recoveryblog: a blog for recovery advocates!
Our recovery advocacy blog is produced by individuals in recovery! Here you will find commentary and personal discussions on different aspects of addiction recovery and advocacy.
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The first real-life Sherlock Holmes may well have been French criminologist Dr. Edmond Locard (1877-1966), whose 1910 seven-volume treatise on forensics laid the foundation for modern criminal investigation. Locard postulated an “exchange principle,” contending that any human contact with a person, place, or thing leaves physical traces of that encounter that can form the basis of criminal detection.
I would like to suggest a parallel recovery exchange principle: any interaction between an individual experiencing an alcohol or other drug (AOD) problem and an individual in recovery from such a problem produces trace effects on both parties.
Where Locard’s focus was on physical trace evidence, my interest is primarily on psychological trace—the residual cognitive, emotional, and behavioral effects that result from interactions between wounded healers and those suffering from addiction. Below are some opening reflections on such interactions and their import for those involved in the provision of recovery support services
Variability of Effects: When people experiencing AOD problems interact with people who once had but no longer have such problems, the residual effects from that interaction vary from minimal to moderate to transformative. Such variability of effect includes qualitative dimensions—from recovery attraction to recovery repulsion. In short, contact can exert a pull force towards and deeper into recovery or a push force away from recovery, depending a great deal on the degree of mutual identification.
Amplification Effect: Positive effects are amplified through this process of mutual identification—experiencing someone like ourselves who mirrors key ingredients of personal identity (e.g., age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, occupational identity, drug choice, etc.) and who models successful addiction recovery.
Ecology of Recovery Contact: Place matters. Residual effects are amplified when contacts occur within an individual’s natural environment. Rather than having an individual leave their world to make contact with the recovery world, the goal is to bring recovery into their world. The positive effects of recovery contact are enhanced when they go beyond inspiring recovery to expanding recovery space within an individual’s natural environment.
Cumulative Effect: Effects are amplified through incremental contact over time; early contact resulting in minimal effects may serve to prime or incubate subsequent contacts that elicit changes that are positive and permanent.
Windows of Recovery Opportunity: Timing matters: Contact during a time of increased receptivity can result in a transformative exchange even when prior contacts have produced minimal effects. The goal is to inject recovery contact within these windows of opportunity. This involves bringing hope (and a recovery plan) at the exact time addiction-related pain is at its rawest and further addiction-related losses are imminent.
Trace Elements: The influence of recovery contact is influenced in great part by what traces are left following the interaction. Such traces ideally include:
*objects that draw one back to the interaction (e.g., cards, tokens, literature, music, art, food, clothing);
*feelings (emotional memories of acceptance, respect, self-regard, connection);
*ideas, words, metaphors, and stories that cast one’s problems in a new light, incite new possibilities, and invite participation in a community of recovery; and
*an altered view of the future (residual feelings of hope and expectation).
Reciprocal Effect: Effects are reciprocal, meaning that both parties are affected by the interaction, and efforts to measure the effects of recovery support services should include the effects on service recipients AND service providers. At the point of contact, the person currently experiencing an AOD problem and the person in recovery both occupy particular points on the addiction to recovery continuum. Ideally, contact results in the former and latter moving further along the recovery end of the continuum. In other words, the contact produces therapeutic effects for both. We should, however, be mindful that the opposite is possible and that contact could result in both individuals moving towards the addiction end of the continuum. Such mechanisms as screening, orientation, training, supervision, team delivery of recovery support services, and codes of ethical practice can minimize the risks of this latter outcome for both the person in need of recovery and the person delivering recovery support services.
Any interaction between an individual experiencing an AOD problem and an individual in recovery from such a problem produces measurable and immeasurable effects. Our challenge is to assure the direction of such effects and assure the durability of their influence. How might we improve how we do this in the future?
Faces & Voices of Recovery is seeking a dynamic person to assist in building and managing our advocacy strategy for 2021-2022.
Interns must be available to work 10-14 hours per week. We are open to working with your university or college to establish credit. This is not a paid internship at this time.
Tasks and Responsibilities
Advocacy Interns will assist Faces & Voices of Recovery’s Director of Recovery Innovation and the National Advocacy and Outreach Manager in carrying out the organization’s advocacy priorities and legislative agenda.
Position Duties and Responsibilities
- Assist in policy scans, tracking, analysis, evaluation, and communication of relevant federal and state policy issues, legislation and regulations
- Prepare advocacy effort summary reports for sharing with our grassroots and grasstops advocacy networks
- Assist in developing Action Alert content, social media materials, and sign-on letter drafts
- Support Faces & Voices staff in regard to federal, state, and local policy development, communications, and administrative duties as assigned
- Additional responsibilities as assigned by the Advocacy staff
- Excellent organizational, verbal, written, public speaking and interpersonal skills
- Knowledge in computer programs, including excel
- Ability to work under pressure and think quickly on your feet
- Ability to work independently, as well as part of a team
- Experience/interest in engaging and motivating a large group of volunteers a plus
- Familiarity with and interest in substance use disorders, addiction recovery and healthcare issues a plus
- Excellent writing and editing skills, and a keen attention to detail
- Excellent written and oral communication skills; strong technical writing skills in English (Spanish language proficiency would be highly desirable)
- Excellent computer skills; proficient in Microsoft Powerpoint and Word
- Ability to show creative and flexible thinking
- Strong time management skills
- Strong attention to detail and desire to follow procedures
- People with lived experience who have been involved with grassroots campaigns in the behavioral health, harm reduction, justice reform, multi-pathways of recovery, or LGBTQIA+ communities, are encouraged to apply.
- Comfortable with social media advocacy
- Have an introductory or higher understanding of the U.S. legislative system
- Have worked remotely either as a student, volunteer, or employee for over 12 months
- To apply, send letter of interest, current resume/CV and a writing sample between 500 – 1000 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or apply using the link below.
Equal Opportunity Employer
We believe that diversity in experiences, perspectives, knowledge and ideas fuels creativity, broadens knowledge, and helps drive success. That’s why we’re proud to be an equal opportunity employer and strive to treat all employees with honesty, dignity and sensitivity. We welcome all qualified applicants regardless of recovery status, criminal justice history, race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression or identity, age, disability, veteran status, marital status or any other legally protected class.
One of the recovery research scientists whose work I closely follow is Amy Krentzman, PhD. Dr. Krentzman is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota and specializes in the role of positive psychology within the process of addiction recovery, including studies on gratitude, forgiveness, and purpose in life within the stages of long-term recovery. In a recent paper, she explored the expansion of online recovery support services during the Covid-19 pandemic. My appreciation of that paper led to an invitation to Dr. Krentzman to share a blog highlighting the paper’s major themes. Below is that invited blog.
Recovery Mutual Aid Resources during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Amy Krentzman, PhD
It was March 2020, two weeks into lockdown, when a journalist contacted me. Would I be willing to be interviewed on TV about recovery from addiction during the pandemic? I agreed. Face-to-face AA meetings had been shuttered and online meetings had begun to mushroom. I knew my interview would be short. I imagined talking about remote recovery resources on the TV. I knew I couldn’t say what I wanted to say, which was, “Everybody, grab a pen! Write down www-dot-virtual-dash-NA-dot-org.” Because I couldn’t spell out URLs to the viewing audience, I wanted to distribute a “handout” that viewers could explore on their own time. I thought that an electronic handout could work and created a website with links to remote resources to support addiction recovery during COVID-19. The journalist who interviewed me mentioned the website in her reporting and provided a link to it.
As I found more and more resources for the website, I was amazed by the innovation and creativity of the recovery community. There were formal public-facing resources such as the Alcoholics Anonymous remote meeting intergroup website which underwent a major upgrade during the pandemic, as well as resources that sprung up overnight and were shared among members, such as google spreadsheets listing thousands of meetings and a google folder listing remote meetings, conferences, and workshops.
I was afloat on a sea of information. I knew that providers and people in recovery would be interested in what I was finding. I knew I had done at least some of the digging for them. I gave a couple of webinars in April 2020 to spread the word and was amazed when 1,000 people signed up.
I used the webinar content as the basis for a written article and the result was published April 2021 as “Helping clients engage with remote mutual aid for addiction recovery during COVID-19 and beyond” in the journal Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. The publisher of the journal, Taylor & Francis, allows free copies of the article to the first 50 people who click here.
My article describes how science could not move quickly enough to provide guidelines for accessing remote mutual aid during a pandemic. But two existing treasures could be leveraged: all of the research on mutual aid that predated the pandemic and the remote recovery resources rapidly growing in response to the pandemic. I summarized both in the article along with some suggestions that addiction treatment professionals could use to help their clients engage.
Other colleagues have worked quickly to publish articles on online recovery during the pandemic. Here are two examples by Brandon Bergman and colleagues:
Dr. Bergman’s first article describes the ways in which remote recovery support might work similarly to in-person mutual aid, describes beneficial outcomes of telehealth for addiction and how this might translate into benefits of remote mutual aid, and discusses drawbacks to remote mutual aid for special populations, such as individuals who wish to decrease but not eliminate substance use. The authors recommend that clinicians should refer clients to remote mutual aid with confidence during the pandemic because the benefits of participation outweigh any downsides.
Dr. Bergman’s second article describes how the use of remote mutual aid during the pandemic can help with barriers to treatment experienced before the pandemic. The article provides a conceptual model of how remote mutual aid can work to support recovery, a discussion of possible downsides of remote mutual aid, types of remote mutual aid, and an array of additional websites and services.
Now that the pandemic is winding to a close, the next challenge for some in recovery will be the transition back to in-person meetings. For some, this might be a disruption to what is now an established remote meeting routine. Some remote groups might fold as people return to meeting in person while other groups might continue in a hybrid–online and in person–format. These changes mean that the schedules, friendship circles, and meeting schedules of many may once again experience an upheaval, but this should be followed by a new period of stabilization.
Overall, the response from the recovery community to the pandemic was swift, nimble, and creative. Face-to-face meetings quickly converted to remote formats. Existing remote meetings welcomed throngs of new members. New York Intergroup, as one example, hosted meetings, compiled international meeting lists, and provided essential advice for making remote meetings safe. Ever-changing meeting lists and websites were kept up to date. Recovery community centers continued to answer their phones. Conferences and conventions shifted to Zoom. New friends were made the world over. People remained connected and newcomers were welcomed. All of these activities staved off isolation and loneliness, forged new bonds and connections, and helped people stay sober and sustained throughout the pandemic.
Addiction recovery unfolds within the larger context of personal beliefs—one’s view of self in relationship to the universe and the search for life meaning and purpose. Variations in personal beliefs are evident in religious, spiritual, and secular pathways/styles of addiction recovery, just as larger shifts in cultural values and practices influence recovery pathways.
A recently released Gallup poll of U.S. adults reveals a striking diminishment of religious orientation and practices. U.S. adults reporting church/synagogue/mosque membership fell below 50% for the first time since polling of such membership began in the 1930s. Overall, membership in a religious institution among U.S. adults has declined from 73% in 1937—two years following the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous—to 47% in the latest survey. U.S. adults reporting no religious preference has risen from 8% in 1998 to 21% in 2020, with a 20% drop in religious membership over this same period. These trends reflect larger cultural and generational shifts, with a progressive increase in secular orientation spanning baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, and Generation Z. These trends cross boundaries of gender, ethnicity, education levels, marital status, political affiliation, and geographical regions.
Below are a few observations and projections on how these larger changes will influence the future of addiction recovery in the United States.
- There is a long history of secular frameworks of addiction recovery as well as tensions and conflict between proponents of secular, spiritual and religious pathways of recovery.
- Distinctly religious, spiritual, and secular styles of addiction recovery will continue well into the future, with secular styles garnering increased numbers of individuals and increased cultural attention.
- Appreciation will increase for the distinct and shared elements of religious, spiritual, and secular styles of recovery as well as how such orientations may differ across cultural contexts and evolve across the developmental stages of recovery.
- Shared elements across religious, spiritual, and secular pathways of recovery include problem recognition, commitment to change, and the value of peer and family support. The major distinctions lie in two areas: 1) reliance on experiential knowledge versus scientific knowledge, and 2) reliance on transcendent power (reliance upon resources beyond the self) versus reliance on intrapersonal power (assertion of self-control over the drug relationship).
- There will be substantial growth within the secular wings of A.A., N.A., and other 12-Step programs (e.g., specialty meetings for atheists and agnostics; secular versions of the Twelve Steps, secular Twelve-Step literature, etc.). Such growth is already underway (e.g., A.A. for Atheists and Agnostics, A.A. Agnostica, and Secular N.A.)
- Explicitly secular recovery mutual aid groups (e.g., Women for Sobriety, SMART Recovery, LifeRing Secular Recovery, etc.) will collectively experience substantial growth in the decades to come and will be joined by new secular recovery support groups and related services. As most secular groups not expect prolonged mutual aid involvement, the sustainability challenges for these groups will be to address the needs for leadership development and leadership succession planning.
- Mutual aid groups and addiction treatment programs with a secular orientation will attract a larger pool of individuals with less severe and complex problems (including AOD problems that do not meet diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder) and greater problem resolution resources. Secular groups may also have greater appeal to those seeking a non-abstinent resolution of substance-related problems.
- Traditional Twelve-Step-oriented addiction treatment programs will face increasing pressure to offer a broader service philosophy that is respectful of differences in religious, spiritual and secular orientation of those they serve and that recognizes and supports each client’s freedom of choice.
- Mutual aid groups and addiction treatment programs with strong religious orientations will be tempted to move into protective isolation to avoid these larger secular influences. The dilemma they will face is how to maintain historical continuity and integrity and scientific credibility while avoiding cult-like isolation and the abuses and eventual organizational implosion that such isolation can breed.
- Without substantial training and supervision, recovery status within a particular style of recovery will no longer be viewed a sufficient qualification to serve as a peer recovery support specialist.
- Addiction treatment professionals will require training in the wide varieties of recovery experience, including the diversity of religious, spiritual, and secular orientations, and how concepts and practices within each of these orientations can serve as catalysts of addiction recovery.
- The emerging philosophical diversification of recovery mutual aid, addiction treatment, and peer recovery support resources will broaden the menu of language, ideas, metaphors, stories, values, symbols, and rituals that can incite and strengthen the processes of recovery initiation, recovery maintenance, and enhanced quality of person and family life in long-term recovery.
Dr. Ernie Kurtz and I devoted most of our collaborations to celebrating the growing varieties of addiction recovery experience. Those varieties will grow exponentially in the future, and that IS cause for celebration.
Remarks of William White
Floridians For Recovery 2021 Summit
I regret that recent health challenges prevent me from joining you today in person but I am grateful for the opportunity to pass along some brief reflections on recovery leadership.
As new recovery community organizations (RCOs) linked themselves into a national advocacy movement in the late 1990s, we were asked, “Who is your leader?” and “Who speaks for this new movement?” Our first responses were, “We don’t have any leaders” or “We are all leaders.” Such responses reflected our distrust of the hierarchy and charismatic leadership that had doomed earlier recovery advocacy efforts. Such comments also reflected a position of humility and our desire to embrace a style of servant leadership. We have since seen people emerge as servant leaders at all levels of the recovery advocacy movement. Here are six leadership lessons drawn from that collective experience.
First, recovery advocacy is not a program of personal recovery. The history of recovery advocacy is cluttered with the broken bodies and wrecked organizations that thought otherwise. All we do in service must rest on the primacy of our own personal recovery. Recovery advocacy can flow from and enrich a process of recovery, but too often results in harm in the name of help if advocacy becomes our only medium of recovery maintenance.
Second, recovery advocacy should come with a promise and a warning label. The promise is that service at this level can be deeply fulfilling. The warning is that advocacy comes with all manner of risks to ourselves, our families, and our organizations. Effective leaders fully appreciate and consider these twin faces of public advocacy. We must actively manage the highs and lows–the exhilaration, joys, exhaustion, frustrations, and related challenges–of this work.
Third, effective recovery leaders, those who stand the test of time, create organizations that avoid the temptations of celebrity leadership, professionalization, commercialization, ideological arrogance, and cult-like organizational closure. We achieve that by remaining grounded in the values of recovery—honesty, humility, simplicity, gratitude, respect, tolerance, service, and love.
Fourth, Effective recovery leaders avoid letting a successful tactic hijack the global recovery advocacy mission. For example, the present expansion of peer-based recovery support services could inadvertently becoming our singular focus. If that happens and these services become nothing more than a superficial appendage to addiction treatment, we will have failed the larger recovery advocacy mission. Personal recovery support cannot obscure the need to create the physical, psychological and cultural space in local communities where resilience and recovery can flourish.
We have many strategies, but seen as a whole, effective recovery leaders mobilize people in recovery and their allies to build authentic and vibrant recovery cultures. Such cultures:
- Spring from us—acknowledging the recovery ancestors whose contributions created the space and roles we now occupy
- Are produced by and for us
- Represent our diversity and our shared values
- Generate words, ideas, metaphors, stories, art, and rituals of our own creation that celebrate the recovery experience and extend a hand of hope and healing, and
- Are owned by us.
Fifth, Effective recovery leadership is supported by the same daily replenishment rituals that have long been the foundation of recovery.
- Centering rituals allow us through prayer, meditation, and mindfulness to stay aligned to recovery values and maintain daily focus and purpose.
- Mirroring rituals allow us regular contact with kindred spirits who refresh our soul and strengthen our commitment to recovery and recovery advocacy.
- Acts of self-care and responsibility assure self-repair and replenishment for ourselves and those we most care about. “We must be careful in carrying light to the community to not leave our own homes in darkness.”
- Unpaid acts of service are ways we make amends and carry a message of hope and healing to those still suffering and to a suffering world.
Sixth, effective recovery leadership understands advocacy as an intergenerational process. The task of expanding recovery space in local communities and within the national consciousness will not be completed in our lifetime. Those who are called to this mission must show up, keep showing up, mentor those coming behind us, and then pass the torch to the next generation of advocates. That is how historical progress and effective leadership works.
My generation of recovery advocates is nearing the end of our recovery advocacy journeys. We leave the continued work in your hands and we wish each of you and your organizations Godspeed in writing the future of addiction recovery.
Acknowledgement: A special thanks to Ken Brown for presenting these remarks on my behalf.
Posts from William White
Peer recovery support service (PRSS) programs should have an established, formal recovery community advisory council or community board, in addition to a Board of Directors.
Building a Strong Governing Board
A peer recovery support services (PRSS) program benefits from having a strong board that is dedicated to the mission of the organization, representative of the local recovery community, and effectively prepared for their governing role.
Featured Panelists: Christina Love, Dharma Mirza, and Meghan Hetfield
Christina Love, Advocacy Initiative Specialist, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (ANDVSA)
Dharma Mirza Equity & Justice Fellow at ARHE & Oregon Measure 110 Oversight & Accountability Council Member
Dharma Mirza (she/her) is an artist, activist, policy advocate, and scholar living in Corvallis, OR. Dharma is a Public Health and Gender Studies student at Oregon State University. Dharma focuses her work and research on harm reduction, sexual health, addiction, public health equity, and the intersections of behavioral health and marginalized health populations. Dharma informs her work through intersectional, feminist, and decolonial frameworks and draws on her own experiences in navigating health/harm reduction services as an HIV-positive, queer, biracial transgender woman, Khwaja Sira (Pakistani Third Gender), and former survival sex worker and IV drug user.
Meghan Hetfield, Certified Addiction Recovery Coach and Certified Recovery Peer Advocate
As a Nationally Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist and a NY State Certified Recovery Peer Advocate and Trainer, Meghan has found purpose in supporting people in their individual pathways of health and wellness. She is a dedicated advocate for Harm Reduction and ending the racist War on Drugs. She believes that radical compassion is needed to heal each other and meet our fellow humxns “where they’re at” without shame or judgement. Meghan is currently working from home in New York’s Catskill Mountains for WEconnect Health Management as a PRSS where she enjoys swimming holes, mushroom club hikes and cooking all her plant & fungi foraging finds.
Description: Recovery belongs to us all. Leading up to the second summit in St. Paul, MN this October 3-6, 2021 – 20 years after the original summit – what do we expect of our future? Three vibrant leaders discuss their perspectives and hopes for the next two decades of the Recovery Community. Through this moderated discussion, we will investigate the need to end gatekeeping and welcome everyone to recovery by lowering barriers to recovery support, creating inclusive spaces and programs, and broadening our understanding of what recovery means for people with different experiences. As we grow in empathy and understanding, we save lives by adding protective factors and building resiliency. Ever reminding us that Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.
Moderated by: Keegan Wicks, National Advocacy and Outreach Manager, Faces & Voices of Recovery
This webinar series is sponsored by Alkermes.
Peer recovery support service (PRSS) programs require an ethical framework for service delivery. In most cases, simply “importing” a professional code of ethics is not effective. There is a difference between the professional-client relationship and the relationship of the peer leader and the peer being served that warrants an ethical framework specifically tailored to PRSS.
Understanding oneself is incomplete when divorced from the history of one’s people. Those with lived experience of addiction and recovery share such a larger history. Over the course of centuries and across the globe, we have been:
Abandoned Arrested Berated Caned Castigated Coerced Confronted Condemned Conned Defamed Defrocked Divorced Deported Denied Probation Denied Pardon Denied Parenthood Executed Electrocuted Electroshocked Evicted Expelled Exploited Exiled Feared Fired Forsaken Hated Humiliated Incarcerated Incapacitated Kidnapped Kicked Out Quarantined Restrained Ridiculed Sedated Seduced Shunned Shamed Surveilled Tough Loved Criticized Colonized Commercialized Criminalized Delegitimized Demonized Depersonalized Deprioritized Disenfranchised Eulogized Euthanized Glamorized Homogenized Hypnotized Institutionalized Lobotomized Marginalized Memorialized Miscategorized Mischaracterized Monetized Mythologized Objectified Ostracized Patronized Politicized Proselytized Publicized Sensationalized Stigmatized Scandalized Sensualized Sterilized Terrorized Theologized Traumatized Tranquilized Trivialized
More recently, through the efforts of recovery advocates and professional and public allies, we are being:
Applauded Awakened Celebrated Defined Educated Elevated Encouraged Helped Healed Enfranchised Hired Informed Inspired Motivated Profiled Reconstructed Recruited Redeemed Rekindled Renewed Restored Represented Reunited Supported Surveyed Transformed Uplifted Utilized Valued Vindicated Actualized Baptized Decriminalized Destigmatized Diversified Enfranchised Hypothesized Idealized Legitimized Medicalized Mobilized Organized Prioritized Professionalized Radicalized Randomized Recognized Reconceptualized Revitalized Secularized Sympathized Theorized
Through our shared journeys, recovery is gifting us with:
Accountability Acceptability Adaptability Authenticity Clarity Collegiality Community Dignity Employability Fidelity Flexibility Honesty Humility Integrity Longevity Maturity Opportunity Possibility Predictability Productivity Prosperity Respectability Responsibility Sanity Serenity Sobriety Spirituality Stability Survivability Tranquility Visibility Wellbriety
Is it any wonder given the complexity of these experiences that we struggle in recovery to answer, “Who am I?” We cannot fully understand the “me story” without the “we story.” Our personal stories nest within the hands of this larger multigenerational and multinational story. Our present circumstances, our shared needs, our individual aspirations, and our future destinies are inextricably linked to this complex, collective past. We can draw upon that past for resolve and inspiration at the same time we rise above it. Personally and collectively, we have fallen, yet like Lazarus, we rise anew. Personally and collectively, we are moving from pain to purpose.
To ensure fidelity to the recovery community organization model, Faces & Voices of Recovery, RCOs across the nation, and stakeholders have identified the following as national best practices for recovery community organizations.
I recently discovered a UK-based project that I found so exciting that I solicited the below blog to share with my readers. To me, the Well-Fed Social Supermarket signals a next stage in the evolution of recovery support services: programs that serve those seeking and in recovery while simultaneously benefiting the larger community. For generations, “service work” in the recovery community has reflected the support we provide each other, our mutual aid organizations, and individuals and families seeking recovery. Perhaps the day has arrived when that service ethic will be extended in new and dramatic ways to larger communities and cultures.
Recovery Innovations: The Well-Fed Social Supermarket
Dave Higham, Ged Pickersgill and David Best
Recovery is a process that is characterised through the acronym CHIME – standing for Connectedness (the importance of social engagement); Hope; Identity (the growth of positive personal and social identities); Meaning (engaging in activities that give value to each day) and Empowerment (often experienced as positive self-esteem and self-efficacy).
For recovery community organisations, supporting people to achieve sustainable recovery is often about finding ways to promote CHIME that are personalised to individual aspirations and goals, and the stage of a person’s recovery. This means creating access to positive social and community resources that can nurture recovery capital.
In the UK, there have been a glut of recovery cafes, some of which have succeeded and others failed, but an increasing quest for diverse programmes and social enterprises that can both bolster recovery experiences while also contributing to the growth and wellbeing of the local community. This article provides a brief overview of the Well and then will focus on its innovative contribution to recovery pathways and community wellbeing.
The Well is a not-for-profit, community interest company (CIC) formed by ex-offender Dave Higham in 2012. Dave left prison for the last time in 2007 having spent over 25 years in addiction and in that time spent more time in prison than he did in the community. Since leaving prison in 2007 he has dedicated his life to supporting others with drug and alcohol addiction through both voluntary and paid employment. Dave set up The Well with his own money and with no blueprint to follow. Instead, he used his experience, vision and determination to create what has now become a leading provider of recovery services in the region.
Dave set up The Well when he recognised a gap in the provision of services during off-hours and weekends for those people who wanted to achieve or maintain abstinence. The first hub was launched in Lancaster in 2012, and a further four sites quickly followed in Lancashire and Cumbria (in the North-West of England).The majority of staff at The Well have lived experience of substance misuse and offending histories.
The Well has always been shaped, designed and delivered by the people it serves and supplemented by the assumption that both the person and their family need to recover and are thus welcomed. The Well is also open to people with prescription drug histories, mental health issues and trauma, and nearly all the people served have experienced CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The Well is based on the assumption that ‘Where we serve our community, we become active citizens in the community’.
The Social Supermarket
A Social Supermarket has been designed as a positive way of supporting those on low incomes, tackling poor diet and overcoming health inequalities, through the provision of surplus stock sold at heavily subsidised prices.
Since store’s opening in November 2019, Wellfed Social Supermarket has had a footfall of over 5,000 people and has also resulted in 279 referrals into The Well Communities through various mechanisms of support. The social supermarket has also facilitated (including but not limited to ) delivery of over 1500 hot meals to marginalised families, issued over 150 food bank vouchers, issued 17 free flu vaccination vouchers, delivered 37 emergency food parcels, delivered 242 sets of ingredients and recipes, and assisted families with welfare signposting in respect of white goods.
Well Fed social supermarket secures high-quality short dated food from retail and manufacture supply chains that would otherwise be sent as waste to landfill but is fit for human consumption. We sell this food to customers at reduced prices, typically an average of one-third of normal retail prices. Marketing is carefully targeted at residents on the lowest incomes and thus at greatest risk of experiencing food poverty and related health issues.
The social supermarket model innovates further by working with local agencies to provide a range of on-site support services. These are tailored to members’ needs and help them overcome multiple barriers to getting out of poverty. On-site support, signposting and assertive linkage may include money advice, debt counselling, and courses on healthy eating and cooking on a budget, as well as employability and vocational skills training. The Well-Fed Social Supermarket is a non-profit organisation with all monies re-invested back into the local community.
The Well Communities Social Supermarket is a model which enables residents in Barrow in Furness to access the retail aspect of the social supermarket and our Fairshare Model Food clubs and to be included in The Well Communities Building Better Opportunities (BBO) Project which helps members benefit from the employment and business opportunities that are arising in Barrow in Furness both now and through the longer term delivery of the BBO programme.
This is linked to the Well-fed Food Clubs which provide a sustainable alternative to free food distribution and foodbanks. Through a £3 per week payment, members receive approximately £10 to £15 worth of food each week while reducing food waste by working closely with fareshare North West by collecting the food from the regional Hub in Preston. The Well has built up a very strong membership of marginalised families; most of the postcode areas we serve are listed in the indicies of multiple deprivation. Over 30 tonnes of surplus food has been distributed to date.
The whole model is based on looking upstream and looking behind the actual need for discounted food. Each family has difficulties which mean they need to obtain goods due to some form of financial hardship; the intention is to determine such reasons and help in some way to alleviate these problems. These are then linked to in-house support mechanisms which Include assertive linkage to local statutory and third sector organisations.
Building Recovery and Community Capital
The Well identifies people’s recovery capital, identifies their passions, and works with them to create enterprises. They have had several successful enterprise ideas, the first being The Well itself, but they have also had some failures or learning that were not so successful. To get to the successful Social Supermarket idea we went through a process of ideas and attempts, the first being a catering trailer business, where the Well bought and renovated a trailer and employed a member of our community as he had experience as a chef, got a pitch for the trailer, but the marketing strategy of announcing that we were recovering addicts and alcoholics was the wrong thing to do as in the first year the project was working at a loss. The lesson was that the most important factor about a food trailer is the pitch, and let this business go but kept the company name Well-Fed and started up foodbanks.
The other successful business, “Well maintained” used the employment capital and experience within the Well membership, including carpenters, electricians, plasterers and so on, and renovated our Dolton Road Hub which is now the location for The Social Supermarket.
There were false first steps on the road to creating the Social Supermarket, but the commitment to the principles of peer empowerment, community engagement and CHIME have resulted in a number of successes that contribute to the growth, wellbeing and inclusiveness of the recovery community as an active and vibrant part of the local, lived community. Not all of these enterprises will succeed, but the skill base, dedication and creativity of the recovery community will ensure a net gain and a positive contribution to individual recovery journeys, family inclusion and community connections and growth.