Addiction and Recovery

Addiction and trauma have been primary aspects of my professional practice for more than 30 years. I’ve worked with thousands of clients and hundreds of organizations. I provide consulting services for the development of addictions programs, clinical supervision for counsellors, psychotherapists, and front-line staff, and education for the wider community. The complex landscape of recovery is my neighbourhood. The resources on these pages are drawn from my experience and reflect my interest in the deeply creative aspects of addiction and trauma. As a result, these pages relate the unique stories of individual clients which, in turn, reflect the broader landscape. Recovery is an odyssey that reaches back as well as forward. It weaves together childhood development, adolescent vulnerability, mental health, and trauma. It’s a complex and layered experience that cannot be understood by reducing the process to substance use or behaviour. Addiction is more than that. It’s deeper. These pages describe what this means, and, in turn, how to seek healing.

Understanding Addiction

What I’ve learned from a career working with vulnerable people

June 20, 2021, 1:39 p.m. • Ross Laird

My writings on the theme of addiction trace their origin to my experience as a substance abuse counselor, as a clinical supervisor to addictions agencies, and to my own family background in which...

The Essence of Addiction

Layers upon layers, ever inward

June 20, 2021, 1:12 p.m. • Ross Laird

Addiction is not the primary problem. It does not spring from nothing. This is perhaps the most important — and most difficult — insight to make. Parents resist it. Communities deny it. And the a...

Elsewhere: Addictions of Escape

The elsewhere seeker journeys ceaselessly — beyond the known world, faraway, into that realm where wonder awaits. But they journey alone.

June 20, 2021, 1:10 a.m. • Ross Laird

Toward the horizon, the broad limbs of a fir tree stretch out from a trunk still black against the morning sky. The indigo dawn brightens toward vermilion. A scatter of skeletal branches extends ...

Inward: Addictions of Retreat

The inward seeker yearns for stillness and solace, for the end of pain. But they drift ever deeper, ever farther away.

June 20, 2021, 1:19 a.m. • Ross Laird

A narrow bridge of crumbling steel stretches across the inlet from upscale neighborhoods on the south shore to strip clubs and run-down stores on the north side. Beneath both ends of the bridge, ...

Onward: Addictions of Departure

Stimulants, Intensity, and the Breaking of Relationships

June 20, 2021, 11:43 a.m. • Ross Laird

I wonder where the bullet will come from: a passing car, or a man in the shelter of the trees, or a sidewalk pedestrian who ambles across the lawn and takes aim through the front window. Perhaps ...

Sideways: Addictions of Disguise

Cannabis, driftiness, and the purposeless path

June 20, 2021, 11:50 a.m. • Ross Laird

Dark inside the dark. Grit and damp. Dank air squeezed thin in this place. My breath gasping and ragged. Wet soil falls from above, spatters my neck and face, falls into my nostrils, abrades with...

Backward: Addictions of Defiance

Alcohol, intergenerational trauma, and the long road home

June 20, 2021, 12:46 p.m. • Ross Laird

The afternoon light is fading. Across the strait, a green landscape is awash with a shimmer of twilight and distance. Behind me, the sun descends toward the mountains. Beyond them is the wide sea...

Downward: Addictions and the Wound

Layers upon layers, stretching far back, reaching far down

June 20, 2021, 12:53 p.m. • Ross Laird

There are tunnels beneath the city. Some were built by bootleggers and smugglers, and are older than anyone now remembers. The damp storage vaults — for hooch and heroin and illegal immigrants fr...

Forward: On Healing the Wound

Journeying out of the labyrinth

June 20, 2021, 1:08 p.m. • Ross Laird

Near the war memorial with its grassy sward — where Joseph once lived, and pursued his hallucinogenic and shamanic dreams — a clutch of the city’s oldest structures are slowly crumbling toward ...

Rethinking Recovery

On Building an Effective Addictions Recovery Program

June 18, 2021, 10:53 p.m. • Ross Laird

The roots and paths of addiction are complex, adaptive, and surprising. Those seeking recovery often find themselves exploring and coming to terms wit...