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