DDN Oct_2022 Octoober 2022 | Page 10


Much addiction is the result of trauma . If we ’ re going to have a genuinely recovery-orientated system in care then we need to recognise this and make sure the right conditions are in place , says Dave Higham


When I look back on my own life and the lives of others who have been in addictions , I start to see patterns and similarities that we have all felt and experienced . I see the trauma we experienced both in childhood and the lifestyle – we can then begin to understand where the negative beliefs we have about ourselves began .

Our view of the world starts to change from it being safe to a scary and dangerous place to live . We start to distrust people around us – in some cases , our own family , as these family members who were meant to care for us were the very people that were hurting , neglecting and abusing us . From an early age , our mental health starts to deteriorate . We start to feel we are worthless , that we are unlovable , unliked or unwanted . In order to stay connected to our caregivers , we turn those feelings into self-hatred and assume there must be something wrong with us .
NEGATIVE PATTERN At this point , our mental health can become unmanageable and it ’ s not uncommon for us to adopt negative patterns of behaviour in order to cope with the internal reality we created . At the tender age of 12 I was offered drugs . Without hesitation , I took them and for the first time in as long as I could remember I got a reprieve from the all-consuming negative thoughts and feelings of low self-worth . At this point , the drugs worked . They took my pain and feelings away and I began to care less about anyone or anything , apart from drugs or drink .
When we use lived experience ... we end up with a system that is much greater than the sum of its parts ... Lived experience , where respected and utilised , enables the development of new services that really meet the needs of people .
Unfortunately , and unbeknown to me at that time , my life was destined for a level of destruction that I never thought possible . Quickly , I began doing things that went against my values and beliefs , which led me to a place where death felt like the only option . In fact , I welcomed death as a relief from the mental torture I was living through on a daily basis .
LIVED EXPERIENCE When we use lived experience , learning and insight symbiotically , we end up with a system that is much greater than the sum of its parts . I have never struggled to recognise the value that having lived experience can bring to the development and creation of new ways of working . It ’ s a movement I ’ ve championed for nearly two decades . This concept became apparent to me during my last prison sentence more than 19 years ago . I strongly believe that lived experience perspectives , where respected and utilised , enable the development of new services that really meet the needs of the people we ’ re aiming to help .
Initially , I became an expert of my own experience through ongoing recovery programmes
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