Wired In To Recovery (WITR)

As part of his Wired In strategy, David launched the Wired In To Recovery online community in November 2008. His initial aims with Wired In To Recovery were to:

  • Highlight role models who show that recovery from addiction is possible, and illustrate the multitude of paths to recovery.
  • Provide information and tools that help people better understand and use the options they have to overcome the problems caused by their own, or a loved one’s, substance use.
  • Create an environment in which people can inspire and learn from each other and provide mutually beneficial support.
  • Establish a ‘people’s journalism’, or Voice of Recovery, which acts as a strong source of advocacy both for recovery and the Recovery Movement.
  • Identify key individuals who would join, or collaborate with, Wired In to help us realise our ambitions.

Wired In community members had access to a number of recovery tools: various forms of content, including articles on key topics or issues, Personal Stories, blogs, film clips, discussion forum, links to resources.

After four years, WITR had 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!

David received a considerable amount of positive feedback about the quality of our content, the supportive nature of the environment, and how well recovery and recovery initiatives were being promoted. Many individuals emphasised how much they are being helped therapeutically by being a member of the community. However, although WITR was unique worldwide, David had to close down the community due to lack of funding.

When David was developing WITR, he rationalised that by providing people with the opportunity for people to blog, he would accumulate a wealth of information about the lived experience of addiction and recovery, the needs of recovering people, personal views about the care system, etc. And so he did.

What did recovering people have to say when they blogged or commented on WITR? Here is a summary of some of the findings:

1. Some people addicted to substances (and affected family members) have little understanding of their condition (addiction, cross-dependence) and how it can be overcome. They feel trapped in a culture of addiction and/or isolation and don’t know where to turn for help. They have no hope. They have few resources. They are fearful.

Some people who access treatment do not receive the help they require to help them overcome their problems. They cannot access information and support they need to deal with their problems, including information about day-to-day problems they experience on their ongoing recovery journey.

Treatment was a beneficial experience for some people and facilitated the early stages of their recovery. One message that came through was the importance of the relationship between treatment staff and the person in need of help. Empathy is key. A mutual two-way relationship is most beneficial to the recovering person.

2. Recovering and recovered people are considered by many people seeking help as a key resource for their own recovery. People in early recovery identify with another recovering person’s experiences and trust the person. They learn that recovery is possible and there are many paths to recovery. They gain insights into how they can recover.

WITR was considered invaluable because it provided many voices of recovery. At the same time, many of our members stated that there were too few recovering people in their communities, and too many treatment services did not value the experiences and views of recovering people.

3. Connecting people to other people and resources is seen as key to facilitating recovery. Recovering people help each other—helping someone else is actually beneficial to the helper’s recovery.

Sadly, only a very small proportion of treatment practitioners refer their ‘clients’ to mutual aid groups, despite the fact that mutual aid has been around a lot longer than professional treatment and has been more successful in helping people recover. People in need of help need to be linked to all community resources that can facilitate their recovery—many people commented that treatment services they accessed did not do this.

4. Community members stated that many treatment services and other parts of the care system did not listen to their concerns. These services seemed to be more focused on themselves than the people they were supposed to be helping. The process of collecting ‘service user’ views by treatment agencies was often viewed as tokenistic.

Members commented on a power differential existing in some treatment services, with practitioners seeing themselves as being in a position of power. Choice of interventions was often lacking. Many treatment professionals knew nothing about recovery. Many have never seen anyone recover.

5. Prejudice, stigma and discrimination towards people with substance use problems and their families was considered to be rife. Community members even described prejudice and stigma existing in treatment services—’once a junkie, always a junkie’ is still sometimes heard in some services.

Prejudice and stigma were seen as major barriers to recovery, making the recovering person feel they could not fit into normal society and impacting on their self-esteem. Members thought that societal prejudice would reduce as more people revealed themselves as being in recovery and more people talked about recovery.