A Final Word and a New Page?

A Final Word – before I get all close up and personal next week  with our new format on Alcoholics Gide to Alcoholism which will now be blogs, 600 words or less, based on my own experience of addiction and recovery. Written specifically for those thinking of coming into or actually coming into recovery and their families.

I want to help explain in more simply terms this most profound of conditions – this strange illness of mind, body and spirit.

I will still blog on the latest neuroscientific,  neuropsychological and neurotheological insights into addiction and recovery on my other blog insidethealcoholicbrain.com – it was always intended that I was personal on one blog and a researcher on the other.

Now I am clearly letting you, my readers, know of my intentions.

I have to say I can’t wait to get my teeth into the new format.

I can’t tell you how much effort it has been over the last year, continuously writing research blogs?

I now believe most of what you need to know about addiction from a neurobiological, emotion and cognitive perspective can be found on these blogs if you look around them. We have covered much ground.


But there is more to this strange illness which can only be fully explained via sharing my story and hopefully you sharing your stories.

12 step groups primarily work via story sharing and fellowship/support, which allows newcomers to identify with the progression of an illness in others while identifying this progression in themselves.

Listening to these stories usually shows the newcomer what the solution is also.

The power of identification is why I am here, sober and in recovery since 2005.

I identified with what a bunch of strangers in a room in a parish chapel said about their illness, their struggles to live life on life’s terms, their descent in alcoholism and addiction, their rock bottoms and their turning points to eventually finding their solution to their problems.

The necessary psychic change happened in my first meeting – I suddenly realised what my problem was and where I could get the solution.

I found through their stories that I identified with these strangers, that I belonged for the first time, in this club. I had found my tribe for the first time ever in my life.

These people could help me. The first glimmers of hope.

Hopefully  identifying with what I write about will set you on your journey to recovery  or help you on the journey you have already started.

I want to hear from you!!

But I wanted to set out my comprehensive view of addiction so that one can find a whole view as regards addiction and recovery in one blog. I believe my theory of addiction and recovery stands up to the highest scrutiny and certainly reflects my own experience and the experience of hundreds and hundreds of alcoholics, addicts and those suffering other addictive behaviours.

There is so much more to addiction than the substance or behaviour used! Hopefully science will grasp that idea fully in time.

Neurobiology affects emotion which affects thinking. Go figure?

Maladaptive neurobiology and endocrinology affects impaired emotion regulation which distorts thinking in those suffering addictive behaviours.


Before that however, notification of another new Page! 

This page will be dedicated to addressing the co-occurrence of  other psychiatric conditions with addiction and addictive behaviours.

For example, conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder and major depression are said to frequently co-occur with addictive disorders.

This page will be addressing how frequently these disorders actually co-occur with addiction, or whether their influence has been overstated.

How they should be treated, whether treatment for addiction can help with these disorders too or whether they should be treated separately and importantly whether these so-called co-morbid conditions are tributaries which feed into the overall disorder of addiction?

In other words, when we receive treatment specifically for addictive behaviours are we also treating the conditions which have canalized into addiction.



If so does medication help or hinder sobriety and recovery, especially if prescribed based on a misdiagnosis of addictive disorder showing as an affective disorder?

When considering relapse prevention, are we addressing behaviours and responses to negative emotions and stress reactivity which are common to all affective disorders?

Do these conditions all contribute to addiction severity?

Do they contribute to similar hyper amgydaloid reactivity, to the same cognitive distortions, to similar “fight of flight” responding, to common recruitment of more motoric parts of the brain when making decisions, to similar rumination, in effect to a similar profile of emotion dysregulation?

Do they all have common neurotransmitter deficits, similar dysregulated stress systems and reward networks?

Is addiction a unitary disorder whereby negative affect leads to an impulsive, urgent desire to regulate these emotions by external means such as substances and behaviours, whereas other affective disorders do not have this behavioural manifestation?

Is negative urgency a trait that distinguishes between addictive behaviour and other affective or psychiatric disorders?

These questions seem very pertinent in trying to understand if addiction is in fact a unitary disorder in it’s own right or whether it is a unitary disorder also affected by co-morbidity?

Are so-called co-morbidities really co-morbidities or are they substance induced disorders which dissipate in the early weeks of recovery?

Do they manifest as anxiety and depression in active addiction but disappear when a neuro-toxic substance is eliminated from one’s nervous system?

Or perhaps we continue to have anxiety type issues in recovery but do not appreciate this because we are managing these issues with 12 step recovery?

One way or the other, surely addiction is more than use of substance of behaviour despite negative consequences. Surely it is more than simply reducible to use of substance or behaviour alone?

If addiction is a unitary disorder how come we appear to share common distorted thinking and maladaptive behaviours as a range of other affective disorders?

Do the vast majority of us have various affective disorders which lead to chronic reliance on substances or behaviours?

Or is addiction a unitary disorder in it’s own right? A disorder neuro science and psychology knows little about – so little they relegate all it’s emotion dysfunction to that of co-morbidity?

The answers to these questions seem more urgent now than ever before?

In this page we will attempt to answer some of these questions.

We will address the reality that addiction shares a  multitude of cognitive distortions and maladaptive responses and behaviours with other affective disorders.

Why is this? Are these disorders different and how so?

Are there similar underlying neuro-mechanisms with all these disorders?

What it is about addiction that sets it out as a disorder separate from all other disorders?

For example, we believe addiction has a distress based impulsivity at its core which is based on a lack of emotion clarity and differentiation which results in risky (impulsive) maladaptive decision making. This appears to differentiate addiction from other affective disorders?

This makes addiction a disorder of “just one more…that’s all I need” – it is an affective disorder which results in a motivation to alter feelings via external means.

One may also be able to use certain scales such the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation DERS scale which appears to be able to differentiate between different disorders.

Ultimately, are all these disorders similar in their emotion dysregulation but not in the manifestation of this emotion dysregulation in terms of manifest behaviour?

Have we been diagnosing some affective disorders for years when they are often addictive disorders in disguise?


600 Words or Less!


All blogs on this blogsite The Alcoholics Guide to Alcoholism will be less than 600 words in length from next week onwards!!

All blogs will be based on my experience of addiction and recovery!

All blogs will be devoid of Sciencespeak!!

I will blog about how I got into research and why in next week’s blogs.

I have taken the hint from my fellow blogger and the continued advice of my wife to keep it simple on this blog from now on!

The penny has finally dropped!

From next week on, blogs of less than 600 words and much more up close and personal!

I want to start connecting more 🙂





Distorted Thinking!!

We have a new page!!.

This page will look at the myriad of cognitive distortions and preservative (and deluded) thinking that appears to be part of the condition of many different addictive behaviours.



So far in this blog we have looked at how altered stress systems effect emotion processing and regulation and how this results in the increasingly compulsive need to use substances and behaviours to regulate subsequent negative emotions and affect.

Now we will be looking at the third strata of this disorder of addictive behaviour, that of distorted preservative thinking. Perseverative thinking is when someone gets an idea or thoughts in their head and just can’t get them out.

It is commonly shared in 12 step meeting show we have a problem with our thinking and hence our decision making. We find this to be true for us also.

Some addictive behaviours have their own specific cognitive distortions such as with gambling and eating disorders in addition to a more generalized pattern of cognitive distortions associated with all additive behaviours and psychopathology more generally.

Unlike those who feel cognitive distortions cause psychopathology we believe cognitive distortions are the consequence of impaired stress systems and emotion dysregulation which implicate a hyperactive amgydaloid region of the brain.

We feel that persistent negative and distorted thinking is the direct consequence and manifestation of stress and emotion dysregulation. It is how stress and emotion dysregulation manifests  in thought processes; these thought processes obviously worsen this stress and emotion dysregulation and vice versa.

In recovery by addressing either stress, negative affect or our distorted thinking we automatically deal with the other factors.  Hence distress is at the heart of our addictive behaviour.

If we reduce our distress we reduce stress reactivity, the effect of negative emotions and their manifest distorted thoughts.

Hence addictive behaviour is a three level ( tri strata) disorder of stress hyper reactivity, emotion dysregulation and distorted thoughts, all interconnectedly reactive.



In other words, the thinking of addicted individuals seems to be “fear-based” or distress prompted which leaves perception and reaction to it rather it distorted.

Along with these thoughts there is a reciprocal increase in stress chemical reactivity and increasingly impaired e motion regulation and processing of emotions.

Hence these unregulated negative emotions act with heigthen stress reactivity and spiraling distorted thinking to increase relapse vulnerability.

As a result we believe that distorted preservative thinking, thinking that persists and gets increasingly distorted,  is a part of the aetiology of addictive behaviour.

Equally we believe it is the consequence of a distress state activated by a hyperactive amgydala which increases stress reactivity, emotion dysregulation and then distorted thinking in a viscous circle.

We believe, based on our own research and experience of recovery that this is viscous circle is a common feature of all addictive behaviours.


Life In Recovery (Part 3)

“This story is only starting to be told.

We have much work to do … to challenge the stereotypes of both the general public and our own professionals.

Addiction may well be a chronic, relapsing condition but people can and do recover.

They can change and that change is not only personal but social and societal.”



In the US, a total of 3,228 people completed the online survey and as in the Australian survey just over half of the sample was female.

The samples were also very similar in that the mean length of the substance using career was 18 years in the US and 18.6 years in Australia. The average ages of recovery initiation were also very similar – 34.8 years in Australia and 36 years in the US.

While 75.2% of the US sample described themselves as being ‘in recovery’ and 13.7% as recovered, this was true for 79.8% and 6.3% respectively in Australia.

In terms of problem profile, primary alcohol was the problem for 29% in the US and 35% in Australia, drugs only for 13% in the US and 11% in Australia, and both alcohol and drugs for 57% in the US and 54% in Australia.

In terms of their pathway to recovery, 70.5% of the US sample had received formal treatment, compared to 69.8% in Australia; 94.6% of the US recovery group had attended 12-step meetings compared to 82.0% of the Australian sample. Although a wide range of other mutual aid groups was reported, there was much less frequent use of mutual aid groups other than 12-step in Australia.

There is a higher rate of lifetime mental health problems in Australia – while 62.4% of the US sample had been treated for a mental health condition, 91.5% of the Australian sample reported lifetime mental health problems and 56.8% reported current involvement with mental health services. In the US, 55.6% had a bachelor or graduate degree, while this was true for 41.4% in Australia. At the time of the survey, 70.8% of the US sample was employed compared to 68.2% of the Australian participants. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the histories and careers of the Australian sample were very similar to their American counterparts.


The most dramatic and powerful findings of the US survey, that addiction involves “many heavy costs … to the individual and to the nation” and that “recovery from alcohol and drug problems is associated with dramatic improvements in all areas of life” (FAVOR, 2013, page 1) are clearly replicated in the Australian context.

As in the US, where 4 out of 10 individuals experienced financial problems while in recovery, this was also the case for around one in 3 in Australia who owed back taxes and / or had bad debts. However, there were dramatic effects in Australia as in the US of family functioning with significant reductions in domestic violence.

The Australian study also successfully replicates the US findings around health and criminal justice – with marked improvements in positive health markers such as regular exercise, registering with a GP and regular dental check-ups and significant reductions in negative health factors such as ED attendance and untreated psychological problems.

As in the US sample just over half of the Australian sample had a lifetime arrest history (although significantly fewer Australians in recovery had been incarcerated following sentence), the reduction in arrests and in any involvement with the criminal justice system was even more dramatic – around 40% of the US sample and 90% of the Australian sample had no criminal justice system involvement while in recovery.

There were similarly positive differences in work and study – showing the same overall pattern of reduced burden to the taxpayer and the same improvement in personal, family and community wellbeing and connectedness.


Similarly, there is a dramatic reduction in involvement with the criminal justice system from around half to less than one in ten, particularly involving the areas of drink-driving and criminal damage. There is also a dramatic improvement in both employment and education, and in successful engagement and retention of jobs. This is a story of overcoming adversity and transforming lives to make a significant and positive contribution in their families, in their communities and to society. These results are consistent with the findings of the US Life in Recovery Survey (Laudet et al, 2013) in showing dramatic reductions in pathology and improvements in wellbeing from active addiction to recovery. This is the first attempt at undertaking a recovery survey in Australia and the results are unequivocal in showing that there is an accessible population of Australians who will classify themselves as being in recovery or recovered and who are willing to complete a survey about their experiences.

There is a critical message here for policy makers and treatment providers – that people in Australia can and do recover from addiction problems.

However, there are two nuanced factors that are important to emphasise.

The first is that this is a long and challenging journey for many people and that there will still be residual and ongoing problems for many throughout the recovery journey.

However, there are two nuanced factors that are important to emphasise. The first is that this is a long and challenging journey for many people and that there will still be residual and ongoing problems for many throughout the recovery journey

The findings also emphasise the fact that those in recovery are a very diverse population and that there is no single road to recovery, with a proportion of those participating describing themselves as in ‘medication-assisted recovery’ and a much larger population having ongoing contact with specialist services for addiction or mental health issues.

Nonetheless, the transition reported from active addiction to recovery is a dramatic one.

This is particularly striking in key areas around social and family functioning where the rate of involvement in domestic violence decreased from more than 50% to less than 10% and in volunteering where participation increased from less than 20% to more than 50%.

Similarly, there is a dramatic reduction in involvement with the criminal justice system from around half to less than one in ten, particularly involving the areas of drink-driving and criminal damage. There is also a dramatic improvement in both employment and education, and in successful engagement and retention of jobs.

This is a story of overcoming adversity and transforming lives to make a significant and positive contribution in their families, in their communities and to society.

These results are consistent with the findings of the US Life in Recovery Survey (Laudet et al, 2013) in showing dramatic reductions in pathology and improvements in wellbeing from active addiction to recovery

Those in recovery for the longest term report markedly higher levels of psychological wellbeing and quality of life and much lower levels of need for professional support for emotional or mental health issues.

The other more surprising domain of consistency with the US results is around the demographics and career factors of those who took part. Average age at time of survey completion, average duration of recovery and average length of addiction career are all markedly similar across two countries with differing cultures, treatment systems and philosophies around addiction and recovery.



It is critical that the implications from the Australian Life in Recovery survey are acknowledged and addressed at a federal, state and local level to ensure that the achievement of recovery is extended across families, communities and professional settings (such as health and legal systems).

As such, the following policy recommendations are suggested for consideration:

1. Policy makers should acknowledge and recognise in drug and alcohol commissioning the key role that recovery organisations play in the initiation and sustaining of recovery journeys that benefit wider society and challenge stereotypes and stigma around addiction

2. Greater policy and funding commitment to recovery support services to ensure that those who initiate recovery journeys are supported to maximise their own wellbeing and their contributions to family and community

3. That greater funding is provided for alumni and aftercare organisations to enable the informal community support that is essential to build recovery capital and recovery communities

This story is only starting to be told.

We have much work to do – and we hope to do this through academic publications and presentations – to challenge the stereotypes of both the general public and our own professionals.

There is one core message that the data presented here in Australia and by FAVOR in the US

Addiction may well be a chronic, relapsing condition but people can and do recover.

They can change and that change is not only personal but social and societal.

The next step on this journey is to repeat and augment this work. At the date of publication this survey has already been approved and will be conducted in the UK and we we await the survey outcomes with great interest.

This survey has already followed in the footsteps of the FAVOR survey with almost no resources and supports and we should aim both to do this in more countries and to continue to repeat the surveying to allow us to map global changes and implications in recovery pathways (see final recommendations below).


1. That the ‘Life in Recovery survey’ is undertaken in other countries to increase the comparability and so that a shared evidence base can be generated.

2. That repeat surveys are undertaken in Australia to assess change in the nature of the recovering population and in the journeys and stories they provide.

3. That the results from this survey are widely distributed and used to contribute to the policy debate about recovery in Australia.

4. That the results from the current survey are used for academic journal publications to augment the empirical evidence base around recovery.



Life In Recovery – Australia (Part 2)

“After over five years of intermittent relapses and struggling to re-invent myself, I can safely say that I feel at ease in my own company for the first time in my life. I trust that I will do the right thing by myself and my family”.


“…all levels of government need to stop focusing on the policing of drug use and distribution, and invest more in recovery services.

That would slash health care, child care and criminal justice system costs racked up by addicts, while drastically cutting crime rates and creating more valuable contributors to society, the Life in Recovery report says.

The survey, by the South Pacific Private and Turning Point treatment centres, suggests addicts in recovery are 75 per cent less likely to drive while under the influence, 50 per cent less likely to get arrested and 40 per cent less likely to perpetrate or be a victim of family violence.

They’re also 40 per cent more likely to volunteer in a community group, and tend to make more significant contributions to the community than the average person, according to the report’s author, Associate Professor David Best.

Government funding is provided for detox services but virtually no money is spent on the difficult recovery process that follows, despite relapse rates of between 50 and 70 per cent in the first year of recovery, he said.

The focus needs to switch to funding support groups and programs that help addicts get back on their feet, like finding jobs and accommodation, he said.

“None of the treatment services are sufficiently well-funded but the complete neglect of after care and recovery services is both inconsistent with the evidence and counter-productive, because it just puts people into this spiral of relapse,” Prof Best said.



reported in


Infographic  of some of the Survey Findings




RECOVERY STATUS There was considerable variation in how people described their recovery:

• 79.8% described themselves as ‘in recovery’

• 6.3% described themselves as ‘recovered’

• 4.5% described themselves as in ‘medication-assisted recovery’

• 3.7% reported that ‘they used to have an AOD problem but don’t any more’

• 5.7% used other ways of describing themselves

Thus, for the vast majority of participants, recovery is seen as an ongoing process.

The majority (69.8%) reported that they had accessed alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment services meaning that 30.2% had never done so. Of those who had, 36.6% had taken medications prescribed by a health care professional to help them deal with their drug and alcohol problems.

At the time of the survey, 41 individuals (7.2% of the total sample), were currently receiving prescribed medication to deal with their drug and alcohol problems.

A higher proportion (82.0%) had attended a 12-step meeting, with 68.8% attending 12-step meetings at the time of the survey. Current 12-step group attendance involved Alcoholics Anonymous for 57.1% of the sample, Narcotics Anonymous for 24.6%, Gamblers Anonymous for 2.3% and Crystal Meth Anonymous for 1.0%.

11.3% were currently attending Al-Anon (as a loved one or family member) and 6.8% reported that they were currently attending other 12-step groups that included Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, GROW (for co-morbid alcohol and mental health problems) and Adult Children of Alcoholics. SMART Recovery was being attended by 0.5% of the survey participants.



Changes in financial situation from active addiction to recovery There were marked improvements in paying bills on time, in having your own place to live, in having a good credit rating and paying taxes from when participants were in active addiction to when they were in recovery.



…  there were marked reductions in the experience of family violence from around half of the participants during active addiction to less than 10% in recovery, that were accompanied by positive improvements in participation in family activities and planning for the future. There was also a clear improvement in children returning from care and a massive increase in participation of community and civic groups.


There are marked differences in health functioning as reported by participants with clear improvements in a range of self-care activities – improved engagement with GPs, regular dental check-ups, improved diet and nutrition and regular exercise. At the same time there is a clear reduction in health service utilisation indicated by marked reductions in the frequency of use of healthcare services and emergency department attendance and improvements in the rate of smoking. There is also a significant reduction in experiencing mental health side effects.


Changes from active addiction to recovery in offending and criminal justice system involvement There are very striking transitions in involvement with the criminal justice system and overall offending with the most marked transition from 82.9% reporting driving under the influence while in active addiction to fewer than 5% while in recovery. Likewise, while more than half of the sample had been arrested in active addiction, this dropped to around 2% in recovery, leading to significant reductions in family disruption as well as significantly reduced costs to society. This is also reflected in the more than 90% reduction in imprisonment from active addiction to recovery, while there were considerable improvements in re-obtaining both professional registration and the right to drive once in recovery.


Missing work and being fired or suspended, which had been frequent occurrences in active addiction, were extremely uncommon in recovery, as was dropping out of school and university. In contrast, there were clear improvements in positive job appraisals, in further education and in remaining in steady employment.



Here the position is even more dramatic with the vast majority of participants reporting no contact with people in recovery while they were active addicts, but that this situation is reversed to the extent that 36% of people in recovery have a social network made up only of people in recovery.

This is reflected in ‘qualitative social capital’ – in other words the number of people individuals can rely on. At the peak of their addiction, 38.3% of participants reported that they had nobody they could discuss important things with compared to 2.0% who reported the same in their recovery. By contrast, while 8.6% of participants reported that they had four or more people they could discuss important things with in active addiction, this increased to 65.9% in their recovery. This is reflected in changes in social group membership – a proxy for connectedness and wellbeing.

…our participants’ social identification with addiction had not diminished but their social identification with recovery had grown enormously.




he pain and trauma of addiction is clearly illustrated in the reports of participants. Active addiction is seen as having destroyed the person’s own lives and taken many of the lives of their peers.

“Active addiction completely destroyed any semblance of normality in my life. Everything was reduced to absolutes: the need to get drugs so I could not feel sick, and the use of drugs to numb any emotional or physical pain”.

“Ruined my life in all areas, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually”

“I am alive, none of my peers from that time are alive. Only 5 of the 33 people I was in rehab with are still alive”.


This journey is not perceived as a quick or easy journey by most of the participants. Many recognised that they have had persistent problems long into their abstinence. However, for most people it is a generally positive transition.

“After over five years of intermittent relapses and struggling to re-invent myself, I can safely say that I feel at ease in my own company for the first time in my life. I trust that I will do the right thing by myself and my family”.


“Addiction was part of my journey, I don’t regret it but recovery is so much more comfortable”.


Building on the previous section, this was generally very positive and the following examples illustrate the perceived benefits. Many people spoke of what they had achieved since starting their recovery journey.

“I am a productive member of society today: a good partner, parent, employee, daughter, sibling and friend, and I was not any of those things before”

“I experience long periods of peace of mind. I can manage problems really well. I am less inclined to react negatively to adverse events. I have recovered from Hepatitis C. I have deep and meaningful relationships with friends and family. I feel a wide range of emotions and can (mostly) sit with them. I have experienced 15 years of being engaged with and liked by the community instead of being a pest to society and that is absolute gold”.


There were a striking number of comments supportive of 12-step groups, as illustrated by the following:

“AA saved my life because I gradually changed and got my self-respect back”

“AA saved my life; I would be dead without AA”

“I have a brand new life thanks to AA. For me, my children and my grandchildren. I am responsible at work and pay my bills”

“In nearly 30 years I have literally witnessed many hundreds of people turn their lives around from chaos and mayhem to lead similarly fruitful lives to the one I live today, overwhelmingly through the agency of their involvement in 12 step programs”

“I could not stop drinking on my own. AA has shown me a new way of living. Life is not perfect but I can now live like a ‘normal’ person. I have self-respect and dignity and I am a good worker and mother”

COMBINED APPROACHES Furthermore, as is consistent with the literature, a number of respondents talked about the benefits of bespoke and blended support from both mutual aid groups and professional treatment services.

“I am an active participant in the AA program – the 12 steps are my program for recovery. Putting the 12 steps in my life and putting the skills I learned at South Pacific Private into my life have given me a life that is full of understanding, patience, great relationships and love”.

“Detox set me on the path to recovery and AA helped me to sustain my recovery”, while a third respondent reported that “recovery through detox, rehab clinic, 12 step program with AA has completely changed my life and my attitude to life. I feel free and have choices and I am happy for the first time in years”

The overall conclusion by the majority of participants is that recovery is experienced as liberation and is an opportunity not just for a normal life but a meaningful and fulfilling one. That does not mean recovery is without regrets or without problems :

“My addiction was hell, my recovery has been amazing. I will be forever grateful for the second chance I was given. It took a long time to feel a part of the world when coming out of addiction. It was so hard to fit in with a world I felt so uncomfortable in. But now I love every day. I suffer with depression, and it has been harder than active addiction was but it is in remission and I have learned to live with it. My children are my greatest blessing and I have been able to break the cycle”.


Life in Recovery Survey for the UK


If you live in the UK, are in recovery and have 20 minutes to fill in this very worthwhile survey you can make a difference to how we, as a society, perceive recovery and help reduce the stigma surrounding addiction at the same time.

The survey will be open until the 30th June 2015.

The first ever survey in the UK into Life in Recovery is in process – please click this link and contribute if you can?



Life in Recovery Survey UK 2015

Again, the survey will be open until the 30th June 2015.

Understanding recovery and the process of recovery greatly helps with reducing the stigma attached with suffering from an addictive disorder. It also instills hope that you too can recover!

Please help?

We do recover!!

Let’s show the world how?


Life In Recovery Surveys – Australia, USA and the UK

“Recovery introduced me to myself. The hardest but most rewarding journey I have ever undertaken.”

Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is now widely recognised as a journey that takes place over time and in a multitude of ways that reflect personal circumstances, supports and resources.”


The Australian Life in Recovery Survey, conducted by Professor David Best of Sheffield Hallam University and Turning Point in partnership with South Pacific Private, is the largest survey of its kind in Australia.

This survey provides an important first glimpse into the lives of people in recovery through comparisons of key domains of life and wellbeing during active addiction and after seeking recovery.

Additionally, comparisons are drawn to the U.S. version of the survey sponsored by Faces & Voices of Recovery. Just click image below for the findings.


The first ever survey in the UK into Life in Recovery is also in the process – please click this link and contribute if you can?



Understanding recovery greatly helps with reducing the stigma attached with suffering from an addictive disorder. Please help?

The survey will be open until the 30th June 2015.


Life in Recovery Survey UK 2015


Please click to refer to the infographic of and the introduction to the survey results from the Australian survey.


and click here for the findings and report –


Part 1


Just over half of those who participated were female (54.6%), and the average age of participants was 43.6 years (although the range was from 15 to 76 years). The vast majority of participants lived in Australia (97.3%) although small numbers of participants completed the survey who lived in the US, Europe, Indonesia and South Africa.

Participants were educated to varying degrees – just over 40% had a university qualification. Occupational status varied markedly across the group with just under half (44.6%) employed full time, 19.8% employed part-time, 5.8% self-employed and 5.4% students. In other words, 75.6% were involved in employment or education with the remainder retired (5.6%), involved in home duties (3.2%) and unemployed or on disability support pension (15.7%).



Participants were asked about their primary addiction – for 35.3% this was alcohol only

for 11.1% it was drugs only

and for 53.6% it was both drugs and alcohol.

Nonetheless, the primary problem substance was predominantly alcohol (for 66.0% of participants)

followed by heroin and other opiates (14.1%),

methamphetamines (4.2%),

cannabis (3.7%),

cocaine (2.9%),

other amphetamine type substances (1.9%)

and pharmaceutical opioids (1.9%).

Participants had typically experienced lengthy addiction careers – reporting an average of 18.6 years of AOD use (ranging from 1 to 47 years) and an average of 12.5 years of active addiction (ranging from 1 to 47 years).

There was a significant rate of adverse life events reported across the participants with 91.5% reporting life time mental health challenges and 56.8% reporting some current involvement in mental health treatment.

In contrast, current wellbeing was rated positively on the three wellbeing scales…

What this means is that participants were generally in a positive space although some participants had poor wellbeing across all three indicators.

At the time of the interview, 298 participants (52.0% of the overall sample) were receiving help or treatment for mental health problems.

What is clear is that this diminishes over time – while 86.1% of those in the first three years of recovery are receiving some form of help or treatment for emotional or mental health problems, this is the case for 58.0% of those between three and ten years in recovery and 33.5% of those more than ten years into their recovery journeys.”

To be continued…