about-us-2-largeI’d like to welcome you to Recovery Stories, a new website that is focused on helping individuals and families recover from serious problems caused by drug and alcohol use.

We’ll not just be trying to help people directly affected by drug and alcohol addiction, but also help people whose lives have been indirectly affected by the substance use problems of a loved one. Family members and friends also need to find recovery.

One important feature of this website is that it will carry the ‘voice’ of recovering people. Solutions to serious substance use problems are manifested in the lives of millions of people who are in long-term recovery. These lived solutions can provide important insights into principles and practices that underlie recovery from addiction.

Who better to teach us about recovery and how it can be achieved than the people who have taken the journey? And what better way to be inspired to find recovery than by reading, listening or watching a Recovery Story?

Before telling you more about the website, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is David Clark and I live in Perth, Western Australia. I’m an Emeritus Professor of Psychology who took early retirement from my university to devote more time to empowering people to recover from addiction (and mental health) problems.

Some of you will know me for developing Wired In and the online recovery community Wired In To Recovery when I lived in the UK. For those of you who don’t know me, here is a brief bio with links to my story, curriculum vitae and testimonials.

My work over the past decade or so has been based on empowering and connecting people with substance use problems. I’ve also emphasised the important role that recovering people can play in helping other recovering people and in helping improving our system of care. Why?

There are several key facts that underlie my approach. Firstly, addiction is not ‘fixed’ by a medication or any other treatment, nor by a doctor or treatment practitioner. Recovery comes from the person with the problem. They do the work in overcoming their substance use and related problems, getting well, and getting their lives (back) on track. This means that we must empower people to overcome substance use problems.

[I am not down-playing the role of professionals here. However, no matter how good a practitioner or a treatment service, they can only facilitate the self-healing process. They act as a coach or guide and helping a person gain the internal and external resources they need to help them overcome addiction.]

Secondly, recovery is something that rarely occurs in isolation. To help people recover from addiction, we need to connect them to other people who can facilitate their recovery journey.

People with substance use problems can be empowered by providing them with hope, understanding and a sense of belonging. Recovering people play a key role in each of these elements.

Firstly, they provide hope by showing that recovery is possible via a multitude of different pathways.

Secondly, they help other people understand the nature of their problem and how it can be overcome. People in early recovery trust, are inspired by, and learn from people further along in their recovery journey.

Thirdly, recovering people support each other, allowing people in the early stages of recovery to gain a sense of belonging, and feelings of acceptance and self-worth that are key to recovery.

In order to help empower and connect recovering people, I launched the online recovery community Wired In To Recovery in 2008. Wired In To Recovery became very successful in helping people and was widely acclaimed. It attracted 4,000 community members, over 1,000 of whom blogged, creating over 7,500 blogs.

However, despite this success, we always struggled to raise funding for Wired In To Recovery and eventually, in late-2012, I made the decision to close down the community.

By this time, I had moved to Perth. Despite the great disappointment I felt in having to close down Wired In To Recovery, one advantage was that I could focus on new initiatives I had been wanting to develop for some time.

A resonating message I have picked up from 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).

Many people do not know anyone who has recovered from addiction. 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.

Given this, I decided to develop an online Recovery Guide for people affected by substance use problems, one that is based around the narratives of recovering people. Recovery is a journey, a unique, personal process of change, and Recovery Stories reflect this. (I’ve also always believed that storytelling can play an important educational role).

I wanted to build a Recovery Guide that people could access anywhere and at any time, as long as they had access to the internet via computer, mobile phone or hand-held device.

I realised that the sort of Guide I wanted to build would take a good deal of time and would require adequate funding, but there seemed no reason not to start small and gradually build. So here we are, the first stage of this development: the Recovery Stories website.

I’m not going to say much more about the website in this blog, but I do ask you to spend some time looking around. I also ask you to bear with me as I further develop this website. Wired In To Recovery was ‘driven’ by an expensive, custom-built content management system, whilst I am using a standard off-the-shelf operating system which is very much more limited in what can be done. [We have now changed our system – this blog was written when we were using another system – DC]

I have no funding for this project, so there are limitations to what I can do at this stage. However, I’ll also be out there trying to raise funding for this project, not just for developing the website and associated recovery activities, but also to provide me with an income. I have no other job!

The potential for this project is huge. Consider this:

The lived experience of recovering and recovered people, along with findings from scientific research over the past decades, has given us considerable insights into the recovery process and into how to improve the way that society helps people overcome substance use problems.

The internet and other communication technologies provide us with an opportunity to disseminate such information widely and in a way that people in need do not have to pay to access content. (I’ll be encouraging treatment and other support services to show/display and disseminate our content to people who cannot access the internet.)

Recovering people have so much energy and many want to ‘give back’ – giving back is also therapeutically beneficial. We can harness and channel this energy via this website and associated activities. As recovery is contagious, we can start to build healing networks worldwide and create social change.

If you don’t believe in the scale of this ambition, then you haven’t seen an exciting recovery community developing. Stick around over the next few months and you’ll start to see what I mean. And if you have been around such a recovery community, you know what I mean.      

For now though, enjoy the first stage development of this new Wired In venture. And come along on our journey. Be part of our Story.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those people whose stories are on this website. Their courage and generosity in allowing us to spend some time in their world is something very special. The time these people devoted to writing their Stories and working with me has been greatly appreciated.

I would also like to thank Maddie, Michael Scott and Mike Liu for their ongoing support and comments during the time I have been developing this website.

I’ll be back tomorrow with several blogs. Feel free to provide feedback and comment on this blog. Thank you.