Substance Abuse


Margaret Fisher’s reminder of the “traditional Quaker testimony on abstinence from alcohol” is also a reminder of the diversity of the world of Friends. Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice mentions the general concern of addictions, particularly those that are harmful to others. Serving alcohol at Meeting gatherings is not to be done, and Friends should always provide alternatives when they serve alcohol to guests in their homes. Pot is not explicitly addressed in Faith and Practice. So I see that this testimony has a few hairs that can be split.

But I would rather talk about the unprocessed pain and sorrow that give painkillers their power. According to some experts, the real solution to addiction is to face that pain and sorrow, because you can’t kill the pain any other way. The good news - once you do look your pain squarely in the eye it begins to wane.

I would also like to speak to the benefits of self-medication. Taking responsibility for one’s own individual and particular well-being seems to me completely consistent with Quaker philosophy and practice. Friends, like humanity in general, are nothing if not diverse, which is a very good thing from an evolutionary perspective. (For one thing, we will probably need to do some substantial evolving in the relatively near future.) Many things are beneficial to one person, yet harmful or counterproductive to someone else who tries them – certain foods (i.e. chemical substances), habits, tactics, etc.

Lastly, Friend Margaret alludes to ways that money could be better spent to help others in need, notably addicts and their families, rather than on one’s own pleasures or indulgences. By that logic, since we are now addicted to toxic fossil fuels, we should stop driving, stop cooking and heating with fossil methane, and end a variety of other cheap-energy indulgences; then use the money we save to construct a truly sustainable infrastructure.

But I’m not convinced I need to have energy anorexia to be a good enough Earth citizen – if I’m dead, I can’t invest in change.

– Muriel Strand, Sacramento Friends Meeting (PYM)

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