Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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What does the word \'recovery\' mean?

May 23 2009
Rightly or wrongly, when you use drugs in chaotic and harmful way, you abrogate many of your rights, and society turns against you The debate between the 12-step treatment providers and the 12-step membership and mainstream drug/alcohol services goes on, so I will put in my two-pennies' worth as well. We need to know what are we talking about. Is it the 12-step recovery, with 'recovery' meaning "being in a process of maintaining abstinence" or 'recovery' while using drugs and/or alcohol? The Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun recovery as "a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength," but the phrase "in recovery" can mean the process of recovering from mental illness or drug addiction. The 12-step fellowships of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) differ in one fundamental way from charitable or statutory "drug programmes": they are fully self-supporting and, to all intents and purposes, they are free. Their message is clear and unequivocal: it's about "trying to carry the message to the addict who suffers" and stating "the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using". You can be using, but your focus needs to be on stopping. There is nothing in NA or AA for someone who does not want to stop using/drinking. The rest of us in the drug business - including 12-step treatment providers - are driven by politics, funding agendas, flavour-of-the-month policies, outcomes, back-to-work agendas, smart targets, crime reduction, international law, prohibition etc, with the government, the NTA and the medical establishment trying to drive the agenda. It's more like an oriental bazaar, a free-for-all, with everyone vying for his or her piece of the pie. Even Peter McDermott from the Alliance (a drug user's forum), the voice of the people, is getting in on the act, and sounding quite pompous in his Drink and Drug News article, 'Another game of jargon bingo'. He states that knowledge of drug use/treatment have "tended to draw our concepts from science rather than from quasi-religious ideology. And so we [who is this 'we'?] talk about dependence rather than addiction. About multi-factorial causes, rather than a 'spiritual malady'." I have never found the "substance use field" to be anything more than a soft science, a common sense approach: use clean works, don't share needles, have protected sex, don't share smoking equipment and rotate injecting sites. There is nothing scientific in what we do nor in the information we give out - it's low-level grocership at best. 'Multi-factorial' causes suggest a greater understanding of the drug user's psyche; but the opposite is true. We don't know why some people use drugs/alcohol in self destructive ways and others don't. S/he used drugs/alcohol because of X Y & Z. So what? Multi-factorial implies 'victim'. If Hitler had not of been rejected as an artist when he was young, World War II would not have taken place, perhaps. Rightly or wrongly, when you use drugs in chaotic and harmful way, you abrogate many of your rights as a citizen, and society turns against you. So, in turn, in NA- and AA-speak, you suffer from a "spiritual malady". You are shunned, judged, despairing, isolated, without hope, lost, self-centred, scapegoated, looked down upon, pitied and demonised. The language is, to some extent, quasi-religious, but nonetheless true. And it is pertinent to the millions of addicts recovering in the 12-step fellowships worldwide. So how can we use the word 'recovery' in terms of measuring success or failure in the light of treatment outcomes? Within the 12-step fellowships, measuring 'recovery' is relatively simple: the increase in meetings worldwide; its cost-effectiveness (it's free); or the increase in membership. Clean time (total abstinence from all drugs) goes beyond the 13 weeks seen by mainstream drug services as a success - the average is about three to five years, maybe more. Literature sales can be as a measure. However, for mainstream drug/alcohol services, this is not such a simple matter. 'Recovery' is measured in terms of a political agenda and success/targets: we measure job creation; statistical data; the amount of paper we produce; filing systems; whether clients are stealing less; working more; though-put, etc. Mainstream services have taken their eye off the ball. As I have said before, this is more about service delivery than delivering a service to people who that need it. Paper's not cheap‚Äö?Ѭ? I think that there is more (recovery) of a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength going on in the fellowships than in mainstream drug/alcohol services As you can see, it's business as usual in the world of drugs! So, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.