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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Marion’s Film Story, Part 1

I first became interested in Aboriginal culture and in Indigenous healing after reading Judy Atkinson’s wonderful book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia. I soon realised that western culture can learn a great deal from Indigenous culture and healing practices. I also learnt the key importance of connecting to culture for the healing of trauma and its consequences (e.g. mental health problems, addiction) amongst Indigenous peoples.

I was lucky enough to spend a good deal of time with Marion Kickett, who at the time was a lecturer at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth, and through listening to her I learnt some important aspects of Indigenous culture and history. Marion is now a Professor and Director of the same Centre. She is a Noongar from the Balardong language group and spent the early years of her life on a reserve.

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100 Blog Posts and an Upcoming Break

Yes, this is my 100th blog post since I restarted blogging again on Recovery Stories on the 8th of March 2021. I’ve also added various other forms of content on other parts of the website, and released my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction on the 9th of April.

As some of you know, I first launched Recovery Stories in May 2013, with the aim of helping individuals and families recover from addiction and mental health problems. A core element of the website was a series of 14 Recovery Stories (one is in two parts) ‘told’ by people who had been affected by a serious substance use problem, either directly or indirectly.

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What is Healing to Me?: Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Canada

Unknown-5Here is a summary of the findings from interviews of clients and staff of five healing programmes in Canada:

“… healing is an active, not passive, process: it is something you do, not something you think or that is done to you. In this sense, healing is work, it is ongoing and requires dedication. First and foremost, it requires commitment from the individual. No one can heal you or make you heal. Personal agency is stressed above all else.

The dominant metaphor in our research describes healing as a journey… The journey has a clear direction toward healing, yet it is a journey fraught with challenges. Falling off the path of healing is common, even expected by treatment staff. There is no shame to temporary setbacks, nor are these seen as failures; rather, the individual is welcomed back to continue on his or her journey when he or she feels ready…

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Judith Herman: Trauma and Recovery

511+Nl1uNdL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_1. Principles of recovery (healing)
‘The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore, is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections.

Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy.

Just as these capabilities are formed in relationships with other people, they must be reformed in such relationships.

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‘Lost Connections’ by Johann Hari, Part 2

In my last blog, I described Johann Hari’s enthralling and inspirational book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions. This has to be one of the most important books I have read in the mental health field since I first started working in this arena over 40 years ago.

Johann asks himself, given all his new knowledge garnered during his research for the book, what he would say to his teenage self just before he popped his first antidepressant drug—he took the drugs for 13 years—if he could go back in time.

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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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12 Principles of Indigenous Healing

When I first became interested in Indigenous healing a number of years ago, I did a great deal of reading about the healing of trauma and intergenerational trauma. I summarised what I considered to be 12 principles of healing, which are relevant to Aboriginal people here in Australia and other Indigenous peoples around the world. I first posted about these principles on Sharing Culture in 2014 and then on The Carrolup Story in 2018.

1. The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be recognised and respected
Recognition of, and respect for, the Human Rights of Indigenous peoples is fundamental to improving their health and wellbeing. Society must ensure that Indigenous peoples have full and effective participation in decisions that directly or indirectly affect their lives.

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Can a Cambodian Cow Facilitate Healing?

One of the best book I have read on mental health has to be Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari. I can strongly recommend the book, which focuses on a ‘radical’—and very sensible way—of viewing depression and overcoming the problem.

Depression is NOT caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, as is argued by drug companies and many biologically-oriented psychiatrists and large numbers of doctors. Moreover, there is little, if any, ‘genuine’ scientific evidence that ‘antidepressants’ alleviate depression. Johann Hari talks about social factors that cause depression and considers new socially-related ways of alleviating the problem. I will be talking about the book more in a future blog.

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Some Magical Words About Recovery: Tim

I’d like you to ‘meet’ Tim, a medical doctor who found recovery from addiction. He is one of the Storytellers in my new book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. In the seven-year update to his original Story, ‘Doctor in Recovery’, Tim wrote some magical words about recovery that I include below. But first, a brief summary of Tim’s original story, using some of his sentences.

‘Growing up in an alcoholic home is a challenge for any child and I was no different. I found school a haven from the unpredictability of my home life. I started to drink to deal with the stresses of work after medical school. Over time, my drinking became worse and worse.’

One morning, as I took the cornflakes and a bottle of whiskey off a shelf together, I thought, ‘This isn’t quite right.’ My first experience of treatment was medical-based—it had prescriptions, but lacked hope! I experienced terrible anxiety and cravings. After relapsing, I made the ‘discovery’ that opiates abolish craving for alcohol… and developed an opiate addiction as well.

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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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The Power of Story: Lewis Mehl-Madrona

Counting down the days now to the release of my new eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction on Friday 9th April. The book is available via Apple, Amazon or Kobo (price: £4.99, A$8.99, US$6.99, €5.99). Apple users can purchase and download the book through their Books app on their device.

In his interesting book Healing the Mind Though the Power of Story: The Promise of Narrative Psychiatry, Dr Lewis Mehl-Madrona, who I hold in very high regard, emphasises the importance of story. Here are some of his reflections about story (pp. 2 – 4).

Stories help us develop empathy. They allow us understand another person’s world from their perspective. Stories give us unique access to the inner lives and motivations of others. They contain so much more information than we can convey in the statement of facts.

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12 Principles of Indigenous Healing

When I first developed the educational healing resource Sharing Culture, I did a great deal of reading about the healing of trauma and historical trauma. I summarised what I considered to be 12 principles of healing, which are relevant to Aboriginal people here in Australia and other Indigenous peoples around the world.  I have decided to make an article on these principles the first  in our educational journey into Indigenous trauma and healing.

1. The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be recognised and respected
Recognition of, and respect for, the Human Rights of Indigenous peoples is fundamental to improving their health and wellbeing. Society must ensure that Indigenous peoples have full and effective participation in decisions that directly or indirectly affect their lives.

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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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Good relationships are the key to healing trauma | Karen Treisman | TEDxWarwickSalon

Dr Treisman talks about the importance of forging good relationships and effective society-wide systems when it comes to understanding and healing trauma. Dr Karen Treisman, a Clinical Psychologist, has worked across the globe with groups ranging from adopted children to former child soldiers to survivors of the Rwandan Genocide. TEDx Talks. [17’21”]

Key Factors Facilitating Indigenous Healing

When I first developed the educational healing resource Sharing Culture back in 2014, I did a great deal of reading about the healing of trauma and historical trauma. I summarised what I considered to be 12 principles of healing, which are relevant to Aboriginal people here in Australia and other Indigenous peoples around the world.

1. The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be recognised and respected
Recognition of, and respect for, the Human Rights of Indigenous peoples is fundamental to improving their health and wellbeing. Society must ensure that Indigenous peoples have full and effective participation in decisions that directly or indirectly affect their lives.

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Relationships, Connection and Healing from Trauma

UnknownI’m reading an excellent book at the moment, which I can strongly recommend to you. If you’re working in the trauma field, then The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And other Stories From a Child Psychiatrists Notebook by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz is an essential read.

The book really gives you a feel for how our understanding of childhood trauma and its healing has moved along over the years. Bruce Perry is a real leader in this field and I feel blessed to have learnt of both Bruce’s and Bessel van der Kolk’s work in the past year. Thank you Judy and Carlie Atkinson.

Here’s a little section from the book:

‘Trauma and our responses to it cannot be understood outside the context of human relationships… The most traumatic aspects of all disasters involve the shattering of human connections. And this is especially true for children…’

‘Because humans are inescapably social beings, the worst catastrophes that can befall us inevitably involve relational loss.

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Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Parts 2 and 3)

42115582. Working towards solutions with Sharing Culture
We developed Sharing Culture as a way to help tackle historical trauma (and its consequences) and facilitate Indigenous healing.

Sharing Culture is a grassroots initiative based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness. We use a strengths-based, solution-focused approach that celebrates success and fosters positivity, acceptance and cultural pride.

We recognise that self-determinism is a central foundation of healing – solutions must come from Indigenous communities. At the same time, non-Indigenous people can contribute to this healing process in a variety of ways.

One major way that Sharing Culture will facilitate this healing process is to generate high quality educational content and Stories about Indigenous healing and the healing of trauma, and distribute it in the most effective manner to as wide an audience as possible.

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I Am Not Anonymous: Ellie, ‘Come With Me’

EllieTextBlog-1024x682A Story from the excellent I Am Not Anonymous website is long overdue. Here is Ellie’s Story“:

‘When I was drinking, my life was ruled by shame.  It’s exhausting, living a double life. On the outside I was a put-together, active, intelligent woman.  I made sure my outside always looked okay, so nobody would look too closely at what was really going on, at my dirty secret.

Inside, I was a crumbling mess.  I felt less-than, unworthy and insecure.  I strove for perfection in all things, which of course is unattainable, and this left me feeling empty and ashamed.

I drank to fill the cracks, the emptiness.  I drank to numb out, escape.  I drank to feel okay with myself.  I found myself in my late thirties, a shell of a person, hollow and feeling desperately alone, even though I had a beautiful family, a job, and people who loved me. 

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