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Recovery Stories Blog

Learning From the Experts, Part 2

This post continues the research relating to client views on treatment and recovery that Gemma Salter, Sarah Davies and I conducted at BAC O’Connor treatment service back in 2004.

A further factor reported to be influential in producing positive effects was the adoption of a holistic approach, whereby the ‘whole package’ of the person was addressed in treatment, and not simply the substance use problem. The range of targets included behaviours, coping methods, physical and psychological emotional problems, practical problems, social and relationship difficulties, and self-awareness.

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Learning From the Experts, Part 1

Well, I’m back in the ‘office’ after my long overdue break. It was great to have a serious ‘time-out’ and also sit back and enjoy the Olympic Games. They were awesome and many performances stunning. What stood out most was the camaraderie between the athletes.

Anyway, here is today’s blog which focuses on a piece of research we conducted years ago, research of which I am particularly proud. Gemma Salter, who conducted the main analysis I describe, was one of my star undergraduate project students in the Department of Psychology, Swansea University. She had gained an outstanding First Class Honours Degree and won the prize for the best project of the year for an earlier piece of research she conducted on the impact of substance use problems on family members

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100 Blog Posts and an Upcoming Break

Yes, this is my 100th blog post since I restarted blogging again on Recovery Stories on the 8th of March 2021. I’ve also added various other forms of content on other parts of the website, and released my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction on the 9th of April.

As some of you know, I first launched Recovery Stories in May 2013, with the aim of helping individuals and families recover from addiction and mental health problems. A core element of the website was a series of 14 Recovery Stories (one is in two parts) ‘told’ by people who had been affected by a serious substance use problem, either directly or indirectly.

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Learning From Wired In To Recovery

As part of our Wired In strategy, my colleagues and I launched the Wired In To Recovery online community in November 2008. Our initial aims with Wired In To Recovery were to:

  • Highlight role models who show that recovery from addiction is possible, and illustrate the multitude of paths to recovery.
  • Provide information and tools that help people better understand and use the options they have to overcome the problems caused by their own, or a loved one’s, substance use.
  • Create an environment in which people can inspire and learn from each other and provide mutually beneficial support.
  • Establish a ‘people’s journalism’, or Voice of Recovery, which acts as a strong source of advocacy both for recovery and the Recovery Movement.
  • Identify key individuals who would join, or collaborate with, Wired In to help us realise our ambitions.

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Recovery Stories Weekly, Issue 6

In the first part of the week, my blog posts focused on our Wired In work. Firstly, our qualitative research focusing on the RAPT treatment programme in two UK prisons in 2008. Secondly, our evaluation of the structured day care programme at BAC O’Connor in Burton-upon-Trent back in 2004.

Blogs in the second half of the week focused on three of my heroes in the mental health and addiction recovery fields: Mark Ragins, Larry Davidson and Bill White.

An Illustration of the Manner in Which Factors Facilitating Recovery Impact: Four inter-related themes were derived from the analysis that were labelled: ‘Belonging’, ‘Socialisation’, ‘Learning’, and ‘Support’. Each of these themes impacted on a fifth theme, ‘Personal Change’, which had two key components, motivation to change and self-esteem.

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Recovery as an Organising Construct – Bill White Interviews Larry Davidson

William L White and Larry Davidson are two of my recovery ‘heroes’. In this 2013 paper from his website, Bill interviews Larry about mental health recovery. As the former says, Larry was ‘one of the earliest pioneers in studying and promoting the concept of recovery related to severe mental illness.’ Here are Larry’s answers to two of Bill’s questions. [I have shortened the paragraphs for easier online reading.]

‘Bill White: How is the emergence of recovery as a new organizing paradigm changing the design and delivery of mental health services in the United States?

Larry Davidson: I think the biggest change that the recovery paradigm has introduced, and the change that poses the most difficulty for traditional clinicians to understand and accept, is that recovery is primarily the responsibility of the person rather than the practitioner.

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How Do I Know a Treatment Service is Recovery-Oriented?

Some treatment services today say they are doing recovery—using recovery-based care—when they are not in fact doing so. So how do you know that you are going to receive genuine recovery-based care when you sign up to a treatment service claiming to be recovery-oriented?

Here is some help from Mark Ragins about what to look for in a service offering recovering-based care. Mark may be talking about mental health recovery, but what he says is also of relevance to addiction recovery.

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‘The Four Stages of Recovery’ by Mark Ragins

Here’s a blog I first posted back in May 2013, not long after this website first launched. Mark Ragins is a leading recovery figure in the mental health field. He was a pioneer in setting up MHA Village, a recovery community based in Los Angeles. His writings are well worth a read. Here is what Mark has to say about stages of recovery in an article entitled The Road to Recovery. What Mark says here is just as relevant to people recovering from addiction.

‘Recovery has four stages: (1) hope, (2) empowerment, (3) self-responsibility and (4) a meaningful role in life.

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 9

In my fourth blog post focusing on what I learnt from the treatment agency BAC O’Connor back in 2004, I focus on treatment outcomes and two short client cases. The first blog in this series can be found here.

In the year prior to our visit, 231 clients accessed the BAC day care programme. A total of 87% of these clients had been involved with the criminal justice system; many, possibly most, were prolific offenders. 90% of the clients were unemployed, whilst 28% were officially classed as homeless. However, the latter percentage was realistically 67%, since 14% were due to be evicted for arrears or ASB (Anti-Social Behaviour), while 25% were staying with friends or relatives on a temporary basis and did not have a permanent home.

Of these 231 clients, two-thirds completed the programme drug-free. This was a very successful outcome, given the ‘challenging’ nature of the clients entering the programme. 52% of the clients attended aftercare on a regular basis. BAC was not in a position to track long-term outcomes at the time of our visit, but they were trying to set up a project to do so.

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 8

In my third blog post focusing on what I learnt from the treatment agency BAC O’Connor back in 2004, I focus on two themes. Firstly, how staff deal with people who relapse during the treatment programme. Secondly, how the agency works with ‘clients’ to help them integrate (back) into their community.

BAC O’Connor were more realistic about relapse than many other treatment agencies. Relapse was considered part-and-parcel of the recovery process, and was an issue that was addressed in a pragmatic and humanistic manner. Clients who continually relapsed and left the Centres were always given the opportunity to return and receive the help they needed. Noreen Oliver said to me:

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An Illustration of the Manner in Which Factors Facilitating Recovery Interact

This blog post is taken from part of a chapter in my recent eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

Research I conducted with Lucie James back in 2008 provided important insights into factors that facilitate behavioural change and a person’s path to recovery from addiction. This study involved a qualitative analysis of the views and experiences of clients on the RAPt treatment programme [1] in one male and one female prison. 

Transcripts of the semi-structured interviews with 15 males and 15 females were analysed with Grounded Theory in order to reveal identified concepts and themes. Four inter-related themes were derived from the analysis that were labelled: ‘Belonging’, ‘Socialisation’, ‘Learning’, and ‘Support’. Each of these themes impacted on a fifth theme, ‘Personal Change’, which had two key components, motivation to change and self-esteem.

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Recovery Stories Weekly, Issue 5

In addition to my regular blog posts this week, I added three YouTube films to the Film section and four posts to the Healing Section of the website this week (one also appears as a blog post. Here are all the week’s new posts on the website:

Women: Drinking and Recovery by Dr David McCartney: David describes a research paper that examined 23 published studies focused on women’s pathways into dependence and then into recovery. Four major themes were identified.

Factors Facilitating Recovery: A Summary: Provides a summary for each of 11 factors and links to my earlier blog posts describing each of the factors. Taken from a chapter of my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

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Alcohol Dependence

Here is an article I first wrote as a Background Briefing for Drink and Drugs News (DDN), the leading UK magazine focused on drug and alcohol treatment, in February 2005.

‘There has been a considerable scientific effort over the past four decades in to identifying and understanding the core features of alcohol and drug dependence. This work really began in 1976 when the British psychiatrist Griffith Edwards and his American colleague Milton M. Gross collaborated to produce a formulation of what had previously been understood as ‘alcoholism’ – the alcohol dependence syndrome.

The alcohol dependence syndrome was seen as a cluster of seven elements that concur. It was argued that not all elements may be present in every case, but the picture is sufficiently regular and coherent to permit clinical recognition.

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 7

I continue my story about what I learnt about addiction recovery and treatment from Noreen Oliver, and her staff and clients, during my visits to the structured day care programme at BAC O’Connor back in 2004. (See here for my first blog post relating to these visits).

The majority of the clients at BAC O’Connor had severe and chaotic drug and/or alcohol use, a variety of other problems, including being homeless, and a strong engagement in criminal activities. Many referrals came from criminal justice services. The supported housing programme allowed BAC O’Connor to house and rehabilitate this particularly vulnerable population of clients.

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 6

I earlier began a series of blog posts (starting here) describing what I learnt about addiction, addiction recovery and addiction treatment after I had closed down my neuroscience laboratory in the early 2000s. I started visiting a local treatment agency, local treatment agency West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA), in Swansea, South Wales. At the same time, I was conducting an evaluation of projects supported by the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Fund in Wales.

I continue this series of blog posts by describing what happened, and what I learnt, after I first visited the treatment agency BAC O’Connor in 2004. Here is the start of a new story, one where I saw recovery literally oozing out of the walls of a building.

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On the Nature of Healing: Judy Atkinson

As some of you know, I was inspired to work in the healing trauma field in large part by Judy Atkinson’s wonderful book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia. Here is a short bio of Judy, taken from the We Al-li website:

‘Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson is a Jiman (central west Queensland) and Bundjalung (northern New South Wales) woman, with Anglo-Celtic and German heritage.

Her academic contributions to the understanding of trauma related issues stemming from the violence of colonisation and the healing/recovery of Indigenous peoples from such trauma has won her the Carrick Neville Bonner Award in 2006 for her curriculum development and innovative teaching practice. In 2011 she was awarded the Fritz Redlick Memorial Award for Human Rights and Mental Health from the Harvard University program for refugee trauma.

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: A Summary

In a series of blog posts over the past eight weeks, I have described a variety of factors that facilitate the process of recovering from addiction. These descriptions have come from a chapter of my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. Here, I briefly summarise these factors and provide links to the relevant blog posts.

Hope: This hope is based on a sense that life can hold more for one than it currently does, and it inspires a desire and motivation to improve one’s lot in life and pursue recovery.

Empowerment: To move forward, recovering people need to have a sense of their own capability, their own power.

Self-Responsibility: Setting one’s own goals and pathways, taking one’s own risks, and learning one’s own lessons are essential parts of a recovery journey.

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‘Women: Drinking and Recovery’ by Dr David McCartney

My good friend Michael Scott, of Michael’s Recovery Story, and I attended a Public Awareness Meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in a Perth suburb today. I was asked to talk for five minutes about my recovery work over the years. I also described some of the factors that facilitate recovery.

We listened to a number of AA members share their stories and I have to say that I was blown away by the high quality of the shares. They were moving, inspirational and insightful. More women than men spoke. It was such a good meeting and I really enjoyed talking to people after the actual meeting ended.

Imagine my surprise when I got home to find that my good friend Dr David McCartney had just uploaded a blog post about women, drinking and recovery.

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Recovery Stories Weekly, Issue 4

This week’s blog posts were some of my favourites from earlier times. I haven’t added anything else in other sections of the website, since I’ve been busy with other activities. Here are this week’s posts:

‘A Journey Towards Recovery: From the Inside Out’ by Dale Walsh: ‘Discovering and participating in this culture of healing has given me the hope and courage to travel the path of recovery. This is a culture of inclusion, hope, caring, and cooperation; of empowerment, equality, and humor; of dignity, respect, and trust.’

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How Trauma Flows Through the Generations

‘Our first generations were killed and imprisoned, and females sexually misused. Our second generations turned to alcohol or drugs as their cultural and spiritual identity was damaged; in our third generations we had spousal assault and societal trauma.

In our fourth generations the abuse moves from spousal abuse to child abuse or both. In the fifth generations, the cycle repeats as trauma begats violence, begats trauma. And in our sixth generations the grown children of the conquerors begin to live in fear of the grown children of the conquered.’ Judy Atkinson

The title of Judy Atkinson’s book is particularly well-chosen—trauma leaves trails across the generations. In the quote above, Judy briefly summarises the violence that has been experienced by Aboriginal people, violence that has produced trauma which has become cumulative and more complex across generations. This trauma has impacted upon individuals, families and communities.

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