Saturday, March 27, 2010

Heavy Substance Use Contributes to Failure to Thrive

(Apologies for the day-late post, I got back into town later than I had anticipated.)

I just got back from spending several days visiting a close friend and former housemate at the pagan community she has moved to, about 5 hours away. She first went up to those pagan lands on an art retreat last August, and one thing led to another and now she has moved there. There are several different properties owned by pagans in the area, several of them contiguous. She started out in a tiny room in one of the multi-purpose cabins on one property, but has now moved to a two-room cabin complete with bathroom and kitchen on a neighboring property with more of a community identity. 

I hadn't seen her new place yet and wanted to support her in getting settled, etc., so I headed up there post-equinox festivities. Her new community has been there for about 30 years, is owned by one man, has multiple residence buildings mostly built by the owner, and is about 5 acres. The owner's daughters were in town, so I spent some of my time hanging out in the social sphere with him, his daughters, and other friends and community members. 

At one point the conversation turned to "community meetings" and how terrible they are. The owner said that he recently found some old agendas for their business meetings, and they were all the same. The problems of communal space cleanliness/maintenance were generally at the top of the list and from his perspective he could never understand why everyone didn't hold to their agreements. 

I asked him if those agreements had been negotiated or dictated, and he said they had been negotiated, implying that everyone had ownership in their collective chosen strategies. That leads me to wonder where the problem actually lies. Were they really negotiated, or were others marginalized in the process of creating the agreements and he did not see or understand that? Did they try changing their strategies much over the years, or did they keep getting what they were getting because they kept doing what they were doing? 

Or, as I rather suspect, did substance use get in the way of personal responsibility and consistency? No one seems to be into anything "hard" that I could tell (not that I have any expert experience at that), but there is enough heavy drinking, etc. that I suspect that regular intoxication may be a culprit. 

And in thinking about how such substance use negatively impacts community projects and community life, I wonder about the poverty level on property and how the substance use affects it. It would be very interesting to me to know what percentage of income gets spent on substance vices like alcohol, cigarettes, etc. For some, I would not be surprised to learn that half their meager income goes toward addictions or intoxication-based lifestyles. 

Of course, it is an impoverished area and the only jobs nearby are tourism-based, so a lot of what's available are service positions and minimum wage. That definitely contributes heavily to the poverty and scraping-by on property, but substances probably contribute heavily to why the community has experienced a sad failure-to-thrive. I heard a lot of frustration and anger behind the conversation we had about the mechanics of community contribution, and I really do think that stepping away from a substance-friendly culture might clear a lot of that up. 

Of course, that is also an unlikely course of action, since it is the owner who leads the way on the regular heavy intoxication.

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