Helping You Gain a Better Life

Here are some resources that can help you lead a happier, healthier and more positive life.

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20 Things to Start Doing in Your Relationships

rsz_start-doing-in-your-relationshipsRelationships are key in recovery. So let’s look at some things that will facilitate healthy relationships, from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

‘Family isn’t always blood.  They’re the people in your life who appreciate having you in theirs – the ones who encourage you to improve in healthy and exciting ways, and who not only embrace who you are now, but also embrace and embody who you want to be.  These people – your real family – are the ones who truly matter.

Here are twenty tips to help you find and foster these special relationships.

1. Free yourself from negative people.  Spend time with nice people who are smart, driven and likeminded.  Relationships should help you, not hurt you.  Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be.  Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you – people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it. 

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‘Full Recovery from Schizophrenia’ by Paris Williams

Full-moon-dark-sky-300x200‘This is the first of a series of blog postings related to my own series of research studies (my doctoral research at Saybrook University) of people who have made full and lasting medication-free recoveries after being diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

This is very exciting research because it is one of the few areas within psychological research that remains almost completely wide open. One reason it is so wide open is that most Westerners don’t believe that genuine recovery from schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders is possible, in spite of significant evidence to the contrary.

Since there are some very hopeful findings that have emerged within this research, I want to begin this series of postings by summing up one particularly hopeful aspect of my own research, which is a group of five factors that emerged which are considered to have been the most important factors in my participants’ recovery process. But before looking closer at these factors, we should back up for a minute…

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A Journey Toward Recovery: From the Inside Out

IMG_2364-220x165Today, I thought I’d repost a blog from our early days. It is from an extraordinary article by Dale Walsh written back in 1996 which really summed up what recovery and recovery principles mean to a person who has been suffering from mental health problems.

At the the time, the original article had been ‘lost’, due to the original website  being redeveloped. However, I  have found it now! Enjoy!

The Problem
“For many years I believed in a traditional medical model. I had a disease. I was sick. I was told I was mentally ill, that I should learn to cope with my anxiety, my depression, my pain, and my panic. I never told anyone about the voices, but they were there, too. I was told I should change my expectations of myself and realize I would always have to live a very restricted life.

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Reflections on Healing: A Canadian Aboriginal Perspective

UnknownI’ve been reading a fascinating article from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Canada entitled Aboriginal Healing in Canada: Studies in Therapeutic Practice and Meaning. What of course is said in this article is relevant to recovery in the western world. Here are some interesting thoughts about healing:

‘The first thing that emerges from our work is that healing is a concept that is difficult to articulate, in part, because most [people participating in the research – DC] seem to feel that there is no need to articulate it and/or simply have never been asked to.

There is no dominant treatment paradigm at work here. Healing proved to be variable in meaning, often vague and fuzzy, and very idiosyncratic.

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Trauma and Recovery

511+Nl1uNdL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_My good friend Christina found a photocopy of a chapter of Judith Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror which had the following in:

‘The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore, is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections.

Recovery can take place only within then context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience.These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy.

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’15 Steps to Become Grateful & More Positive’ by Mindfulness Coach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s an excellent blog on gratitude to chew on, written by John Shearer who has an interesting bio.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Cicero

Being grateful is both a state of mind and perspective. One person’s idea of expressing gratitude may completely contradict another. Most of us are not born eternal optimists, but being positive and grateful is something that can be imbibed even if a tad forcibly; such as by trying to tweak our sense of humour, the way we react to a given situation, by being more pleasant and believing others too have a mind, by smiling each time somebody says ‘thank you’, and by understanding that every person is on their own journey and accepting that it’s not your position to judge them.

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75 Years In The Making: Harvard Just Released Its Epic Study On What Men Need To Live A Happy Life

rsz_harvardhappinessCouldn’t resist putting up this article from FEELguide, which focuses on one of the longest ever research studies. George Vaillant, who directed the study for more than three decades, has some seminal writings on alcoholism, including his book which is well worth reading.

‘In 1938 Harvard University began following 268 male undergraduate students and kicked off the longest-running longitudinal studies of human development in history.  The study’s goal was to determine as best as possible what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing. 

The astonishing range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits — ranging from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family relationships to “hanging length of his scrotum” – indicates just how exhaustive and quantifiable the research data has become. 

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What Works in Treatment?: Sapphire’s Story, Part 2

rsz_img_2115Last week, we looked at Sapphire’s Story, with the aim of showing the importance of person-centered treatment. Along Sapphire’s journey into and out of addiction, things went well when Sapphire was intimately involved in decisions about her treatment, but poorly when professionals took sole control.

We left Sapphire’s Story after the Community Drugs Treatment had reduced her prescribed methadone dose against her will and she started to use street drugs again. She eventually became addicted to crack. This drug took over Sapphire’s life, until the day she ended up in hospital: “I’m not sure what actually happened one particular day. I know that I had been up for about five days smoking crack and I think I had a fit and was taken to hospital.”

Sapphire was transferred to the drug and alcohol unit of the hospital and put on a high dose of methadone. When she left this unit, she did not go back to the controlling and abusive man she had been living with since she was 16 years old.  Her parents had found out about her drug-taking and became very supportive.

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What works in treatment?: Michael’s Story

rsz_img_1525Treatment for addiction involves a number of different processes. What are the most important? Who better to tell us than the people who have used treatment to help them recover from addiction. 

During the next week, we’ll look at the views of some of those people who have so kindly given us insights into their lives through their Recovery Story.  We’ll start with my close friend Michael from Perth. Let’s look at some of his experiences from the moment he decided to stop drinking over 35 years ago and his views on treatment. 

‘I made the decision to stop drinking on April 10th, 1978, three years after my parents had died. My last drinking session took place at the Shenton Park Hotel. I finished my last drink and slammed the glass down, saying to myself that this was it! “No more drinking!” I have not had a drop of alcohol since then.

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’12 Things Happy People Do Differently – And Why I Started Doing Them’ by Jacob Sokol

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExcellent blog from the Huffington Post, from Jacob Sokol of Sensophy. All makes perfect sense to me!

‘A lot of people have midlife crises. Me, I had a quarter-life crisis a few years ago, when I turned 24. There was no impulse purchase involving a red Mustang or electric guitar, but as my iPhone alarm woke me up bright and early for work one morning in my two-bedroom NYC apartment, I pondered, “Do I have everything – or nothing at all?”

My gut said that there had to be more to life than the rat race of what I was doing (IT consulting). But I just wasn’t sure what it was or who I could turn to for wisdom outside of “the Matrix.”

I decided to embark on a journey to find out. I quit my job, minimized my expenses, went to Hawaii and got very serious (in a wild sort of way) about discovering what made me tick.

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John McKnight on where change begins

“One of those men belong to one association and one belongs to none. Statistically, the one who belongs to one association will live two years longer than the one who belongs to none. Now you can measure medical interventions, but hardly any would claim that they make you live two years longer.”

In his forty years working with impoverished American communities, John McKnight witnessed incredible social change at the grassroots. He discovered that the majority of the solutions to issues like unwanted teenage pregnancy and crime depended on empowering local citizens and building relationships at the community level.

Although social innovations disrupt the status quo in boundary-breaking and sector-spanning ways, change begins with the individual and their surrounding network.

‘Addiction can’t always be cured so let’s focus on quality of life’ by David Best

rsz_3ycm9w7x-1380697705David Best has a new short article out in The Conversation. Would be great if you could sign up and comment. 

‘Alcohol and substance abuse costs the Australian economy A$24.5bn a year. The human toll from accidents, overdoses, chronic disease, violence, mental illness and family disruption, however, is immeasurable.

Modern, evidence-based policy responses to addiction focus on treatment, where patients aim to withdraw from drugs through therapy and medications. Harm-minimisation strategies such as the supply of clean needles and syringes and the prescribing of substitution medications are also key elements of Australia’s drug strategy.

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‘The Four Walls’ by Mark Ragins

rsz_markHere’s some great earlier writing on recovery from Mark Ragins, who set up The Village in California. This is what recovery is about!

‘In 1989, the California State Legislature authorized the funding for three model mental health programs, including the Village Integrated Service Agency in Long Beach, in part to answer the question, “Does anything work?”

We created a radical departure from traditional mental health services basing our entire system on psychosocial rehabilitation principles, quality of life outcomes and community integration. Arguably, we have created the most comprehensive, integrated and effective recovery based mental health program anywhere.

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‘Recovery Rocks – Tara Weng’

dubs-300x225Here’s the latest edition of Veronica Valli’s excellent ‘Recovery Rocks’ series, this edition involving Tara Weng.

Veronica says, ‘The wonderful thing about getting sober is that it’s not just the life of the alcoholic that improves, but everyone around them too. Tara Weng describes how the relationship with her son has improved since she has got sober, because of her sobriety she now gets to see her kids transform into amazing human beings. You just can’t put a price on that.

Apart from her most important job of being a mother, Tara is a freelance writer…

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The culture of addiction: Part 1

384985_10150365241281765_1866835833_nThis is the first of two blogs on the culture of addiction. I will later look at the culture of recovery, and after that consider how we can help people move from the culture of addiction to the culture of recovery.

These articles are based on the seminal writings of William L White, in particular from his book Pathways from the Culture of Addiction to the Culture of Recovery. In this book, Bill provides key insights into how we can help people move cultures – essential in their journey along the path to recovery.

‘Culture’ generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. Wikipedia

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‘Recovery: what matters?’ by David McCartney

IMG_2315Here’s an interesting Wired In To Recovery blog from David McCartney from September 2013 about the importance of social relationships.

‘If you wanted to live a long and healthy life, what measures could you take to achieve your goals? Stop smoking? Lose weight? Exercise? Drop your blood pressure? We have evidence that all of these make a difference, but a recent analysis of 148 studies on the subject found two things that made more of a difference to mortality than anything else. What were they?

Well, having strong social relationships and being integrated socially seem to protect against death. This analysis was not specifically about addiction, but suffering from addiction is strongly associated with increased death rates and it seems very likely that if we could promote strong social links in those seeking help it will reduce the risk of relapse and ultimately of early death.

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Bouncing Back: A Story of Resilience

I found this film on Vimeo today. I thought it is a great Story. Well done, Lisa!

‘Lisa Wrightsman, was able to Bounce Back from an addiction to alcohol, methamphetamine , and methadone by leveraging street soccer to assist her recovery and how she continues to help other women win their battle with recovery through soccer.’

‘Recovery and the Conspiracy of Hope’ by Pat Deegan

2007_0116walpole0154Here is a classic presentation made by Pat Deegan at “There’s a Person In Here”, The Sixth Annual Mental Health Services Conference of Australia and New Zealand. Brisbane, Australia.

Beautiful writing, a must-read. I’ll wet your appetite:

‘I love the word conspiracy. It comes from the Latin “conspirare” which means to breath the spirit together. What is the spirit we are breathing together here today?

It is a spirit of hope. Both individually and collectively we have refused to succumb to the images of despair that so often are associated with mental illness.

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Natalie’s Story: ‘I didn’t plan to be an addict’ (Part 2)

IMG_3468I first met ‘Natalie’ over 12 years ago when I lived in South Wales. I will never forget how she emphasised the importance of providing online support for people with substance use problems. She had been desperate to find helpful online information when she trying to overcome her drug problem.

Natalie has always been such an inspiration to people around her. Mind you, many people had to first get over the shock of finding that such a lovely lady had once been a heroin addict.

We left Natalie in Part 1 of this Story in the pre-treatment part of a 12-step treatment programme.

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