Pat Deegan – Common Ground

A brilliant must-see talk by Pat Deegan, a major pioneer and inspiration in the mental health field. After describing her own experiences in treatment, Pat talks about Common Ground, the web-based application she has developed that helps people meet with psychiatrists and doctors and arrive at the best decisions for their treatment and recovery.

This is Pat’s presentation at the 2012 Summer Institute for Informed Patient Choice at Dartmouth.

‘The Power of Storytelling’ by Lisbeth Riis Cooper

lrcooperLisbeth Riis Cooper is another person whose blogs on Mad in America I really appreciate and value. Here’s one on storytelling.

‘Over the years, I have heard many powerful recovery stories. I’ve also had many opportunities to share our family’s struggle with mental health challenges and our recovery journey.

Each time I share my story, it gets a little easier. I feel a little lighter, a little more hopeful. And I realize how far our family has come, how much we have learned and healed.

Stories are powerful. And so is the process of telling them. Here is what I have observed over my last 10 years of storytelling:

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Essential reading: ‘Speed’ by Stephanie Brown, Ph.D

I’m reading the excellent book, Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster – And Overcoming Our Fear of Slowing Down, by one of my favourite recovery thinkers/writers, Stephanie Brown. It’s well worth reading. Here is what is written on YouTube.

‘MORE, BETTER… SLOWER.

Feeling rushed, out of control, and overwhelmed?
Feeling like you can’t keep up…and can’t stop?
It’s not just you.

From the need to be constantly connected and the changing definition of “work hours,” to unrealistic expectations of instant gratification, our bodies and brains are being harmed by habits that, as with any kind of addiction, promise short-term satisfaction while doing long-term damage.

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“The Other Side’ by Matt Samet

msametI’ve really enjoyed reading Matt Samet’s blogs on the excellent Mad in America website. Here is his first one, which provides some important insights int withdrawing from psychoactive prescription drugs and recovering from addiction.

‘With little fanfare and even a glance at the calendar to confirm it, I realized as I sat down to write this that December 5 marked the seven-year anniversary of the last time I took a benzodiazepine tranquilizer.

I had been prescribed the pills for a “panic disorder” starting at age 21, and took them daily from 1998 to 2005 as a “prophylaxis” against anxiety, in ever-escalating doses as prescribed. My final dose was, I think, a quarter-milligram of lorazepam, administered on the fourth-floor Affective Disorders Unit of the Meyer Psychiatry Building, at the Johns Hopkins Institute in Baltimore. I have not taken any since.

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“You’re all going to hate the word ‘recovery’” by DJMac

Disagree-2One of the problems with an aspirational and non-prescriptive definition of recovery is that it is hard to measure. The definitions most commonly featured in the literature share some elements including wellbeing or health, abstinence and citizenship.

Clearly if you can’t define it precisely, then it’s hard to commission services to deliver on it. In this case proxy outcomes are used. There’s a lot of debate amongst professionals on recovery definitions and measurements, but what about service users? What do they make of ‘recovery’?

In a teasingly titled paper (‘‘You’re all going to hate the word ‘recovery’ by the end of this’’: Service users’ views of measuring addiction recovery) Joanne Neale and colleagues scope the views of clients and patients in a variety of settings and run past them professional perceptions on recovery measures. How different are the perspectives?

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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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‘Setting the Intention to Heal: The Starting Point of Mental Health Recovery’ by Douglas Bloch

dblochHere is such an important blog about healing and recovery. Thank you, Douglas.

‘“The readiness is all.” William Shakespeare

In my work facilitating depression support groups, I have discovered three essential factors to healing from depression, which I call ”the three pillars of mental health recovery.”  In my earlier blogs for Mad in America I wrote about two of these pillars  – connecting with community and using a holistic approach to treat symptoms. Now I would like to present the first and MOST IMPORTANT pillar – Setting the Intention to Heal.

I define setting the intention to heal as “making the decision that you want to get well, even if you don’t know how.”  Setting the intention to heal does not require that a person know the exact path that will heal him from a major depression or other mental health disorder. It just requires that he or she wants be well.

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Recovery and recovery-based care

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead, US cultural anthropologist

2007_0118walpole0118Here’s a little section I wrote for a book I am working on.

1. The Problems
Substance use problems represent a major concern in society today. These problems do not just arise from use of illegal drugs, but also from alcohol, solvents and addictive prescription drugs. They are intimately tied up with, and can be caused by, social, emotional and/or mental health problems. A person’s substance use problems impacts negatively on the wellbeing of family members and other loved ones.

Far too few people are recovering from the problems caused by drugs and alcohol, in large part because of shortcomings in the systems of care that society has developed. Many people circulate in and out of treatment, and much of the treatment system has become disempowering and lacking in hope.

The prejudice and stigma that exists in society towards individuals and families affected by substance use problems is also a strong barrier to recovery.

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‘Recovery resistance’ by djmac

Recovery resistance is futile because if we resist recovery we are resisting the clients or patients services are set up to help. As Professor Best makes clear in the quote above, the themes of recovery are connection, hope, meaningful lives and empowerment. Those resisting recovery are resisting these values and such resistance is futile. Better to go with it and deliver on recovery than stand against it.’

Boxing-glove-300x224Great blog from djmac about recovery in UK. Sadly, we are are a long way behind here in Australia. There is such a strong resistance to recovery and recovery-based care here. Why can’t people in need of help in Australia have ‘a meaningful and valued life’, which is what recovery is all about? Anyway, here is djmac’s blog.

‘When recovery became the bedrock of drugs policy in the UK there were objections. Some commentators were vociferous and condemnatory. Their words were reported prominently in the addictions press provoking a response from academics and clinicians working in the field.

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Veronica’s Story

I really like Veronica Unknown-1Valli’s website. Here is her Story which she has just uploaded. Powerful writing!

‘Many people have asked me for my drinking story, I wrote this some time ago and decided to publish it. This is me, this is who I was and who I am now….

I think there’s two ways you can become an alcoholic. I think you’re either born that way or, you simply need to drink enough alcohol and become one.

I believe I was born an alcoholic.

I believe this, because I’ve always felt ‘different’. My earliest memories are of feeling ‘odd’, ‘uncomfortable in my own skin’. I felt like I was looking out at the world through a glass screen, I was on one side and everyone else was on the other.

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‘Proposal From Italy: An International Collection of Recovery Stories’ by Giuseppe Tibaldi

UnknownPlease check out this important and interesting proposal.

‘Here is a new proposal from Italy: We want to start an international initiative to promote the writing of recovery stories in every country, with the ultimate goal of sharing at an international level the most compelling ones from each country.

Our proposal is born from an awareness that recovery stories are necessary today in order to give back to mental sufferance its meaning and transparency, to fight the biographical opacity of biological theories (the broken brain) and to guarantee decisional power to those who are offered (or imposed) mono-dimensional or dehumanizing treatments.

For me, personally, my interest in the writing of such stories came about from my reading just such a story more than a decade. The book, The Day the Voices Stopped. A Memoir of Madness and Hope, was written by Ken Steele.

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Russell Brand – Addiction to Recovery

I’m long overdue in putting this film up.

‘Brand meets a whole range of people from whom he draws insights – scientists at the cutting edge of research into the psychology of addiction, those involved in innovative recovery treatments and drug addicts themselves.

Is addiction a disease? Should it be criminalized? And is abstinence-based recovery, which worked for Brand, a possible way forward? In this documentary Brand challenges conventional theory and practice as well as government policy in his own inimitable style, confronting the reality of addiction head on.

Along the way he draws on his own experience to try to help one of the addicts he meets to take the first steps towards recovery. Armed with his own heartfelt beliefs and new insights gained during his journey, Brand has the opportunity to change the hearts and minds of policy makers when he is invited to give evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee investigating the efficacy of current drug addiction treatment in the UK.’ BBC Three.

‘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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Overcoming Drug Addiction: Darren’s Recovery Story

Here’s one of a number of short films abut recovery that is worth checking out.

‘The Alcohol & Drug Service (ADS) has been transforming lives for more than 25 years. Here is one true story about Darren, a young man from Grimsby, who has battled back from addictions to drugs to reclaim his life and rebuild relationships with family.

Darren was supported in his recovery by The Junction, a service which The Alcohol & Drug Service delivers in partnership with Rotherham Doncaster & South Humber NHS Foundation Trust.’

‘Benzodiazepine Guidance’ by djmac

Diazepam-3‘SMMGP has published guidance for using benzodiazepines and benzo-like drugs in primary care. It’s a comprehensive 60+ page document which covers most (but not all) of the bases and reinforces the need for caution when prescribing the drugs.

The guidance is so long in coming because consensus could not be reached. Benzo prescribing is an issue where people have strong views.

The guidance sets out a major problem: that current prescribing guidance is that these drugs should not be used for more than 2-4 weeks, but in practice this is widely flouted with over one million people on these in the long term.

As I say the document is comprehensive, so I’ve just picked out a few nuggets here.

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Climbing out of addiction and depression: Margo Talbot at TEDxCanmore

Great talk and pics and one hell of a recovery!

‘Current research suggests that addiction and depression are symptoms of emotional distress, not causes of it, forging the link between childhood trauma and mental illness. Margo Talbot’s journey supports these studies.

Diagnosed Bi Polar at age twenty-two, Margo spent the next fifteen years in suicidal depression before discovering the healing power of presence as the antidote to emotional trauma. Being present to our thoughts and emotions, not running the other way or masking them. Where best to practice the art of presence than the frozen world of ice climbing…

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Stamp Out Stigma: “It Can Get Better” by Kelly

A wonderful film clip from an excellent website, StampOutStigma.

“Whatever happened to the sense of community where you actually cared about your neighbour?”

Being brave enough to seek help led Kelly to recovery.

“I get so much satisfaction because I see that when I share my story with others it empowers them.”

I Am Not Anonymous: Faith’s Story, “One More Chance’

Faith-Text-1024x681(pp_w1000_h665)Another wonderful story from I Am Not Anonymous, which helps us feel what addiction is like and experience the personal joys of recovery. Thank you, Faith.

‘Until I got clean and sober, I never knew that other people experienced the same pain and emptiness that I used drugs and alcohol to escape from. Even when I was a little girl I felt like a part of me was missing – I felt alone, afraid, uncomfortable, and incomplete.

I remember looking up in the sky at airplanes and wishing I could trade places with someone on them. It didn’t matter who it was or what the destination was, I just wanted to be anyone else and anywhere else… and I didn’t know why.

I started using drugs and alcohol in my early teens and they took me very temporarily to the place I thought I always wanted to be. They gave me relief from myself, my insecurities, my fears, and my loneliness. They made me feel “okay” with who I was, where I was, and who I was with, but they came with a price. At the time they seemed worth it.

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‘Gold standard addiction treatment’ by djmac

Arzt mit FlachmannHere’s an excellent blog on treatment from djmac.

Gold standard addiction treatment
Addiction to alcohol or other drugs is not easy to recover from. However there are many pathways to recovery, including through treatment. One group of patients does far better than most other groups. In fact their results are so impressive that many commentators have urged us to learn from what’s different about their treatment and follow-up to see if we can transfer learning and experience.

This group, claim researchers, sets the standard for addiction treatment. Indeed it represents gold standard addiction treatment. Who are this group? They are doctors.

In 2009, in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Robert DuPont and colleagues published a study that looked at how addicted doctors were cared for in the treatment system and also what their outcomes following treatment were.

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John Dolan: from homeless addict to street artist and author

John DolanHere’s a wonderful article about street artist John Dolan and his dog George which appeared recently in the UK Guardian.

Aged 10, John Dolan was told a family secret, which set him on the road to crime, addiction and homelessness. Now his life is transformed, thanks to his dog, George, and a gift for drawing

Anyone who has strolled down Shoreditch High Street in east London in the past few years will probably have seen John Dolan drawing, with a cup for coins on the pavement beside his dog.

A tourist from New Zealand browsing an art gallery nearby is typical of many of us: she stops in surprise when she sees a sketch by Dolan on display. “I saw this guy in the street the other day, just opposite,” she says. “I wish I’d stopped now and talked to him.”

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