DDN Oct_2022 Octoober 2022 | Page 11

– all methods of counselling , psychotherapy , endless reading , listening and studying . Alongside this , I began my career as a frontline worker in services , working my way up to regional manager . After seven years , I departed statutory services to form my own lived experience recovery organisation ( LERO ) called The Well .
ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS Propelled by what I had learned , seen and experienced , I came to believe that the majority of those who come into services are suffering from complex posttraumatic stress disorder ( CPTSD ) and that treatment and wellbeing services need a rethink about how to support people in a way that brings real change . I strongly believe that we have to look at the environments and conditions we are creating in our own places of support , and that the right conditions need to be realised for a genuinely recovery-orientated system of care . I say system because it ’ s the responsibility of all services to get on board . When the right conditions are not in place , mental health can be further compounded by re-traumatisation , feelings of disconnection , hopelessness , and despair . This can lead to further relapse and a life devoid of opportunity and aspiration .
My book , Rat Hell to Rat Park : The Core Conditions for Recovery represents my life ’ s work to date from childhood trauma , to using addict , to prison , to personal recovery , and my subsequent investment as a professional in the field of addiction and recovery . Of most importance is that this book finds anyone who is looking for a way out and inspires hope . It ’ s also my intention that the hope , coupled with the reality of what can happen when we create the right conditions for people – as outlined in this book – provides a blueprint for services and professionals who are looking to be part of the change .
Dave Higham is founder and CEO of The Well Communities , author of Rat Hell to Rat Park , The Core Conditions For Recovery and coauthor of The Bigger Book of ACEs


An extract from Rat Hell to Rat Park , The Core Conditions For Recovery
What if addiction was about your cage ? What if it is an adaption to an environment ? When we bond and connect with each other , we become free of addiction .
AT THE WELL we have housing , recovery support , and psychosocial interventions . At the heart of these interventions are the core conditions for recovery , which provide a wrap-around nurturing environment for healing to take place . It is our version of Rat Park – a place where people feel comforted and loved , where they are part of a community and feel a sense of belonging . The rats in Rat Park are basically in their form of heaven ; they had lots of wheels to play on , lots to eat , lots of other rats to play with or breed with .
When those rats were exposed to water laced with heroin or cocaine , as per Bruce Alexander ’ s experiment in the 1970s , they almost never used it , compared to the experiment using a single rat left alone , with no rat friends or activities , which drank the drugged water until it died . The lesson here was that rats living happy and connected lives just didn ’ t use drugs . They didn ’ t overdose . They didn ’ t take it compulsively . Journalist Johann Hari ( 2015 ) gave a TED talk about this , and he summarised this experiment saying , what if addiction was about your cage ? What if it is an adaption to an environment ? When we bond and connect with each other , we become free of addiction , but if we ’ re traumatised or alone in our cage , then this is the breeding ground for obtaining some sense of relief . That ’ s human nature . That ’ s what we want as human beings . I have created the six core conditions based on my years of experience , both working in the addiction and psychology field and as a recovering addict and survivor of multiple adverse childhood traumas ( ACTs ). I believe these conditions are the pathway to supporting sustainable , life-long recovery from any addiction , trauma or mental illness because they create an environment where human beings can connect , share their experiences and create bonds that lead to a drug-free life . Together , these six conditions create a culture for people to heal themselves , to face whatever they need to face within a safe environment , and pave the way to stay better , and even go on to thrive .
The six core conditions , which are building blocks for healing and recovery , are outlined here :
1 . LIVED EXPERIENCE This is the key ingredient for creating the core conditions for recovery . People of lived experience ( POLE ), who work supporting our clients , enable people to identify with those who have walked the same path .
2 . CONNECTION I felt disconnected throughout my whole life . The saddest part was I did not even know I was disconnected from myself , my family and from my community . I did not feel I belonged . We need to rebuild these broken connections . It makes perfect sense if people take drink or drugs to escape the feelings of being alone , to then find the solution in positive connections with likeminded people in recovery .
3 . MEANING AND PURPOSE Through this new sense of connection and belonging , a pathway is created for our clients to find meaning and purpose in their lives . The impact on selfconfidence and self-belief means they can finally go out into the world and live their best lives and reach their true potential .
4 . COMMUNITY Creating a community is important when building the right environment for people to recover . We support this by developing the conditions for people to connect to each other . We openly encourage people to engage with their peers , and to connect with other people with lived experience .
5 . TRAUMA-SAFE ENVIRONMENT ( TSE ) We consciously create a safe , trusting and non-judgmental environment , promoting a culture of mutual respect and unity . This is not just for the people we support . This also has to include the staff and the organisation as a whole .
6 . HOPE Sometimes I wonder if this is the most important condition of all . Without hope that people can rebuild their lives and live a better , kinder , more meaningful life , then change cannot happen .
For further information regarding the book email : book @ thewell2 . co . uk or info @ thewell2 . co . uk