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. 


I recently watched the PBS documentary, “Addiction” on the NOVA science series several times. I have seen book and movie reviews of Beautiful Boy. In an important and most informative part of the NOVA presentation, I was pleased to see the face and hear the voice of Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Volkow’s work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. She pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects and addictive properties of abusable drugs. Her studies have documented changes in the dopamine system as the brain strives to find balance between pleasure, pain, and motivation. Research has produced irrefutable evidence of the value of medicine in addiction treatment and recovery. The documentary states “addiction is a very treatable disease.”

The rise of an international recovery advocacy movement is, country by country, expanding the physical, psychological, social, and political space in which long-term personal and family recovery can flourish. Earlier posts have highlighted such efforts in Canada, the UK, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and East Africa. Today, we explore recovery advocacy in the Republic of Ghana in West Africa.

Ironically, it is at the margins of society that one discovers the moral center. –Van Jones

In a bleeding world, where are the sources of communal healing? When our connecting fabric is shredding under the assault of hateful rhetoric, where do we find common ground—settings where people speak with each other and not at and over each other? How can we escape the spell of political pimps of all persuasions creating and exploiting divisions for personal aggrandizement and ideological gain?

I regularly receive emails and phone calls that poignantly illuminate the stigma and discrimination people can face as they make the journey through addiction to recovery and a life of purpose and meaning. Drug warrior ideologues have employed manipulative rhetoric and caricatured images of people experiencing alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems for political, professional, and financial gain. The resulting policy and practice consequences have inflicted harm in multiple quarters, but perhaps most devastatingly upon those most directly affected by such problems. Misconceptions about the nature of addiction and pessimism about the potential for long-term recovery have fueled social stigma, led to the mass incarceration of drug users, and assured inadequate resource allocations for addiction treatment. Stigma has also inhibited help-seeking and created obstacles to recovery in such areas as housing, education, health care, and employment, as well as contributing to the social isolation of people in recovery. For people in recovery, addiction-related stigma can insert itself into all manner of restrictions years into the recovery process. Below is an illustration of such a restriction when Shiv Sharma, a member of the Board of SMART Recovery International (SRI), requested a visa to travel to the SRI board annual meeting in the U.S. (His letter to me is shared here with his permission.)

Progressive transformations of personal character and relationships are central themes within narratives of addiction and addiction recovery.

Entrapment within the self and its eroding effects on personal character are endemic features of addiction. Such entrapment goes by many names (narcissism, selfishness, self-centeredness), all reflecting a reordering of one’s needs and desires that morphs into near-total self-absorption—an entire orientation of being that shapes how we face the world and process reality. How one perceives, feels, thinks, judges, and acts are all transformed within this ever-shrinking capsule of self and the dominating self-drug relationship.

In 2012, I experimented with the creation of a recovery knowledge exam (See What is Your Recovery Quotient? Toward Recovery-focused Education of Addiction Professionals and Recovery Support Specialists). The 100-item test was intended to illustrate the training emphasis on drug trends, psychopharmacology, and addiction-related pathologies in marked contrast to the scant attention paid to the prevalence, pathways, styles, and stages of long-term addiction recovery.

In their classic 1992 text, The Spirituality of Imperfection, Ernie Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham described six dimensions of spirituality at the core of the recovery experience: release, gratitude, humility, tolerance, forgiveness, and being-at-home. In my prolonged mentorship by and collaborations with Ernie, we often returned to those central themes.

Meet Molly, one of our “Mama’s in Recovery”. Molly took the time to sit down with Faces & Voices of Recovery to share a bit of her story.

Molly leans on the ladies for support. “The group chats…get me out of my shell…I have acquaintances but not deep friendships…these girls make plans and I just show up…it’s hard sometimes to accept that they are there for me and that they care. I wonder sometimes if they do but they really do care”.

I was listening to James Taylor’s song, “Fire and Rain.” He wrote about his lived experience. A friend died, he had a “monkey on his back” and spent time in rehab for a “drug problem.” He wrote this line: I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend. He found one in Carol King and collaborated on the song “You’ve Got a Friend. I like this verse:  you're down and troubled and you need some love and care… the distant past, I enjoyed the drug alcohol, my only drug of choice. It was cheap, accessible, and legal. It served many purposes, alleviating pain in mind and body. I came to realize the pain stays mainly in the brain. Eliza Doolittle “My Fair Lady” might have said, it done well for me, till it done me in. I learned from a friend that alcohol is out to kill you, but first it wants to get you alone. It wants to be your best and only friend.  And, I might add, it says, you don’t need family either.

I rarely post guest blogs on this website, but occasionally I run across a piece of writing that strikes me as important to share with my readers. The short essay below was written by Erik Haines and offers insight into the growth of the recovery advocacy movement in Canada. It is posted here as originally written with the author’s permission.