Monday, 28 November 2011

DrugScope Comment: Hurrah for Balloons

DrugScope Comment: Hurrah for Balloons: Dr Marcus Roberts, Director of Membership and Policy, DrugScope I was recently talking to some colleagues about the outbreak of purple bal...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Eloquent Ranting?

Wee eloquent rant from  Alistair Sinclair

Did a bit of a presentation to Wakefield service providers this afternoon, at their 'Recovery Uncovered' event. Followed Mark Gilman which is a bit of a challenge. I decided to take the title literally and have a go at the 'uncovering' bit; Mostly after I heard someone down the room say "we've been doing it for years".

I asked them if they had strength-based systems embedded within all serviceprovision. I asked them if they centred everything round clear recovery values (that everyone was aware of) and these values had been generated with the community (inc people in recovery/recovering and front-line workers) and were regularly reflected upon/discussed by all. I asked them what the 'Recovery principles' were.

I asked if they had established clear recovery-orientated standards and measures and if these had been generated with people in recovery/recovering and front-line workers. I asked them if they proactively engaged in anti stigma and anti- discrimination campaigns. I asked them if they engaged proactively in any social justice issues at all. I asked them if they'd heard of Bill White and/or Larry Davidson and/or John Mcknight.

I asked them how they proactively embraced 'primacy of participation' principles in all aspects of service planning, delivery and review. I asked them how they demonstrated that they instilled/renewed optimism, hope and belief. I asked them how they demonstrated they supported people in finding their place in the community, how they supported people in identifying their strengths and the assets that existed in the community, how they supported the re-defining of self, how they built recovery into harm reduction services. I asked them if their assessment documentation was strength-orientated.

I asked how they could commission 'recovery-orientated' services without a quality framework for recovery.

I didn't get any answers. The bloke who said "we've been doing it for years" left the room during my presentation. I might not be getting invited back.

Some days I just can't keep pretending that some services have the slightest idea of what 'recovery-orientated services' are let alone what 'Recovery' is. This is not down to most people at the front end of services. They do the best they can with what they've got. This is the responsibility of a government that 'champions' recovery whilst stripping away the things that might support it and, all the while, generates a disgusting 'deserving/undeserving poor' narrative. This is the responsibility of civil servants who mouth the latest thing they are expected to mouth without taking the time to listen, understand and challenge. This is the responsibility of commissioners who embrace lunatic schemes like payment by Results (which flies in the face of recovery-orientation and commodifies everybody in the process) and stand silent whilst the naked emperor walks past. This is the responsibility of the big charities who (knowingly and cynically) take the money in the pursuit of their expansionist dreams. This is the responsibility of all who stand by as things become just a little bit more unequal day by day. This is the responsibility of those who remain silent.

It's been one of those days. It's been one of those weeks. No; I'm not ready to let go. When I've got a few more comrades alongside me; walking the walk, then maybe.
We make the path by walking it.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Community Action Article for Drink & Drug News

What is the ‘recovery movement’? The term is used by all sorts of individuals and groups with a vested interest in ‘recovery’.

However, most of the ‘leading lights’ in the ‘recovery world’ come from treatment, or organisations with very close links to treatment, which raises some important questions. Is the recovery movement situated within treatment, or is it primarily situated within the wider community? Do we have a recognisable recovery movement, or do we have a lot of very disparate groups and individuals? Recovery communities have
existed in the UK for a long time and mutual aid groups can be found in most areas – do these communities and groups self-identify as being part of a recovery movement? Can treatment actually ‘build’ recovery in the community – is it an either/or proposition? And, if the movement does principally sit within communities,
why don’t we hear more from voices of recovery in these communities?

There’s movement within treatment towards a ‘recovery orientation’. However I think there’s still limited knowledge of recovery’s historical roots within the substance and mental health field, with many unclear as to what recovery means within the context of service provision and within the community. There’s still a
need to identify and clarify the core values and strengths that underpin recovery orientation within treatment, and significant work required to develop recovery orientated standards.

What of the wider recovery movement – what is it and where is it? If we accept that the recovery movement is a social/civil rights/grassroots movement that concerns itself explicitly with political advocacy, I think we must also accept that it will only be generated and sustained in communities by people who are
recovering and in recovery, and their allies. How wide they stretch these terms will be up to them. Where are their ‘leading lights’, where are their voices heard? The UK Recovery Federation (UKRF) believes there is a need to find and support new voices within services – because treatment does sit within communities – and
within the wider community.

We believe it is these new voices – alongside current activists – that will articulate, define and shape the UK recovery movement.

So what is the UKRF doing to support the emergence of a distinct UK recovery movement? Last year I wrote a piece that suggested that while mutual aid (in its widest sense) was a core component of the wider recovery movement, we hadn’t established a unified recovery vision and language that was acceptable to all
(DDN, 13 September 2010, page 14). It’s the UKRF view that recovery can only be owned’ by individuals and communities and they will define its terms. As recovery sits within individuals in their lived environments, and is built through our strengths, passions and connections to others as human beings, there is a need
for new community-based recovery networks that will bring people in recovery and recovering, and their families, friends and allies, together.

The formation of new diverse networks – built around strong recovery principles and an asset-based approach – will define and shape the recovery movement, and this movement will find its strength, voice and direction in diverse and inclusive communities. These communities need the active support of recovery-orientated services but will define their own agenda as they identify and develop their recovery capital. In the article we proposed the establishment of five regional recovery networks in the north-west and said that we would be holding a conference in Preston in September, in partnership with the NTA, to promote this, our ‘big idea’.

Since last September the ‘big idea’ has got bigger. Independent of the UKRF,  two new recovery federations initiated by Mark Gilman of the NTA – principally through Wiredin – were established in Greater Manchester and Cheshire. The UKRF has supported the establishment of a Merseyside Recovery Network and
this network has embraced the UKRF recovery principles (as have the Lanarkshire Addiction Recovery Consortium in Scotland and other groups) and a strengthbased approach. Around 40 people attended the last meeting of the Merseyside network, and over the last three months we’ve focused on the mapping of
individual strengths and the assets of local associations and institutions.

This mapping will determine what the network decides to do while at the same time identifying new opportunities within the community for people in recovery and recovering. The next Merseyside Recovery Network meeting will focus on the building of new relationships across the Merseyside area. It’s our view – echoed in work by the RSA in its Connecting Communities Project and Whole-Person Recovery Project (DDN, 6 December 2010, page 18) – that the facilitation of access to diverse new connections generates and sustains recovery.

The Merseyside Recovery Network brings together people from abstinencefocused traditions, harm reduction and others in recognition of the fact that ‘recovery transcends, whilst embracing harm reduction and abstinence-focused approaches and does not seek to be prescriptive’ (UKRF recovery principle). The
UKRF wants to support individuals within the Merseyside Recovery Network to become recovery community organisers (RCOs) – people trained (drawing on their lived experience) in values-based and asset-based approaches and enabled to support others in the development of new recovery networks and communities.

The UKRF supported a major event in the south-east in April when recovery community members came together with service providers at the Guildhall in Portsmouth to begin to explore strength-based approaches and the beginnings of new relationships founded on our similarities as human beings. The event, organised and facilitated by people from the recovery community, led to the formation of the South-East Recovery Network, and this network will be hosting the 2012 UK Recovery Walk in Brighton. A smaller-scale event in Bedfordshire took place in June, organised by Bedfordshire DAAT and supported by the UKRF, and a
Bedfordshire Recovery Network is now going to be established with SUSSED (a local service user-led group) at its heart.

The UKRF is also in discussion with recovery community members in the London boroughs of Kingston (RISE) and Camden (Camden Frontline) and presented a proposal for a London Recovery Network at the London User Forum in June. Lancashire will soon have its own recovery network and a north-east recovery network is likely (alongside the east Midlands) in the near future.

The UKRF envisages a time when there will be recovery networks in every region of the UK – every locality, every city and every town. Diverse and vibrant, they will be reflective of their membership, but bound together
through shared values, a commitment to the equality and potential of human beings, and the growth of the strengths that every person has.

Recovery networks are growing and they are spreading. People are coming together to support each other, identify and access new opportunities and mobilise for change. With strong social justice principles at their heart, these networks are beginning to connect with each other, often through relatively new media like Facebook. Where once people and communities were isolated and alone they are beginning to reach out past old boundaries to shape new identities and make new friends. The UKRF has forged new links with abstinence-focused and harm reduction focused groups and individuals to facilitate this process. It’s a beginning. The recovery networks we see emerging welcome all those who seek to recover – as they define it
– and are working to build something new within their communities.

At our conference in Cardiff on 9 September we will bring many people from these networks together to explore how we can continue to support the new recovery movement through the development of new inclusive and diverse recovery networks and the establishment of recovery community organisers. We will also be discussing and debating a UKRF recovery consensus statement that will reflect where we believe recovery lives – within communities and individuals and grounded in a commitment to the
challenging on inequality and injustice.

The recovery movement can support agencies in developing recoveryorientated services. We believe recovery networks have a significant role to play in public health responses to unhealthy dependencies in individuals and communities, on individual, cultural and structural levels. However we believe the new recovery networks will principally focus on advocacy for those that are recovering and in recovery and on the building of new cultures of recovery within our communities.

We hope that as many people as possible will stay in Cardiff for the third UK Recovery Walk on Saturday 10 September. We will be celebrating the achievements and strengths of people in recovery and recovering, and
the people that support them, coming together in solidarity and friendship. It’s our intention that the UKRF conference and the third UK Recovery Walk will play a significant role in celebrating and supporting the
many new faces and voices of recovery in the UK. Many of those who come to Cardiff in September will play a significant part in the evolution of the new UK recovery movement. It will rise from communities, and in
communities it will be sustained.

We make the path by walking it. Written for DDN by  Alistair Sinclair who is a director of UKRF

Friday, 1 July 2011

Recovery in the UK

In response to our Swedish friends who are trying to create support for a movment in their country, where Peapod from the UK  Guest Blogged on Recovery Genisis, evolution, and revolution?  UK - Part 1 and Part 2

Please see

Hi Magnus, Jimmy and everyone else reading, an interesting take from Mr. Peapod indeed on the still conceptual movement here in the UK.

As we know social change happens only when the majority of citizens are alerted, educated, and motivated to be concerned about a problem, and are only as powerful as the power of their grassroots support. One of the key tasks for the UK Recovery Federation is to focus on and to win over the public, not to change the minds and policies of official power holders. As we have seen already here in the UK when power holders fail to respond to initial movement demands, many activists become depressed and angry. This can lead to burnout, dropout, unnecessary compromises, or aimless rebelliousness.

Pace yourself it’s a marathon.

The process of putting social problems on society’s agenda, winning a large majority, and subsequently achieving long-range movement goals occurs over many years. This lengthy process includes reaching many sub-goals along the way. WE should evaluate our movement by how well it is moving along the road of success, not by whether it has achieved its long-term goals. Activists can develop strategies and tactics that advance their movement along the next segment of the road, instead of trying to achieve the long-range goals immediately & directly. The quotes mentioned from 2 of the individuals took place around two years ago now, and believe me there has been major progress since then. I am reminded of a quote a friend put on face book yesterday he said Tell me and I MIGHT listen....Show me and I MIGHT pay attention....Involve me and I WILL learn.

This is exactly one of the reasons why we think the UKRF principles are so important to a framework to build a movement around, at their very basic we are talking about equality, security, preservation, justice, democracy, love, forgiveness, caring, honesty, compassion, and understanding.

Of course without adherence to these fine principles there is always the possibility of agent provocateurs to disrupt or discredit movements by promoting internal violence, hostility, dissension, dishonesty and confusion.

In approaching any injustice that we want to transform, we need to know the facts and factors of the situation. We need to understand the policy or condition “in the round” — from every angle.

This means carefully describing this policy and its consequences both accurately and honestly, taking a fearless inventory perhaps?

We have to ask ourselves what are the cultural attitudes or assumption that keep the status quo in place? In other words, how is this status quo sustained?

I believe that the status quo/power is not a magical substance invested in policy-makers; in fact, policy-makers rely on the consent of the people. We need to analyze and question our response (strategically and in a coordinated way) to the ways the population has given its tacit or overt support to the status quo.

In other words the Gandhian process of identifying the truth of the situation: the truth and untruth of our position, and the truth and untruth of the status quos position.

It is the UKRFs belief based on our analysis and that we must address injustice that violates central human and cultural values if we are to have a movement of any kind.

■We hope by using humility, intelligence and persistence, to communicate to those that are skeptical that there really is a bigger issue here and that we have to build a co-ordinated and inclusive plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. We believe in looking for what is positive in the actions and statements those who are opposed make and we never seek to humiliate but to find creative ways to call forth the similarities in our goals rather than the difference, looking always for ways that through unity we can all gain strength and win.

One of the aims of the recovery walks and celbratory events is to secure public support for change. We hope as these events grow, we will be educating the public, and at the same time, building alliances with key organizations.

We have much to gain by working with those who traditionally would have been polarized perhaps even entrenched to resolve the injustices of the people we are supposed to serve. Our actions as a movement must be designed to give the largest number of people possible the opportunity to participate, own and belong.

Of course at times direct action introduces a “creative tension” that may look like conflict but it will be these tensions that will highlight and be most effective when to illustrate the injustice we seek to correct.

The UKRF believes that education, dialogue and action can create the conditions for a strong diverse and vibrant movement to emerge. The UKRF seeks friendship and understanding with those who are unsure, question or even oppose as we believe we have much more similarities in our common opponents of inadequate systems, outdated policies, and unjust acts, against vulnerable people.

The UKRF believes that Reconciliation includes the opponent being able to “save face.” Each act of genuine reconciliation is one step closer to the goal of human life, which Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “Beloved Community.”

Both the individuals and the entire community are empowered. With this come new struggles for justice and a new beginning.

UKRF Principle 11. Honesty, self-awareness and openness lie at the heart of Recovery.

Alistairs response to part 1

June 30 2011

Alistair Sinclair

I think it useful it's useful to Consider what is happening in the UK as two 'movements'. A 'movement' (Contested and Confused) Toward a 'recovery-orientation' Within 'treatment' increasingly grounded Within a public health arena and a (Developing) social / civil movement at the grassroots level. This Reflects some of the experience in the United States.

"There is accumulating evidence of two new emerging and Potentially complimentary movements:

1) a recovery movement That is affirming the very real potential for permanent

staff resolution of Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) problems, and

2) A Public Health Movement That ice Offering solutions to AOD problems at the

community and cultural levels. "

William White 'Toward a New Recovery Movement: Historical Reflections on Recovery, Treatment and Advocacy', Recovery Community Support Program Conference, "Working Together for Recovery", April 3-5, 2000

I think it's interesting to note That Many organizational and Individual Cited as 'voices' Within the recovery arena are situated Within treatment or Have very close links with it. Clearly this is relevant When We Consider recovery-orientation Within treatment. However I think we Need to hear from a lot more from new 'Voices' Within the community, People Who are Engaged at a grassroots level in Political Advocacy.

The UK Recovery Federation (UKRF) speed made this engagement ITS principal focus, Supporting the development of community-led Recovery Networks Developed around strong Recovery Principles and Values ​​and Embracing Strengths / Asset-Based Approach. We believe this is elsewhere a Recovery Movement Will Grow, shaped and articulated by communities and not by treatment. We've found Many Within the harm reduction activist WHO World Have embraced this vision Alongside Those Who traditionally havebeen located Within abstinence-oriented communities. Two are mentioned in Peapod's blog, Pat O'Hare and Alan Joyce. It Should be noted That Their comments were made Within a context, a critique of a 'Politically driven agenda That framed' recovery 'as' abstinence' and little else. Have things moved on and Both Pat and Alan Have expressed considerable support for a 'progressive' recovery movement. It's very early days but the signs are looking good.

Many people from Mutual Aid tradition are looking to commit in a Wider Sense Within Their communities and Have found common Cause with 'harm reductionists', starting to form the Beginnings of a 'movement' with strong social justice Principles at its center. It's the view of Many That Addressing the Issue of Inequality and Discrimination is Key to the development and sustaining of this new civil rights movement. It's Certainly what Seems to excite a lot of interest at the grassroots level along

My response to part 2

We Have to be careful we do not try to influence our own role in the movement by prematurely attempting to write history as we see it.

Alistairs Response to Part 2

Alistair Sinclair

Just for Clarification; the UKRF Does not Claim to Represent the Recovery Movement nationally. We were set up to support the Recovery Walks (and There Will Be Extensive coverage of the Walk this year in trade journals) Promote the UKRF Recovery Principles ( ) And support the development of various UK-Wide Recovery Networks. We believe it Will Be These Networks coming together That Will Represent the Recovery Movement. We do not feel there is a group as yet That Can make this claim, Certainly not That groups are rooted in 'Treatment'. We're even quite a way off Having a representative group Within Treatment That Can realistically claim to Have A Coherent mandates of practitioners although the new "Recovery Partnership '(DrugScope, the National Skills Con consortium and Recovery Group UK) is heading in this direction.

We make the path by walking it.

Big hug Annemarie x

To see the other UKRF principles please go to

Monday, 6 June 2011

How am I coping?

I have been asked quite a lot recently how I am coping with a particular difficult situation in my life and my answer has become increasing clear the more I am asked to share about it with those who care about me.  This particular set of circumstances as with every difficulty in my life since getting in to recovery I deal with by going contrary to my natural desires. My reactions of old would have been to lash out defend, justify rationalise etc, especially if I had done something wrong. These are all well know behaviour traits of an someone suffering from addiction or "isms" and even traits of the unwell “addict” who is abstinent.

So how have I coped ? Well the same way I cope with everything in my life, using the three Ps….. The People, The power and The Programme. The people of course comfort me and those who are in fellowship with me help me to use the 12 step programme”. (The Power is a god of my understanding).

I am blessed with the having experience of practicing the inventory process of step 4 and 5 for almost 14 years now, these steps like all of the other 10 steps in my programme deflate my ego. My practice tells me that when it comes to ego deflation, few steps are harder to take than step Five. But scarcely any Step is more necessary for long-time sobriety and peace of mind than this one.

It has also been my experience of observing folks who balk at these steps  “step 4 out the door” and or holding back on Step Five some people are unable to stay sober at all and others relapse periodically until they really (clean house step 4 & 5).

It has also been my experience to have watched people with many years clean use/relapse as a result of not doing these two steps with the thoroughness and fearlessness our sponsors beg us to take them with (the only time you will see a person in recovery beg by the way).
Always before the relapse they displayed certain behaviours, i.e. being irritable, anxious, full of remorse or depressed. I don’t mean clinical depression that’s something different altogether but the type of depression that comes from being completely self absorbed. 

Those who are lucky enough to get back to meetings always talk about similar themes ie how they were unconsciously seeking relief from this irritability, anxiety, remorse, depression by acting out in lots of different ways. Buying bigger and better stuff, having more of something, things like sex money power, etc and especially that they would be too busy taking everyone else’s inventory (step 4) to take their own, and they would end up accusing even their best friends and allies of the very character defects they themselves were trying to conceal.  The one thing they all had in common is that they always discovered that relief never came by confessing the sins of other people. Everybody had to confess his own.

Step 5 also gave me the gift of forgiveness and no matter how deeply we felt people had wronged us. By taking this “moral” inventory I was completely persuaded that forgiveness was not only desirable, but absolutely essential if I wanted any sort of peace of mind and to live my life free of resentments that influenced everything from my beliefs to my values. I also learned real  humility--a word often misunderstood which to me  amounts to a clear recognition of what and who I really am, followed by sincere attempt to become what I can be and to reach to fulfil my potential as a human being.

My first practical experience and understanding is recognition of my deficiencies, and I have many of course, I am a deeply flawed human being but what these two steps gave me is a clear sight of what my deficiencies are.

When I took that first inventory nearly 14 years ago now it came as quite a surprise that I lacked honesty and tolerance, that I was beset at times by attacks of self-pity or delusions of personal grandeur, that my victim status ultimately excluded me from taking responsibility for my life. Yes this was a humiliating experience, but it didn't necessarily mean I had much actual humility. It wasn’t until I realised something could be done about these deficiencies by practicing more realism and therefore more honesty about myself were the great gains I received / receive while practicing step 5.

It was amazing to see how much trouble self-delusion had been causing me, that for a lot of my life I had more or less fooled myself this was paradoxically the beginning of a great freedom for me.

So how now can I be sure I’m not still self-deceived? Because I am rarely  bothered by fear, self-pity and hurt feelings, although I still have self doubt in that when I do take inventory I have to be sure that I am appraising myself fairly (in much of my original step 4 I took responsibility for many harms that were not my own doing. (A double winner? Hi to any al anons reading this ;)

I was taught that too much guilt and remorse might cause me to dramatise and exaggerate my shortcomings. Or anger and hurt pride might be the smoke screen under which I was hiding some of my defects, while I blamed others for them, (you know if I am pointing the finger there are three fingers pointing back at me.)

This self appraisal, and the admission of my defects based on that rigorous self inventory process isn’t enough though I still have to have outside help if I am to continually admit the truth about myself, for me I use The power (a god of my understanding) and another human being who knows my defects very well, because what comes to me as insight may well be nothing of the sort and only a garbled nonsense by my own rationalization and wishful thinking. 

I have found that It is only by continuing to discuss myself honestly, holding back nothing, being willing to take advice and accept direction can I get a remain on the road of straight thinking, solid honesty, and genuine humility and when I am troubled or need to make a life changing decision I have over the last 14 years been taught to always check in with friends or my spiritual advisors, but the final word always lies within.

By practicing these two steps with the fearlessness and thoroughness that was begged of me, a healing tranquillity remains with me through times of stress and even when fear creeps in I know there is an never-ending source of that tranquilly available if I can retune in to the steps that precede 4&5 and I am reset on the road of happy destiny trudging along the road towards full and meaningful sobriety.

Trudge trudge. 

Thursday, 2 June 2011

What’s the relationship between addiction, poverty and self-determination?

I wrote this thinking about the possibilities of Independence for Scotland and it was written specifically for the wonderful blog

I think most folks can agree in terms of behavioural health that empowerment can be a wonderful thing for those that have the ‘capital’ to claim it. Empowerment means deciding for yourself what your life will be rather than having most of the decisions made for you by others.
Scotland’s dependency to substances is well documented, as are the links between socio-economic circumstances and health, but there is an increasing Scottish evidence base that shows higher levels of dependence, violence and suicide in the west coast of Scotland when compared to areas of the UK with identical socio-economic circumstances. Glasgow has been overtaken in the health stakes by Eastern European cities struggling to shrug off the legacy of communism. It’s being left behind as illustrated in the statistics from Liverpool and Manchester, which show, like-for-like, Glasgow’s citizens are dying younger whatever their wealth. Various theories have been put forward to explain this effect; the weather, Genetics, a cultural death wish?
I’m sure there are many years and grants for research to be made from studying the problem but ultimately it’s the solution that interests me and that solution I believe lies in “Community Health”. This is a relatively new term. We use it to refer to an especially important, but frequently overlooked, dimension of mental health/addiction recovery, an extension of the traditional public health model, a community health perspective.
So it’s easy to think about ill health in terms of epidemic waves; a collision between personal vulnerability and social opportunity if you will. Addiction hits at it hardest with vulnerable people in vulnerable families in vulnerable communities. Heroin & cheap booze and a whole new myriad of “legal highs” (now incidentally forced into the black market where other illegal ‘highs’ are widely available) are anaesthetics to unemployment. In devastated communities, where we find whole generations that are financially better off on benefits and many who do work holding up little hope of ‘getting on’ (up the housing ladder, promotional ladder or even getting beyond just making ends meet), substances of all hue present as a ‘reasonable’ solution.
The infectious nature of addiction/mental health is a subject that has been examined from nearly every angle. However a reverse view is becoming increasingly more clear—healthy and unhealthy behaviour is extremely contagious in our social networks.
Social contagion’, ‘Epidemics’ Individuals, Families, and communities can “catch” Recovery if exposed to it.
I am continually exposed to this power and have great hope that as a nation we can recover. However I think the solution is three fold in nature.
1. Suitable tax powers and a smaller more dynamic state could generate economic activity and get the nation working again, especially in the growing area of green energy renewables. This would generate meaningful work and opportunities for our people.
2. Recovery from addictions is not only possible, it is the reported experience of many people who have (had) addiction problems. Recovery unfolds in the lived, physical community as well as in
the substance misusing communities and it has significant consequences for those wider communities. The growth of ‘recovery capital’ as a collective community concept will involve mutual empowerment; support and recovery contagion in substance misusing groups and it will manifest itself in improved functioning for the family and the wider community. The growth of ‘recovery capital’ within the community, and its impact, should be measured in terms of those lived communities. Recovery capital consists of social, physical, human and cultural capital:
Social capital is defined as the sum of resources that each person has as a result of their relationships, and includes both support from and obligations to groups to which they belong; thus, family membership provides supports but will also entail commitments and obligations to the other family members.
2 Physical capital is defined in terms of tangible assets such as property and money that may increase recovery options (e.g. being able to move away from existing friends/networks or to a¤ord an expensive detox service).
3 Human capital includes skills, positive health, aspirations and hopes, and personal resources that will enable the individual to prosper. Traditionally, high educational attainment and high intelligence have been regarded as key aspects of human capital, and will help with some of the problem solving that is required on a recovery journey.
4 Cultural capital includes the values, beliefs and attitudes that link to social conformity and the ability to fit into dominant social behaviours.
Research, and my own and many others ‘lived experience’, tells us that for those who sustain their recovery, success can be attributed to several key areas. The process of healing ourselves, our families and our communities can make us assets as we start to make amends for the harms we caused and ‘give back’ to our families & communities. Passing on our recovery, ‘ being there’ for those who are still impacted by their damaging dependencies, developing higher levels of ‘recovery capital’, helps us to sustain and maintain our own individual recovery journeys.
Recovery is a “process” of exposure often ‘caught’ through ‘laws of attraction’ from those who have recovered. If exposed enough we can, with work, catch ‘recovery’ from other people in recovery and then pass it on. Families “catch recovery” too and have the potential to spread recovery to others and, if this exposure is optimised, whole communities have the potential to ‘recover’. Of course, many recovered people still carry the stigma and shame off addiction and choose to go about being of service to their families and communities in an anonymous fashion. But, if their community previously saw them as ‘addicted’ their recovery is now visible and contagious. This ‘recovery presence’ this articulation of experience, strength, hope, this evidence of recovery as a reality, has the potential to generate new recovery in all our communities within Scotland.
In Scotland we spend a terrifying estimated 6 billion pounds a year in the addiction treatment arena which often comes under severe criticism for its perceived ‘enabling’ of people around the maintenance of their addictions. Treatments role has to be redefined and clarified. I believe its role is to initiate, introduce and support the hope strength and experience of recovery. The business of ‘sustained recovery’ cannot be achieved in treatment; settings, no matter how compassionate or how knowledgeable the staff are around theories of addiction. While communities cannot prosper through divisiveness and discrimination neither can we as a people recover from our dependence on substances. Rather than waiting to rejoin community life until recovery has been achieved (whether through detox, inpatient care, residential treatment, skills training, etc.) I have found that people are more likely to engage in the work of recovery through the process of establishing or re-establishing their lives within communities. To borrow from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s classic “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” we have found recovery delayed is recovery denied.
3. If the people of Scotland are fully empowered and informed then they can decide for themselves whether they wish to exercise power over their lives and their “country”. Of course, they may decide that they wish much power to remain elsewhere, out of their hands, just as the person with low ‘recovery capital’ might . But I believe we should at least have the opportunity to make this, and related decisions, with our eyes wide open to the possibilities of what’s on offer. In the same way that someone, trapped by addiction or facing psychiatric disability should be free of discrimination, dogma and oppression and enabled to begin their recovery journey so should the Scottish people be enabled and supported in deciding their future.
About the UK Recovery Federation
In all of our work, we are committed to openly and respectfully accompany people, families, organisations, and communities in their journeys of healing and recovery. Our work is best pursued in partnership with individuals and families, local community members, health service providers, researchers and public policy makers.
Recovery and community inclusion occur as a person’s gifts, strengths, and interests are valued and shared. Communities become stronger as they include the resources and talents of all people. Recovery and community inclusion are experienced in the midst of natural relationships in local neighbourhoods, families and friendships.
Our mission is rooted in our commitment to collaboration, flexibility, responsiveness, creativity and person-first approaches.
Recovery refers to the ways that people with psychiatric disabilities or addictions live with their disorders and reclaim their lives in the community. Recovery-oriented care is the assistance that psychiatric and addiction treatment and rehabilitation practitioners provide in support of a person’s recovery.
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. It has been interesting to watch recovering people whose own transformation spans years of false starts and regressions get involved in advocacy and become impatient and angry at the slow pace of change in their communities. 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.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

What is Your Recovery Quotient?

Scroll to the bottom of the Bills page to find the link to this fun quiz (that is if your not distracted by everything else that I'm sure will interest you,

The author says.....The certification exams used to judge the competency of addiction professionals (from addiction counselors to physicians specializing in addiction medicine) rely almost exclusively on questions that test one’s knowledge of the psychopharmacology of drugs, addiction and its related pathologies and the theories and methods of addiction counseling and treatment. Striking by their absence are questions about the stages, styles, pathways and processes of long-term recovery and the history and philosophies of American communities of recovery.

The following questions were developed in an afternoon of musing about the recovery quotient of addiction professionals and what an exam would look like that tested knowledge related to the history, theory, science and practice of non-clinical recovery support. There is nothing magical about these particular questions; I suspect on another afternoon I might come up with a quite different list of questions. But the questions included will sensitize the reader to the central point of this exercise: there is a body of knowledge about recovery that is quite distinct from the bodies of knowledge about addiction and addiction treatment.
The intent of this little quiz is to stimulate interest in the lived solutions to the problems many of us have devoted our lives to addressing. So take a few moments and evaluate your recovery quotient. Most of the topics imbedded in these questions are discussed in the papers posted at,

Please have a look or 2 and enjoy.

Toward Recovery-focused Education of Addiction Professionals
And Recovery Support Specialists
William L. White
(March 2012)

Sunday, 15 May 2011

UK Recovery Federation: 2nd Recovery Summit

 Friday 9th September 2011
All Nations Centre, Cardiff 

‘Many Pathways to Recovery: Building on our Strengths’
Key note speaker: Keith Humphreys (Career Research Scientist, US Veterans Health Administration, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University): ‘Creating a UK-wide Recovery Consensus: Lessons from the US

Presentations (speakers to be announced):

*      The strengths that underpin Recovery
*      Recovery oriented Drug Treatment
*      Harm Reduction and Recovery
*      Recovery in the Community

Participative workshops (exploring real-life recovery experiences, the theme of the conference and discussing/developing the draft UKRF Recovery Consensus Statement):

*      Building a Recovery-Oriented Integrated System (ROIS)
*      Harm reduction and recovery (Instilling Hope and Optimism)
*      Supporting the development of Recovery Networks
*      Residential rehabilitation and recovery
*      Getting recovery into primary care

Reflection, conversations and the chance to make new friends and contribute to the development of Recovery Networks in the UK


If you are interested in having a stall, performing, being involved, sponsoring or volunteering to help on the day or in any other way, please get in touch, all interest and enquiries welcome!

EMAIL: or see for more details

Monday, 9 May 2011

Wired In Unplugged: go compare!

Wired In Unplugged: go compare!: "I was having a trawl through some old posts - it's a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and I found this interesting: ' The Wired In to ..."

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Wired In Unplugged: Being Charitable?

Wired In Unplugged: Being Charitable?: "Wired In and David Clark Following our last blog entry, and ongoing questions of David Clark about the Charitable status of Wired In, ..."

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

UKRF Wiredin Conflict

I thought I'd just put up a quick blog to provide a little clarification for those who have been following the issue of 'ownership' that we raised with Wiredin. We (first Alistair Sinclair then myself and others) simply asked; who 'owns' wiredin. For the detail on this please see this blog

generated by somebody else (and I assure you, it is someone else) with similar concerns to us. When Alistair's blog (and we don’t know who it is) in which he raised the 'ownership' question) and comments was removed and when we, with others, found ourselves censored we started using twitter and face book to continue to ask questions. This is a link to David Clark's blog on Wiredin today:

Whilst this is upsetting we will continue to seek clarity about David Clark's private company Wired In Ltd.

We will not enter into 'mud-slinging' and personal attacks. 
We attempted to resolve the questions we had with David Clark (Director Wiredin) and Michaela Jones (Editor Wiredin) and, having failed to receive a clear answer as to Wiredin's ownership, we raised the question yesterday with Wiredin Stakeholders. We were not totally comfortable with this course of action, mindful of the wider implications for the UK Recovery Community, but felt we have no other route left open to us.

We did this because, as Wiredin Community members, we felt it was reasonable to enquire as to the status of Wiredin. We cared about it.

On the 15th of March this year a new Wiredin community member (‘marcymarcymarc’) asked in a blog on Wiredin whether Wiredin was “profit making or recovery based”. Michaela Jones responded to this saying:

“Wired In is a charity so is not profit making and any funds go into running and developing the community.”

This comment concerned us as we were unclear as to whether Wiredin actually was a charity. 

So we asked for clarification. The 1st response we received from David Clarke was not clear and raised further questions. It 'appeared' from David Clark's response that Wiredin was owned by his private company. So we asked for further clarification as did others. We did not cast 'aspersions'. We continued to ask questions. We were then censored, as were others, and the blog in which we raised the question was removed from Wiredin. We continued to ask questions. This time in emails sent to David Clark and Michaela Jones. We got no response. So we wrote yesterday to the Wiredin Advisory Board and the website sponsors raising the questions with them. We thought that if Wiredin is owned by a private company (and David Clark's blog today again 'appears' to suggest that) then it should not describe itself as a charity. That is our concern, we believed it was a charity. Nothing else.     

We haven’t necessarily got a problem with private enterprise. There are many private companies that provide useful services, jobs and valuable social functions. We would just expect a private company to clearly identify itself as such. We would expect a company that grows through the contributions of unpaid community members (and asks donations of them) to be clear as to what it is. We would expect a 'recovery-oriented' company (private, voluntary or social enterprise) to be open and transparent in all its dealings. We would expect a recovery-oriented company to be open to questions and challenge. We would expect it to respond to questions and challenges without resorting to personal attacks on those who raise them. We are upset with the response we have received. It's been a tough day.
We will continue to ask questions and we'll keep you updated on where we end up.

We make the path by walking it. (some days trudging it).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Bill White interviews Me, can you believe it.

It starts off

In 2009, I had the pleasure of lecturing in London and Scotland on the New Recovery Advocacy Movement in The United States. During that trip, I met a number of professionals interested in increasing the recovery orientation of the UK treatment system, and I also met many members of a growing UK recovery advocacy community. One of the more memorable of these encounters was with Anne Marie Ward, who I suspected would develop into one of the most dynamic leaders of the UK recovery movement. In the time that has passed since my visit, that presentiment has proven to be correct. In early 2011, I interviewed Anne Marie about her advocacy activities and her thoughts on the history and future of the UK recovery movement. Please join us in what I found to be a most fascinating discussion.

Bill White: Anne Marie, perhaps we should begin by having you introduce yourself to our readers and share how you came to be involved in the recovery movement in the UK.

Anne Marie Ward: Sure, Bill. As a person in long-term recovery, I began about 9 years ago in a professional role to explore how local statutory services could be more involved in helping individuals and families who were suffering from addiction. Part of my role then was to develop a forum whereby service providers could discuss with those they were supposed to serve various issues that the statutory services felt were important. It quickly became apparent that the two groups couldn’t be further apart in what they each identified as important. The beginning of my role as an advocate began from my experience in that role, witnessing people’s voices not being heard, and the powerlessness they expressed. During my time in this role bringing various providers of services together, it was also very clear that providers worked in competition, isolation, and even in conflict with each other. They were often unaware of what each organisation provided, which was a great hindrance to people accessing the services they needed.

Please click on the link to Bills site to see the rest and other interviews, more from the UK coming soon !

Teen Rehab? Yes, Yes, Yes!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Blog removed from wiredin

Seeing as my last blog link was removed from the site it was homed in, I have provided a link to another blog where an anonymous friend, with serious computer skills has made it magically reappear, this is not an attack on wiredin. I still believe the site it has the potential to be a useful resource if the owner can get his own house in order.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

A new reality for the thousands who entered the abyss on the 1st of April 2011

A new reality for the thousands who entered the abyss on the 1st of April 2011

Today I became one of the great numbers of folks swelling the ranks of the unemployment queue. I believe the next three months stats, even after doctoring, will show a very significant rise of folks who were “let go” on March 31st 2011.

To use an irritating but apt phrase - this is the perfect storm - high unemployment being merely the first ripple of the approaching front.

Over the last forty years the forces of globalisation and an incessant drive for private sector profits have seen manufacturing driven from the UK into cheaper regions. We have also seen the loss of “real” apprenticeships, declining educational standards, welfarism and many more politically sensitive factors that have eroded the employability of the indigenous workforce. We have seen a response to these conditions; a resulting jobs gap replaced by both the public sector and welfare with export earnings replaced by debt.

I don’t think anyone would argue that the last Conservative government (and then Labour) decimated our heavy industry and replaced factory jobs with retail, IT, banking and welfare. More recently the never ending pursuit for profit has resulted in the off-shoring of even these jobs. I have witnessed my generation becoming reliant on a debt-fuelled retail and property boom. Both of these sectors were always unsustainable and I believe we have a great deal further to fall. What we are left with is a hollowed out economy, leaving scant remains.

Even for people who have the abilities, intelligence and entrepreneurship that a skills and service-based economy requires there is little in the way of real or secure jobs about. Our young folks are facing high unemployment and student loan hell and they, like me, are never likely to be able to pay off their student debt and, unlike me, for them an affordable home looks increasingly unattainable. I’m currently mortgaged to the tune of £135K, and owe around 12k on my student loan. I didn’t do credit cards or any other kind of debt as the latter terrified the life out of me. Scant comfort in these challenging times.

We are told the nation is bankrupt. We have seen the cuts to spending result in demonstrations and civil unrest and this has only just started. We have reached a rubicon of taxation beyond which any more tax raising measures on ‘ordinary’ folks will actually reduce revenue and damage the economy further. The Government will not tax where the real profit is. The vital small business sector is held back by lending inertia and inflation has eroded profits.  The pound in my pocket buys me about a third less than it did at the weekly shop two years ago. Meanwhile, with more and more folks like me signing on, the deficit and welfare bills are rising inexorably.

We are continually being told that the public sector needs to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs and demonstrate value for money. Notions of ‘public service’ are under sustained attack. Multi national corporations sacrifice all for profit. Governments are bought by vested interests and forces of chaos, both natural and political, are at large - their cadence growing faster by the week. A looming oil crisis may well bring about the £10 gallon.

It would appear there are few options available and none are palatable. I suspect it will not be long before there is a mandatory work-for-welfare scheme seen as a return to the workhouse or new forms of slave labour.

The one major thing which bugs me about our government and the political and media classes is their apparent supposition that this is a temporary glitch and that in a few years we'll be up and running again.

We're in for a precipitous decline in living standards and there is no way of knowing how far down the bottom is or when we'll reach it.

The Economists who plan the way things are run are held up to be scientific gurus instead of right-wing snake oil salesmen. The media try (and do a pretty good job) to tell us that our interests are the same as the corporations and that eternal growth is sustainable and will eventually trickle down to us. The main political parties are all agreed this is the only way whilst the compliant media never (or hardly ever) present any alternatives as rational or achievable.

What do we need to do then? Well, some of us will continue to take to the streets in huge numbers. It is not wise to just stall and hope the economy recovers. It can’t in this system. The system is broke.

Human beings are problem-solving social animals. We need other people, and we need the self-esteem that flows from contributing something of value to the community in which we live. To create is to express who one truly is. The tragedy is (as Marx made clear) capitalism alienates us from the fountain of self-respect. When we farmed or made things for our families and friends and sold the surplus we could literally enjoy the fruits of our labour. The kind of work people are offered today denies them the dignity and joy of creation and so, all too often, it degrades self-esteem rather than enhancing it.

Modern society and its memes have hooked into instincts we barely understand and we are left addicted to consumerism. As with alcohol and drugs consumerism offers us a kind of fake comfort. We are lured down dead ends in our desperate search for something, anything, to fill the hole in the Soul.

Alcohol and drugs and brand-led consumerism are the opiate of the masses.

Freud said that human beings need love and work. Without the latter we find it hard to have real love for ourselves. Narcissistic obsessions yes, love and respect no.

Meaningful work makes you free and not working will, eventually, send you into an abyss of self-loathing, usually deepened by the AOD people use to stave off the utter despair generated by lives without ‘meaning’. This is what capitalism offers you; shiny toys in exchange for your soul.
Choose life.

Tolstoy, in a letter to Valerya Aresenyev, (November 9, 1856) said, "One can live magnificently in this world if one knows how to work and how to love…" (Troyat, 1967, p. 158). Freud is purported to have said that the goal of psychotherapy is to allow the patient to love and to work (Erikson, 1963). The themes of love and work are central to some of the most influential theories of psychological well-being (e.g., Erikson, 1963; Maslow, 1954; Rogers, 1961). There importance for healthy functioning has been empirically documented (e.g., Baruch, Barnett, & Rivers, 1983; Gurin, Veroff, & Feld, 1960; Lee & Kanungo, 1984; Vaillant, 1977). Study after study has shown that satisfaction in one domain is associated with satisfaction in the other. But how are love and work related? What is the nature of the connection?

I am left concluding that there is absolutely nothing any the world’s governments (or the ‘free markets’) can do about this state of affairs as long as we remain wedded to free market policies and more nationalist, autarkist solutions have their own severe drawbacks. Resources will only get scarcer. This is inevitable. So our buying power, even if there is economic growth at some time in the future, will only go one way and that is down.

We are all going to have to become more versatile, as communities and as individuals.  As a matter of biological history, the greatest cause of extinction is over-specialization. This new time, this new ‘recovery’, will belong to the agile, to the Jacks-of-All-Trades, to the generalists.

Some ideas worth of exploring are

I’m left today with hope despite the blackness. The phrase ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’ is prominent in my thoughts.

We have no other options. We have to keep learning, keep organising, stay creative. We have to step up and take the challenge. We, as individuals and communities, will be engaged in recovery for as long as we have the heart and the will. We are not alone. We are many. If we open our eyes we can see. The need for recovery is everywhere.