RECOVEU Conference November 2016: A delegate’s perspective from Anne-Marie Ward, Chief Executive and Founder of Faces and Voices of Recovery, UK.

First of all, it was a wonderful opportunity for us to take FAVOR UK’s work deeper into Europe. As an organisation it gave us a massive boost to our connections, spread our message and make new friends across a much wider geographical area. As an individual it was hugely encouraging for me to see and hear how valued FAVOR UK’s work is inspiring and influencing organisations in countries that have yet to hear the voice of people in recovery.

I was initially surprised at my ignorance about the depth and scope of the importance of the projects work and how so much had been achieved so quietly. I was reminded that, so often we only hear about the work of those who shout the loudest and it was a privilege to hear from all the speakers and see how their contributions will positively and compassionately influence Alcohol and other drug policy across Europe.

I was also reminded during the discussions about the ‘false dichotomy’ between Harm Reduction and Abstinence treatment goals and how, many would argue, we are still, fighting the notorious battles of the 1970s ‘between scientific and belief-based views of alcohol problems’ (Sobell & Sobell, 1995.) We at FAVOR UK believe that the kernel of this argument lies not between the merits or otherwise of Harm Reduction and Abstinence, but between each treatment programme’s right to co-exist in an increasingly competitive and evolving field, and that this argument is being camouflaged by misguided protagonists from both sides waging battles on false fronts (Szasz, 1973). I was inspired to be involved in discussions that for our common goal to be achieved, both Harm Reduction and Abstinence (and all other approaches) have to be compatible and, more importantly, be accepted as such. This is achieved when we are willing and able to confront and tackle courageously, our ethical, personal, and social conflicts – which means ‘having the courage and integrity to put our own beliefs aside as to what we believe addiction or recovery is and to make sure than anyone who comes to us for help has access to all the different pathway’s to recovery and not just the ones we believe or have faith in.

Overall for me the conference and the project inspired hope going forward into the future of alcohol and other drug policy, treatment and in educating the wider public. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to take part.