William White
William L. White is an Emeritus Senior Research Consultant at Chestnut Health Systems / Lighthouse Institute and past-chair of the board of Recovery Communities United. Bill has a Master’s degree in Addiction Studies and has worked full time in the addictions field since 1969 as a streetworker, counselor, clinical director, researcher and well-traveled trainer and consultant. He has authored or co-authored more than 400 articles, monographs, research reports and book chapters and 20 books. His book, Slaying the Dragon – The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, received the McGovern Family Foundation Award for the best book on addiction recovery.

RECOVERY RISING EXCERPT: WHAT CANCER TAUGHT ME ABOUT ADDICTION TREATMENT

Adversity is a seductive invitation to self-pity. Cancer, like other unwelcomed challenges experienced in my life, provided such an invitation. But adversities provide opportunities as well as pitfalls. None of us escape adversities in our lives, but there really is something to the old saw, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Cancer was far more than an assault on my cells; it was a test of my character. Cancer provided invaluable lessons regarding my personal vulnerability and my need for better self-care—lessons of great import to someone both other-directed and action-oriented. The loss of bladder control in the weeks after my surgery forced me to once again confront limitation and powerlessness and brought humility and humiliation in equal measure—also valuable experiences for those of us fixated on controlling our own daily destinies. My need to rely on others, particularly my wife, forced me from the role of caring for… Continue reading

Beyond Recovery Exceptionalism – Bill White

Oppression involves objectification and rendering the targeted person or group as the ‘other.” That distinctive “otherness” is then conveyed in caricatured images that feed stigma, social exclusion, and, in its most extreme form, genocide. The first task of the social reformer is to illuminate the humanity of those objectified and break down barriers between “they” and “we.” The machinery of oppression and strategies of liberation rely on these opposing scaffolds of belief and perception. By projecting recovery stories into the public arena, recovery advocates undermine the demonized addiction archetype. These stories are often first viewed by the public through a lens of exceptionalism—seeing these ennobled individuals as the rare exception to the rule, “Once an addict, always an addict.” As recovery advocates, we can inadvertently contribute to this perception by only thrusting our most attractive, most articulate, highest achieving members into the public eye and characterizing our own redemption as an… Continue reading

HEALTH CHALLENGES IN ADDICTION RECOVERY – (BILL WHITE AND DAVID EDDIE, PHD)

The wide range of injuries inflicted on the human body by excessive and prolonged alcohol or other drug (AOD) use have been extensively documented for more than two centuries, but until recently little was known about the relative health of people recovering from addiction. The potential burden of continued health problems in recovery has been obscured by general findings of improved health and quality of life in recovery from follow-up studies of clinical samples. Little information has been available on the health status of people in recovery within larger community samples.   In 2010, the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services contracted with the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) to incorporate recovery-focused items into PHMC’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey of Philadelphia and four surrounding counties. Nearly ten percent (9.45%) of the adult population surveyed reported once having but no longer having an AOD problem. Those in… Continue reading

Recovery Revolution (Ten Historic Milestones) – William L White

Critics have claimed that recovery advocacy, recovery management, recovery-oriented systems of care, and related ideas and initiatives are a “flavor of the month” fad and that the so-called “recovery revolution” is nothing more than new words for what the addictions field has been doing for decades. Such shallow criticism ignores fundamental changes that are unfolding that will profoundly influence the future of addiction recovery—and the future of addiction treatment as a social institution.  I recently posted an outline detailing these changes in ten critical areas: 1) International growth and diversification of secular, spiritual, and religious recovery mutual aid organizations, 2) Exponential growth of virtual recovery communities and online recovery support resources, 3) Birth and maturation of a new recovery advocacy movement, 4) Emergence of an ecumenical (beyond identification with a particular mutual aid society or treatment institution) culture of recovery, 5) Rise of new recovery support institutions, 6) New recovery support roles/services as… Continue reading

Brain Recovery Following Alcohol Use Disorders – William L White

Since the early promulgation of addiction as a brain disease, I have warned that such a model could increase rather than decrease addiction-related stigma if not also accompanied by a parallel understanding of the neurobiology of addiction recovery (See HERE and HERE). To that end, I joined several colleagues in calling for a recovery research agenda that includes a focus on the degree to which brain functioning is restored during the recovery process (See HERE and HERE). In the intervening years, significant research has illuminated such healing processes and their implications for recovery management. The most significant of this work has been done on alcohol use disorders. The extent to which these findings are applicable to other substance use disorders remains unclear. Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are associated with significant cognitive impairment, though not all individuals with an AUD experience such impairment and the degree of impairment can vary widely depending on AUD severity and duration, number of… Continue reading