A Parent’s Story

I met Mike Blanche in around 2003 and he was the first person to help me understand the impact of a person’s substance use problem on family members. Mike was an inspiring figure who had played a key role in the setting up of Drug and Alcohol Family Support (DAFS) in Blaenau Gwent in South Wales. He organised a conference, Families in Focus, at which the following talk was given. We first posted this talk on our SubstanceMisuse website back in 2003.

‘Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am a mother and I have been invited here today to talk about my experiences as a service user. I have a son who is living at home with my husband and myself. He is addicted to drugs.

He first started dabbling with substances when he was still in school. At first it was ‘glue sniffing’, but it wasn’t long before he started experimenting with cannabis. When I tried to approach him to warn him of the dangers of drug abuse, his typical reaction was to say, ‘Don’t worry Mam, I can handle it.’

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 5

I continue my series of blogs, starting here, about my journey into the addiction recovery field after I changed ‘career’ in 2000 from being a neuroscientist to working in the community. At the same time, I was still working as a Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Wales Swansea (now Swansea University) in the UK.

In an earlier blog, I briefly described how I led the national team that evaluated all projects funded by the National Assembly of Wales’s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Fund (DATF) for two years from mid-2000. Here is what I wrote in my recently published book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction about the DATF evaluation and my views about the UK drug treatment system at the time.

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Empowerment

Following on from my post about Hope, I include another section, this time on Empowerment, from the second last chapter, ‘Factors That Facilitate Recovery’, of my recently published eBook, Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

‘As emphasised throughout this book, recovery is something done by the person with the substance use problem, not by a treatment practitioner or other person. The major sources of power driving the recovery process are the person’s own efforts, energies, strengths, interests and hope. Treatment practitioners, and others involved in the person’s recovery journey, can facilitate the recovery process by encouraging and supporting the person’s own hopes, strengths, interests, energies and efforts.

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A Life-Changing Time

In an earlier series of blogs starting here, I described what I initially learnt about addiction treatment at a local treatment agency in Swansea, West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in the early 2000s. Later, in 2005, I was commissioned to write a profile of the agency, which ended up being over 180 pages long and containing a number of Stories. Here’s is one such Story, of someone recovering from a serious alcohol problem:

‘I am writing about an amazing two years in my life. It has truly been a life-changing time. Not only have I stopped drinking (and that in itself I would never have believed possible!), but I’ve really begun to live life more fully and have been able to put my life back together again in a very positive way. Throughout this time, I have had great support and help from WGCADA. I can’t speak highly enough about the organisation and the staff I have been in contact with…. so please read on…

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Addiction Recovery

Here is a section about the nature of addiction recovery from my new eBook, Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

“There have been various definitions of recovery proposed over the years. For the purpose of this chapter, I am going to use a definition proposed by leading addiction recovery advocate William (Bill) L White [1]:

‘Recovery is the experience (a process and a sustained status) through which individuals, families, and communities impacted by severe alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems utilize internal and external resources to voluntarily resolve these problems, heal the wounds inflicted by AOD-related problems, actively manage their continued vulnerability to such problems, and develop a healthy, productive, and meaningful life.’

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 4

I’ve spent three blog posts, the first of which can be found here, describing my experiences and what I learnt during my initial visits to a local treatment agency, West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in Swansea. In addition, my last blog focused on an article written by my oldest daughter Annalie about a day in the life of an addiction treatment support worker at WGCADA, Dave Watkins.

Many of the clients I met at WGCADA and in other treatment services I visited over the years knew what they wanted—a valued and meaningful life. They just did not know how to achieve what they wanted, and they lacked the internal and external resources to take the journey to recovery and the life they wanted. 

My early experiences at WGCADA resonated loudly when some years later I read How Clients Make Therapy Work: The Process of Active Self-Healing, a seminal book written by Arthur C Bohart and Karen Tallman and published by the American Psychological Association. The following quotes are particularly pertinent. 

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 3

I continue describing my experiences at the local treatment agency West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) and what I learnt about how treatment facilitates recovery from addiction. You can read the earlier parts here and here.

‘Dave Watkins was a Community Support Worker for WGCADA. He was originally an engineer, but changed career after a member of his family suffered a substance use problem. In simple terms, Dave helped clients with every aspect of their lives that could interfere with their progress on their recovery journey. This included helping put a roof over their heads, getting their social security benefits, dealing with legal problems… and sometimes involved painting walls or cleaning up vomit! Dave immersed himself in his clients’ lives. He worked with some of the most chaotic substance users you would ever meet.

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Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 2

In this post, I continue the description of what I learnt about addiction treatment by talking with practitioners at a local treatment agency in Swansea, West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA). You can read my previous post here.

The Primary Treatment programme at WGCADA used key principles of AA and the 12-Step Minnesota model. It was based on the disease concept and on the belief that the illness of addiction is physical, mental and spiritual. A holistic approach was used to help the person recover from addiction, and clients underwent considerable self-examination during the treatment process. Clients could not be drinking or using illegal drugs when they entered the Primary Treatment programme.

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Brain Chemicals to Human Connection, Part 2

In an earlier blog, I described how I spent nearly 25 years working as a neuroscientist in academia. In 2000, I made the decision to close my neuroscience laboratory and focus on working in the addiction field with humans (rather than laboratory rats). I set up an initiative called WIRED (later to become Wired In) and a charity Wired International Ltd. I continued by job as a Professor of Psychology, but when I wasn’t teaching I was engaged in a range of activities in the addiction field. The following section is taken from the last chapter of my new eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

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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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Impact of Substance Use Problems on the Family

This research aimed to look at how a loved one’s substance use problems can impact on the health and well-being of parents and siblings (1,400 words).

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Journeys Into and Out of Heroin Addiction, Part 2

Focuses on living with addiction and covers such topics as relationships, changes in personality and lifestyle, hustling, crime and prison, impact on health, and treatment (5,900 words).

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Treatment of Substance Use Problems

Formal treatment can help the initiation of recovery from addiction, facilitating a self-healing process, and help a person minimise the harms from their substance use (2,600 words).

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Untangling the Elements Involved in Treatment

Our research focused on interviews of people in a prison treatment programme revealed insights into the elements that operate in the treatment process, and how they might interact to facilitate a person’s path to recovery from addiction (1,700 words).

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Bill White’s Talk in London, 2009

Film from William L White’s talk at an addiction recovery conference in London in 2009 organised by Action on Addiction and Wired In. Six clips focus on recovery advocacy, recovery communities, recovery management and treatment. 

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‘A Journey Toward Recovery: From the Inside Out’ by Dale Walsh

One of my favourite articles about recovery was written by Dale Walsh back in 1996 which really summed up what recovery and recovery principles mean to a person who has been suffering from mental health problems. I thought I would highlight some of the main points here. [The article seems to have disappeared since the original website has been modified. I’ll put up the link if it resurfaces.]

The Problem
‘For many years I believed in a traditional medical model. I had a disease. I was sick. I was told I was mentally ill, that I should learn to cope with my anxiety, my depression, my pain, and my panic. I never told anyone about the voices, but they were there, too. I was told I should change my expectations of myself and realize I would always have to live a very restricted life.

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‘What is Recovery?: David Best

Here is a blog I wrote about David Best in May 2013. At that time, he had done a huge amount for the addiction recovery field and for the Recovery Movements in the UK and Australia, in terms of his research, writings, advocacy and a wide range of other recovery-based activities. Where he gets his energy from, I have no idea?

I thought it was worth showing what David thinks about the question, ‘What is Recovery’. I’ve followed his arguments and included quotes from his excellent book, Addiction Recovery: A Movement for Social Change and Personal Growth in the UK.

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Why the Need for Recovery-based Care?

A resonating message I have picked from many people affected by serious substance use problems over the years is their desperate need for hope (that they can recover) and understanding (of how to recover). Here is a blog I originally posted in May 2013.

There is a dearth of readily accessible information on how to achieve recovery, information that is also relevant to the day-to-day struggles and obstacles that people face in trying to overcome addiction and related problems. Many people do not know anyone who has recovered from addiction. Many find the treatment system to be disempowering and lacking in hope.

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‘An Intervention Gone Wrong’ by Bill White

I first spotted an earlier version of this article on Bill White’s website in 2013. The article really made me laugh so I couldn’t resist posting it. Since then, Bill has posted this version of the little gem (in 2017), so I decided to post this version.

‘The most famous and controversial treatment for addiction in the 19th century was Dr. Leslie Keeley’s Bichloride of Gold Cure.  Dr. Keeley franchised his cure procedures through more than 120 Keeley Institutes scattered across North America and Europe.  These Institutes became the preferred drying out institutions for the rich and famous in the 1890s. But the problem then (as today) was this: Even where there are financial resources to pay for such treatment, how can the afflicted person be convinced to enter such a treatment institution?

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Treatment and Recovery Disconnection

William White describes how somewhere in the process of the professionalisation of addiction treatment in the US, treatment got disconnected from the larger more enduring process of long-term recovery.

He points out that we are recycling large numbers of people through repeated episodes of treatment. Their problems are so severe and recovery capital so low, there is little hope that brief episodes of treatment will be successful. We end up blaming them for failing to overcome their problems.

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