Recovery or Rhetoric

The Recovery rhetoric is reaching epidemic proportions!  Service User representatives are adding Recovery Coordinator to their titles, Drug Workers are becoming Recovery Workers or Recovery Initiators and the definition of what constitutes Recovery is getting ever wider, including those still in treatment and on substitute opiate medication.

Soon, maybe active addicts, on illicit street drugs will be defined as being in a Recovery of sorts, maybe if they attend an assessment, who knows what will happen next.

What then is a viable definition for Recovery.  Typing “Recovery” it into MSWord and engaging the dictionary function came up with the following:

  • A return to health
  • A return to a normal state, and 
  • The gaining back of something lost, or
  • In the process of recovering from an addiction or other destructive habit
These are just dictionary definitions and I’m not one of the new wave of clever academic types running or developing the UK or Global Recovery Movement(s), I’m just someone that has been in Recovery since 1986 when I entered rehab and stopped taking drugs and am still trying to hustle a living by being in the drugs field but not taking or selling drugs
Personally I try not to buy into the polarized arguments that try and make Recovery exclusive.  For instance I dont buy into the view that recovering addicts need to recover near their home location and show others the way into Recovery, we can do that where ever we are and its not location dependent.  I can see why commissioners want to ensure that they keep those in Recovery nearby, so that they can use them within a specific geographic location, because usually those that go to rehab (often out-of-area) that do well, re-settle near the out-of-area rehab and the only ones that go home are the ones that maybe didn’t do so well and I have heard some commissioners coining the phrase, “we dont want to export success and import failure” (not my words)
This, like the pseudo-academics and payment-by-results advocates, that are adopting a Recovery rhetoric, it is still about treating the addict as a commodity and not a unique individual with choice.  Choice to define their own Recovery, in their own way. 
With this in mind, I dont care if your recovery is opiate free, nicotine free and/or alcohol free or whether its a process that is moving toward this or is stopped at a particular point along the way.  I dont care if your recovery is near or in your home town or miles away from it – my own journey meant I had leave where I grew up and start again somewhere new
Its none of my business and yet, the current Recovery Rhetoric being adopted by many professionals is more about engaging the addict as a commodity and exploiting them for personal or professional gain (get them on my committee, get them to start a recovery community or mutual aid group for tuppence, get me a payment by result etc).  We used to have a drug and alcohol sector that operated as a cottage industry; small, diverse, fiercely independent and successful (if a little dysfunctional from time to time – I must admit)
However, the success generated by the cottage industry was highjacked and led to promises of greater social benefit if only investment could be forthcoming to scale up drug treatment, not least a reduction in crime.  Drug users were marshaled into treatment and the corporates gradually moved in.  Professional standards were developed and we saw minor league charities become major league players, some moving from a turnover of tens of thousands to tens of millions, literally over a few years
Drug treatment was something you used as a platform for getting better (Recovery) and it became an end in itself (a script for as long as you required it).  Drug users tip-toed between the dealer on the one hand and the state or state representative (NHS or Charity treatment provider) on the other.  As I said in my 2008 piece (inside out)  “both wanting control and neither offering freedom” (sorry for quoting myself!!!).
And here we are today, another twist and turn down the road and the new mantra from above is Recovery.  Something I and many others advocated for, at a time when advocating it meant getting shot down by the harm reductionists, and being labelled ‘the new (and slightly mad) abstentionists’.
As Jimmy Greaves used to say, “its a funny old game” and its “also a game of two halves” so I wont try and call the score at what feels like half time but low and behold, the harm reductionists have highjacked Recovery and bent it to fit their definitions or should I say bent it to fit their existing contracts – I know, I’m being cynical so try and screen that out if you can and look for the hidden nugget of truth, its there somewhere
The truth is, we all move toward all sorts of addictions for all sorts of reasons.  In my experience it was an answer to problems and it was a while before I noticed that my solution to my problems became my biggest problem and I was fortunate enough to get help.  The system we had back then (1986) was based on residential rehabilitative care, accessed via the Dept. for Health & Social Security (DHSS) and I was welcome for as long as I needed to be there (the programme was 11-months but this wasn’t seen as a maximum).  Detoxing was the main reason for using methadone but I, like many others back then, came off heroin without the use of opiate substitutes, (we”clucked”, went cold turkey) and most of the people on substitutes were blagging scripts to get by and self medicating on-top with whatever they could get
Going cold turkey seems really inhumane by todays frivolous prescribing standards but was the norm back then.  I’m not advocating going back to those days but I do believe we need to get some perspective because we have gone too far the other way, otherwise lets not pretend that the rhetoric is reality but often a convenient staging post to delay the onset of recovery by continuing with our addiction
All the best