Journeys – Making Recovery from Addiction Visible

Huseyin Djemil from the UK has this week launched a new podcast focused on recovery from addiction, which he describes as such:

‘A new series from Towards Recovery CIC – making recovery from addiction visible.

Huseyin Djemil speaks to people who have lived experience of recovery from addiction, people who have been affected by addiction and those working in the addiction and recovery field – in its many contexts. There is a lot of information about addiction, but people get better and their stories need to be visible to give others hope.

Recovery is not a linear path from A to B, it’s more of a winding road and we want to explore those journeys and get those stories heard, because our stories have power.’

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A Life-Changing Time

In an earlier series of blogs starting here, I described what I initially learnt about addiction treatment at a local treatment agency in Swansea, West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in the early 2000s. Later, in 2005, I was commissioned to write a profile of the agency, which ended up being over 180 pages long and containing a number of Stories. Here’s is one such Story, of someone recovering from a serious alcohol problem:

‘I am writing about an amazing two years in my life. It has truly been a life-changing time. Not only have I stopped drinking (and that in itself I would never have believed possible!), but I’ve really begun to live life more fully and have been able to put my life back together again in a very positive way. Throughout this time, I have had great support and help from WGCADA. I can’t speak highly enough about the organisation and the staff I have been in contact with…. so please read on…

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Historical Perspectives: Opium, Morphine and Opiates (Part 2)

Continues a brief history of the opiates, which includes describing the different responses of the United States and Britain to opiate problems in the earlier parts of the 19th century. (880 words)

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Addiction Recovery

Here is a section about the nature of addiction recovery from my new eBook, Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

“There have been various definitions of recovery proposed over the years. For the purpose of this chapter, I am going to use a definition proposed by leading addiction recovery advocate William (Bill) L White [1]:

‘Recovery is the experience (a process and a sustained status) through which individuals, families, and communities impacted by severe alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems utilize internal and external resources to voluntarily resolve these problems, heal the wounds inflicted by AOD-related problems, actively manage their continued vulnerability to such problems, and develop a healthy, productive, and meaningful life.’

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 4

I’ve spent three blog posts, the first of which can be found here, describing my experiences and what I learnt during my initial visits to a local treatment agency, West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in Swansea. In addition, my last blog focused on an article written by my oldest daughter Annalie about a day in the life of an addiction treatment support worker at WGCADA, Dave Watkins.

Many of the clients I met at WGCADA and in other treatment services I visited over the years knew what they wanted—a valued and meaningful life. They just did not know how to achieve what they wanted, and they lacked the internal and external resources to take the journey to recovery and the life they wanted. 

My early experiences at WGCADA resonated loudly when some years later I read How Clients Make Therapy Work: The Process of Active Self-Healing, a seminal book written by Arthur C Bohart and Karen Tallman and published by the American Psychological Association. The following quotes are particularly pertinent. 

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 3

I continue describing my experiences at the local treatment agency West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) and what I learnt about how treatment facilitates recovery from addiction. You can read the earlier parts here and here.

‘Dave Watkins was a Community Support Worker for WGCADA. He was originally an engineer, but changed career after a member of his family suffered a substance use problem. In simple terms, Dave helped clients with every aspect of their lives that could interfere with their progress on their recovery journey. This included helping put a roof over their heads, getting their social security benefits, dealing with legal problems… and sometimes involved painting walls or cleaning up vomit! Dave immersed himself in his clients’ lives. He worked with some of the most chaotic substance users you would ever meet.

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 2

In this post, I continue the description of what I learnt about addiction treatment by talking with practitioners at a local treatment agency in Swansea, West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA). You can read my previous post here.

The Primary Treatment programme at WGCADA used key principles of AA and the 12-Step Minnesota model. It was based on the disease concept and on the belief that the illness of addiction is physical, mental and spiritual. A holistic approach was used to help the person recover from addiction, and clients underwent considerable self-examination during the treatment process. Clients could not be drinking or using illegal drugs when they entered the Primary Treatment programme.

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It’s Not Just About the Drug, Part 3

I continue my series of blog posts focused on drug, set (the person) and setting (the social context) [Part 1 is here]. Drug, set and setting is not only of relevance to addiction, but also to overcoming addiction.

The path into and out of addiction
The ‘person’ and ‘social context’ factors influence early substance use and the likelihood that a person will develop problematic use and addiction. In general, individuals are less likely to develop substance use problems if they have fewer complicating life problems, more resources (social, personal, educational, economic), and opportunities for alternative sources of reward.

One explanation is that these individuals develop a weaker attachment to the substance in that for them substance use does not serve as many emotional, psychological or social needs.

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‘Our Recovery Stories’ eBook Available Tomorrow

‘Learn from the True Experts’

Recovery from addiction comes from the person with the problem. They do the work in overcoming their substance use and related problems, getting well, and getting their life (back) on track. Recovery is a process of self-healing. Practitioners, peer supporters and others may facilitate recovery, but they do so by catalysing and supporting natural processes of recovery in the individual. 

Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction comes out tomorrow as a self-published eBook (170,000 words). It can be purchased from Apple, Amazon or Kobo. It is available via Apple, Amazon or Kobo (price: £4.99, A$8.99, US$6.99, €5.99). Please note, that you must purchase and download the book from the supplier’s store in your country or region. Just search for the book using the words of the main title. The Amazon and Kobo links above are for the UK stores. There is no link for Apple, as their system works differently through the Apple Books app. Further information about purchasing can be found at the bottom of this page.

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My Friend Natalie

I first met Natalie in my early days of working in the addiction field in the community. I still remember clearly her telling me that when she was using heroin, she did not know how to stop. She could find no information about how to stop using heroin. She knew no one who had stopped using.

Fortunately, Natalie accessed a high-quality treatment agency (WGCADA) and she found recovery. When we met, she told me that there needed to be stories of people who had found recovery available so that people with a drug and/or alcohol problem could read and learn from them.  I asked her if we could write her Story. She agreed.

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‘Addiction is a Medical Disorder’: No Way!

In my last blog, I described how I spent the first 25 years of my career as a neuroscientist studying brain function. After working in Sweden and the USA, I returned to the UK to set up my own neuroscience laboratory in the Department of Psychology, University of Reading in 1986. Six years later, I moved the laboratory to the Department of Psychology, University of Wales Swansea (later Swansea University).

At the time, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the USA was receiving large sums of government money to fund neuroscience research focused on drug and alcohol addiction. NIDA considered addiction to be a brain disease and addictive drugs were thought to ‘hijack’ the brain’s reward system, which was thought to use dopamine as a neurotransmitter. 

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Learning from the Experts

When I was a teenager, I competed in chess competitions around the UK, including the British Under-18 championship on two occasions. I was my county junior champion. To be competitive, I had to study chess theory and practice. I learnt from those people who were champions at what they did, including world champions. Not by being in the same room as them—although I did play Anatoly Karpov, who was later to be world champion, in a simultaneous exhibition—but by their games and introspections. I learnt from the experts.

You would have thought that people working in the addiction field would also be learning from the experts—the people who are in recovery, or are recovering, from a serious substance use problem. Many do. But… you’d be surprised to know that this goes on far too little, at least from my experience.

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Intergenerational Trauma

Intergenerational trauma—sometimes called transgenerational or historical trauma—amongst Indigenous peoples is the trauma that has arisen as a result of the historical experiences of colonisation (and associated violence and control), forcible removal of children, and loss of culture.

As it was not addressed at the time, this trauma (and associated grief) have been passed down unwittingly through the generations by peoples’ behaviours and thought patterns.

Today, this trauma is exacerbated by economic and social disadvantage, racism and paternalism, and ongoing grief resulting from multiple bereavements.

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‘Our Recovery Stories’ Update

I just wanted to let you know that the eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction will be available from 9th April 2021. It will be available via Apple, Amazon or Kobo (price: £4.99, A$8.99, US$6.99, €5.99). I will provide links and any other relevant information shortly.

I have chosen this date for release, as it is my youngest son Sam’s birthday and is a day before Michael Scott’s, of Michael’s Story, 43rd Sober Anniversary. And I then learn that the 9th April is the 60th birthday of Kevan Martin, of Kevan’s Story. Couldn’t have chosen a better date.

Please note that the book will have to be read on a phone, tablet or a computer. I hope to publish a hard copy version at a later date. Here is what I have said in the publicity material:

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Drug Choices… and the Loss of Choice

Various factors contribute to the initiation and early use of drugs and alcohol. As time passes, other factors also influence whether substance use continues. The vast majority of people who use drugs or alcohol do so without any problems. However, long-term drug or alcohol use can lead to addiction in a significant minority. (944 words)

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It’s Not Just About the Drug

The effects of a drug depend on an interaction between drug, person (set)  and social context (setting). These three factors also influence the likelihood of addiction and recovery from addiction (2,200 words).

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Treatment of Substance Use Problems

Formal treatment can help the initiation of recovery from addiction, facilitating a self-healing process, and help a person minimise the harms from their substance use (2,600 words).

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Beth Burgess Recovery Guide

A series of six short films on key issues by Recovery Coach, NLP practitioner & recoveree Beth Burgess. You can read Beth’s Recovery Story on this website, and find many more of Beth’s film clips on her YouTube channel.

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The Roots of Addiction

Gabor Maté stresses that addiction is an attempt to solve the graver problem of unbearable psychic pain. To understand addiction we need to understand that human pain can come from childhood experiences. The more adversity an individual experiences in childhood the higher their risk of resorting to addictive behaviour to sooth their pain, even temporarily. Addiction (alcohol, drugs, shopping, Internet, etc.) is an attempt to seek something from the outside that the individual is not able to generate from within. Child Health BC. [3’19”]

How Childhood Trauma Can Make You A Sick Adult | Big Think | Big Think

Dr. Vincent Felitti, the co-founder of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, details the connection between childhood trauma and negative health outcomes in adulthood. Big Think. [7’15”]