Deconstructing Intoxtication Culture: Supporting Non-Normative Substance Users at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit


Conference: Allied Media Conference (AMC)

Workshop title: Deconstructing Intoxtication Culture – Supporting Non-Normative Substance Users

Presenters: from the margins AKA Clementine Morrigan and geoff

When: Friday, June 17, 2016 from 4 to 530 PM

Where: Wayne State University, State Hall: Room 123, 42 W Warren Ave, Detroit, MI

Workshop description: Most community spaces cater to social drinkers and people who can drink in a fun, moderate, and controlled way. Sober people, addicts, drug users, and a number of others, fall outside of this definition, and are often explicitly or subtly unwelcome in drinking-centric spaces. In this workshop we will create spaces and events for those of us who fall outside of the label ‘social drinker’, while recognizing that we have different access needs.

Additional info: This workshop will be interactive and encourage participation from attendees. The presenters will have the zine series “make all good things fall apart” available to purchase and also information about the submission call out for the upcoming zine “Sober Queers Do Exist”.

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Sober Queers Do Exist – Zine Callout

Sober Queers Do Exist: Sober Queer and Trans People On How They Got Sober and Stay Sober

Facebook Event Page: Sober Queers Do Exist – Zine Callout

This zine will centre the voices of people that have experiences with addiction, alcoholism, and/or self-defined substance misuse, but will also accept submissions from people who identify as straight edge, or who are sober for political, health, religious or personal reasons. This zine will accept submissions from people with long term sobriety, people who are new to sobriety, and people trying to get sober.

This zine will not moralize sobriety, shame substance use, or contribute to a hierarchy of drug use. We value and respect the substance users in our communities. We recognize that relationships to substance use are diverse and complex and we do not believe there is a right way or wrong way to relate to substance use.

This zine will create a space for queer and trans sober people to share their stories. Sharing our experiences about getting and staying sober is a way to build community, and let others getting sober know they are not alone.

We are seeking submissions in a variety of formats, including personal reflections, stories, poetry, short essays, and prose. Submissions should be no more than 550 words, including title, short bio, and website or contact info if applicable. Please send submissions to < > by July 15 2016. This zine will be edited and compiled by @clementinemorrigan and geoff AKA @livingnotexistingblog. Please feel free to get in touch with the editors at the above email if you have any questions. Each contributor will receive a free copy of the zine.

Feel free to write about anything related to your experience of sobriety. If you need a place to start writing, here are some prompts to consider:

What has been the hardest thing about maintaining your sobriety, and how do you cope with this?

How did you get sober?

What do you love about sobriety?

What’s it like getting or being sober as a queer and/or trans person?

Share a memorable story about your experience of sobriety.

Why did you decide to get sober?

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for sure

historically, the consequences of my drug use included but should not be limited to:

harm to others including family, loved ones, friends, acquaintances and people i’ve only met a couple of times.

conflict with the law.

being institutionalized against my will.

phyical, emotional, spiritual and psychological harm to myself.

i didn’t just use drugs to get by and cope with certain moments. i used drugs to get by and cope with life in its entirety. i used to be able to wake up, to go to sleep, when i was anxious, when i was sad, when i was angry, when life was amazing, when life was alright, when i was hungry, when i hated everything, when i wanted to destroy myself. i used drugs every moment i could.

lots, like lots of other people do not use drugs to cope these ways. and lots, like lots of other people do not face these same consequences because of their alcohol and other drug use. so when i say that i am an addict and have a history of drug addiction, i mean it. and just because i am sober addict today doesn’t absolve the risks i would take at potential causing harm to others or myself. when i say i am sober, i am saying that i do not wish to cause harm to myself or to others. i am saying that i am want to love myself and others, that i want to treat myself with respect and do the same to you. lots of people in my life today have not seen me use alcohol or other drugs and very few have. i’m still not perfect and still make mistakes. the difference today is that i would want to take responsibility and accountability for my mistakes and make it right when i can. before i just wouldn’t care. sobriety is a benefit in my marginal experience because i could lose it in an instant if i pick up. so when i say i am a sober addict in recovery, it means that i am still an addict.

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clarifying some of the different cultural understandings of “sober” and not using alcohol and other drugs

*this pieces is in make all good things fall apart #3 by clementine morrigan and myself. it is available to order of the from the margins catalog.

there are different contemporary cultural understandings of “sober”, “addiction” and not using alcohol and other drugs. addiction is not a metaphor, it is the realest shit in my life. it’s not appropriate for people that do not have experience with heroin use to use the word junkie. it’s not appropriate for non-addicts to describe their experiences through the language of addiction. the conditions and consequences are not the same. addiction is primarily understood as a “disease”. i believe that this understanding of addiction leaves out complexity. this understanding of addiction as a disease legitimizes and prioritizes medical intervention of it. addiction is not just a medical matter. it is a social, political, psychological and spiritual phenomenon.

i am not a spokesperson for any 12-step fellowship but in a 12-step context, like alcoholics anonymous (AA), cocaine anonymous (CA) and narcotics anonymous (NA), “sober” is understood as abstinence from all drugs not just alcohol. the use of “sober” to describe abstinence is more common in AA than NA. coffee, tea and tobacco use is commonly used in 12-step circles. medication prescribed by a doctor and taken as instructed is considered appropriate. it is suggested that a person using prescribed medication is honest about their history of substance use with their doctor and themselves. i use sober to describe my recovery, it is a 12-step understanding. in NA, “clean” is used more often to describe abstinence. i used to use “clean” to describe my recovery but now refrain from using the word and opt for “sober” instead. a friend of mine provided some feedback to me and pointed out the long moralized history of “clean” & “dirty” dichotomy.

in popular culture, “sober” is more often understood as only not drinking alcohol. “sober” is also used to refer to a person that is not intoxicated, like a “sober mind”. a “sober mind” has a moralizing history as well. being sober within this context is highly valuable, virtuous and considered to having a “better than thou” attitude. personally, i have heard “sober” used to describe abstaining from a particular drug other than alcohol but this is rare.

“dry” is also used to describe spaces that do not serve alcohol or where alcohol is not allowed to be present. more often, i have noticed that “dry” is used to refer to spaces that don’t involve drinking in the anarchist, punk and DIY spaces. to me this has a negative connotation. in 12-step recovery spaces, alcoholics that are not practicing spiritual principles and just not drinking are referred to as “dry drunks”. a “dry drunk” is a person that is sober but still angry, bitter, resentful and characterized as living a non-spiritual life. the idea is that they are an alcoholic that is quite unhappy while being sober and pretty much might as well be drinking. “dry” alludes to a drink or the drunk being empty, void and nothing. my recovery and sobriety are not dry rather they are full with gratitude, life and spirituality. this is why i prefer to refer to spaces that do not involve drinking as sober spaces.

straight edge culture in hardcore and punk music also values not using alcohol and other drugs. sometimes straight edge culture also promotes not having promiscuous sex. this culture has a long history of being moralizing suggesting that if you’re not straight edge and not using substances then you’re a bad person. i have also heard about straight edge people assaulting and beating up on people that are smoking cigarettes, drinking or using other drugs at shows. the moralizing of not using alcohol and other drugs within straight edge culture is wrapped up in white supremacy and misogyny. although i love hardcore music and am sober, straight edge culture hasn’t really appealed to me as much because of this. this is not to say that all straightedge people are assholes rather it is important to highlight a part of the history of this cultural movement. i do have friends that are addicts in recovery, straight edge and equip themselves with PMA (positive mental attitude). there is a “queeredge” sub-culture creeping up and this appeals to me more because it works to make space for queer, trans, women and racialized people more visible in the hardcore music scenes.

i do not wish to moralize my sobriety. i have a strong affinity with addicts and alcoholics whether using or not before people that choose sobriety or to not use alcohol and other drugs. there are also people that do not drink or use other drugs for their own reasons. i really wish to change to culture of sobriety within understandings of addictions and substance use. i want people to know that whether an addict or an alcoholic is using or not, that they are worth it.

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Whose Drug War – Who Is the Legalization of Marijuana Really For?

Pour traduction français par CÂLINS, PAVÉS, PAILLETTES, l’article est disponible ici:

Pour qui est vraiment la guerre à la drogue – pour qui est vraiment la légalisation de la marijuana?

Who is the legalization of marijuana for? There will be less criminal and legal penalties for weed smokers, but will this be delivered equitably? There should be less violence occurring too, but who will experience less violence? The movement for the legalization of marijuana in America and Canada is racist: it allows white privileged people to profit off of an industry and economy that Black, brown and Indigenous people have been violently criminalized for over the last century.

Currently, in the United States, medical and recreational marijuana use is legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Laws regulating marijuana differ from Canada and the United States. Even in the United States, there is different legislation and regulation among states. Legislation determines if a drug is legal or illegal. Criminalization involves criminal penalties when drug laws are broken while decriminalization involves reducing or eliminating criminal penalties for drug related offences. Legalization and regulation involves regulating the production, cultivation, transportation, sale and taxation of a drug.

The CBC documents that in Vancouver, Canada there is a continuing growth to the already 93 medical marijuana dispensaries (np). The city had proposed legislation for the regulation of these shops. In Vancouver, public recreational marijuana use is tolerable. The Georgia Straight, writes that Vancouver has passed legislation for regulating medical marijuana dispensaries (np). Further they report that new rules include “dispensaries must not stand within 300 metres of a school or community centre, minors are not allowed inside the stores, and shops must comply with all relevant building, zoning, license, and development bylaws” (np). Licensing fees for dispensaries is about $30,000. Vancouver has started to enforce this new legislation in a relatively calm and orderly way.

Marc Emery AKA the “Prince of Pot” and his partner Jodie Emery continue to champion the advocacy work for the legalization of marijuana in Vancouver and across Canada. This advocacy is undeniably overrepresented with white faces while disproportionately Black, brown and Indigenous bodies are criminalized and face the gravest consequences due to the illegality of drugs. Yet, what often gets neglected in the discussion of legalizing marijuana is that this shift is occurring within a context of capitalism, ongoing colonization, white supremacy, the prison industrial complex and intoxication culture.

Weed is starting to have a social value. It’s considered healing and has medical properties supported with strong scientific evidence. Most importantly, weed is highly profitable. It’s cheap to produce and it’s taxable for the government. Unlike marijuana, other drugs like crack, MDMA or heroin are considered to have no social value because there is little scientific evidence to support it having a medical use and thus not having economic benefit. Heroin is completely illegal while prescription opiates like oxycotin and fentanyl are regulated for medical use. In Canada, Indigenous people are disproportionally criminalized and incarcerated for their opiate sales while in the US, Black and brown people face increased criminalization and incarceration. Oxys and fentanyl are produced and distributed by pharmaceutical companies, prescribed by doctors and sold at pharmacies. The Sackler family was listed in Forbes’ 2015 list of the richest families in the United States (np). The (white) family made its fortune with their pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma and sale of Oxycodone. The sale of drugs by Black, brown and Indigenous people is considered to be morally wrong while the sale of drugs by white people is considered a respectable profession. So drugs continue to be profitable, but for who?

Already there exists “street economies” where people profit from the sale of weed through street level dealing. These are people making a living and getting by selling drugs (I am really not thinking about the main drug suppliers on top). This work is done with risks: getting robbed or ripped off, the constant threat of going to jail and the threat of violence by either the police or other dealers. White people do participate in this underground “street economy” of drug dealing but Black, brown and Indigenous are racially profiled and targeted by police officers because they are considered to be violent threats. White people have the privilege of not constantly being profiled and don’t have to worry about the consequences police violence as much as people of colour.

Already this industry exists, yet who will profit from the legalization of marijuana? Who will profit and not have to risk much, or anything at all? Will street level dealers have the capital startup or investors to set up and sell weed legally? Maybe but not likely. Will they be able to gain employment in this “new” industry with criminal records? Will their knowledge, experience and skill be valued or dismissed? Will addicts have equal and equitable opportunity to get employed in these shops? Will Black and brown people be released from prisons in the US? Will Black and Indigenous people be released from prisons in Canada, given pardons for their marijuana related offenses and given proper education and employment to survive and thrive? I wish. So please think again, who is the legalization of marijuana for?

The legalization of marijuana is dependent on regulation and support from the government. This shift from illegal to legally regulated economies will stifle the invisible markets and unemploy the unemployable. The “drug war” has a complex history made up of several separate wars around the world all rooted in imperialism, colonialism, xenophobia and racism. Alcohol was used just like germs and guns intended to commit genocide against Indigenous people on Turtle Island, popularly known as North America. Crack use exploded in low-income neighborhoods of New York during the 1980s, resulting in increased violence among black communities. Alcohol and crack were used as biochemical weapons to disavow black and Indigenous people. The United States Sentencing Commission reported that Black men were more likely to receive long prison sentences for drug trafficking offences than white people (24). The Sentencing Project comments on the racial disparity in the United States writing “More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color” (np). These statistics illustrate that the “drug war” continues to disproportionately disenfranchise Black and brown people in the United States. White people benefit when racialized people are incarcerated because it allows them to continue to exercise there liberties and rights.

In his novel Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War On Drugs, Johann Hari outlines the historically racialized beginnings of the drug war. Yet conveniently (because he is white), neglects to actually call the drug war what it is: racist. The war on drugs in America was started as a racist war against Black drug users in a context of racism and segregation specific to its time. If the war on drugs is a colonial, racist and class based war, then it would require anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-capitalist action. The ideological focus for legalization of marijuana should be shifted from “legalization for all” to considering “legalization for who?”

Advocacy work to legalize and regulate weed serves the status quo: white, able-bodied, middle-class/upper middle-class/wealthy, non-addicted and non-criminal citizens. The legalization of marijuana will have a significant impact on many people but not all will benefit from this legislation. The needs and interests of the most marginalized will continue to be overlooked. What about the decriminalization of cocaine, crystal meth and heroin? How come this is not being proposed alongside the legalization of marijuana movement? Who will have the “right” and “liberty” to smoke weed without fear of repercussions? Will this legislation be a privilege that only some will be able to enjoy?

Since advocacy work for the legalization of marijuana is led by white faces, representing the status quo, then arguably, the decriminalization of all illegal drugs is more favourable to those most marginalized by legislation that makes weed illegal or legal. In the zine, Towards A Less Fucked Up World: Sobriety and the Anarchist Struggle, Nikita Riotfag defines intoxication culture as “a set of institutions, behaviours, and mindsets centered around consumption of drugs and alcohol”. Within Western intoxication culture, most people drink alcohol. Most people have at least smoked weed and at least understand it as culturally tolerable. Heroin, crack and coke, not so much. Decriminalization of all illegal substances would make sure addicts, drug users and street workers including hustlers and sex workers could use with reduced fears of repercussions.

Is the legalization of marijuana about liberty and rights or about social justice? Rights and liberties are granted to citizens and those considered to have social value. Those considered disposable and marginalized face the most violent and grave consequences because of the criminalization of drug use.

Drug addicts, disabled and substance users must have their needs centered. Black, brown and Indigenous people must have their needs centered. Trans and gender non-conforming people must have their needs centered. Sex workers and street level dealers must have their needs centered. Drug use is profitable whether its illegal or not, it just depends who is profiting. The legalization of marijuana is for the liberties of white people, not those of us who face the gravest consequences targeted by the drug war.


Baluja, Tamara. “93 marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver identified by CBC.” CBC. May 1, 2015. Web. <;.

Lupick, Travis. “City of Vancouver begins crackdown on marijuana dispensaries selling edibles or allowing smoking on site.” Georgia Straight. July 24, 2015. Web. <;.

Morrell, Alex. “The OxyCotin Clan: The $14 Billion Newcomer to Forbes 2015 List of Richest U.S. Families.” Forbes. July 1, 2015. Web. < >.

Riotfag, Nikita. Towards A Less Fucked Up World: Sobriety and Anarchist Struggle. Self-published, 2010. Zine.

The Sentencing Project. “Racial Disparity.” The Sentencing Project- Research and Advocacy For Reform. Accessed on August 31, 2015. Web. < >.

United States Sentencing Commission. “Demographic Differences in Sentencing.” Report on the Continuing Impacts of United States v. Booker on Federal Sentencing. 2012. Web. < >


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it’s complicated and not that simple

i do not wish to moralize my sobriety. i do not think that substance use makes a person bad or that sobriety makes a person good. it seems as though that the mere mention of sober spaces threatens peoples’ choices to use alcohol and drugs. i realize that these choices are quite personal. this sense of being threatened could possibly be related to histories of sobriety being moralized including the temperance movement, misogynist and white supremacist straight edge culture and forced sobriety from institutionalization. i am less concerned about the different reasons of why people use or don’t, rather the consequences of these actions.

the creation of safe(r) spaces involves the exclusion of a certain person, group or population. for example, a people of colour only space would exclude white people from the space. a queer only space would not allow non-queer people to attend the space. following this logic, an exclusively sober space may exclude people that are using substances. the creation of sober spaces is a disability justice issue that primarily supports the accessibility needs of sober people.

i have noticed that on the margins of intoxication culture, there are several groups of people that are considered non-normative substance users. among non-normative substance users there are people that practice abstinence (understood as sobriety), individuals that may be abstaining from one substance but not others and people that are in active addiction not wishing to change their substance use. following the idea that the preferred type of substance use is alcohol in a fun yet controlled way, moderation not excess is preferred. chronic and compulsive substance use and not using are both considered to not fit this standard of use. a person may identify as addict or may just relate to being addicted to a specific substance. a person may relate to having “problematic substance use” or may have difficulties controlling their substance use at a particular time. a person may identify either as a sober addict in recovery, a sober addict, an addict in recovery, an addict in active addiction or an addict that is addicted to a specific substance. a person may practice sobriety or a person may practice harm-reduction. there are different benefits and consequences to these actions. each person’s relationship to substances is different and should not be limited to the examples mentioned previously.

these groups of non-normative substance users are marginalized by intoxication culture in different ways. too often these groups are lumped together as requiring the same access needs instead of different access needs. even within 12-step spaces (like alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous), people with long term sobriety and people new to sobriety may have different needs. the homogenization and conflation of all non-normative substance users requiring the same access needs creates tensions between these groups and is not helpful to any of them. for example, sober spaces support the access needs of sober people. another example would be that a bar is accessible for a person that feels they need to drink alcohol. a bar may not support access needs for a sober person or a person that is smoking crack.

accessibility should not simply be thought of in terms of linear logic. accessibility can never be 100%, that is perfection. i have noticed sometimes community organizers strive to meet the accessibility needs of all people. in this way, accessibility is understood as an ideal. sometimes this is impossible and that’s okay. if you are planning on organizing an event, please consider the following questions:

how do you balance the accessibility needs for people that require scent-free spaces while also hosting a space where people may be smoking cigarettes?

how to you hold a space to support the accessibility needs of sober people and people that need to use? do you designate a specific sober area of the event and a drinking/drug using area of the event? could the smell of alcohol and weed potential trigger someone?

how many sober events do you see or attend in your area? how many events do you see or attend that involve drinking and substance use?

there are so many questions to consider and ask. please continue to think about them.

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make all good things fall apart: zine launch and community discussion on addiction, intoxication culture and sober spaces in halifax, nova scotia

IMG_4068facebook event page < make all good things fall apart: zine launch and community discussion on addiction, intoxication culture and sober spaces >

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