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.”






The Scottish Recovery Consortium (SRC) are at it again. One of our favourite recovery organisations in the world have announced yet another initiative to support recovery wherever you are. A free recovery workbook, free to everyone. Just click here and download the pdf.

The SRC’s innovative ideas and practices deserve attention everywhere. Since 2008 the SRC team have developed their charity with an ongoing “organisational” recovery practice.

Watch Kuladahrini talk about it here.

The SRC believe that not only can people recover from addiction, but their lives can be truly enhanced by the recovery process. Recovery results in a better way of living and a better life.

SRC have developed Recovery College, the Recovery Initiative Fund, Opiate Replacement Treatment Recovery and many other great ideas that support recovery in the community.With a vision to have a country in recovery, SRC march on, literally with helping organise the annual Recovery Walk in Scotland.

The SRC have put the idea of recovery at the heart of treatment and drug strategy advocating for a “recovery” model in dealing with the problems caused by addiction. There are now more than 100 Recovery Café’s across Scotland as well as sports clubs and other community support organisations that support recovery. The mindset is changing in Scotland and across the UK, a recovery “movement” is emerging.

The SRC’s free recovery workbook is, as they put it, “a gift from the recovery movement in Scotland, to people in early recovery from addictions everywhere. Our gift, like recovery itself, is free to you.”

You can read about SRC online, or you can watch some videos on Youtube, you can also keep coming back here and reading about recovery in Scotland, all over the UK, and from all around the world.

Image from SRC Recovery Gave Me poster campaign.


Defy In Transform


In our recent Success In Recovery post, we featured examples of individual entrepreneurs enjoying success in recovery. While we maintain the real success in recovery is staying sober or drug free, we also believe recovery can be a ‘mirror’ of addiction. We can take assets used to survive addiction and apply them to recovery, giving us every chance to harness our energy and thrive.

There are plenty of addicts in recovery who were “successful” in addiction, but still not so happy – the energy in recovery can maintain the success and offer the opportunity of finding that happiness.

Through this recent story on we went down a delightful rabbit hole and found Tori Utley’s amazing TedX talk Why The Workforce Needs Recovering Addicts.

After watching this, we felt moved to at least check out Defy Ventures Inc.  Their view is that “many former drug dealers and gang leaders can become successful, legal entrepreneurs.” They have created a framework to “transform the hustle” in currently and formerly incarcerated drug users calling them Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs).

David Linden, a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine and author of The Compass Of Pleasure argues in Forbes that traits that make a good CEO – risk-taking, strong drive for success, obsession, dedication, novelty-seeking – are precisely what make a “good” addict (hustler).

Constance Scharff, co-author of Ending Addiction For Good, identifies another similarity with Defy’s “hustlers.” She suggests high achievers often report a stressor or trauma early on in life, fuelling the success drive in the same way it drives addiction. Scharff notes they frequently had some basic needs unmet as children, and that these driven individuals are often self-medicating. Most importantly she concludes ““We’ve never seen someone who hasn’t at least doubled in productivity after treatment.”

All sides of the street, recovery breeds success.

Alcohol Free


You might not expect to find a piece on Dry January on an addiction recovery site, although you will certainly see it covered across all other traditional and social media. The first “official” campaign seems to have started in 2012 in the UK. Alcohol Concern, a leading UK charity encouraged a challenge to go alcohol free for a month to raise funds for their work.

A lot of people report having done this regularly for the sake of their health, so with the added motivation of a worthwhile cause this annual campaign has continued to grow. It is predicted that one in five UK adults will take part in 2017. The idea has gained traction in the United States, Australia and South Africa signifying an international appetite for reconsidering the role of alcohol in day to day life. Some commentators suggest there is a “sobriety movement” growing with more people choosing alcohol free lifestyles hailing 2017 as the year that the “sobriety movement” will hit the mainstream. Certainly attitudes to drinking are changing and the rise of alcohol free drink choices in pubs and clubs is one of the biggest growth areas in the beverage market.

One of the major benefits associated with the alcohol free challenge is that people rethink their relationship with drinking. Many who try a Dry January choose to go a step further remaining sober all year round.  Comments on the Dry January blogs, and in numerous articles covering last years campaign reveal that many participants realised they really did have a drink problem whilst others just preferred feeling healthier and saving money!

Whatever the outcomes all of this is good news for anyone in a recovery process. In the past one of the key factors identified as an obstacle to sober living was social pressure in a society where drinking (even heavy drinking) was the social norm. This emerging sober lifestyle trend can only help make recovery a less stigmatised option.








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.

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.

Continue reading

All About Recovery – How I stopped drinking and recovery started working:

After 30 years of continuous drinking and drug use I got sober. I spent the last of the little money I had on four months of residential treatment.

The only reason I took that path was because a dear friend, who had been given 6 months to live (at the age of 30) went that way. I doubt I would have done it otherwise.

The only other attempt I had made to do something about my substance use was in my 29th year of using. I went to some 12 Step Meetings and stayed sober for 30 days. When I started using again, I fragmented completely. Six months or so later, I was gently encouraged into addiction treatment by two close friends, one mentioned earlier and another I continue to trust implicitly to this day.

I went to a lot of 12 Step Fellowship meetings after leaving treatment (I still attend a few regularly), but I did a lot more besides.

I went to College (having previously dropped out of school at age 16) and got a qualification in Addiction Counselling. I took up Sculpture and Yoga, I started exercising regularly, I turned Vegetarian. I began reading philosophical and spiritual writing that I would never have entertained before. I did voluntary work for the first time in my life.

I experienced a massive change in my worldview and, consequently, in my personal belief systems.

I believe all these changes contribute to the Recovery of my life.

I tend to think about my Life, as opposed to my Recovery as I believe that the two are one and the same thing.

My personal Recovery relied on multiple methods and pathways with a common denominator: a willingness to change.

The idea for The Online Recovery Academy has been developing in my thoughts for the past 5 years, encouraged by observations and experiences with other entities both on and offline. In some cases, reference points go back many more years. ORA is an attempt to respectfully take inspiration from a number of sources and create a space where Recovery in many forms can be encountered and considered.

There are many willing collaborators involved in shaping ORA, and many more inspirational organisations and individuals whose activities continue to create a spark in our thinking. The is result is that I’ll often write blog posts in the third person and personal opinion will always be marked out as my own.

When I came across The School Of Life in London (and now elsewhere too), whilst not a Recovery resource as such, their model and curriculum got me thinking. Right now, we can only aspire to this – a bricks and mortar location, a series of courses and events, a publishing arm, therapeutic approaches, and a sense of humour – but the muse was inspired.

The next bit of groundwork was the discovery of a US NPO, Writers In Treatment. Their founder, Leonard Buschel, had started the Reel Recovery Film Festival, which continues to grow year on year and inspired us to create our own version of a Recovery Film Festival in South Africa.

I have worked with individuals in Addiction Treatment from many parts of the world. It became increasingly clear that people who wanted to recover needed resources and the most obvious and accessible resources could be sourced online. So began my research, admittedly on an ad hoc basis, and with that came numerous ‘discoveries.’ The then fledgling online magazine, The Fix, opened up a whole new source of information and viewpoints. Along the way more fantastic blogs, organisations and even official programs came on to the Recovery research radar.

I started sharing these resources with people leaving treatment. I seldom recommended specifics, but would suggest visiting a few active sites publishing and updating salient articles, as well as a few online communities I thought may address individualised needs of people in early recovery.

It has been a fascinating, yet hugely time-consuming task to keep on top of the growth in Recovery resources and attitudes. One of the most significant turning points was discovering The Anonymous People (on a crowdfunding sight). As well as screening this film at our Recovery Film Festival, I was able to connect with the filmmaker Greg Williams and found out more about the grass roots Recovery Movement in the US, as well as learning about the concept of Recovery Capital.

Social media also offered several instances of ‘Recovery culture’ gathering momentum. I started learning about Recovery initiatives in other countries, and in the UK in particular. The story of The Brink in Liverpool got us very excited, swiftly followed by Sobar in Nottingham, Redemption in London and a whole host of other café and dry bar ideas. I reserve a very soft spot for Cascade Creative Recovery in Brighton for reasons too complicated to explain here.

Inspiration veered away from Recovery and into the realms of education with the discovery of edX and a free course (or MOOC) they were offering from UC Berkley on the Psychology of Happiness. Having signed up, participated and completed the course, investigation into online learning ensued and led to Udemy. At the time, there were a handful of Quit Drinking courses. It was not until a few months later we stumbled on one of the catalysts for our own series of courses.

In January 2015, an article in The UK Guardian profiled Club Soda and it’s founder Laura Willoughby; it seemed like a full-ish circle back to The School Of Life concept, but Recovery focussed, brilliant! In turn, Club Soda took us back to Udemy via A Hangover Free Life (AHFL).

Having been living AHFL for a while the course produced by blog founder Louise was intriguing… Not of direct relevance, but it did indicate a way forward. It felt like time to make a start.

I began work on identifying courses I thought would help increase understanding of addiction, but more importantly, that would enhance the experience of Recovery by providing additional online materials, articles and resources.

It became obvious that a website would be needed to complement the courses planned, and that ORA would need to extend it’s reach through social media too.

It is a work in progress, and frustratingly imperfect, but I’ve learnt a lot about progress and perfection in the past few years. I, therefore, cordially extend you an invitation to keep coming back to the site, the social media feeds, the courses and hopefully grow, in Recovery, with us.

Like On Facebook