To Sobriety and beyond


As the (No)Buzz Lightyear”s that are the heroes of Dry January consider their missions into to sobriety and beyond (Parched March anyone?), we thought we would highlight some relatively new approaches in the recovery universe.

The 12 Step fellowships work for a lot of people. They will continue working for a lot more. There are, though, multiple paths in to recovery and each person needs to find their own way.

For an alcoholic of my type, the 12 Steps were a life saver, but what about some alternative paths?

The idea of moderation (drugs or alcohol) is anathema to many in the treatment world and the recovery community. But could attempted moderation convince a problem user how bad things are?

This seems to be the path common to three very different organisations. In the US, Allies In Recovery (AIR) and the Centre For Optimal Living (CFOL) and in the UK Club Soda.

Dominique Simon of AIR says “If your loved one believes they can moderate, there are two good reasons for you to go along with this. First of all, it may work. Second, if it doesn’t work, they will learn that they are unable to control their using – the problem is bigger than they initially thought.”

Founder of CFOL, Dr Andrew Tartarsky’s model, the Positive Change Pathway, help’s to create the individuals optimal relationship to substances—whether that means reduced, safer, more controlled use, or abstinence.

It would be fair to say that not everyone with a drinking or drug problem is an alcoholic or addict, they may still need to recover their lives!

Laura Willoughby of Club Soda in the UK wants “to help you make the change to your drinking that you want. They are continually developing tools and techniques, and support a growing social network.

To paraphrase Shakespeare “Be not afraid of sobriety. Some are born sober, some achieve sobriety, and others have sobriety thrust upon them.”









Bowie enjoyed a long and successful career and recovery.

A great many creatives fear recovery from addiction might mean an end to their artistic achievements. Alcoholism and addiction have been see by many as the creative curse.

That said alcoholic writers probably write (or wrote) just as well sober as drunk, and as South African playwright Athol Fugard nearly said do you want to be a dead good writer, or a good dead writer?

Stephen King puts it this way “Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do. Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what? We all look the same when we’re puking in the gutter.”

There are almost certainly more great non-alcoholic or drug using creatives than addicted ones, but the larger than life behaviours of the creative wrecking crews rock’n’roll lifestyles ensure their place in the pantheon of doomed genius.

Vice Media looked in to a random Vice-style selection of artistic alcoholics and addicts in a recent article that reasoned, “in case you need another reason to check in with your own addiction, it sounds like it kinda sucks to forget some of your biggest artistic achievements to drug-or alcohol–induced amnesia.”

Arguably the real genius creatives with substance abuse problems produce most of their best work before the addiction fully takes hold. In the alcohol soaked drug fuelled years work often becomes erratic or self indulgent sometimes incomprehensible.

Recovery from addiction can mean a return to form, a clearer vision and more energy and wit, David Bowie springs to mind.

Whatever happens creativity, like recovery is about practice, work and consistency. With these values both are possible and compatible.

The Power of Story

“By sharing our stories, it seems, we invite each other into our worlds. This enhances our interconnectedness, shared awareness, and possibilities for fruitful interaction.” 

Stories have power.

The telling of the personal story has long been a cornerstone of connectedness, one of humanities most basic needs is connection to others.

FAVOR US continue their Recovery Advocacy Week 2016 #RAAW16 with the social media hashtag #OurStoriesHavePower so we thought we would take a look at three specific story telling projects that support this idea.

Working from their New York HQ I Am Not Anonymous is a media awareness campaign project founded by photographer Kate Meyer and Tom Goris, who is in long term Recovery. An open invitation stands to Have your portrait taken and share your recovery journey on the IANA website and throughout their social media channels. IANA aims to change the stigma associated with addiction and “show the world that we do recover” through images and personal stories. They say “The world knows all too well what addiction looks like.  What it has yet to truly learn is what recovery looks like. These personal recovery stories will hopefully provide both an education and a source of hope in the midst of a monumental public health crisis.” IANA have staged exhibitions of the work in various parts of the US.

We say great work, great stories! The stunning black and white portraits add another dimension toward making these personal stories accessible and meaningful.

Foundations Recovery Network helped establish Heroes Of Recovery in Tennessee, a movement of those who are in recovery from addiction. They have a simple if challenging mission: to eliminate the social stigma that keeps individuals with addiction and mental health issues from seeking help. They aim to share stories of recovery for the purpose of encouragement and inspiration on their website creating an engaged sober community that empowers people to get involved. With a focus on giving back, and living healthy, active lives they hold events across America seeking to inspire a sense of local community involvement. HOR’s signature event is a series of Heroes 6K races – not 5K, but 6K – to create awareness about the need for treatment and to support those who are in recovery. Choosing a 6K to symbolize the extra effort it takes to sustain recovery the inaugural run was held in September 2011 (International Recovery Month). Since then the number and frequency of races— and participants— continues to grow.

The Heroes movement seeks to emphasize the heroic effort required to maintain recovery day in and day out and to prove that courage—and hope—are contagious.

In Cape Town, South Africa, British photographer (in recovery) Fiona McCosh created Sober & Sexy in 2015. Sober And Sexy looks at the problem of addiction and the solution of recovery through an intimate lens with a set of life portraits representing a diverse mix of the Mother City’s recovery community. Opening as an exhibition the work was developed into a high quality wall calendar for 2016 with profits from the sales of the calendar and prints benefitting the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre. Fiona is currently shooting for the 2017 exhibition and calendar. The exhibition and calendar feature the subject’s stories accompanied by their portrait inviting viewers to share past pain and future hope.

One of the most encouraging signs of Recovery is the number of projects we could have mentioned, and almost certainly will in the future.

From the start of the 12 Step fellowships, through years of the development of a variety of therapeutic models the importance of the personal story to our own recovery, and to the support of others has been proven time and time again. We suggest you share your story, because Your Story Has Power!

What Does Recovery Look Like?

In the spirit of FAVOR’s #RAAW16 (that is Recovery Advocacy Awareness Week), we are giving their theme for Monday 2nd May a moment of consideration.

#ThisIsWhatRecoveryLooksLike is the nominated hash tag. A cursory search on Google throws out hundreds of individual stories of what Recovery means to people through their own lived experience. The majority of these stories resonate with hope and purpose and feature pictures of happy faces.

We certainly have plenty of research that tells us what all forms of addiction look like although arguments continue to rage over which theory is the right one to describe it.

At ORA we tend to feel that there is no single, absolute right idea about why addiction begins in any given individual case. From our experience, the childhood trauma ideas of Dr Gabor Mate, the ‘dislocation theory’ of Bruce Alexander, the genetic component, the ‘disease model’ and stress-induced answer are all of equal validity. Addiction can be seen one or a combination of biological, psychological, sociological and perhaps even a ‘spiritual’ factors.

Sadly the significant number of Recovery ‘testimonials’ are not recognised by policy makers and academics as sufficient ‘evidence’ for the efficacy of numerous pathways to a better lifestyle. Anecdotes are not evidence (although one would like to think enough of them put together would be). Until recently, there was little to no Recovery research. Unless one had more than a passing familiarity with a 12 Step Program, it was difficult to point at something or someone and say, ‘This is what Recovery looks like.’

In 2013, FAVOR in America commissioned a the first Life In Recovery survey. This survey was published with the results forming part of ongoing advocacy campaigns. In Australia, in 2014, a similar survey was conducted by a partnership including Turning Point (a leading charity), Eastern Health and the South Pacific Private Treatment Group. In 2015, Sheffield Hallam and the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Social Justice commissioned a UK Life In Recovery survey. At the time of writing the survey is being conducted in Canada by CCSA, and a South African survey is in the development stage at the South African College of Applied Psychology.

The data gathered in the surveys gives the first clear picture of what Recovery ‘looks like,’ in each country. It also provides an opportunity for the results to be compiled to produce research of the impact of recovery in a much wider international context.

So now or in the near future, it might be possible to say ‘This Is What Recovery Looks Like.’

To view the full results of each of the completed surveys, click on the highlighted links in this article.

Recovery Advocacy Week – Opening Up Recovery


Those of us who have found a path in Recovery, or are just setting out on the journey often face a dilemma when it comes to disclosure about our problem. Sadly this often means we also remain silent about our solution.

Openly sharing with others our “status” can be a worrying, even stressful decision. Whether accepting the disease model and following a treatment program, making a personal decision to change, making new lifestyle choices or embracing a faith-based adjustment to our way of life – the stigma and shame of an addiction or substance dependence is often a key factor in determining who we tell, when we tell it and why.

Whilst this is a personal choice, and should always be, it is worth noting that our visibility could be invaluable to others, and to our own continued well being.

There is a growing consciousness among many people in Recovery that the shame and stigma (still so real in our societies around the condition) plays a major part in blocking access to help. Attitudes to addiction also play a major part in drug policies all over the world, as well as influencing approaches to addiction treatment, employment, social housing and education. Recent years have witnessed the growth of many new approaches to aspects of addiction, most of them coming from community organisations, some specialists in the field and those in the vanguard of the growing “recovery movement”. (Coincidentally there is a simultaneous and growing awareness of the desirability not to be dependent on mood or mind altering substances to enjoy life.)

Organisations are emerging, academics are writing, researching and developing advocacy propositions that support Recovery. Many recovering addicts would agree, stopping is the easy bit, staying stopped is harder. There is a need for support whether it is in the form of accessible physical and mental check ups, ongoing counselling or local community facilities.

When it comes to Recovery organisation it seems that our friends in America often lead the way.

In the US organisations like Faces And Voices Of Recovery (FAVOR) crystallize their aims simply and clearly obviously helps “we aim to raise the profile of the organized recovery community and help more people find recovery by demonstrating that over 23 million Americans from all walks of life have found recovery and promote widespread understanding that long-term recovery is a reality and a process that takes time and support.”

Going further FAVOR also lay out a series of achievable goals. They advocate for laws and policies that enable recovery, health, wellness and civic engagement for individuals, families and communities affected by alcohol and other drugs.

In the UK the annual UK Recovery Walk is just part of FAVOR UK’s developing structure with similar aims to the US. FAVOR UK aim to show there are viable and varied recovery solutions for alcohol and other drug problems. Members of the organization discuss their Recovery openly showing they are examples of real people who illustrate the diversity of recovery solutions whilst challenging any public attempt to dehumanise, objectify and demonise those trying to deal with their personal situation. Advocacy for variety, availability, and quality of local treatment as well as recovery support services is at the core of their work. Further engagement with legislators aims to remove barriers to recovery and the promotion of laws and social policies that reduce alcohol and other drug problems

Canada is also home to a growing Recovery structure, working on each local City level but connected through a national “umbrella”. The Scottish Recovery Consortium continue with their plans to enable community based organizations and help local initiatives thrive.

With all this advocacy, all this action, all this activity it might be time to give some thought to our personal decisions when it comes to sharing our own stories.

FAVOR have announced Recovery Advocacy Action Week #RAAW16 from May 2nd to May 6th, so the Online Recovery Academy will be posting each day this week on the daily theme.

#RAAW16 is a collaboration between FAVOR, Minnesota Recovery Connection, Hazelden Betty Ford, Young People In Recovery, Facing Addiction and the Altarum Institute.

A Healthy Approach to Recovery

Our last post, Do You Want To Be Happy, Or Right? looked at the ‘We are right and you are wrong’ dualistic thinking that surrounds both addiction, treatment and recovery so we are happy to introduce you to a great article, and approach from Matthew Lovitt’s blog.

A Master Nutrition Therapist (MNT) Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition®, Matthew Lovitt specializes in the holistic treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction with food and fitness. With over 7 years of continuous sobriety, he is uniquely qualified to help individuals, families, community organizations, and treatment facilities develop holistic recovery programs to better support lasting sobriety.

Read all about it here.

Defining Recovery (What Are We Talking Here?)

imagesI like knowing what things mean. That can get quite difficult when you start talking addiction and Recovery. Whilst definitions of any word or phrase vary, it is generally accepted, by most dictionaries that Recovery is:

re·cov·er·y (rĭ-kŭv′ə-rē)pl. re·cov·er·ies

The act, process, duration, or an instance of recovering. A return to a normal or healthy condition.The act of obtaining usable substances from unusable sources.

Despite the similarity in all the dictionary definitions those involved in rehab treatment, the field of mental health, the media, and the Recovery ‘movement’ have yet to agree on what the problem is, never mind the solution. This can make it a little difficult for those of us seeking to enter our own Recovery process. To further complicate matters people Recover from many other conditions as well as addictions.

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Why Online? Why Recovery? Why Now? The Academy Explained

The continued rise of online resources in various fields opens up huge possibilities for all kinds of communication, knowledge and understanding. Online environments offer opportunities for discovery and personal growth in two distinct ways, particularly useful both those in Recovery and those seeking more information. Firstly, online access to information is 24/7, the interaction is on demand, when it is needed it’s there – perfect for the Recovery life, whatever stage of Recovery you might be at. Secondly, in the early stages of self discovery, it is private, confidential and safe.

When we consider the entrenched societal stigma surrounding addiction of any kind it is clear why accessing reliable information and help is hard for many. Wherever you are, we hope that the Online Recovery Academy mix of information, education, courses, resources and entertainment will help you enhance your Recovery, or help you decide if a Recovery Lifestyle is a path you wish to pursue.

Recovery is a choice, not always an easy one to make, but, a choice to change one way of life for another. It can seem like Recovery from any addiction is one of the World’s best kept secrets. Even those in Recovery are reticent to share their new way of living either as a result of the stigma and shame that still accompanies addiction, or because their Recovery seems so personal and intimate to their own experience. This is changing, and seemingly rapidly.

All over the world, for a multitude of reasons the Recovery Lifestyle is raising it’s profile: Some examples of recovery visibility are political advocacy in America, cultural change in Australia, health issues in the UK and complete policy change in Portugal, Ireland and many other countries. Our reaction to addiction, drug use and Recovery is changing. This provides a fertile and exciting environment for those seeking change.

We would guess (pretty confidently!) that anyone in long term Recovery will tell you their life is different now. Better? Probably. Easier? Probably not. But different, definitely.

In 2013 Faces And Voices Of Recovery (FAVOR), an advocacy group in the USA, commissioned a Survey called Life In Recovery. Devised by renowned addiction researcher Alexandre Laudet PhD, the survey garnered over 3500 responses and produced valuable data concerning the Recovery Lifestyle. Since 2013 the Survey has been replicated in Australia and the UK, and these three published research documents have revealed some fascinating correlations between shared experiences in Recovery.

The most important point is, of course, that people with addiction or substance misuse problems can, and do, Recover. Equally noteworthy is the level of enjoyment and fulfilment that the majority surveyed report.

The American Survey found as recovery progresses, civic involvement increases dramatically in such areas as voting and volunteering in the community. People in Recovery increasingly engage in healthy behaviours such as taking care of their health, including diet, getting regular exercise, and having dental checkups As Recovery duration increases, a greater number of people go back to some form of education or get additional job training and rates of steady employment increase, in addition more people start their own businesses.

The Australian Survey conducted by Turning Point found that across the five key areas assessed, there was considerable improvement in health, relationships, justice involvement, work and finances reported by participants in the study.

The UK Survey by Sheffield Hallam University re-enforced many of the American and Australian findings and concluded that ‘the transition from active addiction to recovery has multiple benefits for even the most vulnerable populations. The longer recovery can be sustained, the more the benefits are accrued to the individual, their families and their communities, this survey echoes the findings of prior recovery surveys in Australia and the US, adding to a growing body of evidence suggesting that while recovery can be a broad and differentiated experience, it is one that should be celebrated, acknowledged and supported across communities.’

So Why Recovery?

The results speak for themselves.

Want Recovery? Stamp Out Stigma

Shame and stigma block the pathway to Recovery for too many people. Yes, even today (as unbelievable) as it might seem owning up to a drink or drug problem is made harder by the stigma still so prevalent in our “enlightened” society. Asking for help, to detox, for rehab treatment, for understanding can all be made harder by outdated ideas, opinions and perceptions of addiction or alcoholism. This article by By Jeanene Swanson from the ever popular aims to stamp out the stigma and embrace Recovery (just like us!). Enjoy: Read the article.