Thursday, 19 June 2008

Meeting a growing recovery community in the North-West of England

Had a great trip to the North West of England earlier this week. Lucie, Kevin and I went to Manchester on Sunday, where we met Geoff Allman, Director of Spoken Image, a communications design company with whom we collaborate. Geoff was kind enough to drive us around for the two days, which gave him the opportunity to see some things happening in the field.

We spent the day with Jacquie Johnston-Lynch at SHARP Liverpool, which is described as a ‘therapeutic peaceful haven for addiction recovery’. SHARP offers a structured day treatment programme, based on the 12-step abstinence-based approach. We met Mark Gilman of the NTA, a man committed to the development of a recovery culture. Also met Peter Naylor of the Spider Project, that provides a range of services for current and recovering substance users, including creative writing, art, drama and outward bound events.

We talked with the SHARP clients in a group session and Kevin and I were both greatly moved by the occasion (I had tears in my eyes). The session emphasised to me the power of the supportive community or social network. I just felt the empathy and positive feeling throughout the room.

In the evening, we met with a group in a Manchester cafĂ© – Mark Gilman, Stuart Honor (researcher and recovery advocate), John Hopkins (ADAS/Acorn in Stockport), Colin Wiseley (Commissioner, Salford DAT) and Ian Wardle (Lifeline Project). I had one of those moments when you meet someone whom you immediately recognise as a kindred spirit – in this case, the beaming giant Stuart Honor.   

Two lads were sitting across from us on another table. Amazingly, they first recognised me from DDN and then Kevin from his film – and then Stuart, an old mate. We couldn’t believe that the world was so small and this wonderful coincidence has expanded our community into Blackburn – Paul (Hutchins) and Jason are working at the Thomas Project. Stuart was pleased to see them doing so well in their recovery.

We had a good dinner – thanks Ian - and I can tell you, Mark Gilman is a scream. You’ve got a role in one of our films, Mark.

The next day we went to Warrington to visit Tom Kirkwood, Director of Trust the Process, an organisation that provides a structured day care programme and community support. Spent a few hours discussing the field and strategising with Tom and Danny, a senior member of the team.

I was impressed by Tom’s insights and he talked to us frankly about his personal recovery. He is a businessman who is determined to set up a number of recovery-based centres around the country. He took us to the houses his organization provides for some of the clients. We were impressed – and they were new!

We also met two members of the Warrington DAT who were kind enough to come over and meet us. Amanda Finch emphasised to me how great it was to go into a room of happy-faced clients at Trust the Process. That’s what we want to see!

Back to Manchester for a Chinese Buffet (yummee!) and the long train trip back to Cardiff. I was pretty tired by the time I got home (21.15) and started to write this Blog after the football. However, I was Skyped at 23.15 – by Kevin. He was absolutely ‘buzzing’. He pointed out to me that we wanted to develop a recovery community here in Cardiff. There was an expression on his face I had not seen before – a sort of serenity.

It’s great fun talking to and working with people in recovery. I’m a proud man being in this field.

Check out the piccies.


Anonymous said...

I notice Trust the Process offers to "guarantee your recovery" at a cost "to suit all budgets" from £1750 for a week to £6444 for 12 weeks, making what intensity of treatment you receive a function of how big your wallet is rather than how big your problem is. They make much of their spacious air-conditioned premises. Is this really a service which should be publicised? These services already excel at PR - but can they really guarantee recovery? Only I would guess by selecting promising patients and/or blaming those who do not recover for failing to 'Trust the Process'. Perhaps a call to the Advertising Standards Authority is warranted.
Paolo Lewkowicz

Anonymous said...

I take Paolo's comments on board and in the upcoming redesign of the site we will remove the guarantee of recovery. The roots of it come from the 12 step process as described in the first 164 pages of the big book of Alcoholic Anonymous: the story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism. In that book the step 10 promises clearly state the "problem has been removed it does not exist" and later goes on to qualify that promise by stating the person is required to stay in "fit spiritual condition". It also assumes the person has succesfully followed the previous 9 steps. Having personally followed the programme of recovery as described in the book and having followed the "clear cut and specific directions" I can testify that promise to be true. I can also reference many hundreds of people who have had the same experience. And as the book states "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path". I have never seen a person fail who has followed, and continued to follow the programme of recovery. I have seen many fail who didn't follow the programme thoroughly, or just turned up to Fellowship meetings expecting vicarious recovery.

There are many people in this country who cannot afford long term treatment. So we do the best we can by detoxing them safely and pointing them into the fellowships for free recovery. I sincerely wish the government treatment systems worked for all but the reality is they dont.

Paolo; I would like to use this forum to invite you to come to TTP in either Warrington and Luton and to speak to our clients. See what they say about us and the treatment they receive. If after that visit you feel the same I would be greatly surprised.

Anonymous said...

All treatment costs money whether it takes the form of some ointment for spots or a heart transplant. The issue here is not that treatment costs money, but how it is paid for. Our treatment system in the UK does not prioritise reovery focussed interventions. Depending on where you live and the disposition of local professionals, you may have the sort of treatment Tom Kirkwood offers funded so that the individual suffering from addiction does not have to pay. You are unlikely to find such services in the statutory sector.

I agree with Paolo that treatment should not depend on the size of your wallet. We need a treatment system that helps those who want it to achieve recovery. That means a chance of focus and either some new investment or a disinvestment in services that are not helping people reach their goals.

Anonymous said...

Tom Kirkwood has proved my point and the strange thing is that he lacks the self-reflection to see it. I said among other ways they could guarantee recovery only by "blaming those who do not recover for failing to 'Trust the Process'".

Well, this exactly what it seems he does: "I have never seen a person fail who has followed, and continued to follow the programme of recovery. I have seen many fail who didn't follow the programme thoroughly, or just turned up to Fellowship meetings expecting vicarious recovery."

So if your treatment fails, the client/patient is to blame for not following the programme? And what on earth is this about "There are many people in this country who cannot afford long term treatment" – not if they have to go private that's true, but have you forgotten about the NHS?

Paolo Lewkowicz

tim1leg said...

Paolo Mr Kirkwood is referring to chapter 5 in the AA big book which states....

RARELY have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average.

There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it -- then you are ready to take certain steps.

At some of these we balked. thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
I would like to see anyone not nessecarily an addict follow what they suggest to the letter!!! not an easy path at all.

Anonymous said...

I repeat my offer to come and see what we do. You can come and see what is going on, even take part by volunteering if you want or criticise from the sidelines.

I choose to get involved every single day in helping my fellow addicts into receovery. Either private clients, government funded clients or friends in the fellowships. I dont care how I help people. I am not fussy about how a person seeks help.

Please come and see for yourself. As the saying goes "never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes".

Anonymous said...

Paolo please take up the offer of visiting Trust the Process,this is an amazing offer.
One of the things we learn to do in recovery is to have the humility to find out that we may have been wrong, that in our anger or hurt we have lashed out defensively and that these unconcious actions have blocked our ability to see the truth and live life to it's full.
I have worked with many very angry drugs practitioners who see anyone in recovery as the enemy - they have all chosen, unconciously, to work in the field of addiction in order to try and resolve some very painful personal issues (they tend not to be aware of this being the driving force behind the need to work in the caring professions) - the typical scenarios are: having grown up with an alcoholic parent or a sibling or partner who is an addict/alcoholic or been in domestic violent/abusive relationships, suffered abuse as a child etc often a combination of the above. They are attracted into the healing professions because they have learn't through being around dysfunction all their lives that one of the only ways they can feel better about themselves is to rescue/help very needy dependent people. The difficulties arise in the addictions field when these people encounter anything that could potentially threaten their source of well being, their 'fix'. People in recovery offering the chance of recovery to those in active addiction are hugely threatening to codependents, it leaves them feeling redundant and and frightened, this then turns into rage. It is amazing how these apparently generous, caring benevolent individuals can suddenly become so enraged at the prospect of the very people they claim to care so much about getting better!!
Unfortunately the harm reduction side of treatment is top heavy with very angry, unconcious 'wounded healers' - codependents. It sounds like you may be coming from that sort of place Paolo or are you an addict who feels the system has failed you or have you tried recovery and feel you failed at that?
I agree that rehab should be cheaper across the board - I would hope that Trust the Process can be funded by PCT's and is not entirely private. It is sad to find out that at a time when rehabs are closing down because of lack of funding private ones are springing up to fill the gap and exploit the desperation of those that can afford it.I hope this is not the case with Trust the Process. I would like to think that all private treament centres would have at least 2 charity beds available at any one time.

Well done tim1leg for your quote from the AA big book!

Anonymous said...

To tim1leg, Mr Kirkwood was referring his own experience - that's what "I" means isn't it?

To Mr Kirkwood, I don't have enough feet and/or enough time to walk in everyone's shoes so have to pick and choose. Someone who guarantees recovery by saying if it doesn't happen then by definition you just weren't following our programme (can't be gainsayed can it?) has shoes which are just too limited for me.

To anonymous, ah, so recovery is obstructed by hung up harm reduction oriented workers wanting their clients/patients to stay as hung up as they are so they don't feel so bad? Guess the implication is that without this more clients/patients would recover, as long of course as they stayed alive long enough and their recovery wasn't spoilt somewhat by acquisition of a fatal disease or a few years in Pentonville or Holloway. Interesting. For once, I'm speechless.

No, it's OK - found my voice. I think I get it. First we blame the clients/patients (as per Mr Kirkwoood), then we blame the workers (as per anonymous), but not those whose recovery programmes fail their clients/patients (because then it's the clients/patients' faults), only those who focus more on keeping people alive and well.

It would take a Plato to sort that one out but it only takes a defective like me to see who the winners are in this blame game.

Paolo Lewkowicz

Mark Gilman said...

Here is the THOMAS weblink:

tim1leg said...

Hi Paolo, who are the winners? Im not following.

tim1leg said...

The balme game has no winners.

Taking responsibility is not something that comes naturally. This is a cornerstone on what personal recovery is about.
Blame is everywhere. But for what purpose?

Isn’t a shame that everyone covers their behind as soon as something goes wrong? Even worse, isn’t it bizarre how some people just feel better if someone else gets the axe?

What a terribly shallow mentality. Id even go so far as to say it’s blatantly immature.

What say we make our main focus finding a way to prevent the same mistakes from happening again in our addiction treatment culture? It’s that simple. Yes, it includes finding out what happened, with all the contributing factors. But let’s not get stuck there. The next step is to ask ourselves, “What can we do to prevent this from happening again?” And how we move forward into a Recovery Culture.

Instead of giving someone the axe, what if we take a good look at the four P’s of buisness afterall the whole industry is just that an industry lets not pretend otherwise:

People, Products, Policies, and Procedures, then ask—and answer—some direct questions about each one.


Do the people involved with the problem have enough education and training? Do communication problems exist? Are the right people in the right jobs? What are people’s perceptions of how things should be different? Are people cooperating? Does trust exist? If no, what can be done to build cooperation and trust? What do the people directly involved have to say about how to prevent this problem from happening again? What are they willing to do to make it so? Is management willing to make adjustments?


Was the problem a result of using an incorrect product? Was a correct product used incorrectly? Is there a better product we can use? Can the market be reviewed from time to time to try and identify better products?


Do policies exist? Are they written or unwritten? Who creates/created them? How are they enforced? How can policies be reviewed and monitored better? Who will do this? What will be the expected outcome?


Do procedures exist for the circumstances surrounding the problem? If not, can procedures be created? How are procedures being reviewed? Is there a better way to review the procedures? How are procedures taught? How are they reinforced?

Yes, there are a lot of questions here, but even so, this list is not exhaustive. And notice two things: Nowhere does it ask "why wasn't this done earlier?" (argumentative) and nowhere does it ask “who screwed up?”

Bottom line:

The Blame Game is simply childish. It reeks of immaturity, and should be dropped by those who consider themselves professional.

A better approach to handling mistakes is to first ask the right questions, and THEN take corrective actions.

The only direction our finger should be pointing is at a solution.

Can we move on now please. lol.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear!
Anyone who works in addiction knows that of course it is absolutely necessary to provide harm reduction services! I myself have worked in them for years.
There are many brilliant and dedicated workers in front line services.
I was referring to a particular type of drugs practitioner who tends to denegrate recovery programs and people in recovery because they feel threatened by them for reasons I outlined in my previous blog.
For example:
I worked at a 16 week structured day program for people on drr's - (I was there for 2 years) - where it was decided by management that it was not appropriate to invite people in to speak to clients who were in recovery because it was a harm minimisation service not an abstinence service!!What on earth is that all about?!!
Since when did hundreds of thousands of recovering addicts and alcoholics world wide become about harm. Am I to believe that this is the new argument against abstinence - that it is harmful?!! I know people relapse and die after periods in recovery. I know the argument is that the fact they had been clean lowered their tolerance, or that being clean left them feeling so awful they committed suicide. Does that justify never encouraging people to follow their goal of recovery?
The sad reality of addiction is that people die from this condition - we will never be able to irradicate death from addiction, the two are inexticably and tragically linked.
The truth is recovery saves many lives - my life for one, my brother's, my uncle's, my best friend,s, my duaghter's father. This may also result in it saving my daughter from becoming an addict herself. Our respective families are ravaged with addiction -she would have had little hope had I not been helped into recovery by other members of my family. Surely this is harm reduction in the broadest sense.
Anyone in recovery knows how hard it is to get clean and many of us have lost friends relatives and loved ones to overdoses, suicides, violence, accidents, blood borne virus's etc. Some of these people will have used services such as needle exchanges and open access, some will have been to rehab, prison, and done 12 step meetings. Some will have done all of the above and more. Most will have used prescribing services. The reality of addiction is that some people die as a result of their using.
Obviously the point of working in the field at whatever level you are doing it is to provide the information and support to help people to maybe live better lives and not get sick and ultimately to stay alive.
It seems that some individuals working in the field just don't get that, and continue to push through their agendas which are deeply rooted in their own dysfunction.
There are fundamentalsits on both sides of the argument. However it is my experience that most of the antagonism seems to be generated by people on the harm reduction side.
One of the reasons I believe this to be true is because people on the recovery side of things know the reality, the day to day life of active addiction and therefore fully understand and appreciate the need for choice and need driven services.Alot of us work in those services.
The stark reality is that not everyone is going to get recovery or stabilzed and many people will continue to get sick and a good few of those will die. There is no cure for this - we are stuck with it.
We need to work together to provide the best services we can - for our clients.
I am in the field to optimize people's chances of staying alive and being as fulfilled as they can be.
Are you?
Are you behind your client's which ever way they choose to do it or do you find yourself blocking avenues of support because you do not approve of them.
If that is the case ask yourself why you don't approve of these avenues of support, look deep within yourself, some of the answers you come up with may surprise you.
(I have with worked a few drugs workers who are blatantly still in active addiction - usually alcoholism - I know of many who regularly use cocaine -obviously the prospect of abstinence is going to be abhorent to them, they are probably still enjoying their using and life without chemicals is unimaginable. It makes sense that they would not wish to suggest their own worst nightmare to others!)
How can anyone knock a recovery movement that works.
This should not be an us and them situation, it must to be about individual informed choice and needs. The choice and needs of the client - not the workers.

Anonymous said...

150 people gathered at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester on Thursday 13th November to celebrate the Recovery progress made in the North West. This event was billed as a "Speed Dating Experience of Recovery". An overwheling succes. The Recovery Bandwagon rolls into Yorkshire. Be there...