It’s Time To Go

How do I even begin to think about saying goodbye to an organisation that I’ve worked at for 10 years?

I remember very clearly sitting in a ‘careers talk’ as a first year Psych student listening to someone from Addaction and deciding ‘thats where I want to work’. Two years later I attended some Addaction training and watching the trainer thought ‘I want to do that’.

5 years ago I became Addaction’s Learning and Development Manager.



People don’t work within addiction (and mental health) treatment for the salary – it takes something extra; an extra stretch of empathy. The ability to connect and cross bridges when someone is completely different to you, and engaging in behaviour you may not think it ok. Everyday. Thats challenging.

For example… Imagine you are fundraising for a charity. You have one week to raise £1000 via donations. You have as many contacts as you could possibly desire. How long do you think it would take to raise money for a charity supporting people addicted to drugs? Compared to another charity.

If I gave you one pound, to put in a charity box of your choice: 1. Animal rescue 2. Children at risk 3. Cancer research 4. Elderly Care 5. Addiction Treatment – where would your one pound go? If I stood in your local high street with those 5 boxes, which one would be most and least full at the ens of the day?

THIS organisation… working in a culture and change focused role… so aligned, so purposeful. You can’t leave that overnight. You have to slowly and carefully extract yourself.

What’s me? What’s Addaction? Am I part of Addaction, or is Addaction part of me? As I leave, where is the missing piece.

I finished the Shindig series (with Julie Drybrough @fuchsia_blue in Manchester) in November this year and we did a timeline. My post-it stuck to the wall at the future part was blank. The 26th Jan 2018 will be my last day as Learning and Development Manager at Addaction UK. I’m excited and scared about that, in equal measure.

So this blog is for you Addaction:

The top 10 things I’ve learnt… in my 10 years at Addaction

  1. Addiction follows the same psychological principles as learning. We can learn, we can unlearn, we can intentionally and unintentionally learn new behaviours and thinking.
  2. Behaviour change on mass, across a whole organisation, takes behaviour change multiple-times on a individual level. People, their relationships and the system and culture that creates are the organisation.
  3. Dependency on a substance like alcohol, coke, cannabis, heroin, doesn’t occur because of a personality trait (although I know you like that one), low morals, genetics, or because your mum/dad/uncle/brother used it (another simple one: social learning) – dependence occurs because the substance fulfils a function. It provides something needed to function. And in the absence of a better of alternative, it becomes the best/quickest/most reliable solution. We build up a tolerance and need more of the substance to get the same effect; to get the function fulfilled. Every human has basic needs (I admire Maslow and all other humanistic psychologists who knew their shit years ago, beyond behaviourism + psychodynamics – why have we ignored it for so long?)
  4. Nice people take drugs (to quote, and addiction can make people behave horribly
  5. Empathy is the most powerful of all human skills and the capacity for this can be grown and learnt. AND apparently, we can fake it if we know what the behaviours are that communicate that we are being empathic with someone. (Apols – cant find reference)
  6. For every behaviour there is a reason. Not an excuse.
  7. Solution Focused Brief Approaches (founded by deShazer) are the foundation of contemporary approaches to organisational developent: appreciative inquiry, positive critique, strength focused leadership, skills coaching. Solution focused does not mean getting to a solution as quickly as possible. Its means a shift in thinking to notice strengths first, from looking for examples of excellent in performance to story-tell and build upon, to responding only positive behaviours in order to encourage/nudge more of that.
  8. The therapeutic treatment for addiction under the term Psychosocial Interventions, is a top class coaching approach to skills development and behaviour change. People are people.
  9. As Siobhan Sheridan (@siobhanHRSheri) powerfully reminds us here … there is more than one version of the world, if you choose to see it. Every street has different dimensions and layers. You are never far away from ‘that would never happen to me’
  10. And the hardest learning of all… Work is work. Its something you do, not a place you go to, and not the person you are. You just bring the latter to it. Work will come and it will go, and I wont let it be the main source of my self-esteem. Self-exploitation in charities is easily done: pushing yourself to work longer/harder because its for a good cause, and they matter more than you – is not healthy. No matter how many evenings and weekends I spend working, the job will never be done. Play! And combine the two at every opportunity!

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