Reciprocity implies multitudes of who and how we help and heal each other. Thus it is the second pillar of a Peer Recovery Philosophy (PRP). As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, reciprocity implies some form of a voluntary mutual dependence, like the 1st pillar, but it also implies a give and take – what you have experienced is different than what I have and when we share that difference something important happens. Reciprocity implies multitudes of who and how we help and heal each other. When we share difference, we learn from another. By using the principle of reciprocity a CPRS gives a person the space to evoke truths about themselves; truths they are afraid to tell others for fear of reprisal and consequence, a chance to tell their stories they keep inside because of shame, stigma and fear. Knowing how to give someone the experience of simply being heard, without judgment and with no pre-determined outcome is a truly sacred act. It may take some time and the CPRS should never rush it, nor immediately compare it to their own story or a story they know about someone else with a happy ending. Our job is to resist fixing and saving. There is a saying in the recovery community that we are “seed planters”. Sometime seeds take time to grow. Reciprocity means this is the chance for someone who has been told a thousand times they are just an addict like everyone else that in fact, what you have experienced is uniquely your own because no one else but you experienced it, and no one else has experienced it the way you did, and only you know the damage done and it is your damage, not just any “addicts’” same old story. This approach provides a much-needed emphatic “Yes” for the person who gets vulnerable and opens up for help. The CPRS gives an emphatic “Yes”, to the thought that being treated as “the sick person” in a family of users is unfair, and “Yes” that the giving of age old advice and tough love can sometimes only trigger a desire to use more. This is the chance for someone be believed, pure and simple. A chance for them to say, “This is who I am” without consequence and that “I am different from you”, that “I am not just like everyone else”. The action response from the CPRS should always be “What do you want to do?” or “How can I help”. Therefore, it is also the job of the CPRS to address both the unique and the universal.
Developing and honoring this difference built upon trust and respect is the beginning of a wounded healer relationship, a relationship well known by others in the recovery community, which is based fundamentally on the principle of reciprocity: “Tell me your story and I will tell you mine” (or vice versa). Followed by; “Here is what I learned about my wound, and how I continue to heal it. Perhaps some of how I healed myself can help you and perhaps some of it cannot.” The attitude from the CPRS ought to be “Maybe by working with you I can learn something from you about my own wound and my own healing and hopefully you can learn something from mine”. In working within any peer relationship, it always serves best to emphasize “tell me what happened to you” rather than “what is wrong with you” or worse yet “here is what is wrong with you”. Peer work is a fundamentally non-pathological, non-disease approach. This is not a rejection of the disease model of addiction. If the person in front of you needs treatment for a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and chooses to go to treatment, we will get them the help they want and need. Most importantly in this regard is that a CPRS does not diagnose a SUD and does not recommend a level of care. A referral is made to a clinician for that type of help.