Blog

Recovery Stories Blog

Is Medication Assisted Treatment like the Hotel California?: David McCartney

When I worked in the addiction recovery field in the UK running Wired In, I was a strong advocate of harm reduction services, including medication-assisted treatment. However, I spoke out against a treatment system that locked people into a methadone maintenance programme that provided no other therapeutic options, and no opportunity for abstinence-based treatment if people wanted to move on from daily use of methadone. Many people on methadone maintenance programmes were not even made aware of other treatment options.

Here is an excellent recent post on Recovery Review which discusses this highly pertinent issue by one of my favourite bloggers, Dr David McCartney from Edinburgh.

‘The tragedy of Scotland’s drug-related death figures has been in my mind this last week or so. The media may have largely moved on, but those of us who work in the field of addiction, those of us who know individuals who have died and those of us with lived experience of addiction will not be able to do the same.

Read More ➔

My Interview with Huseyin Djemil for his ‘Journeys’ Podcast

Last year, I was interviewed by Huseyin Djemil of Towards Recovery for his ‘Journeys’ podcast. I was really pleased to be Huseyin’s first interviewee for his podcast, as I hold him and his initiative in high regard. It was also really nice to talk to him again, the first time in around 15 years. The last time we had met was in London, and now we were communicating via Zoom, with me in Perth, Western Australia, and Huseyin in Henley, UK.

Huseyin Djemil is Senior Consultant and Trusted Advisor with 25+ years experience working in the substance use, addiction, recovery, social care, criminal justice, and not-for-profit sectors. He is Founding Director of Towards Recovery, which offers an open safe space for people in recovery from addiction and helps them find the right path for themselves. He started the Journeys Podcast last year because he believes strongly that the stories of recovering people need to be visible to give others hope.

Read More ➔

‘Addiction treatment mismatch: when what’s on offer isn’t always what’s wanted’ by David McCartney

Another really except blog post on Recovery Review by Dr. David McCartney, this one focused on what people want from addiction treatment.

“I never knew that rehab was available to guys like me”, he said to me just before he completed his rehab programme. He’d been in and out of `treatment for many years before he got to rehab. “Why did nobody tell me?” I was left struggling for an answer.

This is one of the things that still upsets me in my work with patients. It is still happening – even in my area where there are clearly established pathways to rehab with no funding barriers to navigate.

Read More ➔

Fighting stigma and discrimination when recovering from problem drug use

Yesterday, I described the difficulty that people recovering from problem drug use face in becoming accepted by mainstream society. They are shunned and socially excluded at a time they need to reintegrate into mainstream society in order to facilitate their recovery and allow them to live a normal life. Here is a related story.

Early in February 2008, I attended with my colleagues Lucie James and Kevin Manley, the first Drink and Drugs News (DDN) / Alliance Service User Conference, which was organised by Claire Brown and Ian Ralph of DDN and held in Birmingham. Around 500 people attended, two-thirds of them service users, a very successful conference. Lucie, Kevin and I enjoyed our day and made some new friends. A special issue of DDN, which was the leading UK magazine focused on drug and alcohol treatment, was devoted to the conference. Prejudice towards service users was obviously an issue that was discussed during the afternoon’s discussion tables.

Read More ➔

Revised ‘Steps to Reintegration’ Model by Julian Buchanan

In an earlier series of blog posts starting here, I highlighted Julian Buchanan’s classic paper Tackling Problem Drug Use: A New Conceptual Framework in which he describes his ‘Steps to Reintegration’ Model, a model which I consider to be both very pertinent and important.

Julian’s paper is based on his twenty years of research and practice with dependent drug users in Liverpool, England. It draws upon three separate qualitative research studies that involved semi-structured interviews with 200 problem drug users. The studies sought to ascertain the views, suggestions and experiences of drug users in respect of what was helping or hindering them from giving up a drug-dominated lifestyle.

Read More ➔

The everyday lives of recovering drug users

I recently found this very interesting and important piece of research from 2012, The everyday lives of recovering drug users by Joanne Neale, Sarah Nettleton and Lucy Pickering, which was part of a Royal Society of Arts project focused on addiction recovery. Here is what the RSA Director of Research, Steve Broome, said about the research:

‘This is a fascinating, in places touching, and, most importantly, useful book. Seldom heard personal accounts from 40 recovering heroin users reveal the psychological, physiological, and emotional journeys as they overcome their addiction. Ultimately, they are human stories that reveal simple and modest aspirations: recovering heroin users want to participate and feel valued as productive members of society. In the words of several interviewees, they just want to feel “normal”.

Read More ➔

The New ‘William White Papers’ Website

On May 13, William (Bill) L White posted the following important announcement, The Future of William White Papers Website, on his blog:

‘This image, which has greeted visitors to my website since its inception in 2009, will soon have a new look.  The website has grown to include nearly all of my writings over the past half century, including all of my major papers and monographs on recovery advocacy, recovery management, and recovery-oriented systems of care. Also archived are more than 100 interviews with addiction treatment and recovery advocacy leaders and classic documents on the history of addiction treatment and recovery in the United States and in other countries.

Read More ➔

‘Out of the dark into the light: The beginning of the recovery journey’ by Rosie

Whilst looking through my collection of ‘voices of recovery’ to see what might be appropriate for the book on recovery I’m writing, I came across this Recovery Stories blog post from September 2013. This is the first of a series of posts that Rosie first wrote on our online Wired In To Recovery community website which ran from 2008-12.

‘Leaving the dark place of my drinking and moving into the light of my new life has been a journey of self discovery—a journey of change—a painful journey at times—a wonderful journey—which has brought me what I was seeking most—peace.

I have come to understand that recovery is a healing process of mind, body and spirit, and time is an essential factor in this process. We cannot expect to recover from the illness of alcoholism or any other addiction overnight. We cannot undo the harm done in a short space of time. This is a fact which I believe is so often not recognised—people are not realising the importance of time in the recovery process.

Read More ➔

‘Tackling Problem Drug Use: A New Conceptual Framework’ by Julian Buchanan, Part 3

Here is the Conclusion to Julian Buchanan’s excellent 2004 paper on the the debilitating nature of marginalisation and social exclusion that many long term problem drug users experience.

‘This paper has argued that the key issues that drug users face are related to discrimination, isolation and powerlessness. Those drug users, who become long-term and dependent, tend to have been disadvantaged and socially excluded from an early age prior to their taking drugs. For many of these people an all-consuming drug centred lifestyle was not the problem, but a solution to a problem.

Social work has a long standing tradition of highlighting injustice, discrimination and inequality, and seeking to empower the service user. Social workers are then, ideally placed to make a significant contribution to draw attention and develop increasing awareness and understanding to the issues of oppression and discrimination that many drug users experience.

Read More ➔

‘Tackling Problem Drug Use: A New Conceptual Framework’ by Julian Buchanan, Part 2

In my last blog post, I introduced a 2004 paper from Julian Buchanan the focuses on helping people overcome problematic drug use. The paper draws upon the messages from drug users in Liverpool, highlighting ‘the debilitating nature of marginalisation and social exclusion that many long term problem drug users have experienced. It concludes by suggesting a new social model to understand and conceptualise the process of recovery from drug dependence, one that incorporates social reintegration, anti-discrimination and traditional social work values.’

In his paper, Julian presents a new conceptual framework for practice that incorporates and promotes an understanding of the social nature and context of long-term drug dependence. Julian’s ‘Steps to Reintegration’ model model is based on the stage-orientated model of Prochaska and DiClemente. He describes six phases, four of which occur before what he terms the Wall of Exclusion and two afterwards.

Read More ➔

‘Tackling Problem Drug Use: A New Conceptual Framework’ by Julian Buchanan, Part 1

My apologies for not posting for a while on the website, but I have been busy writing a new book… and also feeling a little burnt out. Anyway, I want to mention a 2004 paper by Julian Buchanan that I came across last week, which describes his important research with problematic drugs users and a ‘new conceptual framework for practice that incorporates and promotes an understanding of the social nature and context of long term drug dependence.’

Julian’s paper is based on his twenty years of research and practice with dependent drug users in Liverpool, England. It draws upon three separate qualitative research studies that involved semi-structured interviews with 200 problem drug users. The studies sought to ascertain the views, suggestions and experiences of drug users in respect of what was helping or hindering them from giving up a drug-dominated lifestyle.

The paper highlights ‘the debilitating nature of marginalisation and social exclusion that many long term problem drug users have experienced. It concludes by suggesting a new social model to understand and conceptualise the process of recovery from drug dependence, one that incorporates social reintegration, anti-discrimination and traditional social work values.’

Read More ➔

‘It doesn’t work for everyone’—a take on 12-step approaches, by DJMac

Yesterday, I was going through old Recovery Stories blogs (from the period 2013/4) when I came across this gem. It’s a guest blog by a GP who gives a personal view on professional perspectives of mutual aid. No doubt, it is just as relevant today as it was then.

“‘Astonished’
I was astonished the first time I was taken to an NA meeting. I mean, really gobsmacked—you could have knocked me off my seat. The room was full of recovering heroin addicts; something I’d never seen in my 20 years (at that time) in practice.

I was both excited—at the possibilities—and ashamed at the fact that I didn’t know such places existed. It curls my toes to think of it now, but I had not referred my patients to them. That was a while back.

Read More ➔

Reflections on the Lessons of History: Bill White

Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America by William L. White isn’t just a fascinating and enjoyable read, it has also taught me so much. Bill White’s book, his other writings, and our meeting in the UK in 2009, have been so inspirational for me.

I’m currently trying to write a book about addiction recovery, which includes details of my own journey (experiences, thoughts and emotions) as I learnt about the field and tried to develop an initiative (Wired In) which I hoped would help individuals, families and communities. Writing the book is quite a challenge and I have done a good deal of reflecting, a fair amount of writing, and lots of correcting!

Today, I pulled Slaying the Dragon off one of my bookshelves to read the last parts. I knew they would help inspire me and provide the fuel for more reflections on the structure of my book. It also made me realise that I needed to post the last sections of Bill’s book in a blog because they are so important for all of us working in this field. I hope they help you in your work and in reflecting on what you do. I can strongly recommend purchasing Bill’s amazing book.

Read More ➔

Michael’s 44th Sober Anniversary, and an Update

My good friend Michael (Mike) Scott from Perth, Western Australia, last had a drink 44 years (16,060 days) ago today. This morning, I’m going to celebrate his achievement with a blog post.

Mike first contacted me about our Daily Dose website back in 2002 when I lived in Wales. He loved our drug and alcohol news portal that I had launched with Ash Whitney early in 2001. I gave Mike a big shock when I called him one day back in 2009 and suggested that we have lunch together. He replied, ‘How can we do that? You live on the opposite side of the world.’ I told him that I had moved to Perth on Christmas Day 2008.

Since then, we have become best mates. We generally meet once a week for lunch and go out with Mike’s wife Andrea and my partner Linda every few weeks. The four of us have just come back from a week’s holiday in magical Broome in the north-west of Australia. There, we celebrated Mike and Andrea’s 30th wedding anniversary.

Read More ➔

Kevan Martin’s Birthday and Story Update

Birthday greetings to my good friend Kevan Martin. I celebrated Kevan’s 60th Birthday last year with a blog post; it was the same day that I launched my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. Kevan’s Story, He’s a Loser and Will Never Be Any Good, is one of 15 stories in the book. The major part of the Story also appears on this website. It’s an impressive and moving story about the overcoming of adversity… and a commitment to helping other people overcome addiction.

Kevan is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. After 25 years of problem drinking and eight years in and out of psychiatric hospitals, Kevan set up and ran NERAF (Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction) which eventually had nearly 100 staff and volunteers and provided a support service across the north-east of England. It all began in the following way:

‘So, I started a support group for people with alcohol problems in my own home. I often used to meet people that I had been in treatment with out and about, and eventually I started to say, ‘Come down to my place Tuesday night.’ Within a month, I had six people attending. Word of mouth ensured that my home was soon packed with people I had met throughout my years of spinning through the revolving door of treatment.’

Read More ➔

‘Rehab works!’ by David McCartney

Here’s another excellent post from Scotland’s Dr David McCartney on the Recovery Review blog.

‘When it comes to trying to improve access to residential rehabilitation in Scotland, one thing I’ve heard too often from doubters is: ‘there’s no evidence that rehab works’. Ten years ago I was hearing the same thing about mutual aid, which was recently (at least in terms of Alcoholics Anonymous) found to be as effective, if not more effective, than commonly delivered psychological interventions.

There are a some problems with the ‘there’s no evidence that it works’ line. The first is that even if we accept the faulty premise that there is a poor evidence base, this is often taken as evidence that rehab doesn’t work, which is illogical. The second problem is that while there is evidence, some people don’t know about it or, for a variety of reasons, choose to dismiss it. What we can say is that the evidence base is weighted towards some areas (e.g., medical interventions) at the expense of others. The third issue for me is that while we need to find ways to balance the evidence base, we will not find more evidence if we’re not looking for it.

Read More ➔

Transforming Trauma Self-Care Resources: James Gordon M.D.

I wanted to introduce you to an amazing healing resource which appears on a page of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM). ‘The CMBM was founded in 1991 by James S. Gordon, M.D., a Harvard-educated professor of psychiatry and family medicine at Georgetown University Medical School and former chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, under Presidents Clinton and G.W. Bush. ‘

Here is how the resources are introduced:

‘Trauma – injury to the mind, body, spirit – comes to us all.

Our initial responses to trauma are healthy and designed to preserve us. First, we seek out connection and comfort; we call and look for help. When safety and reassurance are unavailable, we experience the fight- or- flight response. When fight or flight and the stress response can’t deal with an overwhelming and inescapable threat, a last- ditch survival mechanism, the “freeze” response, takes over.

Read More ➔

A Conversation with… Mark Gilman (Part 2 of 2)

The second of a two-part conversation that Toby Seddon had with Mark Gilman. ‘In this part, we pick up the story in 1999, when Mark moved from Lifeline to the Home Office. The conversation ranges widely, covering treatment, recovery, social justice and crime, reflecting the unique breadth of Mark’s contributions to the field.’

In this conversation, Mark talks about the time he was a regional manager for the National Treatment Agency (NTA).

‘There was actually some public opinion research done in the NTA which reiterated the idea that the primary beneficiary of many of the interventions was not individual people with drug problems themselves, with substance use disorder themselves, but the wider community.

Read More ➔

A Wonderful Addiction Recovery Champion: Rowdy Yates RIP

I was deeply saddened to hear of the recent passing of one of the great Champions of the addiction recovery field, Rowdy Yates. I only met Rowdy a few times; one memorable occasion was when Mark Gilman and I travelled up to see him in Stirling in March 2009. However, I was well aware of his contribution to the field. We also emailed each other over the years, the last time being last year when Rowdy sent me copies of some of his papers and informed me that he was not well.

Rowdy was not only a Champion in his field of work, but was also a very talented musician and a wonderful guy. He had a HUGE personality and was very passionate about all in which he was involved. I once joked that if I could find the portal between Perth (Australia) and Perth (Scotland) I’d be seeing a lot more of him. I truly wish I had seen more of him. He was a big supporter of Wired In and the Wired In To Recovery online community, for which I will always be very grateful.

Read More ➔

‘None of them will ever get better’ by Dr David McCartney

I love Dr David McCartney’s blogs. He writes so well about issues that really matter. He’s also a great guy who cares passionately about addiction recovery and recovering people. And he’s someone I always enjoy visiting when I am in the UK. [Can’t wait until the next visit!] Anyway, here’s David’s latest post on the Recovery Review blog.

Therapeutic nihilism

“None of them will ever get better”, the addiction doctor said to me of her patients, “As soon as you accept that, this job gets easier.”

This caution was given to me in a packed MAT (medication assisted treatment) clinic during my visit to a different city from the one I work in now. This was many years ago and I was attempting to get an understanding of how their services worked. I don’t know exactly what was going on for that doctor, but it wasn’t good. (I surmise burnout, systemic issues, lack of resources and little experience of seeing recovery happen).

Read More ➔