It’s Not Just About the Drug, Part 3

I continue my series of blog posts focused on drug, set (the person) and setting (the social context) [Part 1 is here]. Drug, set and setting is not only of relevance to addiction, but also to overcoming addiction.

The path into and out of addiction
The ‘person’ and ‘social context’ factors influence early substance use and the likelihood that a person will develop problematic use and addiction. In general, individuals are less likely to develop substance use problems if they have fewer complicating life problems, more resources (social, personal, educational, economic), and opportunities for alternative sources of reward.

One explanation is that these individuals develop a weaker attachment to the substance in that for them substance use does not serve as many emotional, psychological or social needs.

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Welcome Home, Adam

As I write this, my good friend Adam Brookes, he of Adam’s Story, is just two hours away from arriving back in Australia. I will post this blog after I hear that he has landed in Darwin, en route for a two-week stay in Howard Springs Quarantine Facility. Then he’s heading back home to Dapto in New South Wales.

For those of us who know Adam, his arrival will be the most wonderful news. In fact, I was absolutely over-the-moon with joy when I heard he had passed through into the departure lounge at Heathrow Airport yesterday afternoon my time here in Perth. Why, you might ask?

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Box Set of Healing Cards: Indigenous Healing as Mindfulness Practice

As some of you know, I was inspired to start working in the healing of intergenerational trauma field after reading Judy Atkinson’s book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia. A section of this website is devoted to the healing of trauma and intergenerational (sometimes known as transgenerational or historical) trauma. I believe strongly that Indigenous peoples have a lot to teach non-indigenous peoples about the healing of trauma and its consequences (e.g. addiction, mental health problems).

Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson is Patron / Elder Advisor of the wonderful Aboriginal healing initiative We Al-li Programs. Her daughter Dr Caroline Atkinson is the Chief Executive Officer.

We Al-li have recently started selling a box set of Healing Cards based on their healing approach. These Healing Cards and their accompanying booklet are very special. Here is the information that Carlie provided me about the box set.

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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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‘Ruby’s Story’: Marion Kickett

It’s hard to believe that it is over seven years ago since I launched Sharing Culture, an educational initiative to facilitate the healing of intergenerational trauma. It is also over seven years since Michael Liu and I went out with Professor Marion Kickett to her home country in York to film her describing her life, country, culture, spirituality, family, education and resilience. Marion is a Noongar leader from the Balardong language group, who is Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth.

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The Impact of Colonisation

The impact of colonisation on Indigenous peoples has been similar in a number of countries, including Australia, Canada, America and New Zealand. In her book Trauma Trails: Recreating Songlines, Professor Judy Atkinson describes how the control of Indigenous peoples by the coloniser was facilitated by three main types of power abuse or violence—overt physical violence, covert structural violence, and psychosocial domination.

Overt physical violence: In Australia, the arrival of the British boats at Sydney Cove in 1788 set in motion a series of disasters that propagated trauma upon trauma upon trauma. These disasters impacted upon Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people who had lived on the continent for somewhere between 50 – 70,000 years.

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Intergenerational Trauma

Intergenerational trauma—sometimes called transgenerational or historical trauma—amongst Indigenous peoples is the trauma that has arisen as a result of the historical experiences of colonisation (and associated violence and control), forcible removal of children, and loss of culture.

As it was not addressed at the time, this trauma (and associated grief) have been passed down unwittingly through the generations by peoples’ behaviours and thought patterns.

Today, this trauma is exacerbated by economic and social disadvantage, racism and paternalism, and ongoing grief resulting from multiple bereavements.

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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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The Value of Deep Listening: The Aboriginal Gift to the Nation—Judy Atkinson

I was inspired into the field of trauma healing by a remarkable Aboriginal woman, Judy Atkinson.

Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson is a Jiman (central west Queensland) and Bundjalung (northern New South Wales) woman, with Anglo-Celtic and German heritage. She lives in Goolmangar, New South Wales. Judy is Patron/Elder Advisor for We Al-li Programs, a remarkable healing initiative. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2019 for her services to the Indigenous community, to education and to mental health.

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Indigenous Trauma and Healing

images-1“We are like the tree standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burnt, but inside the tree, the sap is still flowing and under the ground, the roots are still strong. Like the tree, we have endured the flames and yet we still have the power to be reborn.” Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Senior Australian of the Year, 2021

This section of the website focuses on the healing of trauma and historical trauma, in particular in relation to Indigenous peoples.  I will write a series of articles, which will appear in the order they are written (oldest first), in an attempt to take the reader on a journey into this fascinating field.

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Fulfilling Trauma’s Hidden Promise

Psychiatrist, author, advisor to the White House, and professor at Georgetown Medical School, James Gordon is a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma. James shares how he has witnessed the healing power of mind-body medicine for traumatised children and families in areas such as Bosnia, Gaza, and Israel. TEDMED. [23’21”]

Learn the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

Bessel starts this seven-minute film clip by describing how the diagnosis for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was created to remind the Department of Veterans Administration in the USA to take care of war veterans. It was quite clear that a large of number of Vietnam veterans were traumatised by their war-time experiences. Big Think. [7’15”]

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”]

The Value of Deep Listening – The Aboriginal Gift to the Nation | Judy Atkinson | TEDxSydney

Judy Atkinson is an expert in understanding inter-generational healing and recovery from trauma in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. At the core of this moving talk, she describes her approach to healing. It’s about listening. In order to heal, the stories behind the trauma must be heard. TEDx Talks. [16’14”]

Intergenerational Trauma and Healing (3rd of 3): Joe Solanto

Dr. Solanto discusses what trauma is, how the experiences of colonisation ‘qualify’ as trauma, how trauma might be transmitted across the generations, crime and other social problems as understandable responses to trauma and implications for healing individuals, families and communities. heartspeak. [6’01”]

Psychiatry Must Stop Ignoring Trauma, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

Acclaimed psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk explores his field’s long, complex, and stubborn history with trauma. Dr. van der Kolk explains how psychiatry as a whole avoided progress, often misdiagnosing trauma as hysteria or, in the case of shell-shocked soldiers, malingering. The experiences of abused women and children were more or less ignored for a century. They’re still being ignored in ways, he says. Psychiatry is still too focused on abstract diagnoses and not cognisant enough of the traumatic experiences that lead to them. Big Think. [4’03”]

The Power of Addiction and The Addiction of Power: Gabor Maté at TEDxRio+20

Canadian physician Gabor Maté’s theme at TEDxRio+20 was addiction – from drugs to power. From the lack of love to the desire to escape oneself, from susceptibility of the being to interior power – nothing escapes. And he risks a generic and generous prescription: “Find your nature and be nice to yourself.” TEDx Talks. [18’46”]

Owning One’s Past and Committing to One’s Future

Michael Chandler speaks about the eight variables that affect owning one’s past and committing to one’s future, especially as they relate to Aboriginal communities and the preservation of culture. TRU, Open Learning. [2’58”]

Ruby’s Healing Story

Marion Kickett, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth, shares the harrowing story of Ruby and describes how her early experiences impacted on her life. By forgiving people involved in these terrible events, Ruby started a healing process which led to her realising a dream. Sharing Culture. [9’42”]

The Stolen Generations

The history of forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families in Australia. National Museum of Australia. [18’00”]