Farewell to Isa Ceylan

At the end of October, the CSARS team said goodbye to our Turkish Government funded Visiting Scholar, İsa Ceylan, as he returns to the University of Ankara after a fruitful six-month stay in Chester.

İsa’s focus was on spirituality in addiction recovery in the UK context. He spent time as a guest in open twelve-step mutual aid meetings and other mutual aid and recovery settings. He attended Recovery Month celebrations and rallies.  He attended academic conferences, (including New Directions in the Study of Alcohol Group Annual Conference). He visited pro-recovery work at HMP Berwyn, and he collaborated on some qualitative research with the North Wales Recovery Community.  The CSARS team learned about İsa’s research and work in addiction treatment in Turkey, and enjoyed discussing cross-cultural issues in the construction of ideas of addiction and recovery. We wish him every success in his endeavours and look forward to future collaborations.

Read İsa’s report here:

İsa Ceylan: Placement with the Higher Power Project

May-Oct 2018

I received a Turkish Government Grant to undertake research on addiction and spirituality in the UK, at the kind invitation of Wendy Dossett who is Principal Investigator of the Higher Power Project, based in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester.  The work of the Higher Power Project aligns closely with my own PhD research project based at  Ankara University.  The Higher Power Project is a qualitative study of the diversity of the language of Higher Power used by people in twelve-step recovery from addiction. Chester Studies of Addiction, Recovery and Spirituality (CSARS) Group develops community-based projects designed to ensure that the Higher Power Project research and other research findings are transferred to the professions involved in the treatment of addiction and to people seeking recovery. Members of the group are Dr Wendy Dossett, Prof John Stoner, Liam Metcalf-White and Tim Roberts.

The aim of my research is to develop a spiritual values-based model/program of recovery for people with substance use disorders, appropriate to the Turkish context. It is therefore important to observe good practice in this regard in a variety of recovery settings in the UK.  I attended open meetings of Twelve-Step Mutual Aid fellowships, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Al-Anon (for family and friends of sufferers). Twelve-Step Mutual Aid is highly influential in anglophone understandings of the nature of addiction and recovery. Distinctive features of the Twelve Step approach include the self-supporting nature of the groups (they receive no outside funding) and the idea of a higher power, which for many members is simply the higher power of the group.  Respect, acceptance, inclusion, non-stigmatization and connectedness are enacted and embodied in these communities rather than merely theorised. People seeking recovery in these modalities consider daily abstinence as a pre-requisite for undertaking the personal change and development which secures abstinence in the longer term.  I also observed SMART Recovery which is a form of Mutual Aid that does not draw on the 12 Steps.

I attended the Bangor Recovery Project at the invitation of Prof John Stoner and Liam Metcalf-White. This project offers a three-month long course to people with substance use problems who are interested in recovery. It uses the findings of the Higher Power Project to de-mystify and clarify Twelve Step and other forms of Mutual Aid, to empower people to make use of it if they choose to do so. While spending time with the Bangor Recovery Project I observed some one-to-one qualitative interviews which explored participants views and experiences around spirituality. I will use the data from these interviews in my work going forward.

I attended activities of the during International Recovery Month (September) in Shrewsbury including an academic and practitioner conference organised by Faces and Voices of Recovery UK and supported by the University of Chester CSARS Group, which addressed issues such as stigma, access to and quality of care, informed choice, prisons, political representation, families, aftercare, service user involvement and health equity/rights. The following day, several thousand people walked through Shrewsbury town centre to demonstrate and celebrate recovery.

After the Walk, the afternoon continued with celebrations, modern dance performances, concerts and open AA, NA and CA meetings. It was clear that people present at the event felt embraced by feelings of belonging and being loved. This was representing the power of the group. They celebrated both their own and each others’ achievements and in celebrating so publicly they strongly challenged stigma.

I also visited HMP Berwyn, in Wrexham, which is one of the biggest prisons in Europe. CSARS Team member Tim Roberts who is the Substance Misuse Service Interventions Lead at the Prison gave me a tour of the wings and introduced me to staff from different disciplines to see how they work with mental health, learning difficulties, speech and language, psychology and psychiatry. I also observed a Nudge group (low intensity motivation group) and a SMART meeting within the prison. The prison also offers AA and several other pro-recovery activities. This gave me an insight into the importance of recovery-oriented rehabilitation in prisons, which might take account of spiritual dimensions if appropriate to the prisoner.

An academic highlight for me was participating in the symposium named “New Directions in Alcohol Group Studies” which took place in Sheffield on 6-7 June 2018 for 2 days. On the first day, doctoral students presented and discussed their work. On the second day, we listened to the presentations of academicians and professionals working in the field of addiction. Dr. Wendy Dossett presented on the role of spirituality in addiction recovery. I also heard presentations from well known British experts, Prof David Best and Dr Tim Leighton. I noticed that among the academics working with the concept of spirituality in relation to addiction recovery, Wendy Dossett’s work is the best known.

I had fruitful research time in the University of Chester’s well-stocked library and found many resources on spirituality and healthcare outside the Religious Studies collections. It was positive and interesting to see this interdisciplinarity.

I’ve learned a great deal during my time in the UK about the way in which ideas about spirituality intersect with ideas about recovery from addiction. It was impressive to see these practices in their own settings and was inspiring for my own work. One thing I will take back to the Turkish context is the necessity to look beyond medical models of addiction treatment, to social, cultural and spiritual understandings. I also saw the value of the power of mutual support, one former sufferer speaking with another. This is inspirational.

In my future academic career, I am planning to produce treatment resources in addition to academic publications on the relationship between spirituality and addiction. I hope to convince addictions professionals in Turkey of the value of spiritual aspects of holistic approaches to addiction recovery.