Bill White on Recovery Rising: A Memoir from the Frontlines of Addiction Treatment and Recovery

October 31, 2017

Bill White has worked in addiction treatment, recovery research, and recovery advocacy for nearly half a century. He's published more than 20 books and monographs on addiction treatment and recovery. His newest book, Recovery Rising: A Retrospective of Addiction Treatment and Recovery Advocacy contains more than 350 vignettes with accompanying reflective questions that allow readers to explore their own thoughts and experiences related to some of the most challenging issues on the frontlines of addiction treatment and recovery support.

Bill answered a few questions about his new book for the ATTC/NIATx Service Improvement Blog:

How is Recovery Rising different from your other books and publications?

It differs in scope and approach. My earlier book projects focused on very specific issues within the addictions field (treatment history, models of treatment, professional ethics, etc.) and drew primarily upon scholarly research. In contrast, Recovery Rising tells the sweeping story of the modern field as I have observed and lived it. It honors the giants on whose shoulders I have stood. It pays homage to the peers I have worked beside for nearly half a century. And it passes on hard-earned lessons to a new generation of addiction professionals and recovery advocates.

Can you share some “aha” moments from the book that had an impact on your career in addiction treatment and recovery services?

"Recovery Rising is one of the first professional memoirs recounting the experience of working on the frontlines of modern addiction treatment and recovery support. I hope those of you who are preparing to work and lead in this field will find it to be a valuable guide." --Bill White
There were many such moments. My early encounters with “drunk tanks” and “foul wards” of aging state psychiatric asylums triggered my commitment to spend a lifetime destroying the despicable and degrading conditions people with addictions experienced and died within prior to the rise of modern addiction treatment. An encounter in Dallas with a man in recovery for more than 50 years revealed to me that I (and my field) knew a lot about the pathology of addiction and brief treatment but new little from the standpoint of science and clinical practice about the pathways, stages, and styles of long-term addiction recovery. My encounters with outreach workers taught me that hope is a more critical catalyst of addiction recovery than is pain. A moment in Philadelphia triggered recognition that recovery was socially contagious and could be spread by increasing the density of “recovery carriers” within local communities. My exposure to people in diverse pathways of recovery led to my celebration of the growing varieties of recovery experience and the importance of clinical humility. A gathering of recovery advocates in Minnesota ignited a new recovery advocacy movement that exerted a profound influence on the field and my subsequent writings on recovery, recovery management, and recovery-oriented systems of care. The stories in Recovery Rising stand as a collection of my peak learning moments.

What advice do you have for people who are entering the field today?

First, I would affirm the fulfillment one can experience working within this arena. Nothing is more sacred than participating in the transformation of wounded human beings and recognizing our own wounds and reaffirming our resilience within that process. Witnessing long-term personal and family recovery is an amazing blessing within this work. Second, I would affirm the challenges in this work and the inevitable encounters with death and the destruction of families—all reminders of the incredible import of what we do. Third, I would emphasize the import of lifelong education and the need for rituals of replenishment. The daily lives of people who do this work well and do it for decades are marked by centering rituals, mirroring rituals (connection with kindred spirits), acts of self-care, and unpaid acts of service. Such activities keep the service ethic alive and allow us to carry hope into each service encounter.

Recovery Rising is available through Amazon as an e-book and may be ordered by clicking one of the links provided. The softcover edition is available at CreateSpace and Amazon.

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