Brad’s Recovery Story: ‘A Life Beyond My Wildest Dreams’

Following a life of crime, fighting and drinking, Brad started his recovery journey after being told that alcohol wasn’t his problem—it was him! He later had an experience that he could only describe as a spiritual awakening. (14,894 words)

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Kevan’s Recovery Story: ‘He’s a Loser and Will Never Be Any Good’

After 25 years of problem drinking and eight years in and out of psychiatric hospitals, Kevan developed NERAF (Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction), which eventually had nearly 100 staff and volunteers. (11,945 words)

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Michael’s Recovery Story: ‘The Power of Empathy and Compassion’

Michael followed both his parents into a life of dependent drinking, but he will be 45 years sober on 10 April 2023. He describes his recovery journey, his work as a drug and alcohol counsellor, and his part-time role in ‘retirement’. (7,316 words)

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‘A Letter to Alcohol’ by Beth Burgess

One of the most powerful pieces of writing I have come across about a person’s relationship with alcohol was written by Beth Burgess, a UK Recovery Coach from Smyls. I first posted this letter on Recovery Stories in May 2013.

‘Dear Alcohol,

Well it’s been a while now, and although you are a bad influence, I do miss you sometimes. I miss our secret relationship, the way that no-one else was part of it and could never get in on it. I miss the way you comfort me when I’m down. It sometimes creeps up on me unexpectedly how much I miss you. And other times I am glad you are gone.

Of course you have changed – and I know that. You’re not fun any more. But I seem to forget that when we’re not together. I don’t know why my memory is so short and why I always remember the good times with such intensity. It hasn’t been that way for a while.

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Marion’s Film Story, Part 2

I continue the series of films made by Mike Liu and I when we spent a day with Professor Marion Kickett, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University, in York in September 2103. Marion is a Noongar from the Balardong language group. On this day, I learnt a good deal about Aboriginal culture, the experiences of an Aboriginal person in a white dominated society, and about the healing of trauma.

Marion talked about her strong sense of belonging she feels for her country, the Western Australian town of York and its surroundings, and the strong connection she has for the Native Reserve where she was brought up. She describes the racism she experienced as she grew up, and how she overcame her various adversities and challenges. She talks about the shocking events experienced by Aboriginal people which have impacted on health and wellbeing. Over time, Marion came to realise that she had to forgive non-Aboriginal people for the terrible things they had done in the past. Forgiveness is a key element of healing. You can find the first six films of this series here.

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Alcohol Dependence

Here is an article I first wrote as a Background Briefing for Drink and Drugs News (DDN), the leading UK magazine focused on drug and alcohol treatment, in February 2005.

‘There has been a considerable scientific effort over the past four 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.

The alcohol dependence syndrome was seen as a cluster of seven elements that concur. It was argued that not all elements may be present in every case, but the picture is sufficiently regular and coherent to permit clinical recognition.

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 6

I earlier began a series of blog posts (starting here) describing what I learnt about addiction, addiction recovery and addiction treatment after I had closed down my neuroscience laboratory in the early 2000s. I started visiting a local treatment agency, local treatment agency West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA), in Swansea, South Wales. At the same time, I was conducting an evaluation of projects supported by the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Fund in Wales.

I continue this series of blog posts by describing what happened, and what I learnt, after I first visited the treatment agency BAC O’Connor in 2004. Here is the start of a new story, one where I saw recovery literally oozing out of the walls of a building.

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‘Ruby’s Story’: Marion Kickett

It’s hard to believe that it is over seven years ago since I launched Sharing Culture, an educational initiative to facilitate the healing of intergenerational trauma. It is also over seven years since Michael Liu and I went out with Professor Marion Kickett to her home country in York to film her describing her life, country, culture, spirituality, family, education and resilience. Marion is a Noongar leader from the Balardong language group, who is Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth.

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Alcohol Dependence

Looks at the cluster of seven elements that make up the template for which the degree of alcohol dependence is judged. (900 words)

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‘Why I drank’ by Veronica Valli

Unknown-4Here is some powerful writing from Veronica Valli, recently posted on her blog and taken from her book Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.

‘I tried to drink like ‘other people’ because they looked ‘normal’ to me. Other people drank and they were fine; I could tell. I would judge them by how they looked on the outside and I wanted to be like that.

Something inside me was different and it wasn’t fine. Which is why I had to lie to myself – a big fat lie that ate me up and that I had to keep telling myself, because it kept a lid on the horror. I had to lie about what I was doing to myself. I had to lie about how I really felt. I had to lie about who I was. I had to lie because I was terrified of the horror inside me being exposed.

This may only make sense to someone who has had a problem with drink or any other mood or mind-altering substance. Or it may make sense to you if you have lived a life of desperate compromise and unfulfilled promise.

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‘Are you recovered or recovering?’ by Veronica Valli

Unknown-1Here’s a great piece from one of my favourite bloggers.

‘It’s time to address a somewhat contentious issue in recovery circles. The matter of being either a ‘Recovered alcoholic/addict’ or a ‘Recovering alcoholic/addict.’

I am a recovered alcoholic and have considered myself one for many years. Let me explain why.

If you have read my book or read any of the posts on my blog, you will know that I predominantly believe that alcoholism is a manifestation of a spiritual condition. Alcoholism is not caused by external factors although they most definitely contribute.

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‘What to expect in early recovery’ by Veronica Valli

Unknown-1I like Veronica’s website. Here’s a recent blog.

‘The following is meant as a guide to support you in your early weeks of recovery from alcoholism. The first few days and weeks without alcohol can be frightening and confusing; you have, of course, put down your security blanket, your crutch, your way of coping with the world. It can be very challenging initially to go about your daily life without it.

The following are simple suggestions that when applied will greatly enhance your chances of a successful recovery; it’s the small things that can sometimes make the biggest difference.

Be good to yourself. Making the decision to ask for help is an act of courage and self-love. Don’t beat yourself up about the past. This will get sorted out in time.

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‘Emotional Unmanageability’ by Veronica Valli

A nice short blog from Veronica Valli to reflect upon at the start of the week.

ID-10084481-300x198‘Unmangagbility and alcoholism are talked about a lot in recovery circles. When unmanageability was explained to me, it was described an outside occurrence; unpaid bills, DUI’s, divorce, car crashes, damaged furniture, broken bones etc.

That wasn’t something I related to, my life was a little chaotic but by no means unmanageable. My inner life was another story, that was then I realized in relation to alcoholism it is emotional unmanageability that causes the real problems.

To some degree, the alcoholic may be able to create some sense of order in their outside world. They may be able to work and pay their mortgage, for instance. This is how some alcoholics can convince themselves they don’t have a problem; because they have a job and a car they believe things can’t be that bad.

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‘How does alcoholism develop?’ by Veronica Valli

Unknown-1Here’s an interesting and important blog from Veronica Valli which she has take from her book Why You Drink and How to Stop: A Journey to Freedom. I like Veronica’s sentence: “Alcoholism develops because it has an internal environment to grow in.”

‘In order to overcome alcoholism, stopping the drinking of alcohol simply isn’t enough.

Alcoholism develops because it has an internal environment to grow in. Although external conditions enable drinking, it is the internal conditions that allow alcoholism to control someone’s life. There is a need for a greater understanding of this.

  • Alcoholism is an internal (spiritual) illness. Drinking is only a symptom.
  • Alcoholism’s key motivator is about changing how you feel.
  • Alcoholism grows out of a faulty system of thinking and emotional responses.

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‘Brain Surgery as Addiction Treatment?’ by Bill White

Lobotomy‘In 1935 – the founding year of Alcoholics Anonymous, Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz introduced a surgical procedure into psychiatry that came to be known as the prefrontal lobotomy (recall One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).   Drs. Walter Freeman and James Watts pioneered the use of this technique in the United States in 1936. 

By 1960, 100,000 psychosurgery procedures had been performed in the U.S.  Patients targeted for this procedure included those judged to have “compulsive hedonias” – alcoholism, drug addiction, excessive eating and sexual deviations.  

The prefrontal lobotomy procedure severed the connecting nerves between the thalamus and the prefrontal and frontal lobes of the brain.  Its intent was to induce significant changes in thinking and personality that could alter the course of intractable psychiatric illness.

The total number of people with substance use disorders who underwent this procedure is unknown.  One could assume that the prefrontal lobotomy is one more chapter of “harm in the name of help” long ago cast into the dustbin of addiction treatment history in the U.S., but when exactly did use of this procedure stop?  The following story suggests it may have gone on much longer than once thought.

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Don Coyhis, Founder of White Bison

coyhisI found this great biography of a special Native American, Don Coyhis.

Founder, White Bison, Purpose Prize Winner 2009. Coyhis developed Wellbriety, a substance abuse recovery program that taps the power of Native American culture, tradition, and community to help heal his people.

Don Coyhis felt emptiness in sobriety. He found himself going through the motions at support group meetings, disconnected from the reasons why he shouldn’t drink.

Searching for understanding, he turned to his Native American roots. During a five-day fast in the Colorado mountains, Coyhis saw a white bison rise from the ground – to him, a sign that his recovery would be incomplete without his culture. Coyhis founded a nonprofit offering native-focused recovery resources to communities across the country, and in turn, launched a movement called Wellbriety.

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‘It’s quite all right, I’m well’ by Theresa

Cliffs of Moher in County ClareLet’s continue Theresa’s blogs on WITR, this one from a few days after the last (13/05/2010). 

‘Ya know…? I sometimes wonder about my state of mind. Not in the way that I did in the last days of drinking, when I kinda knew that I needed to be sectioned. I mean that I am still looking at myself with a straight head and thinking, ”Huh… fancy that.” I am surprised at myself, and it just sometimes makes me look twice.

In my opinion, I am very healthy mentally. But I may just be seeing it that way, as a man with two broken legs getting out of his wheelchair and limping on crutches for the first time, who may start picturing the marathons he’s gonna run even though, in reality, he has got a lot more physio to do. Like I feel liberated after my time caged in with a desperately ill mind.

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Theresa’s Story: Through her Wired In To Recovery Blogs, Part 1

The Right reefTheresa started blogging about her recovery on Wired In To Recovery in May, 2010. Here are her first two blogs:

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.

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My Favourite Blogs: Ed Mitchell – Lost & Found

‘… documentary [from 2009] on the latest steps to recovery of former BBC and ITN broadcaster, Ed Mitchell, is broadcast exclusively on Inexcess TV – marking Ed’s return to television and first employment following his battle with alcohol and homelessness.

In his new role as editor at Inexcess Television, Ed produced and directed his latest documentary, Ed Mitchell: Lost and Found, the second programme to be broadcast on Ed’s life story, from living as a white-collar tramp to his subsequent recovery from alcoholism.’

This blog first appeared on this website in June 2013. Ed Mitchell no longer works for Inexcess Television. Check out the first documentary made about Ed’s alcohol-related problems. His book Headline to Hard Times is well worth a read.

My Favourite Blogs: The Story of Noreen Oliver – What you can do with Recovery

‘It’s almost ten years ago that I conducted an evaluation of the BAC O’Connor for Noreen Oliver. My visits to Noreen’s treatment centre were a real eye-opener! Here was a genuine recovery community, a place where recovery oozed out of the walls.

I couldn’t tell who was there to help and who needed help! It was a special experience and I learnt so much from those early visits. Most importantly, I learnt the power of community and belonging, of love and acceptance, of role models and peer support.

Over the years, I’ve watched as Noreen has continued to build BAC O’Connor and facilitate related activities (RIOT, Langan’s Tea Rooms and RIOT Radio). We meet periodically when I am back in UK and it’s always great to catch up.

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