Blog

Recovery Stories Blog

‘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 ➔

‘Recovery Landscapes’ by Bill White

Here’s an excellent blog that leading recovery advocate Bill White posted in March 2014. I love the phrase ‘Recovery Landscape’. I first posted this blog on Recovery Stories on 14 March, 2014.

‘Interventions into severe alcohol and other (AOD) problems have focused primarily upon altering the character, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals. Far less attention has been given to influencing the environment in which such factors are birthed, sustained or changed. But interest in the geography of recovery is increasing. Researchers are beginning to suggest that reaching the tipping point of addiction recovery may have as much to do with community factors as intrapersonal factors.  Recovery advocates and clinicians are calling for creation of a “healing forest” – “naturally occurring, healing environments that provide some of the corrective experiences that are vital for recovery.”

Read More ➔

A Conversation with… Mark Gilman (part 1 of 2)

Please check out this wonderful conversation between Mark Gilman and Toby Seddon. I know Mark from my days working in the UK addiction recovery field. He’s one of my favourite people working in the field and we’ve got together a number of times during my visits back to the UK (and Manchester).  I knew that Mark had worked at Lifeline in Manchester and played a pivotal role in the emerging harm reduction approach. I did not know about his early research on heroin use.

This is an absolutely fascinating interview. Here is what Toby wrote about the conversation and comments from two of the field’s stalwarts.

‘The first of a two-part conversation with Mark Gilman. Mark has been a major figure in the field over four decades and directly involved in many of the most significant developments we have seen. In this part, we talk about Mark’s early life, his work with the late Geoff Pearson researching heroin use in the North of England, and his pioneering work with Lifeline in the 1980s and 1990s.’ Toby Seddon

Read More ➔

‘Wiping Out Stigma’ by David McCartney

Here’s another excellent post from one of my favourite bloggers, David McCartney from Edinburgh in Scotland. It’s on a topic which is close to my heart—tackling stigma. Here is what David wrote on the Recovery Review blog recently.

‘Reducing the stigma associated with addiction – the word itself now tagged with a degree of stigma – is a priority in drugs policy. Stigmatising attitudes contribute to drug harms and deaths through delaying access to treatment, leaving treatment early and increased risk-taking behaviour.

Brea Perry and her colleagues at Indiana University took a look [1] at the scale of the problem of stigma for non-medical prescription opioid use and dependence in a representative sample of over a thousand adults in the USA.

Read More ➔

Reflecting on People in Recovery from Addiction: Alexandre Laudet

I hold many people who have recovered, or are recovering, from addiction in the highest regard. The courage they have shown in turning around their lives is amazing. They have gone on to do wonderful things. They have helped other people on the path to recovery. And they have taught me so much about addiction and recovery. Some of these people are my best friends.

Whilst working my way through past blogs on this website—some needed cleaning out of the database because, for example, the film links have disappeared—I came across two blogs from Alexandre Laudet. Alexandre was Director of the Center for the Study of Addictions and Recovery at the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc at the time and had been conducting a good deal of research focused on addiction recovery. I was particularly taken by what Alexandre had to say about people in recovery in the second of her blogs, shown below:

Read More ➔

‘I was a heroin addict and had given up on myself. Then suddenly, briefly, I felt a desire to live’ by John Crace

‘What I heard at Narcotics Anonymous changed my life’ … John Crace. Photograph: Pauline Keightley/Bridgeman Images

Yesterday, I posted a blog from one of my favourite journalists, John Crace, the Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer, about his past heroin addiction. John had been in recovery for 32 years at the time of writing that article. Here is a second article by John about his addiction and recovery, which appeared on 27 December 2021.

At my lowest point, I sought self-annihilation. I was saved at the last moment by two of the few people I had not pushed away.

It was a Saturday night in early October 1986. My 30th birthday party, or what passed for it. Just a handful of junkies and my few remaining friends sitting on the floor of a grey, bare room in a flat in south London. I had thought it would be fun, as, for once, there was no shortage of heroin. Instead, I felt wretched.

Read More ➔

‘How I Overcame my Heroin Addiction – and Started to Live’ by John Crace

John Crace, who became addicted to heroin in his early 20s. Photograph: Theo Moye/apexnewspix.com

One of my favourite newspaper writers is John Crace, the Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer. He writes really well, challenges the political system and politicians (hitting all the nails on the head), and possesses a wicked sense of humour. Imagine my surprise when I discovered by reading one of John’s articles that he is a recovering heroin addict. Here is that article, straight from the Guardian of 25 March 2019.

Deciding to give up the drugs was easy. But Narcotics Anonymous meetings got me through the really hard bit – staying off them for good

It was one of the easier decisions I have made. So easy that I must have made it hundreds of times over the best part of 10 years. The first time, I was in my early 20s and had woken to find I had cramps, sweats and felt wretchedly sick. That was when I knew what I had fondly imagined was recreational drug use had slipped into full-on heroin addiction. This has got to stop now, I told myself. A couple of days of cold turkey and then get back on with my life – a decision that lasted as long as it took to get up and go to score.

Read More ➔

An Awesome Recovery Story to Start 2022

‘Lockdown imposed the solitude from which I had been running’ … Jamie Klingler with her dog, McNulty. Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

I couldn’t resist posting this article by Jamie Klingler—I spent years trying to drink and eat myself numb. Then I began a year of intense transformation—which I found in The Guardian today. Here is the article in its entirety.

Who, at my age, truly starts over? But I did. I gave up booze, took up running and found the strength and stamina to fight for a better future.

At 42, I believed that my food and alcohol dependencies defined me. In my mirror, I would always be as I saw myself then: fat and drunk. I was over the hill and past the point of any meaningful change. Who, at my age, truly starts over? I had clearly missed the opportunity to be one of those healthy, mindful people I mocked on Instagram. I was who I was: destined to remain in those cycles of dependency and to be unhappy, discontent and stuck. Then disaster struck.

Read More ➔

‘A Personal Story’ by Wee Willie Winkie

Here’s a story we first ran on our online community Wired In To Recovery in September 2010. I then posted it on Recovery Stories in June 2013.

‘I’m 33 years old. I started taking drugs from ten years old and, apart from a three and a half year stint in the army, took them continuously right up to the age of 30. This included 11 years as a heroin addict.

During this time, I felt totally isolated and alone in the world, and completely worthless. After a few years I was desperate. I’d overdosed a couple of times and, at this point in my life, I’d have welcomed death with open arms. It never came, so I decided to help it along a bit.

Read More ➔