‘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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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Overcoming Stigma

This is eighth post in this particular Series, which comes from my book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol AddictionIt ties in nicely with a previous blog, Nothing to mourn; just a drug addict, by Dr David McCartney.

Stigma can be defined as social disapproval of personal characteristics, actions or beliefs that go against the cultural norm. It can occur at a variety of levels in society, i.e. individuals, groups, organisations and systems. A person can be labelled by their problem (e.g. addiction to drugs and/or alcohol) and they are no longer seen as an individual, but as part of a stereotyped group, e.g. a junkie, alkie, etc. Negative attitudes and beliefs toward this group create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination. 

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‘A bright light in a dark world’ by Maddie

One of the highlights of my career has been the development of Wired In To Recovery. Our online recovery community attracted over 4,000 members, who were from around the world and had a diverse range of backgrounds. A significant number (over 1,000) of community members blogged, generating over 7,500 blogs and 35,000 comments!

I loved reading the blog posts and had many favourites. Here is just one of the moving posts I was lucky enough to read.

“I’m almost nine months into my recovery journey, during which time I have not had a drop of alcohol. I’ve been reflecting back to my past, the time that I was drinking very heavily. Today, I can’t imagine drinking every day as I did, waking up with a hangover every morning. My mind just can’t seem to go back there.

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‘Nothing to mourn; just a drug addict’ by Dr David McCartney

When I developed Wired In and worked in the addiction recovery field, I was living in South Wales. When my daughter Annalie was in medical school in Edinburgh, I used to fly up from Cardiff to visit her. I soon came to love Edinburgh. That positive feeling for the city increased greatly when I met Dr David McCartney.

David ran Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP), a programme that offered structured treatment based in the community using a blend of evidence-based interventions. The patient group in treatment operated as a therapeutic community. David was in recovery himself. I loved visiting LEAP every time I was in Edinburgh, and meeting the patients and staff. I’d sit in on group sessions and spend time talking to the patients. David and I became good friends and I hold him in the highest regard.

I’ve recently been checking out David’s blog on Recovery Review. He writes so well and covers a number of key themes relating to addiction recovery. Here is David’s latest post, ‘Nothing to mourn; just a drug addict’, focused on the issue of stigma.

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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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‘RSA Shorts: The Power of Empathy’ with Brené Brown

An awesome short animation from the RSA involving one of my favourite ladies, Brené Brown. I posted this blog in December 2013.

‘What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

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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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Classic Blog: ‘Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count’ by Brené Brown

If you are trying to do something creative then you’re going to get your arse kicked. So sayeth Brené Brown. If you’re trying to do something creative in this field and help improve the way that we help people overcome addiction and mental health, you will get your arse kicked. So sayeth I.

This talk is essential viewing for learning how to deal with getting your arse kicked. Or at least deal with the people trying to kick your arse.

‘There is nothing more frightening than the moment we expose our ideas to the world. Author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown shows us how to deal with the critics and our own self-doubt by refusing to “armor up” and shut ourselves off. “Not caring what people think,” she says, “is its own kind of hustle.”

Instead we must “reserve a seat” for the critics and our own self-doubt. “Tell them, I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.”’

The role of GPs in the recovery process

I’m pleased that the RSA have been involved in advocating for recovery-based care over the past few years. Here’s a film they produced in collaboration with the SMMGP in 2012.

‘We set out to make a short film for local GPs and other primary care practitioners featuring local people in recovery talking about their positive and negative experiences of approaching their GPs for help.

It fast became a much more ambitious pilot thanks to the collaboration with the Substance Misuse Management in General Practice – SMMGP – which recognised the potential for this film to be an engagement tool for GPs beyond those at the two project sites.

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‘“Do I Have to Feel so Badly About Myself?” – The Legacies of Guilt, Shame and Anxiety’ by Peter Breggin, MD

pbregginGuilt, shame and anxiety are intimately tied to addiction. Here is a blog on these emotions by one of my favourite people, Dr. Peter Breggin, which appeared in Mad in America.

‘Guilt, Shame and Anxiety defines these negative emotions, shows how they act as primitive enforcers of anger management, describes many alternative methods of identifying their presence in our lives, enables us to discover our personal negative emotional profile, and shows how to reject these emotions and to triumph over them.

And now we can answer the question asked in the title, “Do I have to feel so badly about myself?” The answer is a definitive “No!”  You do not have to live with your emotions out of control.  You do not have to feel stymied by painful feelings whenever you seek to be more peaceful or relaxed, more creative, braver, more loving, more independent, or simply happier.  You do not have to live this way.

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Classic Blog: ‘How Forgiveness Can Change Your Life’ by Peter Breggin

Unknown-1-1I have a high regard for the work of the psychiatrist Peter Breggin. Here is an article he wrote on forgiveness for the Huffington Post earlier in the year. Forgiveness plays a key role in recovery.

‘Early in 1865, in his second inaugural address, little more than a month before his assassination, Abraham Lincoln stood before the bloodied, fractured United States to speak about forgiveness, the letting go of hatreds, and the binding of wounds. He implored the people of America:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

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‘Recovery Rocks – Betsey Berry’ by Veronica Valli

photo-300x300Here’s a recent addition to Veronica Valli’s Recovery Rocks blog.

‘This is just one of those ‘blow you away’ recovery stories. I am in complete awe how Betsey Berry managed to put her life back together after a serious meth addiction.

Getting clean is challenging for anyone, getting clean of meth whilst having 4 children, a drug addict husband, going bankrupt and loosing your house is a whole new level of challenging. Not only is Betsey clean, she has just graduated college with a BS in Alcohol and Drug counselling. Betsey writes about her experiences on her blog Mom off Meth.

She is incredible, please read and share her inspiring story.

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Brené Brown: Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count

If you are trying to do something creative then you’re going to get your arse kicked. So sayeth Brené Brown. If you’re trying to do something creative in this field and help improve the way that we help people overcome addiction and mental health, you will get your arse kicked. So sayeth I. 

This talk is essential viewing for learning how to deal with getting your arse kicked. Or at least deal with the people trying to kick your arse.

‘There is nothing more frightening than the moment we expose our ideas to the world. Author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown shows us how to deal with the critics and our own self-doubt by refusing to “armor up” and shut ourselves off. “Not caring what people think,” she says, “is its own kind of hustle.”

Instead we must “reserve a seat” for the critics and our own self-doubt. “Tell them, I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.”’

‘Shame & Empathy’ by Dr. Brené Brown

Here’s an early video (2007) from Brené Brown before her TEDx talks went viral. Shame plays a major role in keeping people locked into addiction. Developing shame resilience can play a major role in recovery. 

‘In an excerpt from her new psychoeducational shame-resilience curriculum, University of Houston researcher and educator Brené Brown discusses the destructive nature of shame and the healing power of empathy.’

‘Overcoming the stigma of depression’ by Douglas Bloch

dblochAn excellent article on stigma and on how people with depression can feel shame. Stigma and shame are roadblocks to depression.

“The last great stigma of the twentieth century is the stigma of mental illness.” Tipper Gore

One of the roadblocks to recovery for those who suffer from depression is our culture’s tendency to stigmatize depression and other mental health disorders.

After my first hospitalization, I remember the dilemma I faced in trying to explain my three-day absence to my employer. If I told the truth – that I was being treated for anxiety and depression – I stood a good chance of losing my job. Instead, I reported that I had been treated for insomnia at a sleep clinic.

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Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability

“Shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection.”

Here is one of my favourite people. And, boy-oh-boy does this lady have a powerful brand. The talk here is one of the most viewed TEDx talks – over 13 million views.

Here’s the TEDx intro:

‘Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.’

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‘My Truth – On Relapse, Recovery and Getting Out of My Own Way’ by Ellie Schoenberger

Unknown-1Those of you who read my last blog, focusing on her interview by Courtney Webster, will know what I feel about Ellie Schoenberger. Here is Ellie’s latest addition to her One Crafty Mother blog:

For many, if not most, of the people in my day-to-day life I am the only alcoholic – at least self-admitted alcoholic – they know.

Or, perhaps more accurately, I am the only alcoholic in recovery they know. Over half the population in the United States has been directly or indirectly impacted by addiction, and many people are familiar only with the ugly, destructive face of alcoholism; the one that rips apart families, destroys childhoods and brings so much sorrow and fear.

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‘Your Recovered Life’ Series with Ellie Schoenberger

Couldn’t think of a better way to starting my blogging week. I was quite simply blown away by this interview. Ellie Schoenberger is quite simply one special lady. Here is what your host Courtney Webster has to say about Ellie.

‘Ellie wears many hats (see bio below) but I think of her most as a woman who takes a stand for bringing alcoholism and recovery out of the shadows –  Letting us know that recovery is not only possible but phenomenal and that no matter where you are in the process, you are not alone.

I have admired her work from afar for years and personally known many women whose lives she has touched with her advocacy for telling the truth and taking the shame and stigma out of our addictions. I was thrilled to talk to her for this project and am now honored to call her a friend.’

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Your Recovered Life Series with Greg Williams, Filmmaker

I really like the look of Courtney Webster’s new website, where she is interviewing inspiring people in recovery. First up for us is Greg Williams, who made the film The Anonymous People. Here’s part of what Courtney has to say about this interview:

‘Last spring I was minding my own business on Facebook when I happened upon a kickstarter video that rocked my world.

Greg Williams, was talking about a film he was making called The Anonymous People (see description below). I sat at my kitchen table with my little boy on my lap and was riveted. By the time my husband had come over to see what was making me so excited, I was crying the best kind of tears. It was so inspiring.

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‘The Street to Recovery’ by Kevin Kennedy

51-JLmnATJL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Remember this guy? Well, he has a Recovery Story to tell, which you can read about in his new book. Meanwhile, here is an article from Addiction Today.

‘Kevin Kennedy – Curly Watts from TV’s long-running Coronation Street, and so popular he drew in 22million viewers for his TV wedding – has now been sober for 15 years. He shares his experience of alcoholism and rehab, strength of recovery and hope for the future with Addiction Today readers. Pdf

PROLOGUE: A FRIDAY IN AUGUST 1998
Sometime in the morning, I came round. I’d blacked out from the drink, with no memory of the night before. As soon as I opened my eyes, before I’d even focused on the room around me, I knew I had done it again. After all the promises, even swearing on the Bible and all the pleas for second chances, I’d still gone ahead and lost it. The four hideous horsemen – shame, remorse, self-disgust, and, worst of them all, fear – had found me, again.

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