Mindfulness & Recovery

I love my recovery life. 12step recovery community and mindfulness meditation saved my life. One is my lifeline, the other my anchor…

In treatment for addiction I learned of the 12steps, and the importance of engaging in the recovery community to stay supported, connected and sober.

Unfortunately I was not ready to let go, surrender and commit to a daily abstinence based programme. My time in rehab was one of resistance to change. I held onto anger, shame and feeling like a victim which was a setup to relapse art the first hurdle of sober living…

The anxiety became overwhelming and I felt pressure from my family to have solved my problem with using illicit drugs, and drinking alcoholically…I simply had not had my last drink or drunk… and I relapsed upon leaving treatment for the next seven months…everyday was the same, I would wake up, and not know for a few minutes whether it was 8am or 8pm…that is if I made it home….

The physical damage of using ever day was primarily to my mind…I had panic attacks crossing the streets of New York…and because increasingly isolated from family and friends and ended up with no-one except my drug dealer to call…

Because I could not surrender, life did for me what I cold not do for myself… Often all it takes is moment of clarity, you may know from experience a similar moment, where suddenly everything stops, you are present, you are aware that there is another way out of the madness of addictive addiction’s constant cravings, obsession, pain and suffering…and in that moment all you have to do is take a leap fo faith, trust the process and connect with a recovery community to learn from them how to change your thinking, feeling, behaviours…stop the madness of using even when you don’t to use…and that moment of clarity came at a time of desperation…

It was the hardest challenge I had ever faced in my life…when I had my moment of clarity… it was similar to when I had nearly downed surfing many yeas ago and my life flashed into my consciousness then I was rescued and dragged from under a massive wave and brought breathless back to the safety of the shore……or when I was held up at knife point, when someone had followed me home to my front door in NYC, and again my life flashed in an instant.. and I knew in that moment that this was not my time to die….and spontaneously hard-high-kicked the assailant who doubled over, and ran way….so too was that momentary realisation that addiction was not going to kill me …but I was losing my mind” …boom! I stopped. And have not used since October 12th, 1988. ….I call it my higher self…the voice of my soul…

That I was sitting in the garden of Payne Whitney Psychiatric Hospital, desperately seeking help, because I wanted to kill myself, and had taken myself to to the hospital to get help is a significant part of story …fortunately for me the admitting psychiatrist intervened in my life in a way that only a person in recovery can…they sat with me, and something happens that can only be described in that unique that two people in recovery connect, share our lives for a few minutes, without judgement, and with compassion, that profoundly helps one another….

I had relapsed upon leaving rehab that April and for seven months been on a slow suicide mission….we talked about this, what it felt like to spiral into thinking about dying as constant….and we talked abut recovery, connections, and community…they recommended I return to meetings, or be admitted, prescribed medication and left alone in a room, isolated and alone and if I did this my addiction would not be treated but exacerbated with a toxic medication regime….I chose recovery…left the hospital and returned to meetings, asked for help, and did 90 meet in 90 days…and with the help of my recovery tribe, I seized a second chance at being in recovery….

My higher self is my real-time guide to mind/ body balance, inner healing and self-discovery. And has help me create a life of inner peace, balance and clarity.

The aim of recovery is to build awareness and inspire change. The intention is to develop our capacity to learn how to live life with greater resilience, compassion and happiness. It is possible live a life without stress, anxiety, worry and fear. Mindfulness educates us in how to master our emotions to create a more fulfilling life.

Recovery cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day living. This ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of the mind. It includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. The term mindful is to be intentional in what we think and feel. Spontaneously open. Creative to unfolding opportunities possibilities.

Recovery is being authentic. Conditioned mind tells us untruths. Peeling away the layers of conditioned thinking is mindfully to engage in life with authenticity and autonomy. Insights gained are restorative and affirming.

MEDITATION: Be still my beating heart….A typical introduction to the art of meditation practice begins with awareness of the breath/breathing. This can be done standing, sitting or lying down. The intention is to interrupt our mental disconnection from reality when we are projecting into the future or ruminating on the past.

As thoughts continue to come and go the intention is to raise awareness of the physical sensations taking place during the process and not attaching any meaning to passing thoughts. Meditation practice evolves over time into including a body-scan, mantra, a mudra and restorative yoga postures.

Meditation taps into the constant dynamic interplay between our interior and exterior worlds. A cause and effect relationship that ripples through our essential being.

Addiction influences the brain’s complex reward circuitry systems. Mindfulness holistic therapies have a unique role to play in addressing addiction and mental health challenges when there is a greater focus on early interventions and relapse prevention.

Integrating stress-management is proving to be one of the most promising wellbeing/mental health strategies, and is non-stigmatizing.

Awareness of self is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. Cultivating a mindfulness meditation practice provides a “safe place’ and a personal sense of fulfilment when challenges arise.

Managing time is a benefit of mindfulness training. Learning the value in being able to “switch-off” slows down the brain’s autopilot set point. Just as we neuro-biologically hard-wired to connect, conditioned mind becomes “stuck” in reactionary life position.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology.

This study and many others from Harvard Medical School demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.

There are many ways to cultivate the efficacy of mindfulness through repetition and regular practice until it becomes a natural everyday occurrence. Perfectionistic, fear-based thinking drives overthinking.

Maladaptive coping skills:

Internet addiction is endemic. The digital addict’s brain complex circuitry systems are impacted in the same way as illicit drugs, sugar and salt.

In a cause and effect world, everything is connected…so it no wonder young people are highly stressed, reactive, demotivated, anxious, discontented and depressed.

Mindfulness is not the silver bullet when addiction is active in a person. However, in my experience of working with addictive personality types of diverse cultures, ages and gender there is hope for change when the person is treated holistically – with a strong emphasis upon engaging in a medicially assisted inpatient detox & primary care treatment programme. Upon discharge, people are at their ost vulnerable, self needs to be factored into daily life…

Self care is an effective relapse prevention methodology….as is the importance of connecting with a recovery community support network. Physical wellbeing is vital. Enough sleep. Planning ahead to ensure there is always easily prepared food in the refrigerator needs to become a habit….

As simple as it sounds restorative mindfulness disciplines bring our focus back to the breath. Most people are surprised by their habit of shallow breathing. Learning how to breathe, deeply, longer and stronger is immediately energises the body. Getting comfortable in the stillness and silence of your thoughts is where people discover inner peace and clarity.

Mindfulness meditation invites the process of healing from within… Basically, mindfulness recognizes the Self and empowers individuals to act as a purposeful agent in their own lives and in the lives of others.

In its purest form Mindful Awareness has the potential to add value and freedom to every day living. To experience being here now in the present moment is recognising a powerful shift in energy and intention.

Learning how to manage mental stress reduces the volume of the “inner critic” relentless only negative self-talk. Teaching people to retrain their brain to interrupt the habit of overthinking is both empowering and esteem building for them and to observe the changes created by successfully incorporating mindfulness techniques is also rewarding for the practitioner.

Stress negatively impacts optimal wellbeing: adrenal fatigue is caused too much cortisol and not enough exercise, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, and the absence of stress management

The issues are in the tissues. Mind body soul total health is mindfulness in action. Mindfulness helps us thrive, overcome addictions, be in community and connected to others and ourselves.

With over five decades of experience, I expertly guide people through a transformational journey of meditation with the practical application of breath work.

Clients learn breathing techniques and exercises that can make them happier, be more reflective rather than reflexive, gain focus, and make better decisions.

The power of meditation changes lives forever.
Elizabeth Hearn, Hypno-psychotherapist CHP/NC. Founder of the London-based UNIVERSAL RECOVERY MOVMENT

Elizabeth works as a psychotherapist, consultant, educator, advisor, and broadcaster in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. and is the founder of:



My health improved and I began to thrive when I stopped using vodka, valium, nicotine and cocaine. A moment of clarity changed forever the illusion that escaping from reality was the solution to my pain, angst and unhappiness.

I am person in long term recovery. The foundation of my 30 plus years, lived experience began with an intervention by another person in longterm recovery. The admitting psychiatrist at a well known NYC mental health hospital whose assessment began with a leading question: “what are you willing to do to stop using addictively?”

The question shattered layers of denial….defence mechanisms built up to avoid reality, responsibility and recovery. I said I was willing to go to any lengths to be in recovery, stop the pain and start living.

Instead of being admitted, medicated and left alone….the psychiatrist spoke for a few minutes about what they had done to stop…I was relieved to hear that recovery works if you work it…and they recommended I return to the 12step fellowship, ask for help, get a sponsor and doing 90 meetings in 90 days.

I did. I surrendered to the illusion of being in control, stoped abandoning myself, took a leap of faith and began the journey of healing my soul from the hell on earth that is addiction…

….I began to trust myself, and allow others to help me…thus my humility kickstarted my recovery by letting go the illusion that I was alone, helpless and hopeless….


“To be a more successful country we need to see an overall improvement in our population health, and we need to close the gap between the health of our wealthiest communities and the health of our poorest. Only through an effective partnership, can we make the best use of our collective resources and work together to tackle our most difficult challenges – making a real difference to the prosperity and wellbeing of our communities.”
Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
First Minister of Scotland

In order to positively impact the financial and emotional burden upon the A&E-NHS of vulnerable people seeking help with mental and addiction healthcare issues it is time to actualise expanded acute care clinics that can be implemented into the public health sectors.

I am a person in longterm recovery – 30 years of lived experience that begin with an encounter A&E following a failed suicide attempt. I failed not because I am alive today, I was fortunate to not have the courage to kill myself… flipping this into having the courage to live, is primarily because of an intervention by a psychiatrist in recovery who offered me choice: return to 12step meetings. OR be admitted, and medicated but not be treated for substance mis-use (cocaine) alcohol dependency (straight vodka), and prescription pill abuse (valium).

I returned to 12step meetings, which takes courage to admit defeat, and humility to ask for help…which I did as I spoke about the past 24 hours, walking through Central Park looking for someone to murder me…and that familiar feeling of desperation….something shifted… and I knew I needed to get help…I left Central Park and caught a cab to Payne Whitney, a psychiatric hospital where the intervention took place…

From that moment on I have never been alone in my recovery. I ask for help. I worked though the 12steps, and I took meetings to prisons, hospitals and homeless shelters.

In my lived experience, and my training in addiction counselling, psychotherapy, and as a clinician that people suffering who are within the spectrum of addiction: sex addiction, sugar, fat salt addiction, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, and or workaholism…. whatever their drug of choice is, they cn recover…there is hope…to break the cycles of deep suffering.

Addiction is complex…and can be exacerbated by trauma from the past being triggered in the present…creating a cascade of obsessive thinking, (cravings) irrational behaviours (compulsivity) anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.

My therapeutic biopsychosocial approach is compassionate, mindful and is about empowering people, meeting them where they are….when they in need of help with addiction.

Vulnerable, at risk people have a right to be treated, not dismissed, and discharged. However, due to cutbacks, long waiting times and lack of experienced in addiction trainings first responders, doctors, nurses and associated healthcare workers, people are being turned away away instead of receiving treatment.

We are experiencing a health emergency. A radical restructuring of mental and addiction healthcare needs to actualise how people in need access and receive healthcare.

It is not good enough to say universal addiction will cost millions, actually addiction is costing people their lives…. addiction and mental healthcare is already costing billions globally: loss of income, loss of family, loss of life….

Changes in how vulnerable people access treatment is what I am suggesting for them to have a choice: a medically supervised impatient detox, impatient primary treatment plan with aftercare upon discharge to support the varying stages of addiction recovery or be discharged with appropriate medicine.

The NHS Health Scotland “Burden of Disease” study highlights that alcohol and drug dependence are major contributors to absolute inequalities and recommends that alongside other measures we must tackle conditions that are more prevalent within higher levels of deprivation.

Like many international cities, Glasgow has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic. Since 2000, annual overdose deaths involving opioids have increased tenfold, with a dramatic spike over the past few years driven by the spread of the highly lethal opioid fentanyl. In a recent survey, more than 1 in 4 Glaswegians reported knowing someone who had died from an opioid overdose.

The 2018-19 death toll 1,127, is even more tragic in light of the many effective treatments for opioid use disorder that exist. Overdose-reversal drugs, naloxone and -approved medications for opioid use disorder — buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone — have all been shown to reduce overdose deaths, but they aren’t consistently getting into the hands of the individuals or the communities that need them most.

What motivates me to continue to do service in the wider recovery community, to raise addiction awareness, and strive for essential changes in the dismissive, negative, judgemental language and perceptions that defines addiction? In my daily commitment to recovery I know I ned to reach out to my recovery tribe. It is my connecting with other recovering people that I feel “at home” accepted, seen and heard.

It is by overcoming prejudice, and stigma, (which stopped me initially from getting help when I most needed it) and making accessible inpatient and outpatient primary care, inpatient and outpatient addiction medicine treatment programmes that will save lives, NOW that is needed.

Let’s stop talking about what to do about addiction recovery ….we know what to do, and we know why people are dying from opioid overdoses…

I am currently engaged in forming strategic partnerships with Scottish recovery organisations to strengthen the focus on a full spectrum of addiction care: prevention, treatment, remission, aftercare, and re-generation of relationship with family, workplace and recovery communities.

The plan includes: patients and their families and will highlight the personal experience of addiction in much closer view aimed at leading scientific and medical progression in the field. It also exemplifies a firm recommitment to providing continued education for all treatment providers.

Renewed and redesigned goals amass to form a robust foundation and profound course of action in the spirit of the recovery from active addiction.

With a strategic plan in place, the opportunity to set standards, pioneer research, educate healthcare professionals and the public, challenge stigma, endeavours to enhance the goal of holistically treatments from medically supervised detoxes, to save lives, and reduce the financial burden upon the person in need of recovery, their family and community..
This strategic plan provides to guide and prioritize that way forward.

• Positive changes are seen as starting points for the recovery process: reduced harm, safer use, reduced use, moderation and potential abstinence.

• A comprehensive initial assessment will determine an initial personalized treatment plan based on substance use severity, the psychobiosocial factors, multiple meanings and functions of the behaviour, motivation to change, and insight.

• Effective treatment has a primary focus on engagement and therapeutic alliance throughout the assessment process that “starts where the person is” with empathy, respect and acceptance, because creating safety and support are seen as essential to the therapeutic outcomes.

• Teaching self-management skills to address urges and difficult emotions is often essential. An ongoing assessment throughout treatment deepens both client and therapist awareness of the addiction severity and its meaning and functions.

• Exploring the client’s resistance about change reveals the issues that need new solutions. As these issues are clarified, positive change goals around the substance use and these issues can be established.

• And, finally, a personalized plan for pursuing these positive changes can be developed collaboratively between client and therapist. The plan may include a variety of therapeutic modalities, lifestyle changes, health practices and medications depending on the client’s needs.

It is time for sustainable addiction healthcare programmes, that are accessible 24/7.


A biopsychosocial approach to addiction medicine and primary care treatment is essential in treating addiction. Medically supervised and assisted detoxing will give a person the best chance at recovery from addiction.

It is a process, one that requires commitment and courage to change.

Addiction creates complex health issues: Disorganised obsessive thinking. Constant mental and physical cravings. Compromised nutrition – sugar, fat and salt fast-food addiction, can left untreated be the cause of metabolic syndrome.

The lack of love, meaning and purpose in the immediacy of daily life causes isolation and great suffering in the human condition. It is the pain of existence that cause many people to use additively something to fix them…

People who are not addicts, ( I am married to one) understand the gravitas of addiction by this simple statement “one is too many and a thousand not enough) and he observes and maybe triggered into wanting to control me…however we both know that isa ike bring to catch the wind…

I am person longterm. My recovery tribe – the global recovery community, is in multiple of millions, however it is an individual/person-centred recovery process….moreover the language of recovery is universal – I have sat in meetings India, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, and felt deeply connected to every single person in the recovery meeting room despite our language, cultural, class, gender and age differences.

…the connection we share is of of compassion, courage and kindness… inequality does not divide is without a doubt the most humbling of life experiences to be in be of service, to compassionately helps others in need of sharing their problems in staying and or live a sober life…one day at a time…

I can often get caught up in the madness that is 21st centre urban living, however I am mindful of the constant need to unplug my “wanting machine” pause, return to NOW…and detach from this insta-world of want….

When a person is given the all clear after undergoing rigours treatments for cancer the doctor will state that their metabolic syndrome is cancer free…( vital organs) and their body is self-regulating to a higher level of optimal health.

ACCESSIBILITY: Everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a fundamental human right, protected by international law.

Although the right to health is legally grounded, universal healthcare is not about law, policy or prohibitions.

Universal Healthcare is the right to health in the day-to-day work of health care professionals within a universally accepted framework of values.

The right to universal health does not ask governments to commit resources they do not possess to the provision of health care. It asks those who make decisions that affect people’s health – be they health professionals, private corporations or public bodies – to promote and protect health, and to understand and to justify the effects of their decisions.

By signing international human rights treaties that affirm the right to health, a state agrees to be accountable to the international community, as well as its citizens, for the fulfilment of its obligations.

The right to participate in decision-making is a guiding principle of all human rights. A human rights approach to health emphasizes that good health services can only be achieved if people participate in their design and delivery.

The involvement of peer-led lived experiences within recovery communities has been shown to increase the likelihood that the needs of the community will be met more effectively and thus contribute to achieving better health. Participation helps ensure that the health system is responsive to the particular health needs of disenfranchised addiction and mental heath groups.

You are not alone. May you find the help you need.

Posted on July 11, 2019

Have courage & be kind

Leo Tolstoy on Kindness and the Measure of Love
“Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”

“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now,” Jack Kerouac wrote in a beautiful letter to his first wife and lifelong friend. Somehow, despite our sincerest intentions, we repeatedly fall short of this earthly divinity, so readily available yet so easily elusive. And yet in our culture, it has been aptly observed, “we are never as kind as we want to be, but nothing outrages us more than people being unkind to us.”

In his stirring Syracuse commencement address, George Saunders confessed with unsentimental ruefulness: “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.” I doubt any decent person, upon candid reflection, would rank any other species of regret higher.

To be human is to leap toward our highest moral potentialities, only to trip over the foibled actualities of our reflexive patterns. To be a good human is to keep leaping anyway.

In the middle of his fifty-fifth year, Leo Tolstoy (September 9, 1828–November 20, 1910) set out to construct a reliable springboard for these moral leaps by compiling “a wise thought for every day of the year, from the greatest philosophers of all times and all people,” whose wisdom “gives one great inner force, calmness, and happiness” — thinkers and spiritual leaders who have shed light on what is most important in living a rewarding and meaningful life.

Such a book, Tolstoy envisioned, would tell a person “about the Good Way of Life.” He spent the next seventeen years on the project.

Leo Tolstoy
In 1902, by then seriously ill and facing his own mortality, Tolstoy finally completed the manuscript under the working title A Wise Thought for Every Day. It was published two years later, in Russian, but it took nearly a century for the first English translation, by Peter Sekirin, to appear: A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts (public library).

For each day of the year, Tolstoy had selected several quotes by great thinkers around a particular theme, then contributed his own thoughts on the subject, with kindness as the pillar of the book’s moral sensibility.

Perhaps prompted by the creaturely severity and the clenching of heart induced by winter’s coldest, darkest days, or perhaps by the renewed resolve for moral betterment with which we face each new year, he writes in the entry for January 7:

The kinder and the more thoughtful a person is, the more kindness he can find in other people.

Kindness enriches our life; with kindness mysterious things become clear, difficult things become easy, and dull things become cheerful.

At the end of the month, in a sentiment Carl Sagan would come to echo in his lovely invitation to meet ignorance with kindness, Tolstoy writes:

You should respond with kindness toward evil done to you, and you will destroy in an evil person that pleasure which he derives from evil.

In the entry for February 3, he revisits the subject:

Kindness is for your soul as health is for your body: you do not notice it when you have it.

After copying out two kindness-related quotations from Jeremy Bentham (“A person becomes happy to the same extent to which he or she gives happiness to other people.”) and John Ruskin (“The will of God for us is to live in happiness and to take an interest in the lives of others.”), Tolstoy adds:

Love is real only when a person can sacrifice himself for another person. Only when a person forgets himself for the sake of another, and lives for another creature, only this kind of love can be called true love, and only in this love do we see the blessing and reward of life. This is the foundation of the world.

Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.

Feast on more of Tolstoy’s deeply nourishing Calendar of Wisdom here.

Complement this particular fragment with Albert Einstein on the meaning of kindness, Jacqueline Woodson’s lovely letter to children about kindness, and Naomi Shihab Nye on the remarkable true story behind her beloved poem “Kindness,” then revisit Tolstoy on love and its paradoxical demands, his early diaries of moral development, and his deathbed writings on what gives meaning to our lives.

HEALING ADDICTION. Lived experience perspective

“Human beings can withstand a week without water, two weeks without food, many years of homelessness, but not loneliness. It is the worst of all tortures, the worst of all sufferings. Like her, these men, and the many others who sought her company, were all tormented by that same destructive feeling, the sense that no one else on the planet cared for them.”
― Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

I am a person in longterm recovery from addiction whose lived experience is the embodiment of 30 plus years of personal service, in tandem with my professional role as a clinician, counsellor, speaker, educator and broadcaster.

Myself and other clinicians are working on implementing Addiction Emergency Clinics within NHS – hospital settings- an addiction healthcare initiative that we continue to drive in order for people in need of addiction healthcare may receive the help.

The benefits of lived experience volunteers working side by side with clinicians is formidable. We are currently pitching to Public Health Ministers a sustainable way of saving the lives of people whose healthcare crisis, reduced circumstances caused by poverty, homelessness, and isolation need to be addressed.

Not everyone who made up the recent tragic number of drug related deaths in Scotland is living on the streets. Many opioid addicts are highly function people. It could be the director of the movie you are watching, or serving you food in a restaurant, or managing extreme wealth portfolios, or sitting opposite you in the underground, or walking past you on the street….

Among addicts, mental health issues and addiction are often inextricably intertwined. Some individuals begin their descent into addiction by trying to self-medicate untreated mental illness; others develop mental illness as a result of years of substance abuse. In either of these cases, successful long-term recovery hinges on addressing both of these issues in treatment.

Many individuals, in an effort to treat underlying chronic pain or other issues become addicted. Addiction healthcare services can provide alternative, non-addictive ways of pain-management.

Addiction devastates individual, and their families.

I ask for help, for feedback and continue to do service within the recovery community. In the early years of recovery I sought professional help me manage stress, anxiety and prevent relapsing.

Time takes time. Don’t quit ever. If I can live the recovery life, one day at a time, so can you. Start where you. Find a local 12step fellowship meeting. Ask questions. Become curious about what to do to begin your recovery today. People in recovery will help you. You are not alone.

ADDICTION TREATMENT: A person centred approach to recovery.


Addiction Healthcare initiatives can expand, evolve and be accessible to vulnerable people into a safe haven where clinicians and people with lived experience (longterm addiction recovery) work side each other in specially appointed addition and mental healthcare crisis clinics, in an A&E setting.

Addiction is a complex biopsychosocial health disorder. A constellation that warrants a continuum of care. Addiction clinician’s training can provide compassionate understanding of factors contributing to complex addiction.

Medically assisted primary treatment has failed to factor in the problems an opioid addicted patient presents with. We are endeavouring to change that by creating addiction healthcare treatment protocols is implementing an individualised therapeutic plan that uniquely suits the patient.

Addiction healthcare is a holistic healing approach, that engages the patient, their family, and involving community, in a collective healing process that begins with offering the patient a choice: medically assisted detoxing, impatient addiction primary care, with a continuum of care follow up upon discharge, into a sustainably supportive lived experience community.


In March 2018, the Drug Policy Alliance led a delegation of 70 U.S. advocates to Portugal to learn from its health and human-centred approach to drug use.

The trip provided an opportunity for drug policy reform advocates to appreciate how effective a dramatically different approach to drugs can be.
Read the briefing paper about the Portugal visit and the link to:

http://Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Learning from a Health and Human-Centered Approach

Universal Addiction Healthcare was created in response to the consistently increasing number of drug and alcohol related deaths in the UK but particularly in Scotland.

The aim is to provide comprehensive training for front-line medical staff, nurses, first responders and lived experience volunteers, in order that they can provide a compassionate and holistic response to addicted individuals who present themselves in crisis at Accident and Emergency Departments.

Addiction is not a criminal justice issue but a public health issue which requires specialist training and insight into the medical and psychosocial nature of the illness.

I believe in the benefits of accessible and available addiction healthcare and of an individual’s right to expect effective, inclusive and compassionate treatment from NHS Services without fear of judgement or negative consequences

I am an addiction clinician and therapist, with 27 years of addiction healthcare treatment programmes experience, and 30 years lived experience to support fulfilling my professional and personal recovery obligation to provide addiction and mental healthcare to individuals and families in need of help.

In January 2019 I initiated a partnership with the American Society Addiction Medicine to provide evidence-based/fundamentals in addiction trainings and resources to augment healthcare providers in Scotland of the skills and knowledge they need to treat addicted patients.

I am proposing implementing 24/7 addiction emergency treatment clinics within A&E-NHS settings. facilitated by trained in the ASAM “Fundamentals of Addiction” medicine healthcare professionals, in addition to the Scottish Recovery Consortium lived experience – peer-led support volunteers for people in need to access available addiction and mental health primary care integrated treatment programmes to provide the most effective approach for supporting person-centred addiction and mental healthcare.

The following links reveal the backbone of the ASAM evidence-based research and teachings:

The ASAM definition of addiction:

The ASAM “Strategic Plan”

ASAM “Fundamentals of Addiction Training”

Addiction and mental health disorders are medical conditions and their treatment has impacts on and is impacted by other mental and physical health conditions, integrated addiction and mental healthcare programmes can help address health disparities, reduce health care costs for both patients and family members, and improve general health outcomes.

Well-supported evidence shows that the current substance use disorder workforce does not have the capacity to meet the existing need for integrated health care, and the current general health care workforce is undertrained to deal with substance use-related problems.

Health care now requires a new, larger, more diverse workforce with the skills to prevent, identify, and treat addictive disorders, providing “personalized addictive care” through integrated care delivery.

A new strategic plan strengthens the focus on a full spectrum of addiction care: prevention, treatment, remission, and recovery.

• Biopsychosocial assessment
• Medically assisted detox
• Medically assisted treatment programmes
• Lived experience community support services

The New Model: Many Paths to Recovery.

• The understanding of addiction described above suggests the need for specialised addiction medicine training and treatment directives in which addiction is treated concurrently with related physical health, mental health and social issues.

• Universal addiction healthcare combines essential medical and psychopharmacology interventions uniquely tailored to each person’s needs.

• The treatment plan should begin “wherever the person is” in terms of a health crisis. There should be no “jumping through hoops” such as having to produce clean urine samples in order to access treatment services

Spiritual Awakening…lived recovery experience, strength and hope…

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.

This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill.

Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends – this is an experience you must not miss.

We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives.”
A.A. Big Book, p. 89

A testament to lived experience is about counting to take action….being in flow can be about facing the fear of the unknown… summoning the courage and inspiration to ease into “the magnificent reality” that embodies my lived experience.

I am person in longterm recovery, with over 30 years of continuing emotional, spiritual and physical sobriety.

The way to nurture one’s recovery is in the continuum of selfless service..Regardless of whether we realise our dream to open our Addiction Emergency Clinics with the A&E -NHS settings or not in my time…the recovery legacy will continue…because recovery is a lifeline…which stays strong by connecting with the urban, rural and digital recovery communities…

I am not alone….I have tremendous, faith, trust and hope that the message will continue to be available for anyone seeking meaning…which is to experience living one’s purpose…

A public health approach to universal addiction healthcare

I am not alone in addressing the Scottish health emergency by actualising Addiction Healthcare Emergency Care Clinics within the settings @ A&E-NHS Hospitals, in Scotland and England to treat the spectrum of substance mis-use related conditions. 

My aim is in implementing Addiction Emergency Clinics with A&E-NHS hospitals settings…clinician’s trained in addiction medicine working alongside lived experience volunteers treating people in need of a medically assisted detox, inpatient primary care, and longterm addiction recovery community outpatient support.

I am a person in longterm recovery (30 years) whose understanding of addiction healthcare is both personal and professional.

My aspirational commitment is in creating these clinics where the clinicians expertise is on people accessing free non-judgemental specialist addiction and mental healthcare.

I advocate for evidence-based drug addiction healthcare founded on principles of public health rather than a criminal justice approach to reduce mental and physical harm associated with drugs, and where those who use drugs are treated based on principles of human rights, dignity and equality.

We are over talked asking why…we know why..yesterdays, 1187 Drug Delated Deaths in Scotland in 2018, tells us all that it is time to take action. If cutbacks in policing, mental health had not been so severe perhaps people in need may have had a chance to access help..if they could manoeuvre ridiculously long waining time—up to Two years….

Having many spent many hours in the past few years @ meetings in Westminster, Criminal Justice conferences in Durham and Edinburgh to hear from learned speakers about criminal justice, and much more…ANY essential changes in policy failed to actualise…

Brexit’s financial and political catastrophe making has manifested unsolvable impasses/deep blocks to any kind of policy change….

…what to do? I live in hope that the catalyst for change in how people in need access addiction and mental healthcare will cause changes to breakthrough ……and we can open our Addiction Emergency clinics within existing A&E -NHS settings in Glasgow…….by our team of leading Scottish clinicians, and addiction professionals whose lived experience is augmented by our evidence-based clinical knowledge gained through decades of working with clients in primary care, outpatient settings, individual and family therapy programmes.

This addiction healthcare initiative is aimed at leading scientific and medical progression in the field of universal addiction healthcare. It also exemplifies a firm recommitment to providing continued education, training and support for first responders, doctors, nurses, and associated healthcare workers.

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Learning from a Health and Human-Centered Approach

Since Portugal enacted drug decriminalization in 2001, the number of people voluntarily entering treatment has increased significantly, overdose deaths and HIV infections among people who use drugs have plummeted, incarceration for drug-related offenses has decreased, and rates of problematic and adolescent drug use has fallen.

I am proposing we adapt the Portugal Decriminalisation model and translate this into an addiction and mental healthcare programme. Exactly the same procedure: a clinic within the A&E-NHS settings, a separate space where people in need of addiction healthcare can be assessed by an addiction psychologist, and medical team for appropriate inpatient primary care and they are given a choice…engage in a treatment process: medically assisted/supervised inpatient detox, inpatient primary care, and a total healthcare programme to begin their recovery process.

Upon discharge they will attend outpatient recovery programmes, in addition to SMART recovery and or 12step meetings to ensure their re-entry process is fully supported by people with lived experience…organisations like the Scottish Recovery Consortium has a solid volunteer programme, life skills trainings in and much more. Their ethos: Rights. Respect and Recovery is a sustainable framework, created to engender people in early recovery being fully supported to prevent relapse, engender renewal and thriving.

In January, 2019 I initiated a partnership with the American Society of Addiction Medicine primarily to introduce the “Fundamentals of Addiction Medicine Trainings” and a way forward in how the trainings can become the backbone of the proposed addiction healthcare initiative and Addiction Emergency clinics.

In my professional experience, effective addiction treatment must for everyone involved, contain the fundamentals of addiction trainings, monitoring and interventions to ensure the individual’s health and safety during detox, primary care inpatient treatment.

The ASAM “Fundamentals of Addiction Training” is designed to educate, empower and support first-responders, doctors, nurses, addiction counsellors, and associated healthcare care workers.

I am committed to recovery, to helping people ravaged by addiction to access addiction primary care treatment. Lived experience and recovery engenders in time a person who has sought help, becoming part of the solution, and an asset within their community.

The efficacy of ASAM trainings in addiction medicine, medically assisted impatient detoxing, addiction recovery primary care, and the continuum of care:
• Learn core competencies and knowledge needed to identify, and treat, patients with addiction
• Increase knowledge, skills and confidence for doctors, first responders, nurses and associated healthcare workers
• Experience content created specifically for primary care based on extensive needs-assessment

The ASAM “Fundamentals of Addiction Training” link to take you into the realm of addiction healthcare possibilities:

Enhancing the effectiveness of addiction and mental healthcare is in adapting the Portuguese Model for decriminalisation into an addiction medicine/healthcare model with a strong learning ethos in the fundamentals of addiction medicine trainings. Westminster needs to support this health initiative, and stop blocking Scotland’s need to take care of vulnerable to addiction community.

People are dying. Let’s transform that headline into “people are recovering” because they can readily access 24/7 addiction and mental healthcare within A&E settings.

We intend to make available 24/7 access to addiction healthcare within A&E settings to provide people in need of addiction healthcare the choice in how they receive their right to healthcare…the first priority is to make accessing healthcare as easy as possible…no more up to two year waiting times, nor having vulnerable people having to travel great distances to receive daily medication…

Healthcare is a human right…and we are facing the greatest healthcare emergency on record of our time…too many people are dying…I want to change the story from death to living in recovery…and yes it is long treatment process, but if nothing changes in the way people access addiction healthcare…then nothing changes…

The evidence- based principles for a recovery-oriented system are:
• 24/7 access to healthcare
• Inclusive of family therapy and support
• Individualised, comprehensive addiction medicine primary care programmes
• Recovery Services anchored in the community
• Continuum of of care
• Recovery resilience -based skill-building disciplines
• Commitment to peer recovery support services;
• Inclusion of the lived experiences of recovering individuals and their families;
• Prevention. Education. Person centred life-skills training

In my lived experience of working with people suffering with the spectrum of addiction: sex addiction, sugar, fat salt addiction, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, and or workaholism…. whatever their drug of choice, there is hope…to break the cycle of deep suffering, and enter into a a primary inpatient recovery programme.

Addiction is complex…and can be exacerbated by trauma from the past being triggered in the present…creating a cascade of obsessive thinking, (cravings) irrational behaviours (compulsivity) anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.

I am a person in longterm recovery…. who benefitted from sitting across from someone in longterm addiction recovery intervention in an A&E clinic …. she offered me a choice…. engage in an outpatient recovery programme…or be admitted, I was at Payne Whitney psychiatric hospital where addiction would not be addressed, or treated…and I would be inappropriately prescribed medication to treat anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation…

….I chose recovery…went to an A.A. meeting around the corner from my apartment that she had recommended. It was a an alumni 12step meeting started by Betty Ford. And I signed up to have daily therapy at the Smithers Foundation.

Taking that initial step into recovery was made easier by the welcoming from people in long term recovery whose lived experience was so generously shared with me…

Betty Ford came regularly to the meeting, already well known for her openness as first lady—a trend that continued long after the Fords left the White House, when she created the Betty Ford Center for addiction. Her generosity of spirit is legendary.

Eventually when fear of drinking or using drugs was no longer my first waking thought I began to feel hopeful, about the “bridge back to “normal living” my recovery was manifesting…along with sober companies we felt inspired to take meetings into hospitals, not dissimilar to my own experience in A&E, to talk to people who were being abandoned by healthcare system failures to help them… and we took meetings into prisons…

I learned from others with lived experience new ways to rewire rogue addictive neural pathways from firing off an autopilot urge for instant gratification…knowing this would trigger relapsing back to my drugs of choice: vodka, valium and cocaine….

I came to believe the truism: feelings pass, and developed patience in trusting the process….hugely helped by a lived experience, continuum of care that included for many years: Ayurvedic and allopathic medicine when it is necessary. Weekly psychotherapy, and monthly naturopathic therapies transformed my mind, body and spirit into one of thriving and optimal wellbeing.

Quitting nicotine, sugar, fat and salt…over time has become easier to maintain with daily yoga, mindfulness and meditation.

I am trained in hypnotherapy and the benefits of self hypnosis is brilliant to apply when I need to destress my thinking…and hit reset…to restore my bodies natural ability to heal…

My therapeutic biopsychosocial approach is compassionate, mindful and is about empowering people, meeting them where they are….when they in need of help with addiction.

….that A&E intervention occurred October 12, 1988. And I have been sober ever since. My recovery tribe in NYC was back then a wild mix of people, new to recovery like me..doing 90 meetings in 90 days….is essentially counting days in recovery, so people get to know me, and initiated the process of being in recovery.

In addition to people in recovery whose lived experience with the spectrum of substance related conditions taught me about the importance of enhancing the effectiveness of recovery. whose compassionate wisdom and learned experience in recovery supported me, who loved me until I could love myself, taught me to never quit, and how to live to become an asset in my recovery community.

…addiction had decimated my personal and professional life.. episodic outbursts of anger when I did get not what I wanted….to fill the hole in my soul, and satiate feeling worthless…helpless and hopeless… feeling as though I had no skin, no separation from me or you..eventually settled into growth spurts…life was becoming manageable, I was learning how to live life sober…

For the past 27 years since retraining in addiction therapy and counselling in 1991, I continue to help people who may not want but need recovery to engage in SMART recovery programmes and or 12step fellowships.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine’s definition of addiction: a brain disorder, an illness, cognitive impairment impacted by drug use and trauma meant my brain was similar to that of a stroke victim…

With a new addiction healthcare initiative proposal gaining traction the outcome will be actualising clinics specific to addiction treatment and recovery.

Talking, debating discoursing the shocking opioid related deaths is not going to save lives…it is listening to our call for action that will generate a change in how people in need access and receive care,

We want to the opportunity to set standards, pioneer research, educate professionals and the public, challenge stigma, with endeavours to enhance the goal of treating addiction and save lives.

The following strategic plan provides a road map to guide and prioritize that way forward.

• Positive changes are seen as starting points for the recovery process: reduced harm, safer use, reduced use, moderation and potential abstinence.

• A comprehensive initial assessment will determine an initial personalized treatment plan based on substance use severity, the psychobiosocial factors, multiple meanings and functions of the behaviour, motivation to change, and insight.

• Effective treatment has a primary focus on engagement and therapeutic alliance throughout the assessment process that “starts where the person is” with compassion, respect and acceptance, because creating safety and support are seen as essential to the therapeutic outcomes.

• Teaching self-management skills to address urges and difficult emotions is often essential. An ongoing assessment throughout treatment deepens both client and therapist awareness of the addiction severity and its meaning and functions.

• Exploring the client’s resistance to change reveals the issues that need new solutions. As these issues are clarified, positive change goals around the substance use and these issues can be established.

• And, finally, a personalized plan for pursuing these positive changes can be developed collaboratively between addiction trained doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, lived experience volunteers and holistic therapists. The plan may include a biopsychosocial approach to person centred healing… medically assisted detoxing, addiction primary care, addition centric therapeutic modalities, lifestyle changes, all depending on the client’s choice and needs.

An affordable way to introduce this fundamentals of addiction training is through training medical staff and first responders who are already working with people in a health crisis with the additional support of peer-led trained volunteers who will also be based within these services.

The following links reveal the backbone of the ASAM evidence-based research and teachings:

The ASAM definition of addiction: http://

Recovery shape changes over time: from chaotic intensity to growing and thriving. … one keeps taking actions to maintain the momentum of recovery…I have never wanted to pick up an illicit drug, an alcoholic drink or disconnect from my recovery tribe by stopping going to meetings, isolating and falling back into self destructive behaviours.

You are not alone. Keep on doing your best to be your best. Recovery has turned my addiction into an asset – I am a person in longterm recovery, with a family, and a recovery community…I live life on life’s term, in the immediacy of daily life….with optimal lived experience, strength and hope.