‘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.

We already know that those who stick around drinking buddies in early recovery have a greater risk of relapse than those who don’t. And the other side of the coin is that if we encourage folk to make new relationships with those who are sober and drug-free, they have a greater chance of maintaining recovery. In this sense, recovery acts like an infectious agent. Hang around those who have it and you might just catch it.

These findings will come as no surprise to those of us in recovery for it is the experience of many that friends and family, mutual aid and other resources are keystones in facilitating the process of starting and maintaining recovery.

It gets me to wondering if those of us involved in treatment are really that aware of the power of recovery communities, like the virtual community on Wired In and the thousands of mutual aid groups meeting every week in Britain.

What if we started to think about these communities as the heart of recovery rather than focusing so much on treatment? What, as Bill White has suggested, if we saw treatment as a support and “add-on” to mutual aid and community recovery resources rather than the other way around? How would that work and how easy would it be to achieve?