On the Nature of Healing: Judy Atkinson

As some of you know, I was inspired to work in the healing trauma field in large part by Judy Atkinson’s wonderful book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia. Here is a short bio of Judy, taken from the We Al-li website:

‘Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson is a Jiman (central west Queensland) and Bundjalung (northern New South Wales) woman, with Anglo-Celtic and German heritage.

Her academic contributions to the understanding of trauma related issues stemming from the violence of colonisation and the healing/recovery of Indigenous peoples from such trauma has won her the Carrick Neville Bonner Award in 2006 for her curriculum development and innovative teaching practice. In 2011 she was awarded the Fritz Redlick Memorial Award for Human Rights and Mental Health from the Harvard University program for refugee trauma.

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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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My Friend Natalie

I first met Natalie in my early days of working in the addiction field in the community. I still remember clearly her telling me that when she was using heroin, she did not know how to stop. She could find no information about how to stop using heroin. She knew no one who had stopped using.

Fortunately, Natalie accessed a high-quality treatment agency (WGCADA) and she found recovery. When we met, she told me that there needed to be stories of people who had found recovery available so that people with a drug and/or alcohol problem could read and learn from them.  I asked her if we could write her Story. She agreed.

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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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Learning from the Experts

When I was a teenager, I competed in chess competitions around the UK, including the British Under-18 championship on two occasions. I was my county junior champion. To be competitive, I had to study chess theory and practice. I learnt from those people who were champions at what they did, including world champions. Not by being in the same room as them—although I did play Anatoly Karpov, who was later to be world champion, in a simultaneous exhibition—but by their games and introspections. I learnt from the experts.

You would have thought that people working in the addiction field would also be learning from the experts—the people who are in recovery, or are recovering, from a serious substance use problem. Many do. But… you’d be surprised to know that this goes on far too little, at least from my experience.

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Climbing Out of Addiction and Depression: Margo Talbot at TEDxCanmore

Great talk and pics and one hell of a recovery! I first posted this film in July 2014.

‘Current research suggests that addiction and depression are symptoms of emotional distress, not causes of it, forging the link between childhood trauma and mental illness. Margo Talbot’s journey supports these studies.

Diagnosed Bi Polar at age twenty-two, Margo spent the next fifteen years in suicidal depression before discovering the healing power of presence as the antidote to emotional trauma. Being present to our thoughts and emotions, not running the other way or masking them. Where best to practice the art of presence than the frozen world of ice climbing…

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‘5 Reasons Why I Could Get to Katahdin’ by Phil Valentine

springer_mtn_ga_at-225x300I couldn’t resist putting up this Hooked on Recovery blog from Phil Valentine. [If you missed out on my blog yesterday about Phil’s amazing trip, please check it out.]

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

I’ll be on Springer Mountain, Georgia in just a few days (03.19.15) to start my Appalachian Trail (AT) adventure. I set up a card table in my man cave and have started to get all my gear in one place. I bought a warmer sleeping bag because of all the cold, cold weather in the south this spring. As I talk to people daily about the AT, I’m usually asked…

“How are you feeling, Phil? You must be excited?”

Ya, I’m excited. Partly. And other parts are terrified, nervous, calm, anxious, determined, peaceful, relieved, sad, grateful, happy, curious, … Um, probably others too, but I have never been too good at describing my emotions. I am, after all, a typical male.

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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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20 Ways To Facilitate Indigenous Healing, Part 1

2007_0118walpole01151-220x164Some of you will know I also run the Sharing Culture website, which focuses on Indigenous healing. Today, I thought I would upload the same blog onto both websites. My action reflects the importance I attach to this area.

Society has the knowledge to facilitate Indigenous healing. This knowledge comes from individuals who have overcome great adversity and undergone a healing process (the lived solution); successful Indigenous healing initiatives, and scientific research demonstrating key principles underlying healing.

Sadly, however, this knowledge is neither disseminated well, nor implemented enough by government and health care, social welfare and criminal justice systems. As a result, society is not helping Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing to the level it should.

In this and forthcoming blogs, I shall briefly describe 20 ways to facilitate Indigenous healing. Here are the first five.

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‘One Gutsy Woman’ by Daisy Anderson

dandersonAn inspiring, beautifully-written story from Mad in America about being drugged by the biological psychiatry industry and a courageous battle through drug withdrawal to recovery. I first posted this story on Recovery Stories in early 2015.

‘Part One: Becoming Psychiatric: Easy as 1-2-3
Living with a mental illness is hard work. I know because I lived as a psychiatric patient for over thirty-seven years. Working to become well turned out to be even harder. I know because it took everything I had to recover. Even though eighteen psychiatrists treated me, my health only got worse. I recovered completely after hiring a private psychologist. Now, I take no psychiatric drugs and see no psychiatrists.

My almost-completed book, which I call The Daisy Project, tells the story of how I first became a patient in my home province of British Columbia, Canada, why I was sick for so long, and the hurdles I went through to fully recover. This blog provides a brief overview of my journey.

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‘From Surviving to Thriving: Unleashing Creativity’ by Madeline Goldstein

IMG_20140827_133352_975-5-300x293Many things can facilitate healing and people need to find what helps them to heal. Here is a beautiful story about the power of photography, and creativity in general, by Madeline Goldstein from Mad in America.

“Adversity has effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant”
Horace

It started out innocently enough, with no preconceived ideas or expectations. I had no idea that what began as giving a gift would change my life forever.

I live in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. It is a college town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. As of this writing, I am eighteen months drug free after having been on Xanax for twenty years.

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‘I Am “Pro-Healing”’ by Hilary Bryant

“Yoga helped me explore and reconnect with the body I’d abandoned and abused for years. My pain and sadness had me living exclusively in my mind, my body nothing more than a battleground for my inner wars.

Through yoga and meditation, I slowly began to love myself again, learning to treat myself with care and respect. I felt a greater sense of self-awareness, and a sense of connection to something greater.

This was a drastic contrast to the days when I felt as if god had forgotten about me, or like I was a mistake not meant for this world.”

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Classic Blog: ‘Family Stories, Secrets and Survival’ by Dr. Judith Landau

This talk will provide you with insights into intergenerational trauma and how addiction arises as a coping response. It will show you a way forward to recovery and healing, through Story. Understanding the past can help us deal with the present and help create a better future.

Judith, thank you for this wonderful talk! Here is the Youtube intro:

‘Dr. Judith Landau tells the story of trauma and recovery through generations and gives clues along the way for healthier families.

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‘Healing is in Our Stories’ by Deron Drumm RIP

ddrummHere’s an excellent article by the late Deron Drumm about the importance of Stories in helping people recover and change the mental health system which appeared on Mad in America.

‘”It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story.” Iyanla Vanzant

I have spent a lot of time talking to politicians, media members and those working in the mental health system about the failings of the current method of viewing and treating emotional distress. I have come to the conversations armed with stats and outcomes about the bio-medical paradigm. I have found that the people I speak with do not doubt the facts conveyed. They seem to agree that the current state of affairs is not good. The difference is that I think the tragic outcomes demonstrate the failure of the current system. The folks I talk to tend to think things are so bad because “mental illness is just that serious.”

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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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ManyFaces1Voice: Phil Valentine

Unknown-1Every now and again when I am feeling a little down, I see a piece of recovery film and it lifts my mood. I found a piece like this yesterday, a film clip from ManyFaces1Voice of Phil Valentine. Here’s what is said about Phil:

‘Phil Valentine is the Executive Director of Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR).

Phil has been instrumental in the development of the recovery movement. He’s been at CCAR since January 1999, when he organized CCAR’s first Recovery Walks! A sought after speaker, he is recognized around the world for his leadership.

In 2006, the Johnson Institute recognized his groundbreaking work with an America Honors Recovery award.

In 2008, Faces & Voices of Recovery honored CCAR with the first Joel Hernandez Voice of the Recovery Community Award, recognizing it as the outstanding recovery community organization in the country.’

’Self-Determination in Mental Health Recovery: Taking Back Our Lives (Part 1)’ by Mary Ellen Copeland

Unknown-7This morning I was thinking about factors that facilitate healing amongst Indigenous people in preparation for some content I’m writing for Sharing Culture. I first thought ‘self-determination’. We know that self-determination is key for recovery, yet the white-dominated society here (and in other colonised nations) forces its way of doing things on indigenous people, even when it does not work.

Anyway, I googled self-determination, and came up with this excellent article by Mary Ellen Copeland. I thought I would upload Mary Ellen’s article in several parts.

‘The most important aspect of mental health recovery for me personally is self-determination. My connection with people in the system and in recovery has convinced me that the same is true for others.

In this paper I will discuss both my personal perspectives and the perspectives of others on this important topic based on many years of experience as a person, a user of mental health services, a researcher and a teacher.

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‘A Life Rebuilt’ from Dawn Farm

Spotted this on DJMac’s Recovery Review. As DJ says: ‘Here’s a beautifully shot, authentic short film which captures how hope powers recovery.’

‘Amy came to Dawn Farm’s Spera Recovery Center feeling “broken and hopeless and like [she] didn’t have a soul”. In detox, she found others who felt the same way, but also found hope and faith.

Slowly, she learned to face her fears with faith that, if she does the next right thing, things will work out. Two years sober, this faith allows her to confront her fears as her biggest supporter faced cancer.

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‘Why Don’t They Know? A Letter to My Doctor’ by Lisa D.

lisadWestern societies today are drugging large numbers of people into illness. And I don’t mean street drugs you get from dealers.

I mean the prescription drugs you get from your doctor, the ones promoted and pushed by drug companies. The ones you think are going to help you overcome your problems. Instead, many people find they cause them problems, problems they take years overcoming.

If you want to know more about this, then you must visit Mad In America. I’ve been using some of the stories and articles on this website on Recovery Stories. And they make fascinating – and concerning – reading.

Here’s a letter that Lisa D. wrote to her doctor about her prescription-drug induced problems (please note that I have shortened the length of some of the paragraphs, without altering the content).

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‘The Power of Storytelling’ by Lisbeth Riis Cooper

lrcooperLisbeth Riis Cooper is another person whose blogs on Mad in America I really appreciate and value. Here’s one on storytelling.

‘Over the years, I have heard many powerful recovery stories. I’ve also had many opportunities to share our family’s struggle with mental health challenges and our recovery journey.

Each time I share my story, it gets a little easier. I feel a little lighter, a little more hopeful. And I realize how far our family has come, how much we have learned and healed.

Stories are powerful. And so is the process of telling them. Here is what I have observed over my last 10 years of storytelling:

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