‘Sharing our Experience, Strength and Hope, With our Friends Across the Pond’ by Phil and Sandy Valentine

phil-valentineI was looking through my blogs on Wired In To Recovery and came across one focusing on Phil and Sandy Valentine’s trip to the UK in late 2011. Thought I’d provide a link to the original source material on the CCAR website, an interview of this lovely couple by Bill White.

There are a lot of interesting points in this interview, but here are just a few as a taster.

Phil Valentine: Where recovery is concerned, anonymity and stigma still reign. People in recovery have worked in the treatment system for years, and their colleagues and co-workers (never mind the “service users”) don’t know they are in recovery. Personal recovery seems to be a taboo subject. And countrywide denial, particularly with alcoholism, prevails.

I also found that people in long-term recovery are reluctant to be open about it. After I spoke in Newcastle, three different fellas came up to me and whispered that they all had similar amounts of recovery as me, but no one knew about it outside of their fellowship (AA). They all worked in the treatment field and were certain that management would disapprove to the point where their jobs would be in jeopardy.

Another man told me that he had a girlfriend for ten years before he told her about his past of multi-drug misuse (his words, not mine). I asked him about her response. She was “OK with the drug use, but really cheesed off why it took me ten years to tell her.”

Phil Valentine: I repeated a line I heard you say—that we have to stop kicking people out of treatment for confirming their diagnosis. I saw some people wince at that and others nod their heads. When I talk about shame, and no longer being ashamed about my recovery, people always respond.

While in the U.K., I had a new piece find its way into my talk. In the U.S., we have a Native American organization, White Bison, that has been a leader in the recovery community for many, many years. They developed a program concerning relapse that we can all learn from.

If we truly believe that recovery is a battle against addiction, then we who are in recovery are warriors, aren’t we? White Bison believes that when a person relapses, the ideal response is summarized beautifully and powerfully in two words – Warrior Down. We don’t leave a warrior lying on the battlefield wounded, do we? No, we go back and get them.

That is a completely different perspective then saying, “oh, it was his fault” or “she just wasn’t ready” isn’t it? When I talked about this, my eyes would get moist and my voice would crack, and I’d see people with tears running down their cheeks.

Phil Valentine: People are very friendly, polite. It seems, however, they have built a lot of walls. A persistent negativity seems to flow just below the surface. They seem to have a hard time supporting one another, in seeing someone else succeed. I heard it called the “Tall Poppy Syndrome.” Instead of growing the rest of the poppies in a field to match the tallest one, they just cut down the tallest one so the others don’t look so inferior.

Please read the full interview. You can find film of Phil’s talk in Cardiff and an interview he gave in our Film section.