How unschooling is like recovery

December 21, 2016, I shared some positive feedback on facebook, in the Radical Unschooling Info group. (it's here)

One of the comments was from Alex Arnott, and she built up to comparing it to recovery from addiction:

Having Sandra stand up with strength, firmness, without drama, and with clarity to those who are fearful, controlled, ambivalent about their life, unhappy, resentful, jealous...in a sense, the juicy emotional dark part of being human...is a gift to me.

To unschool well, I need to find the strength, firmness, lack of drama, and clarity to those parts of my mind and soul that are afraid, ambivalent about my life, unhappy, jealous and resentful. Seeing how Sandra and other Admins interpret and dissect conventional thinking and seeing how they respond to posted questions/concerns is the most valuable life lesson I have ever had. Hands down.

It's a process that can't be rushed...it's a gradual openness to a new awareness and it's vital that my brain has daily exposure to the ideas presented here because there's so much change that needed to happen in my mind. Being steeped in principles of peace, respect and strength has allowed me to learn that there are other possibilities.

It's almost like recovering from addiction...addiction of the effects of control. Little by little, day by day, with a lot of (sometimes painful) awareness...slowly new peaceful joyful stuff replaces the old, sad stuff.

Here are my responses to that:

-=-It's almost like recovering from addiction...addiction of the effects of control. Little by little, day by day, with a lot of (sometimes painful) awareness...slowly new peaceful joyful stuff replaces the old, sad stuff.-=-

I think deschooling and recovery from childhood trauma (for those who have some from which to recover) or childhood harshness from church or bullies or mean grandmas or whatever it might be... it CAN be similar to stepping away from alcoholism or drug use. Partly it's because the old environments will prevent the recovery. The same places and people can bring on relapses, as it were, of shame and negativity, of belittling hobbies and ideas.

-=- almost like recovering from addiction-=-

I mentioned this recently, somewhere (maybe here). After one of the talks I gave in St. Louis at a Live and Learn Conference in 2005, a gentleman who might have been described as biker-esque came up giving me quite a look afterwards and said something like "I think you might be a friend of Bill W's." In the code of the Twelve-Step programs (alcoholics anonymous, at least) he wasn't so much saying "I bet you're an alcoholic" as "The tone and vibe of this reminds me of twelve-step meetings."

From just before I was pregnant with Kirby, so about August 1985, until Marty could walk, so about... it was winter and the lease for the building ran out, so I'll say December 1990 (? couldn't swear to that in court), I went weekly to an exceptionally well-run and fairly large meeting of Adult Children of Alcoholics. It gradually made me stronger, helped me review my childhood, helped me put my children and husband ahead of my mother and other alcoholic relatives who were sapping my emotional strength.

During those same years, I started going to La Leche League (from November 1986 for several years), and that only helped.

Meanwhile, I was helping adults in the Society for Creative Anachronism in formal group philosophy discussions and sometimes one-on-one in longterm relationships (my apprentices, my husband's and best friend's squires) to consider how living more thoughtfully and virtiously could make their lives in the SCA better. It turned out (which will surprise few people here) that it made their "real lives" better, too. They became better employees, and friends, and whatever they were involved in.

So the clarifications inside me and the experiences outside were all in place when I started unschooling and people started asking "What do you mean!?"

I wrote this ten years ago. I started to tell the story of my cousin Nada, but thought I should check how many years. I already didn't know ten years ago. But I had a set number in mind at first.

I was doing penance, at first, and was going to help people for three or four years (I used to know the number but I've forgotten) to make up for having talked my cousin Nada out of homeschooling her first child, when I was childless. But it was fun, and I kept on, and was invited to speak and I started meeting more families I really liked. (original)
So I should thank people who have invited me to speak, and those who came to hear, and to take the ideas home and use them.

I won't name the author of this part, though it's at the link above (and I use her first name below). Her husband is still working in the field and doesn't need to be associated with unschooling.🙂

My husband and I owned and operated mental and behavioral health facilities for several years (he is still involved in the industry, but in a more limited capacity). Day after day, I gently guided splintered families as they desperately sought to "fix" their substance-addicted loved ones, all the while thinking how devastating it was they couldn't even begin to see the depth of the wounds or the role they played in developing them.

Comparing this to a well-run AA meeting is appropriate in the sense of a high focus being placed on personal accountability. But at the same time, I find the hardline labeling of addiction as a "disease" detracts from and directly contradicts the overall effectiveness of the discussion. In some ways, there is always this falling back on the idea they don't have a "choice" in the matter (which may be the case at certain points in addiction and not at others, but that's a different debate), leaving people in a perpetual state of "victimization".

The discussion you have so carefully facilitated here offers real recipes for a happy life. It gives people who come into contact with it an opportunity to detach from whatever "definitive" paradigms and constructs they have absorbed from outside, explore them from a less emotionally-charged place and hopefully begin to lean on a more helpful intuitive logic.

There is a multi-billion dollar industry flourishing by providing really bad care and advice - Here you are offering this gold for free. I believe in the balance of the universe and imagine you are very energetically wealthy.

Sandra Dodd:
I do like to remind people they have choices, and should find more choice-making moments! 🙂

Thank you for the kind words, Christina. I don't think this is as biological or life-and-death as addiction counselling at all. There are similarities, but this is played closer to the ground, in general, I think. If people get schoolish for a day they don't have to start from the beginning again. On the other hand, if they get schoolish with some regularity, they never have stepped away from the school! So as to goals, direction and what to abstain from... that overlays on the other model, I suppose. 🙂

Karen James kindly added:
***The discussion you have so carefully facilitated here offers real recipes for a happy life.***

This is so true it brought tears to my eyes.

Just in case there are addicts or Russell Brand fans here, or anyone who wants to know more about what I think about Twelve-Step programs, here's something I wrote elsewhere:

In interviews when I've been asked what my influences were, I have credited La Leche League, and Adult Children of Alcoholics. For anyone interested in reading more about that (maybe slight mentions, but still...) here are some places on my site: (site-specific search results)

For people who don't mind "the f word," Russell Brand wrote a book in 2017 called Recovery—Freedom from our Addictions. I listened to it on Audible(.com). This link might lead to the option to buy it paper, ebook, or audio version, which he reads himself. "Look inside" will show you the Table of Contents and a few other bits.

When I was listening the first time, I wrote a couple of things, and you can read more with comments if you have a facebook account:

I'm listening to Russell Brand read his book Recovery. I love his writing. He's bright and interesting, and I'm happy to hear his own pace and intonation on these things. November 14, 2017

Deb Lewis wondered what Brand thought about the 12-step program. This analysis is mine/Sandra's, not his, until I get to referencing him specifically.

-=-There's been some recent criticism, and debunking of Twelve Step programs-=-

Here's what I think about that.
Adult Children of Alcoholics did more for me than anything else in my life, to step up, and out, and away from the effects of having grown up with an increasingly-alcoholic mother, and from spending most of my 20's rescuing her in various physical and financial ways.

What "works" or "doesn't work" about AA, in the reports and analysis I saw, was tied in with people being court-ordered to go there. And deciding whether it was a good thing to keep doing, or whether going to those meetings would "cure" someone who was going to meetings as a condition of parole.

The group meetings are diluted by having people there who do not personally and actually want to be there. It makes the group less valuable for everyone, in a way. Only those who are there voluntarily and have chosen it will do well. They need to choose it over and over, one day at a time. Another day. Another.

For those who are simply trying to stay out of jail... they're less likely to be helpful to others in there. Those sponsoring them could be sponsoring someone who isn't looking at the calendar and planning to go back to using or drinking as soon as the parole ends (if he's not already doing that, and lying in meetings).

I think "recent criticism" is really criticism of dishonesty, and of being made to do something one didn't choose. The guilt is not with the program, but with the judicial system's using it for their own purposes, to the detriment of those who truly DID choose to be there.

I have no doubt that there have been some people who might have stayed if the quality of meetings had not been polluted by criminals who hated every moment there, and broadcast that emotionally, but they wandered off instead, and sooner or later so did those criminals.

...Brand is in favor of it, and describes everything from other angles, in his own words, and then recommends ways that people who are resistant to the literal words can view and hear and feel them in a useful way.