August 25, 2017 -Bill White- MY STORY…NOT THE WHOLE STORY

“Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.” AA Big Book
Story reconstruction and storytelling have long played central roles within the addiction recovery experience. Story reconstruction—via a personal addiction and recovery narrative—uses culturally available language and ideas to make sense out of experiences that would be otherwise inexplicable. Storytelling serves as a ritual of recovery commitment, mutual identification, reciprocal support, and recovery community building. Historically, storytelling is the means through which experience, strength, and hope are shared among people rebuilding their lives in the wake of adversity.
It is perhaps inevitable that each of us would view the worlds of addiction and recovery through the lens of our own personal, family, social, or professional experiences. Such unique experiences produce widely varying declarations about the personal sources and solutions to alcohol and other drug problems. For the individuals and families experiencing addiction, the stakes of finding sense-making metaphors—the building blocks of recovery stories–are exceptionally high. And metaphors that “work” (viable catalysts of recovery initiation and maintenance) for one person or in one cultural context may be unworkable or less-workable for another individual and ill-fitting in another cultural context. (As an example, see paper Metaphors of Transformation: Feminine and Masculine.)
Recovery metaphors vary considerably across settings, with each setting gathering a cadre of true believers in its organizing metaphors. Leaders of treatment institutions and recovery mutual aid groups, possessing living proof of their proffered solution (even if that proof is nothing more than a well-timed placebo effect) often claim universal applicability for their ideas and methods. True belief among the saved is an expression of gratitude for one’s escape from addiction and an attempted extension of such redemption to others. Institutional claims are a natural expression of the struggle to survive and enhance the esteem in which an organization is held and expand its sphere of influence. So, barring a definitive science of addiction recovery, we have vocal individuals in recovery and leaders of treatment and recovery mutual aid organization declaring possession of THE solution to severe and complex alcohol and other drug problems.
In contrast, history and science reveal the existence of multiple pathways and styles of long-term addiction recovery. One of the most illuminating lessons within the personal/family recovery experience is the discovery that, while one’s own story contains a transformative truth, it is not necessarily THE truth or the WHOLE truth. That discovery is the beginning of respect, tolerance, and humility, and, for the addiction treatment or recovery support specialist, the beginning of maturity in one’s service role. Each pathway of addiction recovery must face tests of accessibility, affordability, effectiveness, safety, and organizational endurance. The story of successful recovery reflects not a single thematic plot, but stories of infinite variation. Such variation is best viewed as cause for celebration rather than a threat to one’s own recovery framework or one’s personal approach to helping others.
Post Date August 25, 2017 by Bill White



Dr. Ernie Kurtz and I, during the last years of his life, spent considerable time exploring the varieties of addiction recovery experience, including variations in the stages and styles of addiction recovery. For me, this exploration of stages and styles began in 1974 when I heard John Wallace present a paper at the Alcohol and Drug Problems Association meeting in Minnesota. The presentation stunned me with its clarity and potential clinical import. Wallace first stated that alcoholics frequently develop a preferred defense structure (PDS) (e.g., denial, minimization, projection of blame, intellectualization, etc.) to sustain excessive drinking and escape its growing consequences.
That starting position was not a new idea to most of us in the audience, but Wallace went on to say that the same PDS that supports drinking may be used as strategic coping mechanisms through the early stages of recovery and that prematurely confronting this brittle, recovery-sustaining PDS could trigger a resumption of drinking. That denial and minimization (of the problems facing the just-sobered), black-white thinking (e.g., “all of my problems are related to my drinking; all I have to do is not drink and everything else in my life will be fine”), and other defense mechanisms could be allies in the recovery process was a striking concept and one pregnant with implications for clinical practice—practices which at the time consisted primarily of verbally confronting such defensive gambits.
But then Wallace laid out the third paradox of recovery: the same PDS that supported alcoholism and that could be reframed to support early recovery must be eventually abandoned in later stages of recovery. In Wallace’s view, the latter transition was crucial to fully stabilize recovery, as well as enhance maturity and quality of life in long-term recovery.
I have been closely observing the addiction recovery process for half a century. I have been struck by two extremes: people whose fragile recovery is forever frozen at a primitive stage of development, and people who go through metamorphic changes that transform their character, values, and the quality of their interpersonal relationships. In the former, drug use has ceased or radically decelerated in frequency, intensity, and consequences, but this change remains nested within the same self-centeredness, resentfulness, dishonesty, and intolerance that often characterizes active addiction. This former pattern has been referred to as the “dry drunk” syndrome. In the latter style, the radically altered person-drug relationship is accompanied by dramatic enhancements in global health and functioning, as well as changes in character and identity—changes AA co-founder Bill Wilson characterized as “emotional sobriety.”
It is easy to cast these widely varying styles of recovery into the boxes of bad and good, but time and experience have softened that view for many of us as we have come to see how each style can exist within the same persons (and within ourselves) at different stages of the long-term recovery process. Also of note is that the executive brain functions of some people may have been severely and even permanently damaged from addiction, precluding tolerance of the ambiguity and more complex decision-making of the transformative style of recovery.
Today’s guiding mantra is “whatever it takes—recovery by any means necessary under any circumstances.” While we can deeply admire those in recovery who have used the recovery experience as a catalyst for personal transformation (via humility, gratitude, tolerance, service, etc.), we can also admire those who must tenaciously cling to those crude early defenses as a way to “keep the plug in the jug.” Both are deserving of respect and admiration.
Post Date August 11, 2017 by Bill White


The Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery (CCAR) hosted its first Multiple Pathways of Recovery Conference in May of 2016. Due to travel limitations, my presentation for that conference was presented by video. (See presentation outline and video.)
The second of CCAR’s Multiple Pathways of Recovery Conference will be held in Punta Gorda, Florida October 23-26, 2017. Due to its proximity to my home, I will be able to join many of you to participate in this conference. I will do a book signing on the opening day and Don Coyhis and I will be doing a Q & A session at the conference on Wednesday, October 25. I look forward to spending time with recovery advocates from across the country and listening to the many scheduled presentations.
There are many recent and noteworthy milestones in the history of addiction recovery in the U.S.—the growth and diversification of recovery mutual aid societies; maturation of the recovery advocacy movement; exponential growth of virtual recovery communities; landmark recovery research studies such as the life in recovery surveys; the proliferation of new recovery support institutions (community centers, residences, industries, schools, ministries, cafes, etc.); integration of peer recovery support services within a growing spectrum of service organizations; and the rise of an ecumenical culture of recovery with its own language, symbols, literature, art, music, theatre, sport venues, and rituals of celebration. Key to all of these developments has been a foundational proposition: There are many pathways and styles of addiction recovery and ALL are cause for celebration.
CCAR’s Multiple Pathways of Recovery Conferences represent grassroots efforts to map recovery pathways in an environment of mutual learning and respect. I look forward to seeing you at the Conference in October. Those who wish more information about the conference and registration details may click HERE.
Between now and the conference, I will focus some of my weekly blogs on the growing varieties of recovery experience.

August 8, 2017 by Bill White


Addiction and addiction recovery are most often portrayed in the form of highly personal stories, but vulnerability to addiction and efforts to recover unfold within life-transforming or life-ending contexts. I have tried through many of my writings to illuminate these environmental influences and was struck in my recent interview with Dr. Phoebus Zafiridis his articulation of how physical, political, economic, cultural, and professional environments influence addiction and addiction recovery. For those readers unfamiliar with the work of Dr. Phoebus Zafiridis, he is a social psychiatrist and founder of the therapeutic community “ITHAKI” and the Self-Help Promotion Program of the Department of Psychology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (2000) in Greece.
Below are three excerpts from my interview with Dr. Zafiridis.
“I believe that policy makers over the last decades, in collaboration with the dominant scientific trend, have been trying in every possible way to avoid any association of growing psychosocial problems with the socioeconomic environment. The reasons are obvious. Such a correlation would imply a demand for political and social change. Therefore, manipulation of research in the specific scientific field is an essential condition for the maintenance of the status quo. The research in psychology and psychiatry that is unaffected by political or economic interests can illustrate the importance of transparency, social justice, social coherence, and decreasing inequality to the mental health of citizens.”
“I do believe that psychotherapeutic procedures would make more sense if they related people’s personal psychological problems to the prevailing social conditions and promoted personal as well as social change. For it is self-awareness and the understanding of one’s environment that make citizens claim their right to participation in political decisions that determine the quality of their lives. That is mature political action. This is the emancipatory version of psychotherapy, as opposed to the dominant manipulative version, which is content with appeasement and temporary relief of the symptom. This symptom is considered to be a very personal experience in modern societies. It is treated as a problem of separate individuals and most of the time is classified as a new disorder by a “neutral” scientific community, supported by the pharmaceutical industry. This is why psychology and psychiatry should investigate and address the social and cultural dimensions of personal problems, instead of covering them up.”
“…dominant Psychology and Psychiatry today support the people in power. They conceal facts that would help citizens realize the true nature of their problems and urge them to fight for social change. This is not only achieved by constructing diagnoses and nosological theories to explain people’s misery and suffering. It is achieved by the “psychologization” of everyday life, with the support of the television, popular media and multiple pop psychology publications. I have had enough of listening to personal dramas that center around a lack of meaning and emptiness; failed friendships, romances and relationships; financial and professional failures; deep sorrow caused by a pet’s psychological problems; and problematic parental relationships, which are used by 40 or 50 year-old people as excuses for their misery, or even for the family drama caused by the inability to afford a summer house, etc….And all this, at a time when our politicians are piling refugees from Syria into tents and unheated buildings, and people right next door can’t have enough food to survive the day. We avoid looking at what’s going on right next to us, ignoring the suffering that exists around the world. The more we focus exclusively on ourselves, the more we ignore other people’s problems, and hence, the greater our misery seems. This is the price to pay for egoistic behavior.”
Those wishing to read the full interview may click HERE.

Post Date August 4, 2017 by Bill White