On 23 November 2016, Recovery Academy Ireland was formally launched by the Assistant Chief Executive of Dublin City Council, Brendan Kenny, at City Hall, Dublin. Recovery Academy Ireland is a cooperative organisation that takes its place among a wider international network of recovery academies. Its primary focus is to promote and support active and sustainable recovery for people in addiction, their families and friends, and to advocate on behalf of those in recovery. The event was attended by Cllr Mannix Flynn, members of the Board of Recovery Academy Ireland, people in addiction, those in active and sustained recovery, service providers, academics and policy-makers. The general mood of the event was one of hope, positivity and empowerment.
Empowering people in recovery
At the event, a strong message calling for a paradigm shift in the Irish drug treatment landscape was delivered by Gerry McAleenan, Chairperson of Soilse Drug Rehabilitation Project. McAleenan emphasised the need to give those in recovery a voice, empowering them to serve as role models in their communities, act as visons of hope, and champion the concept of detox and sustained recovery. In this context, Recovery Academy Ireland’s mission is to begin this cultural shift of re-orientating services away from simple harm reduction and towards a recovery model. The academy aims to do this by promoting a life of fulfilment, well-being and full societal participation for those in recovery, which is removed from dependence on addiction services.
The establishment of Recovery Academy Ireland has grown from a strong foundation in evidence1,2 and builds on the momentum surrounding recovery championed by mental health services and addiction services internationally. The 12 recovery principles of Recovery Academy Ireland are:
- There are many pathways to recovery.
- Recovery is self-directed and empowering.
- Recovery involves a personal recognition of the need for change and transformation.
- Recovery is holistic.
- Recovery has cultural dimensions.
- Recovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness.
- Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude.
- Recovery involves a process of healing and self-redefinition.
- Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma.
- Recovery is supported by peers and allies.
- Recovery involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community.
- Recovery is a reality.
Recovery Academy Ireland will contribute to the growing evidence base surrounding recovery in Ireland, hold workshops and training seminars, raise awareness about recovery, and organise events encouraging those in addiction to aspire to a recovered life with the help and guidance of the academy.
Community-based assets audit
The launch of Recovery Academy Ireland coincided with the publication of a peer-led action research project titled ‘A Community Assets Scoping Exercise in Dublin’s North Inner City’ 3. The objectives of the project were to train a group of recovered individuals to undertake ‘community research’ and for these individuals to conduct a community-based assets audit. This project was executed by eight recovered volunteers who undertook a community participatory action research (CPAR) course facilitated by Dr Jo-Hanna Ivers and the chairperson of Recovery Academy Ireland, Dr Patricia Doyle. The course enabled the volunteers to lead and coordinate the study. Seven of the recovered individuals completed the training and subsequently conducted 100 questionnaires with people in active addiction, in different stages of recovery, members of the public, and those with a family member in recovery. The questionnaires were carried out in North Inner City Dublin. All seven also participated in personal case studies.
The research group concluded that the stigma surrounding people in recovery should continue to be challenged in the North Inner City. They demonstrated that recovery is not simply an absence of addiction but encompasses levels of personal, relationship, community and cultural recovery. The study highlighted that the language associated with recovery requires change in the North Inner City; simply replacing ‘addiction’ with the language of ‘recovery’ had an immediate effect on the community researchers and on the research participants. Other examples, such as switching words like ‘dependency’ to ‘freedom from’ or ‘sickness’ to ‘healing/dignity/happiness’, recognise that recovery is a positive and dynamic process.
The study concluded that by switching the focus from the needs of the person in recovery to the assets that the individual possesses promotes a more positive outlook. The study stated the importance of acknowledging the gifted, independent, brave and resourceful nature of individuals in recovery and promoted the idea that recovered individuals should be more visible in the community. The study added that ‘healing and improving’ relationships is an essential step in the recovery process, especially for women, and that building strong, supportive communities for recovering individuals helps twofold. The recovered individual can use their personal assets to become activists and pillars of social advocacy to revitalise the community traumatised by addiction. Finally, the importance of links between education and therapeutic programmes were also reinforced in the research.
Augmenting the RECOVEU initiative
The launch of Recovery Academy Ireland is a very important and poignant step to spread the message of recovery in Ireland. The work also builds on Ireland’s participation in the RECOVEU initiative alongside the UK, Cyprus, Italy and Romania. Spearheaded by Soilse, the Drug Rehabilitation Programme based in Dublin city centre, RECOVEU is developing innovative learning activities for recovered adults to prepare for, and succeed in, college or university. As William L. White, author of Let’s go make some history: chronicles of the new addiction recovery advocacy movement, outlined in the Foreword of the community research report (p. 4), the people who carried out this research were once viewed as ‘part of the “problem”’ but now offer living proof that:
- Long-term addiction recovery is a reality.
- There are many pathways to recovery and all are cause for celebration.
- Recovery flourishes within supportive communities.
For more information about the Recovery Academy of Ireland, to join the movement or to take part in their many events please see www.recoveryacademyireland.ie. For more information about RECOVEU or to get involved please visit www.recoveu.org
- Keane M (2011) The role of education in developing recovery capital in recovery from substance addiction. Dublin: Soilse Drug Rehabilitation Project. http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/16140/
- Keane M, McAleenan G and Barry J (2014) Addiction recovery: a contagious paradigm! A case for the re-orientation of drug treatment services and rehabilitation services in Ireland. Dublin: Soilse Drug Rehabilitation Project. http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/22291/
- Brady J, Corcoran K, Ducque C, Gelston M, Murtagh J, O’Neill B, Slator K, Doyle P, Ivers JH (2016) Peer led action research: a community assets scoping exercise in Dublin’s north inner city. Dublin: Recovery Academy Ireland. http://www.drugs.ie/downloadDocs/2016/Recovery-Peer-Led-Action-Research-2016.pdf