Did you like our March issue’s interview “Across the Board, Peace” with addiction-recovery worker, supporter of the consistent-life ethic, and all-around character Jim Balmer? Wait, there’s more!
Below are some of his additional thoughts inspired by years helping others recover from addiction. Sojourners associate editor Elizabeth Palmberg interviewed Balmer early last year at the Consistent Life conference in Washington, D.C.
How did you get started working in addiction recovery?
I got sober in 1971; however I actually spent the first years of my career, until I came to Dawn Farm in ’83, not working with addicts. I worked for a number of years for the local community mental health center and had a fairly diversified career. I worked with couples and adolescents, I consulted to an emergency room, and I was on the local police hostage negotiation team. Mental health people often aren’t very literate about addiction, and addiction treatment people are often not very literate about mental health. I had the opportunity to straddle both worlds.
What are some of the misunderstandings that happen there?
I think it just tends to be a lack of understanding—addiction professionals often don’t have a good framework for understanding mental health issues, and I think mental health folks suffer from the same problem.
Realistically, if you’re an addict and you’re anxious and you show up at your average psychiatrist’s office, the chance of being diagnosed bipolar and being put on meds is pretty high. The misdiagnosing or underdiagnosing or overdiagnosing on both sides is an ongoing problem.