As I was preparing this post for the website, I remembered the negative response I received from various parts of the treatment system from my days running our grassroots initiative Wired In and our online community Wired In To Recovery. A number of other recovery advocates had the same negative response.
An example in my case was the day I received a call from someone I knew who said that a friend of his who worked for the National Treatment Agency (NTA), the government department running the drug addiction treatment system, wanted to warn me that the agency had named me as a public enemy.
The person who called me was worried for me; my thoughts were that my colleagues and I at Wired In must be having an impact in our efforts to advocate for recovery and empower people to overcome serious substance use problems. I asked if there were other people who had been named as public enemies. ‘Deidre Boyd and Neil McKeganey,’ was the reply, both well-known recovery advocates. I was in good company!
Here are Dr. Wendy Dossett and Wulf talking about the treatment system and other matters.
Wulf asks Wendy for her thoughts on the changes in recovery organisations and movements that have occurred over the past 18 years—much more was going on during the earlier parts of that period than today. Wendy agrees that the past was an inspiring period, but she doesn’t know why activities declined, even before the arrival of Covid. She asks if Wulf has an explanation.
Wulf points that whilst the addiction recovery advocacy movement was in part about challenging stigma, as had occurred in the Pride Movement, it was also about challenging government and treatment agencies to think about things differently. He emphasises that whilst there has been some good in the growth of recovering peer involvement in treatment services (primarily 3rd sector rather than statutory services), sometimes in paid roles, there has been a more significant undermining of recovery advocacy. It is more difficult to speak out about issues such as stigma, for fear of ‘biting off the head that feeds you’.
Wendy and Wulf agree that it is much more difficult to speak out about the system when you are part of it. The great advantage of the Fellowship is that it has remained independent of the system. There is no money involved, it is not ‘professional’, and it is not allied with anyone. When you are independent of the system you are treated with less respect, and even disrespected by the system—‘you don’t know what you are doing, you are a bunch of amateurs, you’re not professional, or you’re not subject to any regulations…’ You are dismissed for speaking out, but this dismissal is often coming from a position of financial vested interest.
Wulf believes that whilst the recovery advocacy movement has receded off the national stage, it is there in some communities around the country.