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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I hate the words. Enable. Enabler. Enabling.
“He wouldn’t be in so much trouble if his parents didn’t enable him.”
“She’s an enabler.”
“I feel sorry for that family – they’re constantly enabling her.”
They are harsh words, often spoken with a slight hint of scorn. They are words of blame, words that carry a heavy load of shame.
Too often we use words without thinking much about their implications, so let’s take a closer look at “enable.”
“Enable” means to allow, facilitate, permit, make possible. (I love my trusty Thesaurus, which leads me down all sorts of untraveled word pathways.)
Allow means to let, to permit, agree to, consent to, tolerate.
Facilitate means to make easy, make possible, smooth the progress of, help, aid, assist.
Permit means to authorize, sanction, give your blessing to.
I am here to speak for parents of kids in trouble with drugs and for the wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles of addicted people.
They may not all agree with what I have to say but I suspect most will.
We do not “consent” to the pain and misery, the shame and fear, the destruction and despair of addiction.
We do not seek to “aid” or “assist” addiction in its efforts to destroy our loved ones.
We do not “make possible” this disease nor do we “tolerate” its horrors.
We do not authorize addiction to walk in our homes, we do not sanction it, nor do we give it our blessing.
We simply do not know – not in the beginning – how to fight back. Addiction enters our lives with stealth and cunning. It disguises itself, talking back to us in ways that make our heads spin. It tortures our emotions so that we begin to believe that we are the ones at fault, causing us to doubt ourselves, encouraging us to cover up, to protect and defend, to run screaming with our hair on fire to the hills.
Addiction takes our hearts and twists them.
It takes our thoughts and contorts them.
It takes our souls and fills them with dread, shame, guilt, and burning fear.
The “enable” word only adds to our guilt and shame and makes us hide in fear and self-loathing from the very people who might be able to help us.
Perhaps we might try to understand – or, as my trusty Thesaurus elaborates, identify, empathize, have compassion for, appreciate, be conscious of – the hellish situation so many of us find ourselves in.
We see the people we love in trouble. At home. At school. In the office. With the law.
Because we love them, because it is our job to protect the people we love, we try to help them. We don’t know, not at first, that they are suffering from a chronic, progressive, deadly disease, and once we suspect it, we cringe from the very thought.
Because addiction is not like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or asthma. Addiction, like the word “enable,” is whispered.
When our family members are sick with addiction, friends don’t bring us home-cooked meals or fresh-baked cookies.
We don’t open our mailboxes to find heartfelt sympathy cards. No one sends us flowers.
Parents, relatives, teachers, and friends sometimes hint oh-so-subtly that our family’s “problem” stems from ineffective or even abusive parenting.
Insurance companies inform us that they don’t cover addiction treatment – or if they do, they “cap” the amount.
Counselors and health care professionals often tell us we are “over-reacting.”
Doctors prescribe pills to help us calm down, relieve stress, get a good night’s sleep.
Sometimes the people we turn to for help look at us sideways, barely able to hide their contempt.
Perhaps contempt is too harsh a word. But that’s what it feels like. Disapproval. Condescension. Disdain.
So what are we, exactly? What words should be used to describe those of us who struggle to do battle with this disease?
Flawed. Imperfect. Struggling. In need.
In need of what? Help. Hope. Understanding. Compassion.
The irony, I suppose, is that we have compassion aplenty. We remember the old days, when we thought this could never happen to us, the days when we, too, wondered what was wrong with those families whose kids smoked marijuana, snorted coke, or injected heroin. Those days when our children were young and fresh and innocent.
Once upon a time, we, too, thought that we were immune.
Now we know better.
Most of us have become familiar with the concept of modern technology as a “double-edged sword”. Although we find many wonderful benefits in possessing a smart phone, tablet, computers of various forms, or gaming devices, we also have come to recognize there are drawbacks, limitations, and even concerns of various forms of “addiction” lurking in the shadows for those who may find themselves “over-indulging”.
However, for every technological “Yin” we also find an equally present “Yang” – to include various positive aspects of harnessing today’s technology. Given our acceptance that there are always certain drawbacks to be found, let us instead focus on a couple of aspects of this technology that can bear great value in advancing recovery efforts.
Many if not most of us have experienced the long-standing value and success in the development of websites – this has become old news! A number more of us have designed and redesigned Facebook pages to promote our recovery efforts. How about Twitter accounts? This means of communication has grown in use and popularity over the last few years, and we see it being used in various venues today – all the way up to White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy promoting national recovery-related events.
How about YouTube Channels? YouTube offers another fabulous means of providing visual and auditory communication in highly engaging forms to youth and that of all ages. Not only can we easily and inexpensively create our own videos, but we also have access to thousands of recovery-related video material at our disposal via the Internet.
Another low-cost mechanism for getting the message of recovery out across the globe is through the development of “smart phone” applications. Creating an “app” is not as difficult, time-consuming, or costly as one might imagine. In fact, I found that with just a little “on-line” research, there are app-building programs that are low cost, very user-friendly, and even fun to build. An app-building program allows us to design a recovery message that is tailored specifically to our intended audience.
Whether creating an app for a “one-time-only” event, or for statewide, national, or even global dissemination of information, the combination of “smart phone” and internet access puts the world at our fingertips and gives us one more tool by which to “carry the message” of recovery.
This blog post was provided by John Winslow, Program Director, Dorchester Recovery Initiative, a Charter Member of the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO).
William White’s 2006 work The Rhetoric of Recovery Advocacy: An Essay on the Power of Language is a powerful paper that suggests an essential focus for our recovery community work. He analyses the impact of the language that we apply to ourselves and that has been assigned to us by others.
Language helps to define us to ourselves, and shapes how others define us. Social policies and laws that are influenced by public perception are a result.
Those existing policies and perceptions reinforce the barriers to recovery of which we are all aware. One of the primary underlying causes of those barriers is the stigma associated with substance use disorders. That stigma has been shaped, in large part, by words.
White’s paper states that we must abandon some words while at the same time establish a ‘pro-recovery language.’
I’d like to focus on the negative aspects of the terms ‘abuse’ and ‘abuser,’ and suggest some actions that we at Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts (RICARES) have taken and are preparing to take to rid ourselves of a term that White calls ‘one of the most ‘ill-chosen.’
White notes that this was recognized as long ago as 1973 when the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse criticized the term and stated that “continued use of this term with its emotional overtones, will serve only to perpetuate confused public attitudes about drug using behavior.’
The statement was prophetic.
This term is ill-chosen because:
There are heinous crimes committed by horrible people such as domestic abuse, elder abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse, and child abuse. At some level of consciousness, people associate substance abuse with that group. We don’t belong there.
If we believe that addiction and the range of substance use disorders are medical conditions, why do we use the term when it is not used for any other condition? People with diabetes are not treated for ‘sugar abuse.’
Our use of the term ‘substance abuse’ has contributed to the reluctance of many people to accept addiction as a biomedical condition, and continue to believe that the most appropriate and effective way to deal with the societal issue of addiction is as a criminal issue rather than as a public health issue.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-V) has discontinued the designations of ‘abuse’ and ‘dependency.’ The new term is ‘substance use disorder,’ (e.g., alcohol use disorder, cocaine use disorder, etc.). So, the term ‘abuse’ is even diagnostically outdated
Unfortunately, ‘abuse’ has become institutionally embedded. Most states have Departments, Divisions or Offices of Substance Abuse. SAMHSA (the Substance ‘Abuse’ and Mental Health Services Administration) oversees our services and much of our funding.
It is our responsibility, and to our benefit, to continue the effort to abandon ‘abuse’ for ‘substance use disorder’ or ‘substance use condition’ – no one else will.
Some suggested actions:
RICARES has communicated with our SAMHSA Regional representative and asked her to raise the issue at her level. She replied that she would be happy to raise the issue across the constituency groups with whom she interacts and to move it forward to the appropriate policy people.
A RICARES member is enrolled in the Chemical Dependency/Addiction Studies Program at Rhode Island College. She advocated for the revision of ‘abuse’ to ‘substance use disorder’ in all the program-generated literature. This has occurred.
We pointedly make the distinction whenever we speak to relevant groups about recovery. For example, in the last week we have spoken to a clinical group of nursing students and to case managers and clinicians at a community mental health center and hammered the distinction
Whenever we interact with treatment organizational leadership and clinicians, we hammer the distinction.
We shall communicate with leadership and with our allies at the state legislature and ask them to use ‘substance use disorder’ rather than ‘substance abuse’ in all relevant new legislation
We shall communicate with the new leadership at our Department of Behavioral Healthcare and ask them to make the revision in their speech and department-generated literature. We are optimistic about this step as the Department recently changed all their old references for ‘Retardation’ to ‘Developmental Disabilities.’
We shall communicate with the new leadership at the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services and ask them to make the revision in their speech and literature.
We know that you can think of many other actions.
Our regional SAMHSA representative noted, “it would help if the noteworthy leaders in treatment and recovery stepped out in favor of revising the terminology.” This is a simple but powerful step that we can take to start the action to, as White states: change the way that we see ourselves and are seen by others, change the language that affects social policies, and “to personally and culturally close one chapter in history and open another.”
This blog post was provided by Ian Knowles, Project Director, Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts (RICARES), a Charter Member of the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO).
It is with great pleasure that Faces & Voices of Recovery announces the hiring of Patty McCarthy Metcalf as our new Executive Director. A long time Faces & Voices board member, Ms. McCarthy Metcalf is well known in recovery circles and widely respected nationwide as an advocate and recovery community leader. With intimate knowledge of the key aspects of our operation she can step in and immediately meet the day to day leadership needs at Faces & Voices.
Patty has long term working relationships with many key stakeholders and her presence reinforces our commitment to the recovery community and the future of Faces & Voices of Recovery. She was chosen from a pool of high caliber candidates and we are delighted she has accepted the position.
Please join us in welcoming Patty aboard!
Patty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patty McCarthy Metcalf, M.S., comes to Faces and Voices of Recovery from the Center for Social Innovation where she served as a Deputy Director of SAMHSA’s Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS) initiative. As Deputy Director, she has provided project direction and managed the quality and flow of work for numerous tasks under BRSS TACS. Previously, Ms. McCarthy-Metcalf served for a decade as the Director of Friends of Recovery-Vermont (FOR-VT), a statewide recovery community organization promoting the power of long-term recovery to improve the health and quality of life of Vermonters. In addition to public policy and education, her work has focused on community mobilizing, peer-based recovery support services and peer workforce development. She has been instrumental in the development of a national accreditation for recovery community organizations and in the development of peer support standards. Patty has designed and facilitated training on topics such as ethics and boundaries, recovery-oriented systems of care, peer volunteer management and peer recovery coaching. Ms. McCarthy-Metcalf has frequently participated as a subject matter expert and thought leader with SAMHSA sponsored policy discussions.
Ms. McCarthy Metcalf’s professional experience covers the spectrum of prevention, treatment and recovery. She has worked as a substance abuse prevention specialist with the Vermont Department of Health and as a Child and Family Clinician within a community-based mental health center. She holds a Master’s Degree in Community Counseling and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration.
Patty is a woman in long-term recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, since 1989.
I have written a good deal about the harmful effects of money on social movements – particularly about how recovery advocacy movements can be harmed by too much money, too little money, ill-timed money and agenda-tainted money. That said, there are critical periods in the life of successful social movements that require financial resources, with the long-term fate of the movement hinging on the availability and sources of such financial support. Greg Williams and I have given considerable thought to the state of the new recovery advocacy movement in the United States and we belief this movement is at such a critical milestone.
By all accounts, the new recovery advocacy movement has come of age. Faces & Voices of Recovery will celebrate its 13th anniversary this fall. There are now more than 95 members of the Association of Recovery Community Organizations. Advocates have championed and witnessed the passage of landmark legislation and regulatory changes that ended key areas of past discrimination against people in recovery. New recovery support institutions – recovery community centers, recovery residences, recovery schools, recovery ministries, recovery cafés – are sprouting in communities across the country. We have more than 125,000 people in recovery and their families and allied participating each year in public recovery celebration events. The film The Anonymous People is filling theatres across the country. Addiction recovery has never been more visible within the American culture.
When the new recovery advocacy movement was formally launched at the Recovery Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2001, the question we asked was, “Can individuals and families in recovery be mobilized culturally and politically?” In the intervening years, that question has been affirmatively answered. With such mobilization clearly evident, the question became “Mobilized to do what?” And again, that question was answered as local recovery community organizations developed programs that widened pathways of entry into long-term addiction recovery. Much of this work was initiated and sustained by voluntary efforts of people in recovery and by financial support that came from private foundations, federal or state agencies and the contributions of local businesses.
The next stage of the new recovery advocacy movement involves more than putting thousands of faces and voices on addiction recovery. Locally, it involves the much harder work of building sustainable recovery support institutions and building community environments in which recovery can flourish. Nationally, it involves the kind of technical support Faces and Voices has offered to local recovery community organizations and providing the connecting tissue that allows these organizations to speak with one voice on issues affecting all communities.
There is a point in all social movements where the true ownership of that movement is tested. The new recovery advocacy movement is at that point. The question is whether people in personal or family recovery will take ownership of the future of this movement by financially supporting the local, state and national organizations that coordinate the day-to-day work of the movement. It is time that we who have harvested the fruits of recovery pay it forward with our time, our talents, and yes, our financial contributions. What can you give today to support Faces & Voices of Recovery or to your local recovery community organization? Click here to make a donation to support the future of this movement. Click here to contribute your time and talents.
Over 23 Million Americans Are In Recovery From Addiction — America Honors Recovery Is The Preeminent Awards Ceremony Highlighting The Accomplishments Of The Most Influential Addiction Recovery Advocates
WASHINGTON, D.C.—June 25, 2013— Former NBA basketball sensation and national recovery advocate, Chris Herren, will be given the Voice of Recovery Award at Faces & Voices of Recovery’s annual awards reception, America Honors Recovery. Herren first went public with his recovery story in the memoir Basketball Junkie, and Emmy nominated ESPN Films documentary Unguarded, of which he is the featured subject. He has since traveled the country to speak to over 500,000 young people about his recovery and the dangers of substance use.
Long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a reality for over 23 million Americans, but remains one of our nation’s best-kept secrets. America Honors Recovery recognizes those individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to end the discrimination facing people with addiction.
“We have the exciting opportunity to come together and celebrate the solution to addiction – recovery – and highlight the importance of speaking out on behalf of those who still suffer from our most pressing public health problem,” said Dona Dmitrovic, Faces & Voices of Recovery Board Chair.
The June 25th ceremony will take place at the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington, D.C. from 6:00-8:00 P.M. William Cope Moyers, best-selling author of Broken and Now What will be on hand as the master of ceremonies.
In addition to Chris Herren, the Northern Ohio Recovery Association will be awarded the Joel Hernandez Award, which honors an organization that works diligently on behalf of the recovery community. The Vernon Johnson Award honors three individuals who have devoted their lives to recovery: Denise Holden, RASE Project; Allen McQuarrie, Bucks County Chapter of PRO-ACT; and Kathleen Gibson, Oxford House World Services will be recognized with this prestigious award in 2014. A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D. will be awarded the Lisa Mojer-Torres Award for his leadership and dedication to improving the quality of care that individuals and families suffering from addiction are able to access.
Each of these extraordinary organizations and individuals’ works tenaciously to promote the reality of recovery from addiction and to make it possible for others to get the help they need. They are leading the charge on a burgeoning movement that embraces recovery as a civil right.
This year Faces & Voices of Recovery is thrilled to announce Natural High, a nationally recognized nonprofit, as our Presenting Partner for this exciting event, whose work for the last 20 years has been dedicated to empowering millions of youth across the country to say yes to a natural high, and no to drugs and alcohol.
“Natural High is excited to join Faces & Voices of Recovery as the Presenting Partner of the America Honors Recovery Awards ceremony,” said Michelle Ahearne, Executive Director of Natural High. “This is truly a unique opportunity to bridge the prevention and recovery communities as we face the challenge of addiction together.”
About “Faces & Voices of Recovery”
Faces & Voices of Recovery is dedicated to organizing and mobilizing the over 23 million Americans in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, our families, friends and allies into recovery community organizations and networks, to promote the right and resources to recover through advocacy, education and demonstrating the power and proof of long-term recovery. For more information about event please visit: http://www.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org.
About Natural High
Natural High is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization empowering youth to discover, amplify and pursue their natural high, giving them a reason to say no to drugs and alcohol. In collaboration with over 50 influential celebrity ambassadors, Natural High empowers youth in classrooms via their inspirational video series and research based curriculum which is provided free-of-charge to educators across the U.S.; online via Naturalhigh.org, and social media; and in the community via contests & nationwide events like Vans Warped Tour. They currently work with more than 17,000 educators and reach 7 million youth every year. For more information visit http://www.naturalhigh.org.
Five organizations have received full accreditation status for their peer recovery support services programs from the Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services (CAPRSS).
In its first-ever round of awards, CAPRSS accredited the Association of Persons Affected by Addiction (Dallas, TX); McShin Foundation (Richmond, VA); Minnesota Recovery Connection (Minneapolis, MN); PRO-ACT, a program of the Southeast Council of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA); and Stairway to Recovery, a program of Latino Health Institute (Brockton, MA).
We’re proud to have achieved this important milestone in awarding these first-ever accreditations and are thrilled to be at this stage after nearly three years of development work. We are at this point because of the involvement and engagement of recovery community leaders, as well as stakeholders and allies, across the country.
In January 2014, CAPRSS began fulltime operations when Elizabeth Burden was hired as its chief executive officer. CAPRSS will begin accepting applications for its next round of accreditation in early April from any organization or program providing PRSS that support addiction recovery.
CAPRSS is the only accrediting body in the US for recovery community organizations and other organizations offering addiction-related peer recovery support services (PRSS). CAPRSS’s mission is to identify and support excellence in the delivery of peer recovery support services. CAPRSS’ asset-based accreditation™ program helps emerging and established PRSS programs to build capacity and improves PRSS program performance by setting and measuring the achievement of standards.
To find out more about CAPRSS and its accreditation process, please visit the website at CAPRSS.org, where you can sign up to recieve regular updates and get involved in this exciting recovery enterprise.
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.