‘Peer recovery support: a bridge to hope and healing’ by Dr. David McCartney

I’ve just been reading another excellent post from Dr. David McCartney on the Recovery Review blog.

Good human relationships and social connections are potent protections against both physical and mental ill health. In an analysis [1] involving hundreds of thousands of people researchers looked to see to what extent social relationships influenced the risk of death. They found that those who had stronger relationships were 50% less likely to die early. Loneliness and social isolation have significant negative impacts. You want to live a long and healthy life? Get loads of friends.

In the same way, being connected to pro-recovery social networks improve outcomes in addiction treatment. For a variety of reasons, not least because of stigma, those suffering from substance use disorders are often relatively socially isolated. Guidelines consistently recommend connections to peer groups like mutual aid and LEROs [Lived Experience Recovery Organisations], though this has historically not been a priority for some services. For recovery from alcohol use disorders, being part of mutual aid has an impact at least as great as evidenced psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy. [2]

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Kevan Martin’s Birthday and Story Update

Birthday greetings to my good friend Kevan Martin. I celebrated Kevan’s 60th Birthday last year with a blog post; it was the same day that I launched my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. Kevan’s Story, He’s a Loser and Will Never Be Any Good, is one of 15 stories in the book. The major part of the Story also appears on this website. It’s an impressive and moving story about the overcoming of adversity… and a commitment to helping other people overcome addiction.

Kevan is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. After 25 years of problem drinking and eight years in and out of psychiatric hospitals, Kevan set up and ran NERAF (Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction) which eventually had nearly 100 staff and volunteers and provided a support service across the north-east of England. It all began in the following way:

‘So, I started a support group for people with alcohol problems in my own home. I often used to meet people that I had been in treatment with out and about, and eventually I started to say, ‘Come down to my place Tuesday night.’ Within a month, I had six people attending. Word of mouth ensured that my home was soon packed with people I had met throughout my years of spinning through the revolving door of treatment.’

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‘None of them will ever get better’ by Dr David McCartney

I love Dr David McCartney’s blogs. He writes so well about issues that really matter. He’s also a great guy who cares passionately about addiction recovery and recovering people. And he’s someone I always enjoy visiting when I am in the UK. [Can’t wait until the next visit!] Anyway, here’s David’s latest post on the Recovery Review blog.

Therapeutic nihilism

“None of them will ever get better”, the addiction doctor said to me of her patients, “As soon as you accept that, this job gets easier.”

This caution was given to me in a packed MAT (medication assisted treatment) clinic during my visit to a different city from the one I work in now. This was many years ago and I was attempting to get an understanding of how their services worked. I don’t know exactly what was going on for that doctor, but it wasn’t good. (I surmise burnout, systemic issues, lack of resources and little experience of seeing recovery happen).

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‘The Astonishing Power of Example’ by Peapod

Here is a post from one of my favourite bloggers on our online recovery community Wired In To Recovery, which dates back to April 2009.

‘Astonishment. That’s what I felt the first time I was taken to a mutual aid group meeting.

I was in treatment at the time in a residential centre. I was also neck deep in trouble. I had lost my job through my using. As part of the fallout from my own million megaton addiction detonation, I’d caused someone else to lose their job. The police were on my tail and I was massively in debt.

I didn’t particularly want to be in treatment, but I’d run out of alternatives. As the detox began to bite (and my god, the teeth were sharp), the permanent fog in my head began to clear. This was not a good thing.

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‘Hope is the Word That Can Free Us From Addiction’ by o2b3

One of the things I will be doing over the coming months is to ‘bring back’ some of the classic blogs from our online community Wired In To Recovery, which ran from 2008 – 2012. People who know me will tell you that I always keep banging on about hope. Yes, hope is essential for recovery! Here’s a real powerful blog about hope which o2b3 submitted to Wired In To Recovery back in 2010.

‘I always thought that the word hope didnʼt apply to me! From where I come from I was never shown or given any hope. I was always put down and told, ‘Thereʼs no hope for you. You are no good. Youʼre bad, you are a liar. You are worthless and rotten to the core.’ When you keep hearing that said to you time and time again, you start to believe in what those people say. That this is you and thatʼs what you are. So I became the person that everyone said I was. I became all of the above, just to get back at those people that hurt me and put me down.

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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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60th Birthday Greeting to a Remarkable Man: Kevan Martin

Kevan Martin is sixty today. Coincidentally, the day that I launch my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. Kevan’s Story, ‘He’s a Loser and Will Never Be Any Good‘ is one of 15 stories in the book. It’s an impressive and moving story about the overcoming of adversity… and a commitment to helping other people overcome addiction.

Kevan is one of the most remarkable people I have met. Actually, I better change that. I’ve never met Kevan in person, only on Skype. And yet I feel as if I have known Kevan for years. It feels as if we are best mates.

I want to celebrate Kevan’s birthday by relating a summary of his original Story written in 2013, just to highlight what he has come through.

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Peer Support Groups

This page provides links to the home pages of a number of key peer support groups, e.g. AA, SMART Recovery. Learn why peer support is important.

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Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs and Withdrawal

ComingOffDrugsGuideCOVERBIGThe second edition of the excellent Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs and Withdrawal is now available for free download or purchase.

‘The Icarus Project and Freedom Center’s 52-page illustrated guide gathers the best information we’ve come across and the most valuable lessons we’ve learned about reducing and coming off psychiatric medication.

Based in more than 10 years work in the peer support movement, this Guide is used internationally by individuals, families, professionals, and organizations, and is available a growing number of translations.

Includes info on mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, risks, benefits, wellness tools, psychiatric drug withdrawal, information for people staying on their medications, detailed Resource section, and much more.

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‘Prison-Based Recovery Advocacy (The San Quentin Story)’ by Bill White

San Quentin ARC Group Counseling Image‘The stage is set for a recovery-focused advocacy and peer support movement within the U.S. prison system.

The mass incarceration of drug offenders in recent decades, the growth of prison-based addiction treatment, the growth and diversification of prison-based recovery mutual aid, increased disillusionment with incarceration as a policy strategy of addiction containment, and the rise of grassroots recovery community organizations in local U.S. communities have all been part of this incubation process.

There is a growing critical mass of people in correctional institutions who are initiating and sustaining addiction recovery and who are pursuing service to others as part of their recovery processes.  Leaders are rising to articulate ideas and launch programs that address the particular needs and aspirations of people seeking recovery within the shadow of the criminal justice system.

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‘A Different Kind of Evidence’ by Bill White

Addiction Journals Credit Wiley Asia BlogMore wisdom from Bill White.

‘Some years ago, a noted research scientist was invited to speak at a local community forum on the subject of addiction. The presentation to more than one hundred interested citizens consisted of a sweeping overview of modern scientific studies on addiction and its clinical treatment.

In the question and answer session that followed the presentation, a member of the audience posed a question about the effectiveness of recovery mutual aid groups like AA, NA, Women for Sobriety, and SMART Recovery.

The speaker responded that there had been few randomized trials comparing the differences in long-term recovery outcomes between these individuals who had achieved recovery with and without mutual aid participation.  The scientist declared that no definitive scientific evidence yet existed on the effectiveness of such groups.

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‘CRAZYWISE – Extended Trailer’ from Phil Borges

A 20-year fascination with shamanism leads filmmaker Phil Borges to question Western culture’s definition and treatment of severe mental disorders.

CRAZYWISE, a feature length documentary, centers around a young man struggling with his sanity, world renowned mental health professionals and a survivor-led movement… all challenging a mental health system in crisis.

’Self-Determination in Mental Health Recovery: Taking Back Our Lives (Part 2)’ by Mary Ellen Copeland

Unknown-7Breaking Down Barriers to Self-Determination
There are many assumptions about “mental illness” and mental health that must change, and are changing, that will facilitate the personal process of self-determination and taking back our lives.

When I first decided to reach out for help to deal with the difficult feelings I had been having all my life, I went through a lengthy questioning process (assessment) that had little or nothing to do with the way I was feeling.

I was given a diagnosis, told what that diagnosis would mean in terms of what I could expect in my life, and given medications that I was told I must take, probably for the rest of my life. Little attention was paid to my “out of control” lifestyle, my abusive relationship and my history of childhood sexual and emotional abuse and trauma.

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Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community: Hope & Healing Through Community

‘This 12 minute video about the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (RLC) introduces viewers to the RLC philosophy and provides a window into that community in all its diversity and vibrancy!

The Western Mass RLC supports individuals who have lived experience with trauma, extreme emotional states and/or mental health diagnoses in finding their own paths to recovery by offering trauma-sensitive peer supports and through the development of a regional peer network.

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Russell Brand: my life without drugs

26th Annual ARIA Awards 2012 - Award Winner PortraitsA great article in the Guardian by Russell Brand. He’s doing some great work.

Russell Brand has not used drugs for 10 years. He has a job, a house, a cat, good friends. But temptation is never far away. He wants to help other addicts, but first he wants us to feel compassion for those affected.

The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday. I had received “an inconvenient truth” from a beautiful woman. It wasn’t about climate change – I’m not that ecologically switched on – she told me she was pregnant and it wasn’t mine.

I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car as an external conduit for the surging melancholy, and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills, the narrow lanes and tight bends were a material echo of the synaptic tangle where my thoughts stalled and jammed.

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‘Peer Support in Mental Health: Exploitive, Transformative, or Both?’ by Larry Davidson

ldavidsonI am a great admirer of Larry Davidson’s work and writings. Three of his books are amongst my favourite reads in the mental health field—please see below. These books provide clear insights into the whys and hows of adopting recovery based care. Here is an example of Larry’s writing, which appeared on the Mad in America website. I first posted this article on Recovery Stories in 2014.

‘The first time I tried to write about peer support – that emerging form of “service delivery” in which one person in recovery from what is described in the field as a “serious mental illness” offers support to another person who is in distress or struggling with a mental health condition – was in 1994. The manuscript was summarily rejected from an academic journal as representing what one of the reviewers described as “unsubstantiated rot.”

That same article was eventually published 5 years later [1], and used by the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to support its recommendation that peer supports be implemented across the country [2]. Now, more than a decade later and as peer support arrives at something of a crossroads, both of these reactions remain instructive.

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‘Gold standard addiction treatment’ by djmac

Arzt mit FlachmannHere’s an excellent blog on treatment from djmac.

Gold standard addiction treatment
Addiction to alcohol or other drugs is not easy to recover from. However there are many pathways to recovery, including through treatment. One group of patients does far better than most other groups. In fact their results are so impressive that many commentators have urged us to learn from what’s different about their treatment and follow-up to see if we can transfer learning and experience.

This group, claim researchers, sets the standard for addiction treatment. Indeed it represents gold standard addiction treatment. Who are this group? They are doctors.

In 2009, in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Robert DuPont and colleagues published a study that looked at how addicted doctors were cared for in the treatment system and also what their outcomes following treatment were.

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‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 8′ by William L. White: History of Recovery Support

Bill introduces about the various types of recovery support that have existed historically: natural support, limited generalist support within the community, peer recovery (mutual aid) and treatment. He then goes on to describe how things have been changing in recent years.

‘Recovery: What Do We Know and Where Might We Go?’ by David Best

Dr David Best of Monash University gives the Keynote Speech at the CSARS Conference at the University of Chester in 2014. Well worth watching, particularly as David is one of the world’s leading recovery researchers.

The talk ends after 65 minutes, after which there is a panel discussion.

CRAZYWISE: Rethinking Madness – A Documentary Film

There’s a great film coming to our screens next year. CRAZYWISE, directed by Phil Borges and Kevin Tomlinson, is a feature documentary exploring alternative treatments for mental illness.

You can learn more about the film and support its production – PLEASE do – by going to the film’s Kickstarter page. I’m really excited by the film. Here’s what is written by Phil and Kevin:

‘About the Film:
CRAZYWISE centers around Adam, 29, a former wakeboard champion who struggles with his sanity following a psychotic break. Desperate and feeling shame from being labeled with a potential lifelong disease, Adam embraces meditation.

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