Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On isolation and recovery – an excellent article by Ian Wardle

The past few months have been very interesting times for what I can only describe as an urgently needed recovery agenda in the UK.

Yesterday, we saw published online an erudite discussion on recovery and the UK treatment field by the CEO of Lifeline, Ian Wardle. He has written an excellent article, one which should be read by all people working in the treatment field, as well as by politicians and others who impact in one way or other on our efforts to help people overcome substance use problems.

I would love to devote a good deal of time discussing this article, but my three youngsters have come to stay for a week and have left me somewhat brain-dead. However, it would be wrong of me to say nothing about Ian’s article. So, ‘please keep quiet upstairs!’

I found Ian’s focus on the isolation of the treatment field and the implications of this isolation fascinating. In my opinion, there is no doubt that embedding drug treatment in the criminal justice system is greatly hurting our efforts to help people overcome substance use problems, as I will discuss in one my forthcoming Wired In Reflections.

The field is also hurting itself by getting bogged down in arguments about harm reduction vs. abstinence, as has been discussed in some of my other Blogs. As Ian points out, we are isolating ourselves from each other. This is unnecessary, as the recovery writings of Bill White and colleagues reveal.

Ian emphasises that we are becoming isolated from people outside this field. People from outside the field that I know (and trust) who are aware of what I am doing are horrified by some of the dogma they read in our field. They cannot believe that some people seem more interested in looking after the system than the clients.

Ian also points out that we are isolated from the new personalisation and recovery-orientated philosophies that are inspiring people in other sectors of health and social care. It has surprised me how many people in the drug field are so inward-looking – they don’t look to learn from other fields, which is naïve given the relatively new discipline in which we work.

I believe it was an excellent idea of Ian to focus on the isolation issue. It has certainly made me think about this issue more explicitly. There are a number of suggestions for the future way forward that are indicated by Ian’s article.

However, I felt that two messages may not have got come through strong enough – I apologise to Ian, if I have misread things. Firstly, there is a lot we can learn from the writings and actions of the US recovery movement. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but at the same time our recovery efforts in the UK will take us in some different directions.

Secondly, we must listen much more to people who are recovering or recovered from addiction – and learn from them. We generally do not do this well in the UK.

Thanks for a very thought-provoking article, Ian.