Annemarie Ward is CEO of Faces And Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) and spoke at the Daily Record’s debate at Holyrood that directly led to three more ‘lived experience’ voices in the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce.
Here she argues that people with direct experience of drug addiction must be key to any new approaches to drugs.
In Scotland families are losing a loved one every seven hours due to drug deaths.
If we lost a loved one every seven hours due to terrorism or Ebola what would the Government response look like?
Let us not avert our gaze from the gravity of this problem or bury our heads in the sand, the facts and figures speak for themselves.
Scotland has a public health disaster on its hands. It is hiding in plain sight.
On the 12th of September a large group of unheard voices got to sit at the debating table in Scottish Parliament.
It is a day that we hope will be noted and remembered as a catalyst for change in how we as an inclusive society addressed this crisis.
I watched in awe towards the end of our meeting as a man with nearly two decades of recovery moved from the back of the room to take his rightfully earned seat at the main speaker table with grace, caution and humility.
He then went on to speak with passion and power about his own recovery journey, and his two decades experience of supporting people into recovery.
The taking of his seat was a symbolic moment in our journey as recovering people, as we have never been included in the conversation around what recovery is, and what it takes as a community to prevent and support people seeking to re-create and redirect their lives.
There was over 200 years of recovery experience at that round table.
For too long that expertise, and wisdom has been ignored, dismissed and excluded.
The consensus is, we will no longer accept being derided, as it’s to the detriment of the lives we are now losing at a catastrophic rate.
We only found ourselves at the table due to the resilience, perseverance and passionate voices of the recovery community.
We are segment of the recovery community motivated by compassion, a passion that springs from wanting to prevent unnecessary human suffering.
Drug deaths are inevitable, but they are also preventable. The research also backs this truth.
It was because of this we decided to mobilise and create gatherings to highlight the apathetic response from our Government and also to
offer support and connection to the families of the people lost, we wanted to send a clear message to them that they are no longer alone,
and us as a recovery community are prepared to fight to prevent families and communities being devastated even further.
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Our ethos being, if we don’t remember the people who died through our activism, and our efforts to prevent more deaths, then they die twice!
Our collective efforts managed this without any support or input from Government commissioned organisations and services.
We are a large section of the recovery community, and the most successful in supporting people into sustainable and productive recovery, why organisations and services who advocate on behalf of people in or seeking recovery excludes our expertise without a sufficient explanation is baffling.
Introspection and self-reflection are an important and often used tool in maintaining personal growth for individuals and organisations in every walk of life.
In the recovery community we call it taking inventory of our grosser handicaps, this process allows us to examine what is causing our failure in our personal life, occupations and affairs.
It allows us the humility to seek reconciliation and make amends when we are wrong. Without this examination of our character flaws we feel we could never maintain our integrity on our recovery journey or survive as a community.
It is a process that demands rigorous honesty with self and others, it allows us to see where we are at fault for mistakes, how to do the repair that enables growth and maintenance of healthy relationships.
Rigorous honesty is a central tenet in having contented recovery.
Our life depends on living by that code of conduct, it is why you can rely absolutely on what people in our way of life say about themselves.
These individuals are predominantly found in the 12 step fellowships, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous etc. To date it is the most successful addiction recovery treatment process on the planet.
People in long term recovery are used to having this fact finding and fact facing inventory of our own behaviour, our mental and emotional processes. Personal Inventory an essential part of staying well.
If we looked at the current treatment paradigm in Scotland could we say that under that same examination of its shortcomings, could services and organisations say it was operating with the same integrity, humility and compassion?
Albert Einstein’s is famous for the line: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
When it comes to addiction treatment in Scotland this seems to be the status quo. The shortcomings are glaring, people are dying, it’s time to
re-evaluate and reassess policy and practice before it gets any worse.
Addressing drug deaths effectively means acknowledging the treating and prevention of the trauma that creates drug addicts in the first place
As the large scale international epidemiological studies and countless trauma research studies have repeatedly demonstrated and shown, childhood adversity is at the core of the emotional patterns and psychological dynamics that drive substance addiction.
As our government, housing services, NHS, first responders, and addiction services struggle to cope with this shocking rise in overdose deaths, they do so in a culture devoid of a deep appreciation of the complexity of addiction and its causes.
Emotional and psychological trauma gets a foot note in addressing this grave issue in our culture.
It’s the reason we believe there is a lethal absence of compassion, as the problem is founded on the misguided hypothesis of choice and moral failing.
The road to a full and meaningful recovery does not need to be a long and arduous process, we have witnessed the return to health of countless people written off as hopeless cases, our hard won experience confirms to us our collective truth – that with the right support in the right environments people get returned to the person they were always supposed to be before the trauma and the drugs took them hostage.
If we really want to be progressive as a nation in addressing this complex problem, then we need to have organisations and services that are a reflection of the people it’s claiming to save.
That process must start from the task force to the coal face.
No longer should long term lived experience of recovery be given a tokenistic seat at the table, we don’t want to conform to a system that is clearly broken, to be fed the scraps of involvement, our conscience will not allow it!
We want to work together with anyone that wants to prevent more deaths.
We want to help society better understand what causes addiction, and more importantly what causes recovery. That’s not too much to ask is it?
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