Monday, 1 June 2009

The road to recovery one year on still not good enough

A call for ACTION on Recovery in Scotland
So one year on after the launch of the new drug strategy the Government have:
“Announced that we are setting up new body, called the Scottish Drugs Recovery Consortium, to be a key driver for Recovery and drug misuse. It will meet the commitment in The drugs strategy to set up a drugs recovery network. The Consortium will advocate, catalyse and lobby for recovery to be the mainstay of drug services. It will also provide a public face to liaise with policy makers and the media and tackle the stigma that people who are in recovery too often face.”
Whilst I welcome this new body, why did it take a year for its announcement and how long before they become operational? And what if any power/influence will they have exactly?
I read the new report “The Road to Recovery: One year on” with mixed feelings. My overall impression is one year on and still not anywhere near good enough.
I feel those involved are missing the central most important point to the new strategy. The central message is not that “addiction is a disease” and the debate on the language of recovery or recovered etc, or that “treatment works”, but rather that…
Permanent recovery from drug-related problems is not only possible, but a reality in the lives of thousands of individuals and families here in Scotland already.
Also, I still find myself and others being caught in the debate over whether the roots of addiction lie in the medical arena (a problem of susceptibility) or the moral arena (a problem of culpability), and it keeps many lost in circular and unhelpful arguments when already we have real solutions to addiction…
… the evidence of which is in the transformed lives of recovering and recovered people across Scotland today.
For me, demonstrated solutions to alcohol and drug problems will do more to reduce the stigma attached to these conditions than will endless debates about the source of such problems.
The new strategy should be clear that its focus is not about finding the source or nature of addiction, nor on the solutions that science may provide tomorrow. Instead, the focus is on the solutions that are possible at this moment, if resources can be mobilised to effectuate them.
The debate I would really like to have is more about current resources being spent well on recovery focused integrated systems, instead of being spent on what we still have on the ground which is still very harm reduction focused. I have seen little about this debate and I see little change in this particular direction taking place any time soon. Or soon enough for me anyway.
I did not read in this document about the progress of people who we are supposed to be helping to recover. I also did not read anything about ’1. Building strong, grassroots organizations that develop recovery leaders, offer opportunities for recovering people to express their collective voice and provide a forum for community service.’
Nor anything about advocating for meaningful representation and voices for people in recovery and their family members on issues that affect their lives.
Certainly nothing about or related to the adequacy and quality of local treatment and recovery support services. I certainly did not read enough about educating the public, policymakers and service providers about the prevalence and pathways of addiction recovery.
I didn’t see any plans to be celebrating recovery from addiction through public events that offer living testimony of the transformative power of recovery.
And finally although there was some, I did not see enough support for research that illuminates effective strategies and the processes of long-term recovery.
One of the most powerful ways the Scottish Government and leaders in the field of addiction here in Scotland could effect change would be by putting out a call for help and guidance to the already existing recovering community who have achieved recovery from addiction and are passing as ‘civilians’ within the larger culture.
As Bill White said, “It is time we came out of hiding; it is time we announced our presence; it is time that our collective silence was broken.”
I’m not expecting that all or even a majority of persons will go public with their recovery story, but that a sufficient number will choose to do so and that this choice will widen the doorway of entry to recovery for those who are still suffering.
This does not mean a simple brochure or pamphlet that only those in the field will be likely to come in to contact with. This would have to be a general public call to all of Scotland, perhaps dare I say a whole population approach!
Drug/Alcohol misuse in Scotland is not an Issue, it is THE ISSUE. Remember the Audit Scotland report released a few months ago. It’s costing the country in excess of £5 billion. Is there any other issue in our country costing us more than this financially, never mind mentally, spiritually or emotionally?
If we did have a whole population approach to a call for recovered people to come forward, what would such a campaign achieve.
Well, for starters it would make clear that instead of always portraying alcoholism and addictions as problems, we could highlight that there are viable and varied recovery solutions. In doing this, they would be providing living role models that illustrate the diversity of those recovery solutions…
… and in doing so, countering any public attempt to dehumanize, objectify and demonize those with problems.
It would also highlight and advocate the variety, availability, and quality of local/regional treatment and recovery support services, good and bad.
For me, the Scottish government need to help recovery forums organise (like what’s happening in the NW of England at local and regional levels). We must build these forums within local recovering communities while building connecting tissue and forging an inclusive identity across these communities.
Given the diversity of local groups, both in terms of their membership, composition and their primary foci, the Scottish government/ the new Recovery commission/network/consortium must be able to embrace groups with widely varying philosophies and agendas.
The Recovery agenda/strategy must be, above all, grounded in recovery values: honesty, simplicity, humility, gratitude, and service. I am certain that these values are not current practice in the leadership of our field here in Scotland today.
I was pleased to see that there is to be investment in research, as the question of “How do we get persons suffering from alcohol and other drug problems into treatment?” needs to be reframed to the question of ”How do we get them into recovery?” The answers to these two questions are not necessarily the same.
The future of the recovery agenda does not hinge solely on recent or future scientific data on the etiology of AOD problems/addictions. It hinges on the emergence of a science of recovery extracted from the lives of those who have achieved such recovery. This is one area of research that has to be heavily invested in and I welcome the start of this.
I have to remind myself social change is like personal change, in that it involves the twin challenges of initiating change and then sustaining that change over time. Social change, like personal recovery, requires a maintenance program in order to avoid regression and relapse.
During my own recovery, it has been interesting to watch those people who came to their recovery path after me, whose own transformation spans years of false starts and regressions, get involved in advocacating for better services and watch them like me become impatient and angry at the slow pace of change in our communities.
I have to remind myself that conversion experiences are rarer for communities than they are for individuals. Social change often involves the same slow stages of change that so often mark the process of Personal recovery.
Finally, again I will leave you and me with a Bill White Warning:
“Carefully heed the adage ‘He who pays the piper picks the tune’; find your own voice and sing only your own song. Be aware of seeking funding from any source that changes, no matter how subtly, your thinking, your vocabulary, your mission, or your methods.
Find a way to use money temperately to achieve your mission; money has no value and becomes destructive when it takes your “eyes off the prize.” If you evolve into funded treatment agencies, you will have failed by professional absorption.”
Finally finally, I will repeat… Yes, I am impatient and yes, we/the government have made a start but no, it is still not good enough, one year on!

1 comment:

alistair mackinnon said...

Annemarie... I have a very crazy idea about this. Am going to approach David Best with it and a few others.
contact me