reduction pioneers, Patt Denning and Jeannie Little. For me, a recovering alcoholic who had been sober for nine years, to celebrate a book, the subtitle of which was “The harm reduction guide to controlling your drinking and drug use,” at an event that traditionally revolved around alcohol seemed goading. Oh, you have an alcohol problem, we beg to differ, you can throw some back with us, let us show you how. 

But the next day, when I got to the well-lit corner bar, I did not find sloppy drunks throwing their arms around my shoulders, telling me they had learned to moderate. Instead the room was filled primarily with treatment professionals—counselors at methadone clinics, therapists with private practices, trainers of motivational interviewing—many with the same sparkling water that I had in hand. When I would tell them I was sober, many said: Me too. And then they added: But that isn’t the only way.

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