Recovery Voices: Dr. David McCartney of LEAP

Dr. David McCartney of Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP) talks to David Clark about the development of his drinking problem whilst working as a GP in an inner-city practice in Scotland. He describes 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 talks about setting up LEAP and about facilitating recovery in the community. [15 films, 76 mins 11 secs]

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Trails of Recovery: Eternal Media

As some of you know, Wulf Livingston and I have been interviewing James Deakin, Founder of the North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) in Bangor for our Recovery Voices project. I’ve been amazed to hear what’s been going on at NWRC.

Since starting our project, I’ve also been hearing about the great work done by Eternal Media from North Wales, a media production social enterprise and charity making high impact documentary films and content for non-profits, groups, organisations and business. Eternal Media, which was Founded by Marcus Fair, himself in long-term recovery from addiction, has been working closely with NWRC. I love the above film.

Trails of Recovery follows NWRC members over seven days and 100 miles as they walk around Anglesey’s 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 coastal path to celebrate and make Recovery more visible. This is the first of  ‘Eternal’s Recovery Hub’ presentations. More films and podcasts have been made and released by Eternal Recoverists.

The Four Walls: Mark Ragins

Here’s another great blog from one of my favourite psychiatrists, Mark Ragins of The Village fame. I first posted this article that Mark wrote on Recovery Stories back in October 2013.  Mark wrote the original article in 1998. [NB. I have broken up some of the original paragraphs to make it easier to read online.]

‘In 1989, the California State Legislature authorized the funding for three model mental health programs, including the Village Integrated Service Agency in Long Beach, in part to answer the question, “Does anything work?”

We created a radical departure from traditional mental health services basing our entire system on psychosocial rehabilitation principles, quality of life outcomes and community integration. Arguably, we have created the most comprehensive, integrated and effective recovery based mental health program anywhere.

In recent years, encouraged by our success, both our attention and the legislature’s have turned to the further question of “How can our whole system be more like the Village?” Undoubtedly, there are numerous serious beaurocratic, funding, and system design issues relevant to that question, but I would like to focus on the personal issues staff must face.

I believe that basing mental health services on recovery is the paradigm shift that can finally make the dream of deinstitutionalization a reality.

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‘Dr Mark and The Village’ by Mark Ragins

I was going through some of my old blog posts and came across a 2014 post from one of my favourite people in the mental health field, award-winning psychiatrist Mark Ragins. I thought it was time to post it again. First a few words from Mark about himself which I consider particularly pertinent:

‘I am a recovery-based psychiatrist.  After 27 years working as the Medical Director at the MHALA Village in Long Beach, California, an award-winning model of recovery based mental health care, I moved on in 2017 to be the only psychiatrist at CSU Long Beach providing innovative psychiatric services for the students there.  I also continue to work as an independent trainer, consultant, speaker, writer, and transformation leader in the Mental Health Recovery Movement. I believe that:

> My work should be person-centered, working to help people grow and develop into the person they are meant to be, not just to treat mental illnesses or conditions.

> My relationship with the people I work with should be collaborative and client-driven working on your goals, rather than pressuring for compliance with my treatment.

> People recover because of the strengths and resilience that they use and develop, not because I took care of them and fixed what was wrong with them.

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Finding Natalie Logan McLean

Every now and again I come across someone in the recovery field who really inspires and excites me with their Story and the work they are doing. Earlier this week, I introduced you to Meghann Perry from the USA and the wonderful work she is doing.

Today, I want to introduce you Natalie Logan McLean from Scotland. I came across Natalie’s 2022 TEDxCumbernauldWomen talk, Who Is Natalie?, on Sunday. I was just blown away by her Story!

To hear about the terrible trauma that she experienced as a child, and then the awful traumatic experiences she went through as an adult. How on earth did she come though all of that? No wonder she took to alcohol and drugs in a serious fashion.

Not only did Natalie survive those experiences, she is over 11 years in recovery. Moreover, she set up and is Chief Executive of SISCO (Sustainable Interventions Supporting Change Outside), which is ‘Helping Prisoners Build a Bridge Between Prison and the Community’. Wow!

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Life After Prison: David Higham

Awesome film of David Higham, who created and developed The Well Communities, by UNILAD. ‘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.’ The Well Communities are located in Cumbria and North Lancashire. 21 August 2017. [6’08”]

It Takes a Village to Recover From Drug Addiction: Charlotte Colman (TEDxGhent)

“Once an addict, always an addict”? Most addicted drug users do recover, but it takes time. We know that recovery results from an interplay between individual and social factors such as personal motivation or meeting the (wo)man of your dreams. But that’s not enough. After all, there’s a huge difference between wanting to change and having the opportunity to change. That’s why we should focus more on social connectedness and the role of the community in successful recovery. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organised by a local community. 2019. [14’35”]

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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Tim’s Story: ‘Doctor in Recovery’

As Tim found out, having a medical degree offers no protection against addiction, nor from the hard work that is required to change oneself as a key part of the recovery journey. (7,135 words)

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Iain’s Recovery Story: ‘This is Me’

A treatment agency helped Iain detox from the methadone that was prescribed for his heroin addiction. College, employment, recreational activities and romance facilitated Iain’s recovery. (9,237 words)

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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. (14,961 words)

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‘Why the empty seats at the free public health lunch?’ by Dr. David McCartney

When I worked in the addiction field in the UK in the first decade of this millennium, I was surprised how few treatment practitioners encouraged their ‘clients’ to access Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and other mutual aid groups. This fact was all the more puzzling in that the treatment services that were having the most success in helping people overcome substance use problems always strongly encouraged the people  who were seeking help to access mutual aid groups.

Here’s an excellent blog post on Recovery Review from one of my favourite bloggers, Dr David McCartney of Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme LEAP), about this issue:

‘A few years back in my first few months of working full time in addictions, I attended a seminar on mutual aid. Facilitated by an addiction psychiatrist, the meeting was packed with a variety of addiction treatment professionals.

The facilitator laid out the evidence base for mutual aid as it was at the time and discussed how assertively referring to mutual aid organisations could result in high take-up rates with benefits to patients. This was in the days when most groups were 12-step – SMART and other groups were still to be launched locally.

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Relationships, Connection and Healing from Trauma: Bruce Perry & Maia Szalavitz

For anyone interested in the healing of childhood trauma, I strongly recommend you read, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And other Stories From a Child Psychiatrists Notebook by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz. Here is a description of the book from the back cover:

‘What happens when a child is traumatized? How does terror affect a child’s mind—and how can that mind recover? Child psychiatrist Bruce Perry has treated children faced with unimaginable horror: genocide survivors, witnesses to their own parents’ murders, children raised in closets and cages, the Branch Davidian children, and victims of family violence.

In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, he tells their stories of trauma and transformation. Dr. Perry clearly explains what happens to the brain when children are exposed to extreme stress. He reveals his innovative methods for helping ease their pain, allowing them to become healthy adults. This deeply informed and moving book dramatically demonstrates that only when we understand the science of the mind can we hope to heal the spirit of even the most wounded child.’

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Reflections on the Lessons of History: Bill White

Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America by William L. White isn’t just a fascinating and enjoyable read, it has also taught me so much. Bill White’s book, his other writings, and our meeting in the UK in 2009, have been so inspirational for me.

I’m currently trying to write a book about addiction recovery, which includes details of my own journey (experiences, thoughts and emotions) as I learnt about the field and tried to develop an initiative (Wired In) which I hoped would help individuals, families and communities. Writing the book is quite a challenge and I have done a good deal of reflecting, a fair amount of writing, and lots of correcting!

Today, I pulled Slaying the Dragon off one of my bookshelves to read the last parts. I knew they would help inspire me and provide the fuel for more reflections on the structure of my book. It also made me realise that I needed to post the last sections of Bill’s book in a blog because they are so important for all of us working in this field. I hope they help you in your work and in reflecting on what you do. I can strongly recommend purchasing Bill’s amazing book.

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‘Recovery Landscapes’ by Bill White

Here’s an excellent blog that leading recovery advocate Bill White posted in March 2014. I love the phrase ‘Recovery Landscape’. I first posted this blog on Recovery Stories on 14 March, 2014.

‘Interventions into severe alcohol and other (AOD) problems have focused primarily upon altering the character, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals. Far less attention has been given to influencing the environment in which such factors are birthed, sustained or changed. But interest in the geography of recovery is increasing. Researchers are beginning to suggest that reaching the tipping point of addiction recovery may have as much to do with community factors as intrapersonal factors.  Recovery advocates and clinicians are calling for creation of a “healing forest” – “naturally occurring, healing environments that provide some of the corrective experiences that are vital for recovery.”

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The Future of Addiction Treatment: Bill White

The following quote is taken from one of my favourite books, Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America by William L White.

‘During the past 150 years, “treatment” in the addictions field has been viewed as something that occurs within an institution – a medical, psychological, and spiritual sanctuary isolated from the community at large.

In the future, this locus will be moved from the institution to the community itself. Treatment will be viewed as something that happens in indigenous networks of recovering people that exist within the broader community.

The shift will be from the emotional and cognitive processes of the client to the client’s relationship in a social environment. With this shift will come an expansion of the role of the clinician to encompass skills in community organization.

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What is a Recovery Carrier?: Bill White

Have you ever come across someone who just emanates recovery? I’ve certainly met quite a few and they really are special people. Here is an article from 2012 where Bill White talks about these sorts of people, Recovery Carriers. I first posted this article on Recovery Stories in June 2013.

‘Recovery carriers are people, usually in recovery, who make recovery infectious to those around them by their openness about their recovery experiences, their quality of life and character, and the compassion for and service to people still suffering from alcohol and other drug problems.

The recovery carrier is in many ways the opposing face of the addiction carrier – the person who defends his or her own drug use by spreading excessive patterns of use to all those he or she encounters. The pathology of addiction is often spread from one infected person to another; some individuals are particularly contagious.

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Busy Time Ahead

Now I’m 67-years old (yikes, that sounds crazy), I guess that I should be slowing down and enjoying life here in Perth. Well, I am enjoying life, other than hugely missing my children and grandchildren in the UK, but I don’t seem to be slowing down.

I’ve now got a very busy few weeks ahead. Firstly, I’m just preparing the last bits I need before  submitting my book Carrolup to a publisher. [The tag line of the book, which would appear on the cover, is A true story of Aboriginal child artists challenging a government’s racist policies.]  For those of you who are interested, you can download a short version of this story in an article I wrote this year for the Journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society (Number 104, 2020). One of the children’s artworks is shown on the cover of  this Journal.

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‘We Are Meant to Heal in a Community’ by Douglas Bloch

One of the key messages that I have been putting out over the years that I have worked in the recovery/healing field is  about the importance of community. Here is an excellent article from Douglas Bloch—author, mental health educator and a depression survivor—about the healing power of community which he published in 2013 on the Mad in America website. I first highlighted this blog on Recovery Stories in early 2014.

‘“Anything that promotes a sense of isolation often leads to illness and suffering, while that which promotes a sense of  love and intimacy, connection and community, is healing.” Dean Ornish

In my last blog, I talked about how I was attempting to cope with a “mini-relapse” without using psychiatric drugs. One Sunday morning in the midst of this episode I awoke in a particularly dismal state. I didn’t have a structure planned for the day. And without something to look forward to, both my anxiety and depression increased.

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‘Lost Connections’ by Johann Hari

One of the most interesting books I have read on mental health is Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari. Johann points out that depression is NOT caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, as is argued by drug companies and many biologically-oriented psychiatrists and  doctors.

Moreover, there is little, if any, scientific evidence that ‘antidepressants’ alleviate depression. [Some credible scientists suggest they give a temporary relief to a minority of users.] Johann talks about social factors that cause depression and considers new socially-related ways of alleviating the problem.

Johann describes seven forms of disconnection that cause depression:

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