Reflections on recovery – From seven years ago

2007_0116walpole0008This is from the website Articles section. Thought you should see how I was thinking seven years ago:

‘This article comprises two articles I wrote seven years ago for Drink and Drugs News (DDN) in the UK – with a few small changes and additions (including headings).

The original two articles focused on the writing of William L. White and colleagues in the US. I thought it was interesting to look back and see what I was writing at that time.

1. Problems with our treatment system
“Something got lost on our way to becoming professionals – maybe our heart. I feel like I’m working in a system today that cares more about a progress note signed by the right color of ink than whether my clients are really making progress toward recovery.

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‘The monkey on my back’ by Recovery Coach

2007_0105rottnest0074Here’s some powerful writing from one of our bloggers on Wired In To Recovery.

‘Most people have heard the words ‘monkey on my back’ used as a term for defining addiction. Personally, I find the word ‘addiction’ too soft a word to describe the monster every addict or alcoholic battles in daily life. It’s too clinical, too sterile, and just doesn’t pack the same punch as the monkey analogy.

As a hardcore alcoholic for more than half my life, I learned a few things about the monkey.

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The future of treatment

P4071117The following quote is taken from one of my favourite books, Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America by William L White.

‘During the past 150 years, “treatment” in the addictions field has been viewed as something that occurs within an institution – a medical, psychological, and spiritual sanctuary isolated from the community at large.

In the future, this locus will be moved from the institution to the community itself. Treatment will be viewed as something that happens in indigenous networks of recovering people that exist within the broader community.

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‘What is Recovery?’ according to Stephanie Brown (Part 1)

book-a-place-called-self“Recovery has held so many surprises for me. Some good. Some bad. I didn’t know I could hurt so much. But I also didn’t know I could love so much and be so loved.

I had no idea that recovery was also learning how to be in intimate relationships, learning how to have close, wonderful friends. Then there’s my marriage. My husband and I have developed a rich life together.

And get this – I really like myself now. Learning about who I am and accepting me, that’s been the hardest part of recovery – and the best. I wouldn’t trade this path for anything in the world.” Anne, Recoveree

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What is a Recovery Carrier?

P4071151I was recently reading an interesting Bill White paper on Recovery Carriers. Thought you might like to hear what Bill has to say:

‘Recovery carriers are people, usually in recovery, who make recovery infectious to those around them by their openness about their recovery experiences, their quality of life and character, and the compassion for and service to people still suffering from alcohol and other drug problems.

The recovery carrier is in many ways the opposing face of the addiction carrier – the person who defends his or her own drug use by spreading excessive patterns of use to all those he or she encounters. The pathology of addiction is often spread from one infected person to another; some individuals are particularly contagious.

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How do I know a treatment service is recovery-oriented?

Some treatment services today say they are doing recovery – using recovery-based care – when they are not in fact doing so. So how do you know that you are going to receive genuine recovery-based care when you sign up to a treatment service claiming to be recovery-oriented?

Here is some help from Mark Ragins, a leading figure in the mental health recovery field, about what to look for in a service offering recovering-based care. Mark may be talking about mental health recovery, but what he says is of relevance to addiction recovery.

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People affected by a loved one’s addiction

Not enough attention has been focused on the difficulties experienced by loved ones and friends of people with a substance use problem. That’s wrong.

I’ve probably made the same mistake during my blogs this week. So here’s a film from David McCollom, a young man in recovery who is doing some great film work on recovery in the UK.

The Recovery Advocacy Movement

William White describes how recovering people have been stepping forward and challenging social attitudes and the treatment system. He emphasises that many more recovering and recovered people (and their families) need to step forward if we are to overcome the stigma that is associated with addiction.

Treatment and Recovery disconnection

William White describes how somewhere in the process of the professionalisation of addiction treatment in the US, treatment got disconnected from the larger more enduring process of long-term recovery.

He points out that we are recycling large numbers of people through repeated episodes of treatment. Their problems are so severe and recovery capital so low, there is little hope that brief episodes of treatment will be successful. We end up blaming them for failing to overcome their problems.

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Why the need for recovery-based care?

testimonials_07A resonating message I have picked from many people affected by serious substance use problems over the years is their desperate need for hope (that they can recover) and understanding (of how to recover).

There is a dearth of readily accessible information on how to achieve recovery, information that is also relevant to the day-to-day struggles and obstacles that people face in trying to overcome addiction and related problems. Many people do not know anyone who has recovered from addiction. Many find the treatment system to be disempowering and lacking in hope.

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A letter to Alcohol

IMG_4467Here is a letter that Beth Burgess, recovery coach from Smyls, wrote in her early recovery:

“Dear Alcohol,

Well it’s been a while now, and although you are a bad influence, I do miss you sometimes. I miss our secret relationship, the way that no-one else was part of it and could never get in on it. I miss the way you comfort me when I’m down. It sometimes creeps up on me unexpectedly how much I miss you. And other times I am glad you are gone.

Of course you have changed – and I know that. You’re not fun any more. But I seem to forget that when we’re not together. I don’t know why my memory is so short and why I always remember the good times with such intensity. It hasn’t been that way for a while.

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Introduction to our Recovery Stories section

2007_0116walpole0067You will see that I have put up 16 Recovery Stories on the website. They comprise part of a book I have been writing. This book is taking longer than originally planned, so I thought it was important that people see them now rather than later.

In putting together these Stories – some of which have been written by the person, others written by me after interviewing the person – I’ve wanted to provide insights into people’s journeys into and out of addiction. To me the most important part of these Stories is the recovery process, but it also also important to see how people travelled into addiction and how they lived a life that was dominated by substance use problems.

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‘Will I ever smile again?’ by Maddie

IMG_2338As some of you know, I developed the online recovery community Wired In To Recovery (WITR). I always loved it when a community member wrote their first blog on WITR, particularly when they described their lives and feelings. Sometimes, people ‘surfaced’ with just a few sentences like, “I’m Bob, I have just accessed treatment after ten years heroin addiction. I’ll be back soon and blog again.”

And sure enough, most would be back and their blogs would increase in length and number. Some people were looking for help online and they would receive comments from other community members. And they would respond to these comments.

One person who surfaced on WITR was Maddie, someone from somewhere in Australia. I started to comment on Maddie’s blogs and I then started to provide some help by e-mail. It wasn’t long before we were emailing each other regularly.

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