A Recovery Expert
Whilst reading the heading of this short article, you’d be right in thinking there can’t be such thing as a recovery expert, as every individual’s recovery is unique.
Even so, when a service user comes through your door, are they seen as the expert? It’s a term that is thrown around on a regular basis. It’s a statement that is hard to quantify because if they were an expert, they wouldn’t be asking for support and guidance and telling you that at this point in their life they feel stuck.
“Expert” can seem to be an arrogant or egotistic title in any circumstance. It is a hard title to live up to because it implies someone who knows everything about his or her subject matter. Knowledge gained over a period of years, because they have put in the time, research and experience, should instill some confidence and belief that they totally understand what they are talking about, and more importantly, they should know how to articulate their knowledge.
Recovery is often subjective; it has a different meaning depending on the philosophy or agenda of the organization or the individual that is experiencing it. Whatever the situation, I feel it would be right to say, the aim of recovery should be to take control of your life in order to make positive, informed choices. They wouldn’t need to be in recovery if there wasn’t a problem.
To fix the plumbing you have to turn the water off and recovery means that I choose to be abstinent, I needed to “turn the water off”, however, Recovery per-se does not necessarily have to mean total abstinence for everyone forever, but turning the water off allows for proper analysis of the problem and time to sort the problem out. Recovery is about empowering the person with a problem to take back control of their life, their choices after that are theirs.
Going back to the service user not being the expert. The knowledge they have is phenomenal. They wouldn’t have survived their substance use if this weren’t the case. Could it be that at times the service user can ill afford to tell themselves how much they really know as this knowledge gets in the way of carrying on their substance use. Its called ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ (the distance between what you know to be true and your actions)
Treatment allows a service user to reflect on what they do know about themselves and their substance use, and to then learn new and challenging aspects of who they are. To get through this they will have to tap in to their expertise.
After years of doing this, would it be fair to say that they can become an expert of their own recovery. After all, they’re the ones that will be living it on a daily basis. If they relapse it is not because they didn’t know (every relapse, when examined and looked at in hindsight, was a collusion, a sort of delusion of the self, a flirtatious dance with the substance of one sort or another)
We don’t think it is possible for anyone to be an expert of somebody else’s recovery, as recovery is so personal, individual and unique. But it is possible to be an expert of your own recovery.
One of our jobs as drug workers, doctors, nurses, peer mentors etc is to support and train the service user to become an expert of their recovery (that’s what we are experts in), so they can then set off on their recovery journey with confidence, and share their experience, expertise and understanding with others who are at the beginning of their journey