‘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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Addiction and Psychological Pain

During the many years I spent working in the addiction and mental health field, first as a neuroscientist and later helping empower people to facilitate their recovery (healing), I rarely heard the word ‘trauma’ being used.

Few practitioners I met mentioned that the person with the substance use problem might be self-medicating to ameliorate psychological pain. And yet in society, there were plenty of people visiting their doctor and obtaining a prescription of benzodiazepines such as librium, which are highly addictive substances, or antidepressants, which also produce problems, to help them deal with unpleasant psychological states of anxiety or depression.

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Overcoming Withdrawal Symptoms

People who decide to stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol after using or drinking for long periods of time, need to be aware that they might experience withdrawal effects which can be irritating, debilitating and even life-threatening.

Many of these withdrawal signs, which can be psychological and physical in nature, are generally opposite to the effects the person experienced when the drug was being taken. For example, abrupt withdrawal from long-term use of Valium (diazepam) and other benzodiazepines, drugs which are prescribed to alleviate anxiety and insomnia, can lead to pronounced anxiety, insomnia, agitation, intrusive thoughts and panic attacks.

In addition, people withdrawing from benzodiazepines can experience physical withdrawal signs, such as burning sensations, feeling of electric shocks, and full-blown seizures. The duration and strength of these withdrawal signs is in part dependent on the amounts of drug having been used and the duration of time the person has been using the drug. 

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Background Briefings

For a period of four years from 15th November 2004, I wrote a series of Background Briefings—short educational pieces on a variety of issues and themes relating to drugs, alcohol, addiction, recovery and treatment—for Drink and Drugs News (DDN), the leading UK magazine focused on drug and alcohol treatment.

Drink and Drugs News was developed and run by Claire Brown and Ian Ralph, and was so urgently required at the time of its launch. Claire and Ian, and their team, have done a remarkable job with Drink and Drugs News over the years, and the magazine is highly appreciated by the field. Today, it still remains a magazine of the highest quality.

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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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Psychoactive Drugs: From Absorption to Elimination

Factors that can influence indirectly the way that psychoactive drugs impact on the brain and influence behaviour. Describes examples of individual differences in drug response that can arise from these factors. (924 words)

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Drugs in Society

On the one hand, we tell our young people not to take psychoactive drugs and to keep away from people who are selling drugs. On the other hand, doctors and others are constantly encouraging us to take psychoactive drugs produced by the pharmaceutical industry—some of which are addictive—for a variety of conditions. (1,109 words)

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Beth’s Reflections

A series of blogs from recovery coach Beth Burgess of Smyls. Beth has written articles about addiction recovery for the Huffington Post which means she has had a large audience.

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My Favourite Blogs: Beth Burgess – ‘What is Recovery from Addiction?’

I love this piece of film from Beth Burgess, a recovery coach with Smyls.
 
There’s a big difference between sobriety and recovery. Beth points out that many people give up trying to stop drinking after a few days because it feels too difficult. They don’t realise that these bad feelings don’t last if you make the journey to recovery.

Beth describes her first experience of sobriety – “It was horrible” – before she relapsed. Now she is in recovery, she doesn’t think about alcohol. She loves her life. How do you get to that stage?

Adam’s Story: A Moment of Clarity

Adams Story 2I thought we’d have a period of having excerpts from our collection of Stories. Let’s start with the Story of my good friend Adam. I met Adam here in Perth and he now lives in the UK with his lovely wife and two young girls.

After years of having problems with amphetamine, alcohol and cannabis, Adam reached this stage:

‘Eventually, I ended up living in a caravan in Palm Beach, near Rockingham. I had sold my car for $50, which bought me two dope sticks. I got around on an old pushbike from the dump, but ended up selling that. I was just drinking and smoking dope to get blottoed, and often would wake up to find myself covered in vomit. The caravan, like me, was a mess. Eventually the dope ran out, then the money.

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‘Can we call it corruption?’ by Wynford Ellis Owen

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Addiction and recovery are affected by much than individual factors. Social factors play a great role and societal problems need highlighting. Here’s an excellent article by my good friend Wynford, who runs The Living Room Project in Cardiff where I spent New Years Eve.

‘When Russell Brand recently said on Newsnight to interviewer Jeremy Paxman that he didn’t vote and he encouraged others not to either, his sentiments were taken to be an endorsement for the widespread political apathy that seems to exist in Britain today.

Far from Brand being apathetic however, he is one of our more engaged political citizens. Often he articulates himself through humour and irreverence, but his key point, that politics has been hijacked by corporate power, is becoming more and more evident.

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ManyFaces1Voice: Jim Ramstad

Unknown-1It is wonderful to see politicians advocating for recovery. Here is film of former Congressman Jim Ramstad, who has done so much recovery advocacy work, talking about recovery. This film is from ManyFaces1Voice and The Anonymous People.

“I woke up in a jail cell in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on July 31st, 1981. It was the fifth month of my first term in the State Senate. I was mortified, I was humiliated, I was embarrassed beyond words, I wanted to be dead. I wanted to be dead.

But, instead of being the end of my life, the end of my career, it was just merely the beginning. For the first time in my life, I decided to tell the truth about my drinking. Even though it was very, very humiliating and embarrassing to wake up in jail, to be under arrest, it was also very freeing to be able to talk about who I really was.”

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‘Sober is Sexy’ by Beth Burgess

Ah yes, all the cool kids are sober these days. Don’t worry that being sober is boring – it isn’t. It’s a blast! “I’ll tell you what’s really cool. Not caring what other people think. Doing the right thing. Doing something that’s a little different to everyone else. That’s what cool. That’s what’s sexy.” Check out many more videos on Beth’s YouTube page.

‘Addictions Expert, Veronica Callanan Speaks on TV’

“I was born feeling different. I just felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt that the whole world was behind a glass screen and I was one side. I just couldn’t figure it out…”

How often have I have words similar to these from people who went on to use drugs and/or alcohol to help them deal with these feelings… and then developed a substance use problem. I’ll be talking about the role of disconnection in addiction in later blogs.

Veronica goes on to describe her recovery and provides a message of hope for people affected by alcohol dependence. Please check out her website, there’s some good stuff on there.

 

Beth’s Recovery Story: ‘Becoming Beth’

A fullly-fledged dependent drinker by age nineteen, Beth has gone on to become a recovery coach and writer in order to help other people escape from addiction. (7,328 words)

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Bouncing Back: A Story of Resilience

I found this film on Vimeo today. I thought it is a great Story. Well done, Lisa!

‘Lisa Wrightsman, was able to Bounce Back from an addiction to alcohol, methamphetamine , and methadone by leveraging street soccer to assist her recovery and how she continues to help other women win their battle with recovery through soccer.’

Beth Burgess: ‘What is Recovery from Addiction?’

I love this piece of film from Beth Burgess, a recovery coach with Smyls.  

There’s a big difference between sobriety and recovery. Beth points out that many people give up trying to stop drinking after a few days because it feels too difficult. They don’t realise that these bad feelings don’t last if you make the journey to recovery.

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‘About AA and Step 9’ from Don in London

Michael Scott sent me this link a few hours ago and I was really impressed by what Don in London had to say and how he said it. I then realised that there was a YouTube channel full of Don’s videos.

I got a good feeling about Don and he left me in a reflective state of mind. Thanks, Don.

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‘Detoxification: The nuts and bolts’ by Peapod

P1011113_2Why not check out the second of Peapod’s articles in his Recovery Guide, an article which focuses on detox and beyond?

‘Okay, youʼve got to the point where you are looking to detox but youʼre not sure what the nuts and bolts of it are. How do you go about it and how do you know you are ready? What can you do to boost success?

Here are my suggestions, which are based on guidance and my own experience of working with hundreds of people going through detox.’

The nature of alcohol dependence

P1011087Here’s an article on alcohol dependence you can find in our Articles section:

There has been a considerable scientific effort over the past three 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.

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