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.

Health Emergency

We are experiencing a global health crisis. The number of opioid overdoses is increasing on a daily basis. People in need of addiction healthcare are being denied treatment because they lack funding.

Recently in Edinburgh Railway Station, we came across a man who’s suffering was palpable, without a home, friends, visible means of support ground down by a life of abject poverty, partially collapsed against the railing, disenfranchised from society, in utter despair. His ravaged face remains etched in my memory of that moment in time…he is one of many homeless people, who on a daily basis fade into the background, ignored and isolated from basic human rights to healthcare, compassion and community.

We stopped to give him money and spent a few minutes in silence, compassionately praying for his safety. As we walked away with heavy hearts it was easier to remain silent than to talk about feeling powerless to help him beyond the offer of money…

I know what it is like to have nothing, addiction took everything from me…the priceless love and respect of my family and friends…my home, job, and by the grace of god I did not die despite wishing I could…I was once I committed to living sober, rebuild a life in recovery.

I am beyond grateful that the obsession to drink and drug was lifted 30 years ago. Freedom from the bondage of self obsession. My life today is one of hope, love and happiness. The past has no power over me..The present unfolds with grace and effort…

I have my recovery tribe to thank for helping me stay sober, and the hundreds of hours I have sat in the chair, at a 12step recovery meeting, sharing my experience, strength and hope…with people who loved me until I could love myself….people who tell me the truth, have my back and never let me forget to keep coming back…

From the early days of being sober, to today it is my responsibility to do service within my recovery community…whether it is simply reaching out to a newcomer at a meeting, speaking at a conference about healing trauma, stabilising addiction recovery is what I do with an un-tired spirit… to carry the message of help, hope and recovery.

Every day is a new beginning…And I feel blessed to have the support of colleague and friend, clinician Mike Delaney. We decided last year that enough was enough ….that it was time to commit to changing the way people in an addiction crisis access help…

So…we are partnering with the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and a multinational pharmaceutical company to create “Addiction Emergency Clinics within the A&H- NHS hospitals.

The ASAM has devised a sustainable “Fundamentals of Addiction Medicine” training programme that supports doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and counsellors in the US and we want to bring this training into the public health sectors, within the UK and Europe.

Time takes time….and we are very patient…the task at hand is to convince Scottish Health Ministers to support universal addiction healthcare…and a significant change in how healthcare is accessed is near…soo it will be a green light and we, along with volunteers from the recovery community form alliances with doctors, nurses, healthcare workers to open 24/7 addiction emergency clinics starting in Glasgow and Edinburgh…to help people regain their lives free from the hell on earth that is active addiction.

Mike and I are working a living legacy programme that will provide healthcare to addicts in need…medically supervised detox, primary inpatient care from trained in addiction healthcare doctors, nurses and therapists…then when it is time to go to the next level of recovery ongoing sustainable support from the wider recovery community to ensure safety, help and hope continues between recovery meetings…

Compassionate universal addiction healthcare is percolating away in our minds and hearts. Soon we will let you know where to go to get help for yourself and or someone you know is suffering…..

Meanwhile have hope, and know you are not alone.