Tag Archives: Bill White

The adjacent possible and hope

I heard a radio show this morning about where ideas come from.

They interviewed a guy who wrote a book and gave a TED talk on the topic.

During the interview he discussed the concept of the adjacent possible and it’s importance in forming new ideas. During the interview, he described it as the building blocks of new ideas. Without the right building blocks, any innovation is not possible. He described it another way in a WSJ article:

The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.

The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.

During the interview, he pointed out that it doesn’t matter how smart one is, it was not possible to invent a microwave in 1650, because the building blocks, the adjacent possible, just wasn’t there.

One factor is that the physical building blocks did not exist. The other factor is that the imaginative/inspiration building blocks did not exist.

This reminded me of a metaphor Bill White once used when talking about hope-engendering relationships offering kindling for hope.

I think this helps explain the resistance some recovery advocates have to interventions focused on something other than drug-free recovery. There’s a sense of how precious this adjacent possible is, and how easy it is to imagine a world where drug-free recovery is not possible because the adjacent possible has been lost.

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Filed under Controversies, Harm Reduction, Mutual Aid, Random, Treatment

Bill White on “Symbolic Firsts”

hopeBill White had a very interesting post a while back on the concept of “symbolic firsts” and how it relates to recovery advocacy and recovery initiation.

The concept is based on the idea that:

. . . the pioneering achievement of a single individual from a historically marginalized group affects the self-identity, aspirations, and performance of other members of that group as well as culturally dominant attitudes toward members of that group (e.g., the effects of Barack Obama’s 2008 election on the academic performance of African American children and attitudes toward African Americans).

This reminded me of an interview I heard on the radio and a previous post on the concept of “the adjacent possible”.

During the interview he discussed the concept of the adjacent possible and it’s importance in forming new ideas. During the interview, he described it as the building blocks of new ideas. Without the right building blocks, any innovation is not possible. He described it another way in a WSJ article:

The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.

The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.

During the interview, he pointed out that it doesn’t matter how smart one is, it was not possible to invent a microwave in 1650, because the building blocks, the adjacent possible, just wasn’t there.

One factor is that the physical building blocks did not exist. The other factor is that the imaginative/inspiration building blocks did not exist.

Bill links the concept to hope and recovery initiation:

Symbolic firsts in recovery stand as a living invitation for individuals, families, and communities affected by addiction and a source of motivation and guidance for those seeking and living in recovery. Through their achievements, symbolic firsts expand the roles and community spaces in which people seeking and in recovery can envision themselves.  Symbolic firsts in recovery diminish the community cues conveying that people in recovery do not belong in particular positions or places. They offer living proof of what can be achieved in recovery and the principles and strategies of how such achievements have been and can be made in the context of recovery.

But Bill doesn’t stop there. He calls on those us us in stable recovery to out ourselves to reduce stigma, inspire hope and make the adjacent possible known.

Symbolic firsts in recovery achieve such status by acts of destruction (tearing down historical barriers of exclusion and their supporting machinery) and acts of creation (forging new niches and styles through which people in recovery can personally excel and socially achieve and contribute).

Symbolic firsts in recovery eschew “passing” (hiding concealable stigma for personal advantage) to achieve a higher social goal–even in the face of personal challenges and socially-imposed limits on opportunities that can potentially flow from this decision.  Symbolic firsts face extremes of experience different in nature and intensity than others who will subsequently fill the space that the trailblazers created. As a result, symbolic firsts in recovery need the full support of communities of recovery.

 

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Filed under Advocacy

Above criticism

AA-Groups-ClevelandBill White on varieties of secular AA experiences.

The ongoing evolution of A.A.’s story — its history — suggests that the fellowship will meet this challenge by finding ways to adapt to both religious renewal movements and cultural trends toward secularization without losing its essential character.

But “suggest” is all that history can do. The fundamental question for the future of Alcoholics Anonymous — which necessarily includes the present — is whether its Tradition that having “a desire to stop drinking” remains “the only requirement for A.A. membership” OR if membership becomes reserved exclusively for those who adhere to a verbatim interpretation of the Twelve Steps as they were written in 1939.

In short, will A.A. be able to find ways to embrace more “varieties” – or not?

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Characteristics of the best treatment programs

big-question-logoIn that Points interview, Bill White is asked about the treatment provider that he would choose for a loved one.

I receive calls every day from people asking variations of these questions. There isn’t a universally “best program.” What we are looking for is the best match between the characteristics of a particular person at a particular point in time and the characteristics of a treatment setting at that same point in time. What could be the best choice for one person would not necessarily be a good choice for another, and a good match today might not be so a year from now—because both individual/family needs and organizational capabilities evolve dynamically. But those best matches do seem to share some common characteristics: accessibility; affordability; organizational and workforce stability; individualized, evidence-based, and family-focused care; a recovery-infused service milieu; effective linkage to recovery community resources; and sustained support for both the individual and the family. What also matters as much as the treatment approach and the treatment institution is the primarily clinician who will be providing that treatment. Recovery outcomes vary widely from counselor to counselor.

Interesting to see affordability on that list. Again, I’m grateful to be part of a place that resembles this description.

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sustained guidance into full cultural participation

image-join-communityI’ve posted recently on the role of class in addiction, policy, treatment and recovery. Here are a couple of sentences from Bill White on the topic.

Those individuals needing professionally directed addiction treatment suffer from more than a singular, encapsulated problem with alcohol or other drugs. Need for addiction treatment—particularly prolonged or repeated treatment—is often a proxy for cultural marginalization and the need for sustained guidance into full cultural participation.

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The hardiness of AA

aa3Bill White and Ernie Kurtz  examine the factors contributing to AA’s resilience in the face of steady attacks

Attacking Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and 12-step oriented addiction treatment has become a specialized industry with its own genre of literature, celebrity authors and speakers, single-focus websites, and promoted alternatives.  Collectively, these critics suggest that A.A. is an anachronism whose effectiveness has been exaggerated and whose time in the sun has passed.  A.A.’s institutional response to these  criticisms has been a consistent pattern of private self-reflection (e.g., Bill Wilson’s “Our Critics can be Our Benefactors”) and public silence (e.g., no opinion on outside controversial issues, personal anonymity at level of press, and public relations based on attraction rather than promotion–as dictated by A.A.’s Traditions).

The concept of organizational resilience suggests not just an institution’s longevity, but the capacity to survive in the face of significant threats to its character and existence.  Such threats faced by A.A., including the intensity and endurance of polemical assaults on A.A., raise the question of how A.A. survived these challenges to become such a dominant cultural force.

Bill and Ernie identify 7 factors. Among them is scientific validity. Read them here.

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Recovery Checkups

blog-post-05-21

Bill White on efforts to develop and implement recovery check-up protocols:

There is one sentence in the Standards that deserves particular acknowledgement:  “Recovery check-ups by addiction specialist physicians, just as those by primary care physicians or other providers, may promote sustained recovery and prevent relapse” (p. 13).

. . . The “recovery check-up” language marks an important milestone in the history of addiction medicine and the history of ASAM.  Projects are underway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Ann Arbor, Michigan [That’s us at Dawn Farm!] to develop recovery checkup protocol for primary care physicians.  Those projects mark the next step in integrating addiction treatment and primary medicine and the next step in extending acute care models of addiction treatment to models of sustained recovery management.

Imagine a day when everyone entering recovery will have an addiction-trained primary care physician and an addiction medicine specialist as sustained resources through the long-term recovery process.

via Recovery Checkups | Blog & New Postings | William L. White.

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Filed under Dawn Farm, Research, Treatment