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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Remarks of William White
Floridians For Recovery 2021 SummitI 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.
- 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.
Faces & Voices of Recovery would like to acknowledge that, On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all enslaved people. Nearly two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865, the enslaved residing in Texas received news of their freedom. Juneteenth marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. On June 17, 2021 President Joseph Biden signed a law making Juneteenth an official federal holiday. Faces & Voices of Recovery recognizes Juneteenth as a national holiday, and we honor it as the day all slaves in America became free.
On this important day, we are proud to release the following document regarding Race Equity. It is the culmination of a year-long examination and thoughtful reflection on our collective role in the recovery community’s pathway toward race equity. We are grateful to our partners in this endeavor for their painstaking work. We also extend an open invitation to any organization who would like to join us in this work.
We believe there is ample opportunity to heal.
The work continues.
“I imagine a person battling a dragon, throwing pebbles at the beast to no avail, and then one day finding a melody that did not kill the dragon, but finally, for some precious moments, put it to sleep.” –Stephanie Chang, (2021). NC State University Social Work 516 (Addiction, Recovery, and Social Work Practice). Abstinence Exercise Journal Entry February 5, 2021.
Alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems exist on a spectrum of severity, complexity, and duration. I have referred to the ends of this continuum as the “apples and oranges” of the AOD problems arena and noted the mischief created when what we know about apples is applied to oranges—and vice versa.
At one end of this severity continuum are AOD problems of a mild to moderate nature that are transient and resolved through maturation, changes in personal circumstances (e.g., leaving college, relocation, getting married, having children, escaping a toxic relationship), an assertive decision prompted by a humiliating AOD-related experience, or a desire to improve one’s health and quality of life. People often shed mild to moderate AOD problems of relatively short duration without participation in peer or professional support, without embrace of a “recovery identity,” and often through deceleration of AOD use rather than complete cessation. All such efforts and successes are cause for celebration.
Transient, self-resolved AOD problems of low to moderate severity constitute the “apples” commonly revealed in studies of AOD problems in non-clinical community surveys. So-called “natural recovery” is an affirmation that some AOD problems are a product of brief developmental windows of vulnerability or situational circumstances that do not accelerate into progressive and prolonged addiction careers.
At the other end of the continuum are AOD problems marked by high severity, immense complexity, long duration, and multiple failed efforts at self- and assisted-resolution. Persons experiencing such severity, complexity, and chronicity are characterized by high personal vulnerability for AOD problems (see HERE) and low levels of internal and external problem-solving resources (i.e., recovery capital). This high severity/complexity/chronicity group constitutes the “oranges” revealed through studies of people participating in recovery mutual aid groups and addiction treatment programs.
Further scientific research will ultimately determine what distinguishes apple people from orange people and if and how one transitions from one group to the other. There are, however, tentative conclusions drawn from historical, clinical, and experiential knowledge that warrant our consideration.
Apple people face potential harm when captured in systems designed for orange people. Apple people find themselves forced to embrace a stigma-laden diagnosis, coerced into expensive and life-disrupting clinical interventions, pressured to accept a drug abstinence goal without consideration of a moderation option, and are subjected to punishment for being “in denial” or “resistant.”
Orange people face potential harm when shamed for their inability to moderate AOD use, castigated for their embrace of a recovery identity, discouraged from involvement in abstinence-based recovery mutual aid groups, and stigmatized for needing clinical support (particularly medication support). Orange people face such questions as, “I know many [apple] people who cut down or just stopped. Why can’t you?” or “Why do you still go to all those meetings? Can’t you just put this behind you and get on with your life?” The implication: inability to stop using in spite of adverse consequences, failed promises to self and others, and the need for sustained recovery support is a reflection of immaturity, impaired intelligence, moral depravity, or some other personal defect.
For centuries, orange people have likened their addiction to possession by a devil, demon, serpent, dragon, monster, or beast. When the beast reigns, voices speak in our head that are not our own; when we look in a mirror, other faces appear; we do things alien to our nature and values; we fear losing our mind; and loved ones join us as hostages to this malignant force. Addiction and recovery literature is replete with references to battling monsters and slaying dragons. Those who have suffered under the beast’s control constitute a distinctive subgroup of people experiencing AOD problems.
Many orange people find that efforts to kill or expel the dragon—an aggressive assertion of self-will—result only in repeated failure and intensified shame. However, some find a most interesting alternative. Rather than a Sisyphean fight with the dragon, they discover a way to induce the dragon into slumber. This process involves discovery of ideas, words, phrases, metaphors, stories, or rituals that, like keys to locks, open avenues of change. I think of these elements as recovery songs that temporarily quiet the beast and induce a hibernating slumber that continues as long as the songs continue.
Lacking a cure of the condition, some who have unsuccessfully battled the beast discover instead a “daily reprieve” from the beast contingent on maintenance of certain beliefs and practices. These beliefs and practices—recovery songs—free one from the beast’s control: freedom from the physical cravings, the mental obsessions, the compulsive drug use, the gross distortions in character, and all the related consequences of addiction.
The new recovery song contaminates the drug experience and opens new life possibilities—marking a “before” and “after” line in one’s personal story. The recovery song is catalytic—releasing, revealing, and transforming who we are at a most intimate level. The song’s emancipatory ideas reverberate deep within us and elicit pleasure and a call to purposeful action. The song centers us on who we are and what we aspire to be and do.
Recovery songs enable living one’s life free of disabling symptoms. They do so by answering fundamental questions: Who was I before this problem arose in my life? What happened as a consequence of my drug use? What turning points sparked my search for recovery? What do I need to understand and do today and in the future to maintain my recovery? The answers to these questions (what becomes one’s recovery song or story), whether achieved as a sudden epiphany or through a slow awakening, provide one a new way of looking at self and the world and spark a radical reconstruction of the person-drug and person-world relationships.
Now what gets interesting is the myriad answers (recovery songs) people have found to such questions and how these songs can evolve in subtle or dramatic ways over time. For each individual, the challenge is to answer the above questions in the present. When such a solution is found, any unfreezing of that solution—those ideas and practices, what might be thought of as one’s personal recovery song / dragon’s lullaby—offer an opportunity for a maturation of recovery, but also a risk of regression to one’s former state of suffering.
Family members, friends, professional helpers, and peer helpers error in prematurely challenging the defense structure that supports an individual’s recovery, no matter how rigid or malformed that preferred defense structure may be at a particular point in time. Those who play with the idea of recovery as an intellectual exercise or critics who attack particular pathways of recovery do great harm when failing to understand that for those seeking or in recovery, this exercise of sense-making is a deadly serious one—a search for release from suffering and a desperate act of survival. If we undermine an individual’s song without replacing it with another, we crumble the scaffolding upon which recovery rests.
Any song that sets one free deserves a place of honor—even if different from our own freedom song. Claiming superiority or inferiority of particular pathways of recovery is counterproductive. The preferred mantra is Recovery by any means necessary under any circumstances, or as the wise Sly Stone proclaimed, “Different strokes for different folks.” We do a great disservice to people—harm in the name of help—when we act with individuals seeking or maintaining recovery in ways that neutralize or corrupt the songs that keep their dragon sleeping.
At a personal level, there are many songs of recovery. Each of us facing the dragon must find the song that makes our soul sing and seduces the dragon into sleep. Any song that quiets the beast is a freedom song. To quote Bob Marley, “Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom?”
Acknowledgement: A thank you to Chris Budnick for sharing with me the opening quote that was crafted by one of his students, Stephanie Chang, and to Ms. Chang for her permission to include it in this blog.
The You Keep Talking We Keep Dying Campaign
Annemarie Ward, Faces & Voices of Recovery UK
July 2019, Sunday 11.30 pm the phone rings, its Natalie Mclean. I had met Natalie briefly at the Ace aware nation event in Glasgow where the much-loved & inspiring Gabor Mate was presenting later that day. The air was filled with excitement & the possibility & chat of paradigm change. That hope watching the royal concert hall fill up with 5000 professionals to learn more about healing traumas effects was infectious & inspiring but our chat with each other that day was about how much more needed to be done, especially in the recovery community on the ground.
A few days later Scotland released another set of heart-breaking statistics of those friends & family we had lost to drug deaths. There was of course the usual commentary from the leadership in Scotland. Handwringing about what they described as “inevitable deaths”, the usual talk of aging cohorts, trainspotting generation’s and how basically it was a tragic but completely foreseeable & predictable trajectory. This abject acceptance from those in positions supposed to be in charge of our care had always been abhorrent to me but now I knew I could no longer accept this preordained repetitive narrative any longer. Included in those 2018 statistics were people I had known & loved too who had never had the opportunity to receive care that may have helped them recover.
Back to that phone call. Natalie was in deep despair. It was Sunday night, it was late, she had just lost the 6th member of her family to a drug death & her impassioned call for help was to set the FAVOR on the course of the UK addiction fields most successful advocacy campaign ever.
Sharing in Natalie’s pain & grief that night inspired us both to think about what we could do. Having organised the UK Recovery Walks & conferences over the years I suggested we hold a candle light vigil in the city centre to commentate those we had lost. It seemed like a ridiculously inadequate thing to do but we went ahead, and a few days later over 600 people showed up at 10pm on a summer’s night in George Square, Glasgow. We knew as soon as we announced on social media that we were holding an event that something way bigger than any of us was happening. So many people came forward to help, gazebos with tea coffee biscuits & hugs, a sounds system, we quickly threw together some t-shirts & wrist bands with the hashtag #youkeeptalkinwekeepdying and all we had to do that night was pass the microphone to those who wanted to speak.
Grief, Despair, Anger
What happened was an outpouring of grief. Mothers’ fathers’ sons’ daughters’ husbands, wife’s all spoke about their loved ones who had passed. It was incredibly emotional, powerful & moving. Beside the grief people expressed, there was also an undercurrent of anger. Anger that their loved ones hadn’t been given any real care & that they have been failed by a treatment system that they felt not only couldn’t help, but didn’t fundamentally understand what it takes for recovery to be initiated and sustained. As we were packing up to leave many of the women who had lost their children, pleaded with me to continue to speak out & too host another event during the day that they could bring friends & family too. My thinking at the time was I wasn’t sure if my heart could take another event like that, but International overdose awareness day would be happening in a few weeks and there would be many events put on by the established Scottish organisations for them to take part in, after all we had just announced to the world the highest overdose deaths in Europe, so surely there would be many commemoration events on during that world recognised specially appointed day.
August 31st 2019 (International overdose Awareness day) fell on a Saturday, maybe this was why there was not one single event organised. Much of our work had been in England up until this point for a variety of reasons but this brought my focus sharply into Scotland. I could see with crystal clarity the big organisations charged with our care & leadership were either complacently asleep at the wheel or numb to the ongoing trauma we were facing in our poorest communities. We were propelled again by grief & exasperation to organise another what we were now calling “gatherings” Our second event followed the same format as the first, allowing everyone who wanted to speak the opportunity to do so whilst everyone else stood by & respectfully listened. Over 1200 friends & family of those affected gathered again in a corner of George square on the day Jeremy Corbyn & his supporters gathered in the other corner. This time we were more organised. We had invited the press & several local & national politicians. We were amazed at the amount of people & how desperate they were for us to continue to organise & do something – but what?
A steering committee was formed & it was decided that we would create a Scottish specific arm of FAVORUK to take the work & campaign forward. We agreed that, we now had to take the gatherings into the communities where people were dying to really galvanise & mobilise support. Hearing the call from our members, FAVOR UK board of Directors gave me permission to focus the work of the charity on building on the campaign for the next two years. This marked a significant change of direction for us as a charity that now in 2021 we are only starting to solidify & develop.
Enough is Enough
Our 3rd monthly gathering was held in Maryhill. We were now campaigning with specific outcomes in mind, such as 50% representation of living & lived experience on all decision-making committees, including the main one in Scotland tasked with reducing the drug deaths. Phoenix Futures gave us a weekly meeting space, extra volunteers & emotional support that lasted the whole campaign. Monica Lennon, the opposition party’s health minister had now established a relationship with FAVOR Scotland built on trust & the shared grief of losing her father to alcoholism. Two things happened in months to come. In partnership with Monica, we held a round table event at the Scottish parliament that gave us an opportunity to invite long-term members of the recovery community, many who had worked in residential rehab services for over 2 decades where investment had not only declined it was now operating on a shoe string. And we saw the then minister in charge Joe Fitzpatrick agree there should be more representation on the task force but instead of coming to the organisation who had campaigned for those seats, (us) he went instead to a government steered & funded recovery organisation. We sadly noted the tactic & missed opportunity for negotiation & carried on campaigning focusing on putting into a report the 23 recommendations that had come to light from our third gathering. The recommendations had come from a mixture of grieving loved ones, professional peers, academics & recovering people all who were saying difficult but honest truths and all of whom felt they were being resolutely ignored. Again with determination & downright stubbornness we refused to let their voices go unheard & presented their report at our 4th gathering to a local sympathetic MP Bob Doris who assured us and staggeringly many of the UKs press that day who showed up in Possilpark that it would be taken seriously by the then minister in charge Joe Fitzpatrick. That day in the housing scheme Possilpark marked a serious turning point in the campaign.
The Press Had Enough Too.
The amount of press there that day at our 4th gathering almost outnumbered the community members. 3 of the main television stations BBC, STV & Chanel 4, many of the broadsheet newspaper’s including The Herald, Guardian & the Times The Scotsman plus the more widely read red tops here in Scotland, the Daily Record, The evening Times & the Sun were in attendance. The press stayed for the full 3-hour event where they listened to people’s stories of hope, about how they had recovered because of the chance they had had in rehab, the love they had been able to receive & give again in recovery & ofcourse the loss & grief of many who had not had the opportunity for their loved one to go to rehab despite many requests over decades of being in so called treatment. Not only did the press get fully behind us but their reporting was now focused across the UK highlighting the imbalance we had laid out so clearly for them to see in the lack of investment in helping people get well. Over the next 9 months we continued to have monthly gatherings that the press reported on. We walked a fine balance of finding people & recommending organisations willing to tell their story to the press. In particular Scotland’s most widely read newspaper The Daily Record really threw their considerable support behind us with almost weekly articles that covered the breadth of the problem, raising the debate about what other countries have done to help and telling stories of people’s lives being saved & recovery journeys being used to highlight the connection between trauma & addiction. This relentless campaign reporting from the journalist Mark McGivern gave not only momentum & value but it encouraged us to know that even if no one with the power to change wanted to listen to us, we were certainly getting a fair hearing from the people of Scotland. We could also see this reporting was informing other journalist across the UK & more & more we asked to contribute our voice to articles, national TV & radio debates in England Wales & Ireland.
Posturing Rhetoric & Farce
The UK & Scottish government’s both held summits that were nothing more than political posturing. We worked closely with the press to get our stories heard ensuring they were full of nuance & understanding, educating an often-ignorant public to the failings within the treatment system & raising the debate about the nature of the those suffering & dying mainly coming from our poorest communities. Throughout this time also the limited numbers of actual funded rehab places to help people get well in Scotland started to be come apparent. We had estimated that there were around 70 funded places but this estimate triggered the Scottish government to do their own enquiry that showed in actual fact that Scotland’s rehab beds numbered around 365 but of that number only an estimated 26 beds were actually funded & accessible to ordinary people in Scotland via the government appointed alcohol & drug partnerships. Over 100 of those beds were not available to people from Scotland & self-funding contributed over a third (36.8%) of placements, around a quarter (27.4%) were funded by Social Security payments and charitable funding, while private insurance was used to fund around one in five (22.0%) places. The actual number of funded places from the Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) funded little more than a tenth of the 265 beds available, (22) that could be accounted for. Only 22 funded beds for all of Scotland’s people was nothing short of catastrophic for the politicians in charge, and highlighted Scotland’s leadership in the addiction field was well and truly asleep at the wheel.
The usual rehab doesn’t work for everyone arguments were muted now that the government’s own figures showed how few people were actually getting access to this life saving treatment. Our report also highlighted 2 other vital lifesaving actions that needed to be invested in if we wanted to see the drug deaths start to decline & that it was no longer acceptable to pitch one potential lifesaving/giving pathway against the other in a fight for resources & investment. The focus of our campaign to advocate for balanced investment across all evidence-based treatments that had been proven to save & give people their life’s back was now being heard very clearly, with understanding & without prejudice by the press. We were hoping that those in power could hear it too. Our courage in telling our stories was starting to give other organisations & individual leadership figures who had previously been threatened or unsure of our aims, tentatively started to show courage of their own adding their voice occasionally to conversations in the national press. Unfortunately, most of the leadership continued to ignore & attempt to muddy the water, some even going as far to promote the idea that the very false dichotomy, of harm reduction Versus abstinence we set up FAVOR UK to eradicate was what we were attempting to promote. There were many occasions throughout the campaign where our members felt gaslit & believed they were being deliberately misconstrued. Our strapline as an organisation since 2009 has always been there are many pathways to recovery & all are a cause for celebration. These attacks I believe were probably borne of ignorance rather than malice. I was also reminded of the very real need as a human being to belong & identify with a tribe, however we emphasised that regardless of your tribe there are more issues that need fixed in the addiction field where we can unite than those that divide, particularly around investment of resources to give us every opportunity to find a path that suits us.
When Covid hit we moved our monthly gatherings online. The politicians stayed engaged & more & more people contributed to the call to action for real change & investment from across the UK. Using the technology allowed more people to contribute & engage than ever before. Each of our events have now been viewed over a thousand times and some as much as almost 3 thousand times. This widened the conversation & allowed us to communicate what we were trying to do in a much more effective way. A year after the first gathering Natalie & I were able to have an online event where we reflected on the campaign up until that point, what drove us & how we were feeling. This event also showed us from the people who got in touch, that we had actually came a long way, made real progress & more importantly that we must carry on & not give up. As we continued into the pandemic we started to realise how Covid19 was not only impacting current services but coming into view was a tsunami of addiction & mental health problems & we continue to be mindful of this now. Relentlessly & stubbornly, we continued to hold monthly events, engaged with the politicians & fed the press our stories and information. It felt like there was no end in sight and then finally the breakthrough we had all been praying & working for.
In April we saw the biggest injection of funding ever in the history of the addiction field, worth £50million a year, It includes an annual £20million to offer residential rehab to every person who asks for it.
This money not only will help save life’s it is also an acknowledgement from Scot gov that they hadn’t done enough & an apology also came from the first minister.
It was shortly followed but a 148 million announcement in funding from the UK government 80 million of which is for Tier 4 (rehab services) in England. Again, we are in no doubt this money would not have come forward had it not been for our relentless campaigning.
Our job now is to remain vigilant to the gatekeeping, bed blocking & other barriers that prevent us from getting access & choice of treatment. That work recently has included working alongside & in partnership with Shelter Scotland to make sure that no one has to choose between their health & their home. And to make sure that the complacency & handwringing of earlier years never happened again.
We don’t always have the capacity to reflect or even to tell you about the work we are involved in, we have certainly never been and organisation who promotes our achievements, primarily because there is still do much to do before people with addiction disorders are treated fairly & with compassion. We are currently involved in developing legislative work to make sure that no person in the UK will ever have to fight for their right to access or choice of treatment & the inhumane barbarism & insanity of our current system will soon become a distant but bad memory that we look back on with horror.
One of most important things that this campaign has show us is our value as recovering people. None of this would have happened without the support, persistence & tenacity of the recovery community. Over the last 12 years we have led the recovery community into becoming more visible & more vocal across the UK, that is undeniable but we hope that though this campaign we can help the recovery community & the treatment community see how valuable & vital our contribution is. This was illustrated starkly on the day when Nicola Sturgeon announced the new funding in Scotland. We received over 70 messages of congratulations on recognition of our campaign from leaders & organisations bizarrely from England Wales & Ireland. The lack of support from the majority of Scotland’s leadership in the addiction field during the campaign & in light of our success speaks for itself. The time for change is well overdue. This is also the time to talk about investing in us, for 12 years we have walked & lead the recovery community voice across the UK with autonomy authenticity & integrity. We have made sure our visibility has been consistent, our voice progressive & collaborative even when we have had difficult truths to tell to those who hold power. For the last 10 years we have operated on a shoestring, budget never knowing from one month to the next whether we will be able to carry on. It’s now time to reflect back to us that value by proper investment. We are the addiction fields greatest assets, to continue to not see, value & support us would be a tragedy.
We have been asked by too many people to write this period of our work up to ignore doing it. When we view anytime in history that speak to us since as far back as antiquity those voices that relay back what happened are overwhelmingly those of the cultured few. The elites. The modern voices that carry on their tale are overwhelmingly those of white middle class European & north American males. Most of the history we have is from less that 2% of the human population since the beginning of time. 98% of the people who have lived on this planet have been poor & uneducated who didn’t have the luxury to write their history, to tell us what it was like to be persecuted, oppressed, or simply used to build the pyramids. We hear about what it took to build the pyramids from the side of the Pharos who planned them not the hundreds of thousands of people who had to give their lives to build them. What we call history is therefore a very very limited history. In a our very small way this is a snap shop of a significant piece of history in the addiction field. Written by those who gave their life’s to laying the foundations to the building & planning of something different to help those whose suffering from addictive disorders demanded not only that their voice be heard, but that their hearts & minds have access to the same resources the wealthy do to, to help us get well.
Here is the report with the 23 recommendations we gave to the politicians, some of which we are delighted to say have been implemented since we first published but not nearly enough of them.
The Recovery Research Institute’s National Recovery Study (Kelly et al., 2017) explored the experiences of a representative sample of 2,002 U.S. adults who self-reported resolution of an alcohol or other drug problem. A recently published secondary analysis of this survey data (Eddie et al., 2020) examined recovery-related changes across four areas: 1) self-improvement (e.g., changes in educational and employment circumstances), 2) family engagement (e.g., family reunification, financial support of family), 3) civic participation (e.g., volunteering, voting, helping others), and 4) economic participation (e.g., purchasing a car or home).
Major findings from this secondary survey analysis include the following:
*The resolution of an alcohol or other drug (AOD) problem in one’s lifetime is common among U.S. adults (9.1% of the adult population).
*The resolution of an AOD problem is often accompanied by changes beyond the deceleration or cessation of alcohol and other drug use.
*Eighty percent of adults who have resolved an AOD problem report significant achievements in one or more of the domains of self-improvement, family engagement, civic participation, and economic participation, since resolving their AOD problem.
*Recovery achievements across the four domains are associated with greater self-esteem, happiness, and overall quality of life.
*There is a linear, positive relationship between number of recovery achievements and duration of recovery.
*Greater levels of achievement following AOD problem resolution are related to greater addiction severity risk factors (early age of onset of drug use, illicit drug use), greater pre-recovery challenges (minority status, co-occurring psychiatric disorders), higher recovery capital (more education, longer duration of recovery resolution, regular 12-Step involvement), and lower current psychological distress. Regarding the race and ethnicity finding, Black and Hispanic survey respondent’s greater achievements in recovery compared to White/non-Hispanic respondents is a likely product of greater family instability (e.g., racial disparities in loss of parental rights) and economic insecurity (e.g., racial disparities in employment and disposable income) during addiction, with recovery serving as an amplified catalyst of family and economic stability for Black and Hispanics.
Seen as a whole, early life in recovery surveys and the latest U.S. population survey confirm that increased time in recovery is linked to:
*enhancement of housing stability,
*improvements in family engagement and support,
*increased community participation and contribution,
*reductions in domestic disturbance,
*reductions in arrests/imprisonment,
*reduced health care utilization and related health care costs.
Scientific studies have confirmed what many know from personal experience: Recovery bears fruit far beyond the deceleration or removal of drugs from an otherwise unchanged life.
In the rise of modern addiction treatment in the mid-twentieth century, it was common to have a broad spectrum of ancillary services (e.g., medical, educational, vocational, family support) integrated into addiction treatment. These existed for only a brief period before treatment reimbursement systems forced a narrowing of the service menu. How many more recovery achievements would be possible today if such “ancillary services” were re-integrated into addiction treatment and peer-based recovery support services?
Eddie, D., White, W. L., Vilsaint, C. L., Bergman, B. G., & Kelly, J. F. (2020). Reasons to be cheerful: Personal, civic, and economic achievements after resolving an alcohol or drug problem in the United States population. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, In Press.
Kelly, J. F., Bergman, B., Hoeppner, B., Vilsaint, C., & White, W. L. (2017) Prevalence, pathways, and predictors of recovery from drug and alcohol problems in the United States Population: Implications for practice, research, and policy. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 181, 162-169.
Kelly, J. F., Greene, M. C., & Bergman, B. G. (2018). Beyond abstinence: Changes in indices of quality of life with time in recovery in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 42(4), 770-780.
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.