Gifts of Knowledge That Recovering People Can Bestow: Bill White

‘Recovery Rising is the professional memoirs of William (Bill) L White who, over the span of five decades, evolved through several diverse roles to emerge as the addiction fields preeminent historian and one of its most visionary voices and prolific writers.’

The contains so many pearls of wisdom, and is an essential read for anyone interested in addiction recovery. Here are a few pearls, including a verylarge one. [NB. I have broken up Bill’s longest paragraph to make it easier to read online.]

‘The most obvious gifts of knowledge that recovering people can bestow on our communities are our stories—stories that unveil the experience of addiction, stories that communicate the reality and hope of full recovery, and stories detailing how such recovery can be initiated and sustained. Five ideas about recovery need to be inculcated within communities across America.

  1. Addiction recovery is a reality—it is everywhere.
  2. There are many paths to recovery.
  3. Recovery flourishes in supportive communities.
  4. Recovery is a voluntary process.
  5. Recovering and recovered people are part of the solution; recovery gives back what addiction has taken.

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Recovery Voices YouTube Channel

I just wanted to remind you about our YouTube channel, which is now called Recovery Voices, rather than Recovery Stories which it was originally called.

This YouTube channel is a core part of a Recovery Voices project, which I have recently developed in close collaboration with Wulf Livingston of North Wales. The project involves interviewing people on Zoom who are recovering, or have recovered, from addiction, as well as their allies.

The aims of Recovery Voices are to: (1) celebrate the lives and achievements of people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction; (2) create a powerful voice of recovering people and their allies; (3) help develop a greater understanding of addiction and recovery; (4) enhance our understanding of factors that can lead to addictive behaviours; (5) challenge the stigma that is attached to people who experience substance use problems and those who are trying to overcome such problems; and (6) facilitate the development of peer-led recovery communities.

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Recovery, Connection & Hope: Dr. David McCartney

I’ve deliberately broken my ‘blog break’ to announce the second of our Recovery Voices, Dr. David McCartney of LEAP (Lothians & Edinburgh Abstinence Programme). I’ve known David since 2007 when I first started to drop in at LEAP when visiting my daughter Annalie, who was a medical student in Edinburgh. David and his team and patients always inspired me. I loved my visits, the last of which was in September last year.

In my Zoom interview with him, David talked about the development of his drinking problem whilst working as a GP in an inner-city practice in Scotland. He described an unsuccessful attempt at sobriety, which involved a medical approach focused on prescribing. In crisis, he later called the Sick Doctors Trust Helpline and was told a doctor’s personal recovery story. That telephone call gave him hope and the opportunity to take his own journey to recovery. David talked about setting up LEAP and about facilitating recovery in the community.

I am thrilled to have this collaboration with David. I’ve always hoped that one day we would be able to do some serious recovery advocacy together. I hope there will be more! I have edited our discussion into 15 short films, totalling just over 76 minutes. Above is one of my favourites from that collection. Please check out the other films. And why not subscribe to our YouTube channel?

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Theresa’s Story: Wired In To Recovery

Here is some powerful writing from Theresa, who started blogging about her recovery on our online community Wired In To Recovery in May, 2010. Here are her first two posts:

Me (6th May, 2010)
I am 17 weeks, today, into Recovery from alcohol addiction. I have found that getting into Recovery is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It is also the thing I am most proud of because of the unbelievable physical and mental effort it has taken to get this far.

The fear of withdrawal and the absolute belief that I would be unable to cope without drink made me believe for a very long time, that a drunken haze would be my life until I became so distraught and heartbroken that I ended it (which I almost did) or my body just gave up the fight.

But now? Now I have something I never thought could exist in a hopeless wreck like me, and that is hope. I. Me. Theresa. Is in Recovery and has been sober for over four months! Well slap my thigh and call me Norman!!! Haha! I am dry!

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Huseyin Djemil’s Lent Blog Series

Huseyin Djemil of Towards Recovery has posted the 40th and last part of his Lent Blog Series, an amazing Recovery Guide. You can find links to all the posts in our Resources section. Here is the last episode of Huseyin’s series, Living a fulfilling life:

‘I’m not we are always the best example [to others] of someone living a fulfilling and meaningful life in recovery because everyone’s life is made up of a unique set experiences and responses to those experiences that shape us. In my case, I’m just trying to be “present”, to turn up as the authentic me in all aspects of my life in recovery. I don’t always manage it and sometimes when I do, the authentic me can make my life harder e.g., If I’m asked what I think about something I usually say, and sometimes (quite often) it can put the cat among the pigeons.

I also can’t help helping, and often my life in recovery feels it’s at its best when I’m helping someone solve a problem, meet a goal, or get closer to realising a dream they have. Mostly all I do is listen or act as a sounding board and occasionally I have a contact that I can connect the person to.

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‘The need to be honest, willing and open-minded’ by Rosie

Here is a blog that I first posted on the website in September 2013. Rosie had earlier posted the blog on our online community Wired In To Recovery.

‘Everyone needs a guide in life—for no one can be judge in their own case. We all need to have someone in our life we can totally trust—and none more so than the alcoholic seeking recovery.

I came to understand through being around others like myself, from listening to them and hearing their personal stories of recovery, that such a person was required—a sponsor—to guide me through the 12 Steps, the Programme that has brought thousands of people into recovery.

Through listening to these people, I began to get an idea of what the 12-Step Programme was about and of the important part it played in the daily life of the recovering alcoholic.

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Huseyin Djemil’s ‘Towards Recovery’ Blog Series

Yesterday, I posted a film clip of part of a conversation between Huseyin Djemil and myself which was originally recorded for the former’s Journey Podcast series. Huseyin, who lives in Henley-on-Thames in the UK, developed the inspiring recovery community Towards Recovery back in 2012. Their website is well worth a look, and if you are in the area then check out their Recovery Cafe.

At the beginning of March this year, I introduced you to Huseyin’s Blog Series. Here is how Huseyin describes the series on the Towards Recovery website:

‘As we approached Lent, Huseyin felt inspired to take action this year. He is observing the 40-day period of fasting and prayer and has given up watching TV during this period and committed to writing a short article for each day of Lent in the hope that it might inform and inspire others in their recovery journey as well. Lets dive in…’

I love this inspirational series as it contains a wealth of useful information for people on their recovery journey. Here are the titles and links to the first 22 blog posts [I have just updated this blog to complete the series—DC, 03/04/23]:

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Bill White’s Writings

Researcher, historian, practitioner and recovery advocate William (Bill) L White has been the most prolific writer in the addiction recovery field. You only have to look at his website. The impact of his ideas, work and writings has been enormous. Here, I include links to a number of my blog posts that focus on Bill White’s writings.

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Dr David McCartney’s Blog

One of my favourite bloggers is Dr David McCartney, Clinical Lead at the Lothians & Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP). I’ve known David for over 15 years and  I love visiting LEAP when I am in Edinburgh. Here are links to 11 of David’s posts on our website that first appeared on the Recovery Review blog.

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Huseyin Djemil’s ‘Towards Recovery’ Blog Series

As Lent approached in 2023, Huseyin Djemil, Founder of the Recovery Community Towards Recovery, was inspired to sit down each day and write a short article for a Blog Series with the aim of informing and inspiring other people on their recovery journey. Here are links to the 40 blog posts. 

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‘Journeys’ Podcast with David Clark and Huseyin Djemil

In April 2021, David Clark of the Recovery Stories website was interviewed by Huseyin Djemil of Towards Recovery as the first guest on the Towards Recovery ‘Journeys’ Podcast. The podcast was launched in June 2021 on the Towards Recovery website. David edited these twelve clips from Huseyin’s original podcast and posted them on his Our Recovery Stories YouTube channel. .

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Factors That Facilitate Addiction Recovery

Recovery is something done by the person with the substance use problem, not by a treatment practitioner or anyone else. Whilst there are a multitude of pathways to recovery, there are a number of key factors that facilitate recovery from serious substance use problems. (9,586 words) *

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A Rendezvous With Hope: Bill White

Here’s one of my favourite posts from that prolific blogger William (Bill) White, addiction recovery advocate, writer, researcher and historian. Bill’s complete writings are now being hosted on a website run by Chestnut Health Systems in the US.

‘Through my early tenure in the addictions field, the question of readiness for treatment and recovery was thought to be a pain quotient.  We then believed that people didn’t enter recovery until they had “hit bottom.”  If a person did not show evidence of such pain-induced readiness, they were often refused admission to treatment. Then we recognized that the reason it took people so long to “hit bottom” was that they were protected from the painful consequences of their alcohol and other drug use by people we called “enablers.”  We then set about teaching enablers to stop rescuing and protecting their beloved but addicted family members. 

Vern Johnson then came along and convinced us we could raise the bottom through a process he called intervention.  Staging such interventions within families and the workplace was something of a revolution that brought large numbers of culturally empowered people into recovery, including a former First Lady. All of these early philosophies and technologies relied on pain as a catalyst of addiction recovery, and that was the view I brought to my work as an evaluator of an innovative network of women’s treatment programs in the 1980s called Project SAFE.

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The Role of Community: Huseyin Djemil

Huseyin Djemil of Towards Recovery, a recovery community based in Henley, England, recently started a Lent Blog. Here is the Day 3 blog post which describes the role of community in facilitating recovery.

‘At Towards Recovery, we offer a simple “in” for people seeking to initiate recovery. We run a regular recovery café and provide “touch points” for people to engage with us e.g., like the recovery café, which is in-person and online, various programmes and courses, clubs (like Strava, books, films, talks), a podcast about recovery journeys and a book of reflections and daily invitations.

All of these “touch points” make recovery visible to those that might be seeking help and are unsure how to go about it, and are unclear about what help might look like. Making recovery visible allows people to see it and decide whether they want to connect to it, and with us.

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David Higham: Life After Prison

If you haven’t seen this moving film that focuses on David Higham in our Films section of the website, then please check it out. David had been in and out of prison since the age of 16 and was a drug user for more than 25 years. He went on to create and develop The Well Communities, an inspiring recovery community located in Cumbria and North Lancashire.

‘The Well is a vibrant community of people. Together, we support each other and we believe wholeheartedly that recovery is possible for anyone. By valuing and investing in the people who use our services, we’re able to show a different side to addiction. A side which sees members start their lives afresh with new friends, stronger family links and better prospects.’ UNILAB. 21 August 2017. [6’08”]

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My Journey: 2. Learning About Addiction Treatment – My WGCADA Experience, Part 1

I used to visit West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in Swansea in order to learn about addiction, recovery and treatment from treatment practitioners, and from people who have accessed the treatment service for help with their substance use problem. (1,306 words)

Dave Watkins (left), Community Support Worker at WGCADA.

Last week, I posted the first part of a serialisation of My Journey, my wide-ranging career in the field of addiction, mental health and trauma. This first part focused on my career in neuroscience, which lasted almost 20 years. In 2000, I closed my laboratory, as I did not think that neuroscience research was helping people overcome addiction.

Given that I did not feel that a biomedical approach and the use of drugs were the answer to helping people overcome drug addiction, what were the answers? And what methods were used in treatment services that were successful in helping people overcome substance use problems?

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My Friend Bradley Miah-Phillips: In Memorium

It is with great sadness that I have to announce that one of the Storytellers for my Our Recovery Stories project passed away on 10 February 2023 at the Calderdale Royal Hospital. I am still having trouble coming to terms with the idea that Brad is no longer with us, but I know I have some special memories of him, albeit most of them on Skype, and in the words he and I wrote for his Recovery Story.

I first met Brad when Mark Gilman and I travelled up to Halifax in April 2009 to meet Stuart Honor at the Breakfast Club, a recovery-based initiative that Stu had set up and which later became The Basement Recovery Project (TBRP). Brad cooked our delicious breakfast. I was by then living in Perth, Western Australia, having moved there from South Wales at the end of 2008. 

I met Brad in person a few times after that when I visited Halifax. During one of those visits, Brad introduced me to his magic tricks, two of which you can see in the short video below. I got to know Brad better when he became a regular blogger on our Wired In To Recovery online community. We were in regular contact with each other. 

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Phil Valentine’s Blog: An Excellent Resource

One of my favourite bloggers has been Phil Valentine, Executive Director of the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), who has used his blog to share lessons he has learned in his recovery and in his professional roles. Here is part of what Phil says in introducing himself and his blog.

‘I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in January 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is one way for me to share lessons learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. When I engage with others, I present the same messages repeatedly. It’s time to write them down.’

I have added Phil’s full description of his blog as part of a new post in our Resources section of the website. I also provide links to nine of my favourite posts from Phil’s blog, as well as to the “CCAR Recovery Matters!” Podcast run by Phil and his wife Sandy. Please check out this excellent Resource.

Is Rehab Effective? The Results Are In: Dr. David McCartney

Here is another great blog post from Dr. David McCartney of Lothians & Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP) on the Recovery Review blog.

‘Recovery journeys are dynamic, take time and for those who receive treatment, may need several episodes. For some, residential rehab is part of the journey, just as harm reduction interventions can also be part of the journey. However, residential rehabilitation is a complex intervention and complex interventions are difficult to study.

In Scotland, the government is making rehab easier to access and growing the number of beds. This development is not without its critics. Some feel the resource needs to ‘follow the evidence’ – in other words into harm reduction and MAT interventions. This all-the-eggs-in-one-basket position would reinforce the rigid barriers that make rehab the domain of the wealthy or the lucky.

‘Follow the evidence’ in this context is a refrain that implies that there is no evidence that rehab works to help people achieve their goals and improve their quality of life. That is simply not true. Last month saw the publication of a literature review on residential rehab by Scottish Government researchers. It’s a thorough piece of work. This summary of the research evidence provides verification that “that residential rehabilitation is associated with improvements across a variety of outcomes relating to substance use, health and quality of life”.

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‘The Street to Recovery’ by Kevin Kennedy

I first posted this blog about Kevin Kennedy’s book about his recovery on Christmas Day, 2013. It was taken from an article from the now defunct Addiction Today. Kevin will be 25 years in recovery this October!

‘Kevin Kennedy – Curly Watts from TV’s long-running Coronation Street, and so popular he drew in 22 million viewers for his TV wedding – has now been sober for 15 years. He shares his experience of alcoholism and rehab, strength of recovery and hope for the future with Addiction Today readers.

Sometime in the morning, I came round. I’d blacked out from the drink, with no memory of the night before. As soon as I opened my eyes, before I’d even focused on the room around me, I knew I had done it again. After all the promises, even swearing on the Bible and all the pleas for second chances, I’d still gone ahead and lost it. The four hideous horsemen—shame, remorse, self-disgust, and, worst of them all, fear—had found me, again.

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