Relieve me of the bondage of self : addiction practitioners from three treatment centres in New Zealand discuss the use of community as a method of healing the self : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
At the time of writing, there are as many as 6,000 people in New Zealand who are currently receiving a state benefit because of chemical dependency or addiction. A Ministry of Health survey (2009) estimated that there are 700,000 problem drinkers and that half of our population aged 16-64 have used drugs for recreational purposes in their lifetime. Many thousands of New Zealanders have reached a point of desperation and have sought assistance from a residential treatment centre in order to receive vital help for their addiction issues.
So how do these ‘places of healing’ turn someone from a state of self-pity, self-loathing, selfishness, and being in denial when they walk through the doors, to one of self-acceptance and self-awareness when they leave? I embarked on a study of three residential treatment centres, interviewing the agencies’ practitioners, discussing how living in a separate community of alcoholics and addicts sets someone on a path to recovery, and how ‘community’ is used as a method to achieve ‘relief from the bondage of self’. The study seeks to describe the addicted self and the relationship it has with community, and how community methods are used to understand and connect with the conscious self. Anthropological literature is used to describe concepts of ‘self’ and ‘community’, along with a mixture of psychological, sociological, and anthropological references to describe treatment methods.
I contribute my own ‘insider’ experiences as a former client of two residential addiction treatment centres to give a level of understanding of what similar addicts experience when they go through such a significant period of change in their lives. I am so grateful that there are addiction treatment facilities available free of charge to the public in New Zealand and I hope this work gives a voice of hope to the many who pass through their doors.