Podcast review: Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

Why is abstinence being used to treat addiction?

I was extremely late to the Queer Eye party. I binged the Netflix reality series over a weekend and, like millions of others, experienced the benefit of the Fab Five's considerate and enthusiastic energy.

Jonathan Van Ness is the grooming expert of the Queer Eye squad – an effusive hairdresser with a long shiny mane and nothing negative to say, ever. This is his podcast, and each episode focuses on a very specific query, and a 30 minute-ish conversation with an expert. There are many "interview with an expert" style podcasts online, however, few of them strike the same passionate note as Getting Curious.

This episode focuses on the concept of abstinence as a cure for addiction, and explores other options to the mainstream, 12-step recovery process. Van Ness interviews Dr Adi Jadde, an author and addiction expert, as well as a recovered addict himself. The conversation waves around personal experiences with drugs as well as harmful stereotypes around addiction and recovery rhetoric in general.

For heavy subject matter, this is a surprisingly buoyant listen. There is something very refreshing about the openness that occurs within the conversation: the tone is very tender as Van Ness and Jadde deconstruct shame and openly explore why people use alcohol and drugs to self-soothe. This is a chat without blame, which often comes with discussion of drug use. Jaffe’s cool, calm tone is a lovely match to Van Ness’s buzzy, excited queries. This is a surprisingly easy listen that provides an alternative outlook to traditional recovery: a focus on harm reduction rather than total abstinence.

The other episodes of Getting Curious look at everything from how parental separation impacts on children, to what it's like being a woman in the American military. Van Ness interviews people across the board, from Brexit experts to bee specialists and, despite the hugely varied nature of each episode, Van Ness himself brings the same delightful tone to every episode. Even if you've never watched Queer Eye, this is an absolute must-listen. JVN puts some necessary magic into your headphones, as well as some fascinating conversation.

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