News About Addiction, Recovery and Advocacy

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My relationships with White Bison founder Don Coyhis and with the Native American Wellbriety Movement are among the most important influences on my recovery advocacy and recovery research activities. I first met Don in the late 1990s as rumblings of a new addiction recovery advocacy movement in the United States were just beginning. In the years that followed, Don and I had innumerable opportunities to collaborate. We served together on boards of recovery advocacy organizations, shared speaking platforms at national conferences, and co-authored numerous articles and a book on the history of recovery in Native America. Through those years we mentored each other and became endeared friends—brothers of another mother, as is sometimes said.

April 15, 2016

Essentially, it is thought that the negative effects emanating from group trauma experiences are not only transferred across generations, but that these effects accumulate, such that events occurring at different points in history are part of a single traumatic trajectory.—Amy Bombay, Kimberly Matheson, and Hymie Anisman

Wakiksuyapi, those carrying the historical trauma, can transcend trauma through a collective survivor identity and a commitment to traditionally oriented values and healing. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart

It is a profound blessing to be part of something so much greater than ourselves—to contribute to a movement with full knowledge that its greatest fruits will be harvested by generations to come. If you have been graced with the promises of recovery or have lost someone to addiction, come join us in creating a world in which a message of hope is extended to all who still suffer and in altering the community landscapes in which such suffering flourishes. Addiction has long been marked by intergenerational legacies of pain and despair; personal/family recovery and recovery advocacy offer opportunities to replace such traumatic inheritances with legacies of hope, resilience, and active resistance. Join us. Let’s Go Make Some History.

The famed historian Barbara Tuchman once observed that the historian’s greatest challenge was capturing the history of the present—or as she put it, history that is “still smoking.” There is much within the worldwide history of addiction recovery that is still smoking...Collectively christened the recovery revolution, these developments are touching individuals, families, communities, and cultures in profound ways that warrant careful historical documentation. As a historian of addiction treatment and recovery in the United States, I can assure you that many past chapters within this history have been lost with only faint rumors of their existence remaining. It is my hope that the same will not be true of recovery within our current era. For those of you with a potential interest in preserving this history, listed below are activities that could help prevent such a loss.

For Alannah, it can be difficult getting to meetings but, “being able to talk to the girls makes me feel like I’m doing something for my recovery everyday”. As a stay at home mom, Alannah is learning to tend house and says that, “there is no other job I’d rather do, I love staying home with them”.

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.