Friday, 12 September 2008

My mate Kev

You know, one sometimes forget how far someone has come to be where they are today. I am guilty of that sometimes with Kevin Manley, who works with as at Wired In. It is easy to forget Kevin's story when you see him bustling away at work.

Officially, we call Kevin our Community Development Co-ordinator. What this means in practice is that he does a wide variety of jobs. In the (real-world) community, Kevin is helping run the new Wired In Recovery Group in Cardiff, as well as spread the message about recovery, and act as a role model. 
He is preparing and loading content on to the new community website, as well as write his own Blog. He is shooting and editing film, and uploading video to our YouTube and Vimeo channels. He has acted in our films shot by Jonathan Kerr-Smith. He is learning to operate the new content management system for the website, and playing around with a variety of social networking tools. And I am sure he does various other things I have forgotten about.
Most importantly, Kevin manages his recovery.
What versatility, eh! He has come an awfully long way from the days when he was fixated on getting his next fix. I am really proud to be associated with my mate Kev.
Just make sure you don't overdo it, Kev!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Brian's Personal Story - and computer programming bugs

Whilst I was editing and loading more content for the new website today, I worked on Brian's Personal Story, which moved me greatly.

It's been fun and games today. As we work on the website, we find little bugs, which is exactly what you would expect with a newly programmed system. Fortunately, I spent a good deal of time computer programming when I ran my neuroscience lab, so I can understand that such glitches can occur. And we always accepted that there were 2% of glitches that were unexplainable. Actually, they were explainable, the god of computer programmes likes to have a laugh! And makes them illogical and unsolvable - or you have to do something outrageously counter-intuitive.
We've had a few glitches today. Why does a file truncate when we have more than one capital letter? And why does text suddenly turn red, unexplainably? It's all part of the rich tapestry of setting up a new content management system.  
Now back to that Personal Story. Brian is one of the new volunteers in the Cardiff Recovery community. He's a real dynamo! Please read his story and let us know what you think.

Monday, 8 September 2008

A Parents Story

I've had a busy time preparing and uploading material for the new website. I've been looking through content on our old '' website, selecting what should be transfered to the new site.

I came across an old article given to me by Mike Blanche of Drug and Family Support (DAFS) based in Gwent. It was written by colleagues of Mike who asked if I would put it on our old website. I read the article and realised that it was as relevant today as it was when first written. There are many parents around the country experiencing the same problems today as were occurring five years ago. 
As pointed out on my June 30th Blog, we are not devoting enough efforts towards helping family members who experience problems as a result of their loved one's substance use.
I leave you to read the article I have retrieved, called 'A Parents Story'.  

Sunday, 7 September 2008

What do we need for a revolution?

I've just finished reading a fascinating book about cycling, entitled 'Heroes, Villains and Velodromes: Chris Hoy and Britain's Track Cycling Revolution' by Richard Moore. 

In the spring, some of you may have watched what many believe was the greatest weekend of British sport ever. It was amazing to see our track cyclists win nine gold medals, more than half of those available, at the World Championships in Manchester. Only recently, we won most of the medals at the Olympics, with the unassuming Scotsman Chris Hoy winning three gold medals. 
I was fascinated with the question as to how a country that had been ridiculed as track cyclists only 15 years ago could become the super-nation of the sport, holding a psychological stranglehold over the world. One thing for sure, it was not drugs.
The book I was reading told me what I expected - there were many factors that contributed to this success. The visionary Peter Keen who drew up a plan to make British cyclists competitive and then take them to the top. Other key players in his management team:
Dave Brailsford (now in charge, with his excellent business mind), 
Shane Sutton (a great people manager, totally devoted to the cyclists), 
Steve Peters (the clinical psychiatrist, who works with individual cyclists to help bring out their best),
Chris Boardman (former cyclist, super technologist and boss of the Super Squirrel club, all the revolutionary gear that helps performance),
The rest of the support team, including coaches, mechanics and masseurs, 
And the cyclists (who are not just individuals, but who also support each other, with the more senior cyclists acting as mentors of others).
Then of course there was the money the UK Lottery provided and a total commitment to a team spirit and to being the best. And the wanting to get that 1% extra out of everything, from putting on a wheel to lifting that extra weight.
But then there was one last thing that Richard Moore describes at the end of his book: 'And sheer, undiluted, unrestrained enthusiasm - from Brailsford to Hoy to the coaches, mechanics and masseurs - seems to be a crucial element in the chemistry of the British team, perhaps the crucial element, permeating the entire squad...'
Yes, enthusiasm! 
You know, that is something that I see in the treatment agencies I visit that are doing well with their clients. Enthusiasm!! It permeates these agencies. However, there seems to be little enthusiasm in the substance use treatment field as a whole, particularly in the upper echelons that 'manage' the field. It's time for that to change!!
I know I've been talking about a national cycling team and the factors that have made it great. And you might think that is very different to the treatment field. But are those factors different? Of course there are major differences in what is required to create best performance from elite cyclists (and developing a system to bring through talent) to helping people overcome problems. But there are many common elements. 
It is time to change this field, from being one that is often ridiculed to one that becomes the envy of other fields. It is time to draw up a ten year plan and programme of activities. To bring together key elements that will allow us to transform the way that we help people overcome serious substance use problems. They did it in cycling, we can do it a field of social and health care. Let's take the Peter Keen vision as an example of what can be achieved.  
The Recovery Movement is underway.  

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The upcoming recovery community website

Today, I put up my big Mac screen in the living room so that I could show Lucie and Kevin how to work the content management system that will drive the recovery community site. It was fun! We're getting excited, although there is a lot of content still to prepare and upload. A period of testing will follow - some of you will be contacted and asked to help us track the bugs! 

Then, of course, I'm going to have to get out there and raise sponsorship to help us maintain the site. Wish me luck! Feel a bit like Kevin Costner in 'Field of Dreams'. You'll know what I mean if you have see that excellent film. Please do join up to the community and participate in activities when we launch. It will be worthwhile!     

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

My good friends Claire and Ian at CJ Wellings

Claire and Ian of CJ Wellings, the publishers of Drink and Drugs News, came up to Cardiff to see us last Thursday. Lucie and I picked them up at the station and drove them out to Cowbridge so that they could see the Wired In headquarters and meet my beloved dog Tessa. We also had a tasty pub lunch.

It is amazing to think that DDN has been running for nearly four years. It seems a lot less time has passed since Simon Shepherd (formerly CEO of FDAP) and I did some plotting with Claire and Ian as they made the decision to set up on their own and launch a new magazine. And what a magazine it has been - and continues to be! I am certainly very proud to be associated with DDN and CJ Wellings. It is also a great pleasure to work with such nice people, who are committed to helping people affected by substance use problems. 
Of course, lunch was not just lunch. The four of us did some thinking about how we can help each other over the coming year or two. More plotting afoot.
The only sad aspect was that Claire and Ian could not meet Kevin who was down with the lurgy. They'll just have to come up again soon! And hope it does not rain!!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Feeling lost

"A long-tenured addictions counselor sheepishly shared that he was leaving the field—that it was getting harder and harder for him to feel good about what he was doing. He elaborated as follows, "Something got lost on our way to becoming professionals—maybe our heart. I feel like I’m working in a system today that cares more about a progress note signed by the right color of ink than whether my clients are really making progress toward recovery. I feel like too many treatment organizations have become people and paper processing systems rather than places where people transform their lives. Too much of our time is spent fighting for another day or a couple of extra sessions for our clients. I’m drowning in paper. We’re forgetting what this whole thing is about. It’s not about days or sessions or about this form or that form, and it’s not about dollars; it’s about RECOVERY!"" From: Linking Addiction Treatment & Communities of Recovery: A Primer for Addiction Counselors and Recovery Coaches by William White and Ernest Kurtz

Anyone felt like this? Or heard something similar?

Monday, 1 September 2008

Addictions Counselling Degree

When I worked in a university, I always vowed that I would never become an external examiner. I considered it a mug's game, since the pain of reading so many scripts, sitting through boring meetings, writing reports etc, just wasn't worth the money you were paid. For those people who said I should be helping the university system - what, help make it easier for students to get higher grade degrees with no more talent, ability or work, and pretend this wasn't happening - I did not wish to to be a hypocrite. And besides, I did a lot of positive things for the academic system.

So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to act as External Examiner for the Foundation Degree on Addictions Counselling run by Action on Addiction and the Division for Lifelong Learning at the University of Bath. Nick Barton and Tim Leighton, of Clouds as it was then, obviously knew how to get around me. They not only got me to agree to be the external assessor for the development of the Foundation degree, and then External Examiner, but then External Examiner for the Honours Degree. External examining for four years!
Last Wednesday, I finished serving the maximum time that I could and, with some sadness, handed over to a new External Examiner, Dr. David Best. A great choice of successor!
It really has been a pleasure working with the Action on Addiction and University of Bath teams. I pointed out early on the amount of work covered in the Foundation degree (2 years) was far more than a normal 3-year Honours degree. And some of the students were exceptional. I was really amazed how much work the Action on Addiction team put into the course, and in helping and stimulating the students. The situation was so very different to what I experienced at Swansea University, where members of my department spent so much time moaning about and trying to reduce their work load.
Well done Derrick, Tim and the team.  I could say I'll miss you, but I know I am going to be seeing lots more of you (and Nick and Kirby), hopefully collaborating on a variety of new initiatives. Let's have some more fun!  Good luck for the future!!