Interplay 2014. pub


Page 16  “Learning to Live in My Head”



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Interplay XIX-2014
Page 16 
“Learning to Live in My Head” 
Playback Theatre PossibiliƟes with People in Early Recovery from AddicƟon 
Brian Tasker
In this short piece, Brian Tasker (UK) provides some insights into the context and background of introducing Playback Theatre to people in 
early recovery from addiction. He illustrates some of the paradoxes and conflicts in the world of addiction and recovery and gives thoughtful 
consideration about the way Playback Theatre might assist. 
Stories of recovery from addiction could offer a rich vein for Playback Theatre within the contained setting of a residential 
Rehab. The importance of containment, boundaries and structure are crucial to replace the chaos and unmanageability of 
active addiction and the ritual of Playback Theatre can support that.
In my years as a counsellor in a rehab, listening to the stories of addicts, by far the majority started using in their early 
teens, cannabis, sniffing glue, alcohol etc., it doesn’t really matter as twenty years later when I met them, their lives were in 
ruins as they had predictably moved on to harder drugs or just drunk themselves nearly to death. Everyone thought they 
could manage it but no one could. They’d often spent time in prison, smashed up their families, lost contact with their chil-
dren and badly affected their health with collapsed veins, hepatitis and liver damage and were plagued by self-hatred, 
shame and low self-esteem. I’ve heard these stories, seen the results, witnessed the difficulties with recovery and heard 
about the deaths so many times that an aversion to substance use seems a fair response - it stopped looking like fun a 
long time ago. This gives rise to the conflict of the ‘serious’ worker (holding the boundary) and the spectrum of responses 
from clients that recovery includes – not everyone in treatment is committed to their recovery. Ambivalence is a regular 
visitor to a treatment centre and conflict is a constant theme as the dynamics of addiction are played out in how the rehab 
functions.
Honesty is really the only antidote to what can sometimes feel like an enduring negativity. From the outside, treatment can 
seem harsh and unrelenting which is exactly what addiction is to the addict from the inside. Perhaps that is why so many 
rehab staff have their own stories of recovery. Personally, I stopped using substances more than twenty years ago to sup-
port my interest in Buddhist meditation and my childhood experiences of growing up with alcoholism in my family taught me 
an aversion to euphoria. But what supports me in my work is accepting my powerlessness over the behaviour of others 
which also empowers my boundary and capacity to continue to say ‘no’ when necessary. I don’t have to play. The alterna-
tive is repeating the co-dependence that maintains addiction in the family and other relationships and perpetuates the ‘feel-
good’ culture that undermines honesty and encourages distraction.
continued on page 31



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