Classic blog: ‘Recovery is contagious redux’ by Bill White

recovery-contagion-220x186Here’s the latest from recovery advocate William L White.  Wonderful words, just wonderful words.

‘Those of you who have been reading my weekly blogs these past six months will recognize two simple and enduring themes: Recovery is contagious and recovery is spread by recovery carriers.  Those notions first came to me on April 14, 2010 when I stood to speak at Northeast Treatment Centers’ (NET) dinner honoring NET’s 40th anniversary and the achievements of NET members.

Here are some of the words that came to me as I stood before a room packed with people filled with hopes of what their newly found recoveries would bring.

“This night is a celebration of the contagiousness of recovery and the fulfilled promises recovery has brought into our lives.  Some of you did not leave the streets to find recovery; recovery came to the streets and found you.

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‘From Trauma to Transformative Recovery’ by Bill White

Trauma to Transformation ImageAnother wonderful blog from Bill White, recently posted on his excellent website.

Between 1986 and 2003, I served as the evaluator of an innovative approach to the treatment of addicted women with histories of neglect or abuse of their children.

Project SAFE eventually expanded from four pilot sites to more than 20 Illinois communities using a model that integrated addiction treatment, child welfare, mental health, and domestic violence services.  This project garnered considerable professional and public attention, including being profiled within Bill Moyers’ PBS documentary, Moyers on Addiction:  Close to Home.

My subsequent writings on recovery management and recovery-oriented systems of care were profoundly influenced by the more than 15 years I spent interviewing the women served by Project SAFE and the Project SAFE outreach workers, therapists, parenting trainers, and child protection case workers.  This blog offers a few reflections on what was learned within this project about the role of trauma in addiction and addiction recovery.

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‘A Personal Tribute: Ernie Kurtz, 1935 – 2015′ by Bill White

EK Photo 2008‘Ernest Kurtz, who made landmark contributions to the study of addiction recovery, died January 19, 2015 of pancreatic cancer. Following publication of Not-God:  A History of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1979, Kurtz focused his studies on the growing varieties of recovery experience, the healing of shame and guilt, and the role of spirituality in addiction recovery.

 
Ernest Kurtz was born in Rochester, New York, September 9, 1935 – only two months after the meeting of two desperate alcoholics in Akron, Ohio marked the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Kurtz attended St. Bernard’s Seminary and College and was then ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1961.

Following five years of parish work, he began his graduate studies at Harvard University where he completed an M.A. in philosophy and a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization. His Ph.D dissertation on the history of A.A. marked a turning point in the scholarly study of A.A. and the larger arenas of addiction recovery and recovery mutual aid societies, both legitimizing such studies and setting a benchmark by which future studies would be evaluated.

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A great loss: RIP Ernie Kurtz

ernie_kurtz_egyptI was saddened to recently hear that Ernie Kurtz passed away on 19th January. Ernie was a brilliant and inquisitive man who helped very large numbers of people better understand AA and spirituality. Bill White recently described Ernie in the following way:

‘One of the distinctive voices within the modern history of addiction recovery is that of Harvard-trained historian Ernie Kurtz.

Spanning the 1979 publication of his classic Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous to the just-released Experiencing Spirituality (with Katherine Ketcham), Kurtz has forged a deep imprint in studies of the history of A.A. and other recovery mutual aid groups, the varieties of recovery experience, the role of spirituality in addiction recovery, and the personal and clinical management of shame and guilt.

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The Recovery Scholarship of Ernie Kurtz

Ernie GLAATC InterviewHere’s some great reading for you, from one great scholar and storyteller about another. Bill White starts the New Year with this excellent posting on his blog. Enjoy!

‘One of the distinctive voices within the modern history of addiction recovery is that of Harvard-trained historian Ernie Kurtz.

Spanning the 1979 publication of his classic Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous to the just-released Experiencing Spirituality (with Katherine Ketcham), Kurtz has forged a deep imprint in studies of the history of A.A. and other recovery mutual aid groups, the varieties of recovery experience, the role of spirituality in addiction recovery, and the personal and clinical management of shame and guilt.

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‘Prison-Based Recovery Advocacy (The San Quentin Story)’ by Bill White

San Quentin ARC Group Counseling Image‘The stage is set for a recovery-focused advocacy and peer support movement within the U.S. prison system.

The mass incarceration of drug offenders in recent decades, the growth of prison-based addiction treatment, the growth and diversification of prison-based recovery mutual aid, increased disillusionment with incarceration as a policy strategy of addiction containment, and the rise of grassroots recovery community organizations in local U.S. communities have all been part of this incubation process.

There is a growing critical mass of people in correctional institutions who are initiating and sustaining addiction recovery and who are pursuing service to others as part of their recovery processes.  Leaders are rising to articulate ideas and launch programs that address the particular needs and aspirations of people seeking recovery within the shadow of the criminal justice system.

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‘A Different Kind of Evidence’ by Bill White

Addiction Journals Credit Wiley Asia BlogMore wisdom from Bill White.

‘Some years ago, a noted research scientist was invited to speak at a local community forum on the subject of addiction. The presentation to more than one hundred interested citizens consisted of a sweeping overview of modern scientific studies on addiction and its clinical treatment.

In the question and answer session that followed the presentation, a member of the audience posed a question about the effectiveness of recovery mutual aid groups like AA, NA, Women for Sobriety, and SMART Recovery.

The speaker responded that there had been few randomized trials comparing the differences in long-term recovery outcomes between these individuals who had achieved recovery with and without mutual aid participation.  The scientist declared that no definitive scientific evidence yet existed on the effectiveness of such groups.

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‘Addiction Treatment (By Itself) is Not Enough’ by Bill White

Treatment is Not EnoughExtremely important reflections from Bill White on the role of treatment in addiction recovery. I have bolded what I think are in some key statements. This blog is essential reading for all people involved in this field.

‘I have spent more than four decades providing, studying, promoting, and defending addiction treatment, but remain acutely aware of its limitations.

As currently conceived and delivered, most addiction treatment programs facilitate detoxification, recovery initiation, and early recovery stabilization more effectively and more safely than ever achieved in history, but most fall woefully short in supporting the transition to recovery maintenance and the later stages of recovery, particularly for those who need it the most – those with the most severe and complex problems and the least recovery support within their natural environment.

Addiction treatment as a stand-alone intervention is an inadequate strategy for achieving long-term recovery for individuals and families characterized by high problem severity, complexity, and chronicity and low recovery capital.  In isolation, addiction treatment is equally inadequate as a national strategy to lower the social costs of alcohol and other drug-related problems.  Here’s why.

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‘Personal Reflections on Recovery Month 2014′ by Bill White

recovery monthThis month marks the 25th year of what has evolved into National Recovery Month.  With an early focus on the slogan “Treatment Works,” the event took on its recovery focus in 1998 just as new and renewed grassroots recovery community organizations (RCOs) were rising across the U.S.

RCO representatives came together at the 2001 Recovery Summit in St Paul, MN to launch the formal organization of a new recovery advocacy movement under the leadership of Faces and Voices of Recovery.

In the intervening years, Recovery Month celebration events have grown beyond what anyone could have predicted.  Local recovery celebration events that once welcomed a few dozen brave participants grew into the hundreds and then into the thousands.

This month, in community after community, recovering people and their families and allies will fill parks and streets as far as the eyes can see – an ocean of lives touched and transformed by recovery.   More than 450 recovery celebration events are scheduled this month in the U.S. and such events will also transpire around the world – from Vancouver to Cape Town, from Tokyo to London. 

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‘Recovery in an Age of Cynicism’ by Bill White

Recovery in an Age of Cynicism ImageThere’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”
For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield (1966)
Lyrics by Stephen Stills

Recovery in an age of cynicism requires seeking the less traveled path.

We live in a strange era.  Pessimism seems to be seeping into every aspect of global culture – fed by leaders who divide rather than unite, who pander rather than educate and elevate, and who ply the politics of destruction to mask their own impotence to create.

Poisoned by such cynicism, we as a people act too often without thinking, speak too often without listening, and engage too often to confront and condemn rather than to communicate, until in our own loss of hope, we lapse into disillusioned detachment and silence – shrinking our world to a small circle we vow to protect. 

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‘From the Rooms to the Streets’ by Bill White

Unknown-1‘Until recently, recovery from addiction was shrouded in public secrecy in the United States and in most other countries. Addiction has long been viewed as a personally and culturally intractable problem, and pessimism has reigned about the prospects of long-term addiction recovery.

These perceptions have been fed by the unrelenting public visibility of addiction-related problems, but the comparable invisibility of stable, long-term addiction recovery.

Historically, most people in recovery either completely eschewed recovery status (refused the addiction and recovery labels and culturally “passed”) or regularly cloistered themselves in “the rooms” of recovery mutual aid meetings before repeatedly and invisibly re-entering their civilian roles without acknowledgement of their recovery status.

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‘Recovery for a Higher Purpose’ by Bill White

Recovery for a higher purpose“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Michelangelo

It is one of the most beguiling qualities of the experience of addiction:  it sucks up everything of importance in your life and casts those cherished assets into the remotest reaches of one’s heart, leaving nothing but itself. This all occurs an inch at a time and second by second – increments so small they escape the category of decisions.

It is at the end of such a process that one cluster of fears stands greater than the full awareness of what has been lost.  That is the terror of one’s own emptiness and the gaping nothingness of one’s future.  Those latter breakthroughs of consciousness can fuel unending cycles of oblivion and sickness and take damaged souls to, or beyond, the brink of suicide.

These same fears pose a significant obstacle to recovery initiation.  That’s why the promise of recovery must offer more than the removal of alcohol and other drugs from one’s life.  For the person staring into the abyss, the promise of recovery to a life of meaning and purpose may be far more potent than the promise of recovery from addiction.

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‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 10′ by William L. White: Recovery Paradigm and Addiction Treatment

The last part of Bill White’s 2012 Norman E. Zinberg Memorial Lecture from Harvard. Bill says he is not a teacher of these issues about recovery, but still a student. He encourages us all to be students of this rapidly changing ecology of recovery in the US. Bill also looks at what we need to do in the future in relation to recovery and recovery-based care.

‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 9′ by William L. White: Recovery Advocacy and New Recovery Support

Bill talks about recovery as a new paradigm and its influence on treatment systems. He goes on to describe the new recovery advocacy movement and new recovery institutions and organisations. Most of this is occurring at a grassroots level.

‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 8′ by William L. White: History of Recovery Support

Bill introduces about the various types of recovery support that have existed historically: natural support, limited generalist support within the community, peer recovery (mutual aid) and treatment. He then goes on to describe how things have been changing in recent years.

‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 7′ by William L. White: Family Recovery

Bill briefly describes how many families fall apart during the early stages of recovery and points out that as a society we do very little about this. Stephanie Brown describes this effect on family as the trauma of recovery.

‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 6′ by William L. White: Recovery Durability Set Point

When does recovery become durable? When does sobriety today predict sobriety for a lifetime? When does my risk of resuming alcohol and drug use and having a recurrence of a substance use disorder plummet?

‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 5′ by William L. White: Recovery Identity & Cultural Affiliation

This part of Bill’s excellent talk focuses on identity, social stigma and recovery styles. He describes how some people hide behind anonymity because they are ashamed of themselves.

‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 4′ by William L. White: Frameworks of Recovery

In this part of his talk, Bill White discusses the degrees/depths of recovery. He describes how some better people feel ‘better than well’ after recovery.

He goes on to describe different types of recovery initiation/maintenance framework and different styles of recovery.

‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 3′ by William L. White: Toward a Recovery Paradigm

More of Bill White’s talk that he gave at the Harvard Addiction Conference in 2012, the Norman E. Zinberg Memorial Lecture.

Bill talks about the disconnection between recovery and treatment, and asks what do we know about the science of recovery. And how do we define recovery? He tells us how little neuroscience has told us about recovery.