<![CDATA[thepurposeofrecovery.org - Blog]]>Wed, 23 Nov 2022 18:39:10 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Recovery Month is Every Month]]>Wed, 05 Oct 2022 02:21:58 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/recovery-month-is-every-monthIn reflecting on Recovery Month’s research and discovery, I follow a lead and have adopted the theme of Every Person. Every Family. Every Community as a permanent tagline. The Recovery Movement is dedicated to organizing and mobilizing those in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. We urged our families, friends, and allies into recovery community organizations and networks. We promoted the right and the resources to recovery through advocacy, education, and by demonstration of the power and proof of long-term recovery. 

This month Faces and Voices of Recovery held their HUB event in Sacramento, California. It was a great celebration, and The Purpose of Recovery organization was present. Each year Faces and Voices moves the Recovery Month Hub to a different major city. The event was held on September 7th this year and all reports shouted success.

​The political season is well underway, and we should listen for the substance and commitment to do the people’s wishes. There are many events going on. Hold fast to recovery and encourage the telling of stories. Please read the following and see what appeals for action:

September 30th was International Recovery Day and is celebrated every year and is dedicated to promoting recovery efforts worldwide. Founded in 2019, this is an annual observance dedicated to globally promoting all pathways to and of recovery from addiction, and to educate the global public about the value of recovery.  The day is celebrated during Recovery Month as an opportunity to tell the world that prevention works, that treatment is effective, and that people can—and do—recover from addiction.

Recovery Leadership Summit (RLS) held in St Paul, Minnesota, in early October brings recovery advocates together in person or through Zoom. More about this at Faces and Voices of Recovery website. They learn networking and resource opportunities. Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs) and Peers have  developed creative approaches to peer recovery support services (PRSS) delivered by hybridizing or offering PRSS in virtual or remote contexts. PRSS are being developed with a desire to be more inclusive and meet diverse needs related to gender, ethnicity, and rural equity, among other local community needs.  Since our beginning, we have looked to support and strengthen our peer support services, and they are going and growing.

Stand up, stand out, speak out, and be proud about it. 

Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador

]]>
<![CDATA[September 05th, 2022]]>Mon, 05 Sep 2022 15:44:55 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/september-05th-2022
September is National Recovery Month (rm.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org/). What is Recovery Month?  You may have noticed that some of our content and materials resemble those from last year. We have adopted last year’s theme of “Every Person. Every Family. Every Community.” as our permanent tagline. Moving forward there will no longer be a new theme announced each year. As a result, you may see some familiar elements incorporated into this year’s branding and content. Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery from substance use and mental health, just as we celebrate improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.  

Recovery Month works to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible.  Faces and Voices of Recovery now has 140 members of ARCO (Associations of Recovery Community Organization) and is growing. These are centers for communicating resources to all on what is being offered during our 2022 National Recovery Month activities. Under the guidance and work of the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP), the recovery movement will come together on September 7 on the steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento. The event is free and open to the public.  Click here for more information.

I want to repeat what I wrote in a previous blog:
We have faces and voices with a message. We have Medically Assisted Recovery (MAR) to diminish craving, with necessary fellowship meetings and therapy with recovery information. We have faces, voices, tools, and a variety of paths to recovery. The recovery movement is growing but in the face of an election year and the noise of the day’s events, we need more passionate, and dedicated faces and voices of recovery to carry the message. Nora Volkow, Director of NIDA, told us at the end of 2021 how important that we acknowledge the need for social contact, community friendship, and community involvement. I recall her words. We know how stress brings us together to face difficulty and help others. We can overcome most of the troubles that come from our daily lives. We have the capacity to overcome whatever we face, and we all do better with coming together. It will lead us to a better tomorrow and of coming together as a community and appreciation of family and friends.  

Stand up, stand out, speak out, and be proud about it!

Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador


]]>
<![CDATA[The Recovery Ready Community]]>Wed, 10 Aug 2022 20:47:53 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/the-recovery-ready-community

History reports that disastrous events scatter people, and then bring them together.  In the past and now, we hear the wordstogether we shall. There are communities with interlocking family, friends, and relatives. A group that has community heritage and bonds. A sense of common purpose brings order, fellowship, and brings understanding, love, and care for fellow beings. No matter the cause or disaster.

The recovery community is growing! But in the face of an election year and the noise of the day’s events, we need more passionate, and dedicated faces and voices of recovery to carry the message–together we shall. Nora Volkow told us at the end of 2021 how important that we acknowledge the need for social contact, community friendship, and community involvement. As she said; we know how stress brings us together to face difficulty and help others. We can overcome most of the troubles that come from our daily lives. We have the capacity to overcome whatever we face, and we all do better with coming together. It will lead us to a better tomorrow and of coming together as a community and appreciation of family and friends.


Join The Purpose of Recovery for the second Annual Orange County Recovery Rally. This event is on August 20th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kiwanisland Park in Garden Grove and offers a time to come together to celebrate with people in recovery, recovery allies, and community partners—with food and fun and resources. The event will also bring attention to Overdose Awareness Month which occurs in August. The rally seeks to reduce stigma, bridge the gap, highlight services, and create a network of resources for individuals and families to heal, stabilize, and create purpose in recovery. We will recognize the roles of peers, professionals, service providers, donors, family, and friends in advancing our message. You can visit our website at www.TPOR.org to register for free fun, fellowship, and recovery reality.

Recovery is for Everyone.
Every Person— Every Family— Every Community

Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador


]]>
<![CDATA[Loves and lives lost]]>Thu, 16 Jun 2022 00:21:40 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/loves-and-lives-lostIn this blog, the opiate epidemic calls our attention to loves and lives lost, but also to growing data resources and harm reduction practices which bring new and innovative approaches.  

Author Sam Quinones chronicles the history that brought us to this crisis in his work Dreamland—The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. It opens the vulnerable heart of individuals in smaller communities and provides stories. Included were stories from Colorado, Ohio, and Kentucky. Those stories have the power to persuade us to pay attention. Large quantities of prescription pain meds from pill mills and pain clinics, started by opportunistic doctors, supplied and grew the number of addicts.  In one community, a pill-based economy developed. A path to SSI led to a Medicaid card, and pills became currency. Fentanyl use grew. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is 80-100 times more powerful than morphine, the substance to which heroin metabolizes, and is commonly used as an end-of-life sedative or during operational anesthesia–A lab produced opioid that some user’s unwittingly purchase and use following introduction into a community. Drugs laced with a lab produced chemical that converts euphoria into a death act.

I was prompted by something I read: “We get as sick as our family members. We have people who have given their children Narcan and brought them back and done it multiple times — that is traumatizing.” I had read much about what was really happening in Orange County and the frustration of so many families about what to do.  We talked and read about Fentanyl strips and other manner and means of drug testing. On May 20th the LA Times opened with a top headline that said: ”Fentanyl killed their kids; parents call for action.” The article said that many families mobilized after a wave of deaths that began in 2019. High schoolers and collegians were dying from taking Oxycontin or Xanax after ingesting pills laced with Fentanyl. In the same article, I noted these words: 
The problem is going to be solved by the grass-roots efforts of affected families.
The article was 3/4ths page long but introduced me to Mike Capelouto, a suburban dad, who discovered his 20-year-old daughter, Alexandra, dead from an overdose. The authorities called the death an accident. That launched a drive to get attention to the specific incident and bring the attention of the legislature to a bill called Alexandra’s Law. It was built on a platform of “Drug Induced Homicide”.  It was meant to bring justice to Alexandra and others. It failed to pass.

I lived in Denver, Colorado for several years. I wrote a blog and also columns for the Denver Post Hub. I was on the Drug Strategy Commission and had an interest in harm reduction. I learned of a Vancouver, Canada site that I saw as harm reduction calling for needle exchange, on-site drug use supervision, testing, and counseling. Counseling about a better, healthier life without facing increasing problems with newly crafted and perhaps deadly synthetics. We had introduced a needle exchange, sharps disposal, and other peer supported connections.  My relationship with The Denver Harm Reduction Action Center allowed introduction to the legislative body for attention. No final law was passed. The oldest nemesis— NIMBY and Stigma— were hard at work in postponing a passage.  The idea is growing and in the face of synthetics and other growing experiments, we lack specific knowledge about what is going on. Testing is always a significant factor and access is critical. 

An article appeared in the LA Times concluding that supervised sites for drug use are a good step but not a perfect solution. I learned that we look for progress, not perfection on our individual recovery path. It is important that I have looked to the LA Times for important attention to these matters in just the past months. We are becoming known and listened to. I appreciated a comment made by a regular visitor to a site who said, “We are a community”. When not using, twice a week he assists others to overcome overdoses just as he had overcome overdoses a multiple number of times. Perhaps, no more.

For the Parents:  Have a meaningful conversation with your family. Reject the notion that “it can’t happen to you or your family.” Talk aloud about the threat opioid abuse and synthetics bring to your family and close friends. Commit to asking the tough questions. At town halls, prevention activities at schools, community vigils, walks, and fun runs. Get involved and participate. Don’t be shy, for your voice may save precious lives in your own community. Visit drugfree.org for support and information.

Merlyn Karst—Recovery Ambassador
]]>
<![CDATA[ANY MONTH IS ALCOHOL AWARENESS MONTH]]>Tue, 10 May 2022 18:47:16 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/any-month-is-alcohol-awareness-month
On February 27, I celebrated my 90th year on the planet.  In all the years, alcohol was my only drug of choice.  It served me well until it didn’t. Active in the recovery movement for many years in Colorado, I returned to California in 2019 and helped to start a new non-profit called The Purpose of Recovery (TPOR).   At The Purpose of Recovery we value positive recovery language through our peer support services and community advocacy.   

Recently I noted that 
Alcohol Awareness was being diminished by all else going on and I determined to edit my recovery language to feature alcohol and its effects.

What I noticed is that my language works in any month, whether it is Alcohol Awareness Month (April) or not. 
Ok, so who do we help (individuals, families and those in recovery) and what do we tell them about alcohol? Particularly, how do we guide their research on talking to kids?

Each April since 1987, the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma, and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. 
Most adults in the United States who drink alcohol drink moderately and without complications. At the same time, alcohol-related problems are among the most significant public health issues in the country. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects about 15 million adults in the United States, and an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation. Read more here.
A young person’s brain is not fully developed until they reach their mid to late 20s, and any drinking while the brain is still developing can be problematic.

Regardless of age, alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment and coordination. It can also increase the incidence of aggressive or violent acts. Consuming large quantities in a short period of time — or binge drinking— which is defined as having 4-5 drinks on one occasion and is common among young people — can cause alcohol poisoning and even death. More than 16 million Americans misuse or are addicted to alcohol, which is a legal substance that is widely available and normalized in our society. Prolonged, heavy use of alcohol can lead to addiction as alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism. There is liver and heart disease, and other health consequences such as a weakened immune system and increased risk of developing certain cancers.  
Accidents related to alcohol use are among the leading causes of death for teens. 

Every April the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month to increase awareness and understanding of the causes and treatment of the nation’s #1 public health problem: alcoholism. As part of Alcohol Awareness Month, the NCADD says local, state, and national events will be “aimed at educating people about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism, particularly among our youth, and the important role that parents can play in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives.

Alcohol Awareness Month Resources —NCADD has several helpful resources on its website. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) underage drinking prevention campaign, ‘Talk. They Hear You,’  has talking points and tools for coalitions, parents, and caregivers so they can start talking to their children early—as early as 9 years old—about the dangers of alcohol. 
The Alcohol Action Network (AAN) is a project of the American Public Health Association and is a nationwide network of alcohol prevention practitioners and researchers engaging in alcohol policy issues in their states or local communities. AAN was initially established to address the shifting alcohol policy landscape at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to bring prevention specialists together to address policy issues as they arise. 
I grew up in South Dakota with the awareness that Sioux Native-Americans were a seen and unseen part of life. A friend, Don Coyhis, is a recognized leader and mentor of the Sioux Nation. He posted the following: 
Thinking positive thoughts will flush out negative thoughts. There is not enough room for both. When we do have both, there is an internal argument with ourselves until we decide which one should go. There is only room for one. We change ourselves by being convinced, which means “to be persuaded by argument or evidence.  – Don Coyhis
Look forward to becoming a positive thinker and using language that supports others in recovery whether from alcohol or other substances.

You may be surprised when your friends become a “flusher” of negative thoughts too.  

 Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador
]]>
<![CDATA[VIM–VIGOR–VIRTUALOCITY]]>Fri, 11 Feb 2022 08:00:00 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/vim-vigor-virtualocity
Vim:  energy and enthusiasm.

Vigor: mental and moral strength. 

Virtualocity: The ability to move about among faces and places for learning opportunities. With vim and vigor, I can always go there, without leaving my chair and absorb things to share. I don’t forget diet and exercise, spiritual imperfection, and knowing real recovery.

Homelessness is an everlasting and baffling problem nationwide, with few answers.

We have softened the language to say the homeless problem is about the “housed and unhoused.” In a recent LA Times article, Soledad Ursula, writing for the California Peace Coalition, said that 
first, attention must be given to those homeless having problems with drug addiction and untreated severe mental illness. There is a need for statewide funding of, among other things, recovery support services and medically assisted treatment. All to be provided by outpatient and residential care facilities. California’s CCAPP supports Recovery Residences. There is hope and funding for solutions. 

I also saw a recent headline in the Times OC that said, Center of Hope to offer services, pathway. Breaking ground January 31, a Salvation Army Project looks to integrate homeless people back into the community. The campus will include an emergency shelter, 72 bed supportive housing facility, a wellness center, a 175 bed drug and rehabilitation facility, and a research and innovation center.  They have always been an Orange County asset.

I recall from my years with Faces and Voices of Recovery and State RCOs, examples of sober living models. Early on I met two of the founders of models that work.  Paul Malloy, Oxford House, and Jay Davidson, The Healing Place. Jay is author of the book, Miracle on Market, the Healing Place Story. I recently saw virtual presentations on both. I experienced the Oxford House success in Colorado. Just Google them for stories of hope, help, and recovery.

The first Oxford House was opened in Silver Spring, Maryland in 1975 by Paul Molloy. They chose the name Oxford House in recognition of Oxford Group, a religious organization that influenced the founders of AA. As reported, there are over 3,200 Oxford Houses, operating under the Oxford House Model.  In the United States and other countries.

Each house is based on three rules: No use of drugs or alcohol and no disruption, and the house must be run democratically. 
That makes them very good neighbors. 

They are self-sustaining sober houses utilizing the Oxford House model. Diverse, with men, women, some women with children. During 2021 more than 50,000 individuals lived in the Oxford House network and more than 80% stayed sober. 

Jay Davidson shares his experiences and thoughts about the residential, long-term, social model recovery program he created as co-founder of The Healing Place. A model hopefully sustained and maintained long after he is gone. The program has been proven to be effective. The Healing Place was recognized as a “Model That Works” by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The Healing Place model has been replicated in 14 Recovery Kentucky sites across the Commonwealth as well as sites in Richmond, Virginia and Raleigh, North Carolina. The vision of The Healing Place is that everyone it serves can lead a meaningful and productive life. The continuum of care has expanded from off-the-street, to detox, to long-term and outpatient recovery services. As in the beginning, The Healing Place continues to serve those in need of help regardless of race, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, or economic status. There are more than 6,000 alumni; over 150,000 people served, 8,000+ individuals served annually. Many lead and staff other Healing Places. The Healing Place has also taken the peer-driven social model and created an intensive outpatient program to reach more men and women who are struggling with addiction. 

Another person I met early in the recovery movement was Nora Volkow, Director of NIDA. Previously, I wrote that relapse has two parts. Here is a recent quote from Dr Volkow. 
Medicine can perhaps learn from the recovery world, where a distinction is increasingly made between a one-time return to drug use, a “slip” or “lapse,” and a return to the heavy and compulsive use pattern of an individual’s active addiction—the more stereotypical understanding of relapse. The distinction is meant to acknowledge that a person’s resolve to recover may even be strengthened by such lapses and that they need not be catastrophic for the individual’s recovery.
She commented on the current overdose statistics, saying, 
We need to change the way we think. As our definitions of recovery continue to evolve, those who work to treat substance use disorders- and evaluate said treatment- need to do the same. I do see some very positive aspects that we’ve all learned through the COVID pandemic, and one of them is being able to recognize how extraordinarily important it is for all to have social contacts, to have communities, to have friendships, to reach out to help others. we will be able to overcome it. Because in situations of stress, we have the capacity to come together and that coming together brings the best in all of us. And it is that that will lead us to a better tomorrow, as we overcome the COVID pandemic, but also the opioid crisis.
I leave you with these thoughts:

Learning gains brilliance and produces resilience. Respect the connection between head and heart. Sober living in Habitation brings about good habits, rehabilitation, and real recovery. 

Merlyn Karst, Chair & Recovery Ambassador
The Purpose of Recovery
]]>
<![CDATA[The World is Upside Down]]>Wed, 29 Dec 2021 08:00:00 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/the-world-is-upside-down
In order to write a worthwhile little, I have to watch, listen and read a lot. I look for other’s words to capture, contemplate, and pass along. I saw a quote from Oprah that said “The world is upside down”. The context related to a tragic incident of lawlessness but had broad application. Perception is in the eye of the beholder. Drugs drive crime in multiple ways. I thought of a familiar statement and changed it to fit the moment. Ask not what drugs will do for you, but what you will do for drugs. For the addict, the answer is “almost anything.” 

I remember the corner drug store. It had comics, ice cream sodas, and a variety of interesting items. Oh yes, and drugs. All secure, and the unmentionable items were in the unmentionable cabinets. No “corner drug stores” today but now there are drug corners with young entrepreneurs. There are many jobs available but just as many barriers to access and an easy and perhaps only path is selling drugs. It brings cash and survival. The cartels are also busy recruiting. Illegal activity may grow but the threat of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration has diminished. Making the risks worth those taken.

I write during the holiday season. Incidentally, I was reminded that the three Kings journey to Jesus’s birthplace used the first GPS—God Provided Star.  In this season it’s hard to find a reason to be jolly when the halls are decked with melancholy. The public is fearful and fatigued. But there are positives. We are so much better off than a year ago. I like the statement “we have many more tools in our tool bag.” The virus is going through predictable cycles with variants perhaps more contagious but much less threatening. Delta is hanging in there, but Omicron fits the cycle. Vaccines are effective and progress for more and better ones are coming, along with better therapeutics. For the needle adverse there may be pills. There is confusion and chaos in communication. Mark Twain said, “It ain’t so much the things that people don’t know that makes trouble in this world, as it is the things that people know that ain’t so.” During the knowing and unknowing, the task is finding balance between living the life we wish it to be and what it is. There is also an alcohol and other drugs epidemic. Much attention and funding has been given to opioids in recognition of the thousands reported deaths and widespread use of Narcan to save thousands of more lives.

 I repeat another quote; “We have many more tools in our tool bag”. There is medically assisted recovery, there are many paths to recovery, peer services, methadone take-home, community awareness and support, and harm reduction. William White’s paper, Random Recovery Reflections is a must read.  He writes on recovery advocacy and harm reduction as follows: 
“Our involvement in harm reduction is a way of saying to those still in the life: We will do all we can to protect your life. We will do all we can to prevent irreversible damage to yourself and others. We will reduce the obstacles and burdens that could slow your future recovery. We do these things in hope for the day you will join us in our journey of healing and service.” 

In another William White paper, titled Recovery Representation Revisited, are these words: 
“What are the most important national, state, and local decision-making venues related to alcohol and other drug problems? What institutional bodies address the intersection of AOD problems and policy/legislation. Are the voices of recovery representatives present at these decision-making tables? A long-term goal of the RCO is to expand the range of recovery representation across spheres of community influencer and to expand the menu of representation activities.”

My organization, The Purpose of Recovery, a non-profit Recovery Community Organization (RCO) is quite new. A Foundation provides the funding foundation for essential administration, operational, and governance factors that allows focus on providing services and being known. Other funding sources and donors become an active and focused part of providing more direct benefits at little or no cost to those served. We produced the first Recovery Rally in Orange County with 52 partners. We are a member of Faces and Voices of Recovery’s Association of Recovery Community Organizations, (ARCO); Associated with The California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP); and belong to an Orange Country collaboration of SUD and mental health providers. Within all is a constituency of consequence. 

The Recovery Movement has come a long way. I mentioned having many tools in the tool bag. Along the way, we have had many tool makers and they crafted programs based on science, stories, and the accumulating knowledge. At the virtual Leadership Summit, William Moyers led a panel reflecting the origins, happenings, and experience at the historic Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2001.  It had three goals: (a) to celebrate and honor recovery in all its diversity, (b) to foster advocacy skills in the tradition of American advocacy movements, and (c) to produce principals, language, strategy, and leadership to carry the movement forward. Those goals have been more than met through the times and challenges. 

I leave you with the words of an old song. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and don’t mess with mister in-between. Let the politicians work diligently at finding the in-between. For this Christmas, the government’s big stocking has been sewn shut at the top. Enjoy better times ahead with a Well and Happy New Year!! 

Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador 
]]>
<![CDATA[THE GRATEFUL DEED]]>Thu, 25 Nov 2021 08:00:00 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/the-grateful-deed
I write this as we celebrate another special holiday. Thanksgiving. It is indeed a grateful deed.

Though we should give thanks for many things each day, we single out this day to express gratitude. It is a time of family, fellowship, food, and fun—as it should be.

For those of us in active and sustained recovery it is a special day to give thanks. Family dynamics may differ, cultures play a role, but at the core is thankfulness and gratitude with family and friends.  Those who experience the fellowship of AA recognize that the two most favored subjects for meeting discussion are gratitude and acceptance. My activity in mindfulness always includes both. At this point, I will add a bit of humor. Discussing politics at a family gathering can result in saving money on Christmas gifts. Considering inflation, it could benefit.

The pandemic changed this holiday event in so many ways. Gratitude was limited to thoughts of survival and “I don’t have it—yet”. However, we could come together virtually and maybe be more forthcoming and open with feelings. No masks to show frowns and hide smiles. We talk of turkey, gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Seldom is it said: “and alcohol”. Alcohol is legal, cheap, available, and acts as intended and more.  We do know that alcohol causes more family turmoil, distress, and death than the other drugs.  Alcohol kills slower, but Fentanyl has now entered the picture which is quickly deadly, and family gatherings need to share this information. Addicts must take risks to avoid “dope sickness.” There can be controversy but if balanced with care and concern for each other, there can be help, hope, and healing where needed. All were present as my brother, brother-in-law, and I accumulated over 100 years of sobriety.  

I am grateful and accept the science of addiction. It explains the why of “why doesn’t he/she just quit.”

To know and understand the role of the brain in alcohol and other drug use is vital to living life with health and well-being. Naloxone (Narcan) is defined as an opioid antagonist and defies death from overdose.  I am grateful and accept the knowledge of the many paths to, of, and in recovery from substance use disorders. I am grateful and accept the knowledge of the elements of harm reduction and medically assisted recovery.  Both are a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.  Just as the many paths to and of recovery do, it broadens the spectrum of chance, choice, and change and serves persons and families. In early recovery, the first steps are investigation and contemplation. Now there is more to contemplate.  Another word to contemplate is one I just learned—
gradualism. The goal can be abstinence but a commitment to a process and toward progress should prevail.

William White has written countless papers over the years. A most recent one is titled 
On the Shoulders of Giants, which honors the addiction treatment and recovery advocacy pioneers and profiles 35 people upon whose shoulders the infrastructure of our field stands. Among names I recognize are Bill Wilson, Jimmy Kinnon, and Jean Kilpatrick, founders of AA, NA, and Women in Sobriety, respectively. There are the more recent prominent pioneers such as Lillian Roth, 1910-1980, and Jason Robards, 1922-2000, who Bill says,
Challenged prevailing stereotypes about addiction and addiction recovery through public disclosure of their own recovery stories.
Names I learned early on were the policy advocates who politically nurtured the birth and evolution of modern addiction understanding (e.g., Marty Mann, 1904-1980, Senator Harold Hughes, 1922-1996, Senator Paul Wellstone, 1944-2002). I met Senator Wellstone and Betty Ford. I have maintained connections and associations “Beyond Betty” over the years. They include the Betty Ford Center, Hazelden, and the Children’s program. Bill White, whose shoulders I have perched on, said with gratitude to the many of those,
Who stretched my mind, mentored my work, and showed me by their example how to conduct one’s life in this unique service ministry.
I am personally grateful and so should the millions in active and sustained recovery be what for may be termed the grateful deeds of the pioneers and present advocates in the recovery movement.  
 

There is no vaccine for addiction. However, choosing a path to recovery and choosing to be vaccinated for COVID both lead to health, well-being, and peace of mind. Both serve the person, family, and community.

November is gratitude month and as it ends, we look forward to the next holidays. Though some don’t do deities, there is a Christ in Christmas. It is a time of caring and sharing. As I once read and wrote, before the sermon on the mount, Jesus was reported to have said;
If you don’t believe in me, believe in what I teach.
One of those teachings called for us to love one another.  Happy Holidays, from The Purpose of Recovery Team.

Merlyn Karst — Recovery Ambassador
]]>
<![CDATA[Mind Over Matters]]>Mon, 01 Nov 2021 07:00:00 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/mind-over-matters
We celebrated September as Recovery Month. For me and others, October has been Discovery Month. In that regard, I am reminded of the quote from Albert Einstein, 
Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance.
We have heard the expression mind over matter. The science of addiction tells us that the brain is very active in determining the best ways to handle pleasure and pain. For pain it wants less of it and for pleasure it wants more of it. The brain’s receptors are tuned to how the chemical dopamine is produced and the best neuron pathways from which to receive reward. As addiction progresses, it blocks other functioning pathways to the other parts of the brain. It guides reason and rationale in harmful ways. Cravings crowd out thoughts beyond the many ways to sourcing dopamine. Mind over matters seems not to matter. 

The Purpose of Recovery, a recovery community organization (RCO) has presented monthly workshops, the most recent was titled, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). The workshop describes mindfulness as “not getting lost in our thoughts of the past, anxieties about the future and not ‘being happy’ all of the time but rather learning to be with the entire spectrum of our emotional experience.” A pretty good offset to mindlessness and a demand to avoid being on autopilot—stay tuned to the present moment.  Breathing comes naturally but being aware of every breath is calming and reassuring. During mindfulness, there is an audience of one—you. I choose to seek a quiet mind, peaceful heart, and purpose.  

I found the discussion about relapse gave me a new perspective. It breaks down relapse into the lapse and then the relapse.  Lapse is what happened after the initial drink or substance use. It may be followed by shame, guilt, and remorse—if we let it. However, there is this, “well I’ve done it, I might as well….” Now, it’s “relapse.” So how do we prevent “lapse?” 

Prevention ultimately talks about triggers.  In my understanding, a trigger only has a function if there is something to trigger. A clouded mind with cravings, discomfort, and restlessness, may be considered loaded. Curiously, I found this statement useful;
We encourage curiosity about our experience and our reaction and encourage a curiosity about cravings.
​In today’s world, science provides some answers in Medication Assisted Recovery (MAR).  Be curious about this and disregard some unwarranted stigma. Another hard thing to realize is that thoughts are just thoughts. We are advised to stay present in triggering moments and recognize high risk situations. I believe the word relapse is shaming and prefer setback. One can get back— on track—and not look back. Use the word that suits you but practice mindfulness in either or other words. The workshop was recorded and can be accessed here

Mindfulness sets us up to learn.

There is a term “old school.” I’m old but I have been schooled in the here and now. 
As a member of the founders of Faces and Voices of Recovery, I was pleased to attend their 20th anniversary in a virtual celebration and leadership conference. The 2001 Recovery Summit marked a clarion call to shift the center of the alcohol and other drug problems arena to a focus on the lived solution for individuals, families, and communities. It marked the passing of the recovery advocacy leadership torch from an earlier generation of advocacy organizations. Now there are many torches in many hands lighting the many paths to recovery out of darkness. Associations and collaborations emerge from the shadows. 

CCAPP (California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals) held the California Addiction Conference in late October in Newport Beach. The Purpose of Recovery (TPOR.org) was a sponsor, contributor, and many TPOR team members attended. The speakers were prepared professionals and presented information, statistics, and future projections to inform and motivate. Phil Rutherford, CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery and others gave considerable focus to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I took copious notes of discovery.  A historical moment: “Too many notes, dear Mozart, too many notes’ is what Emperor Joseph II supposedly said after the first performance. Mozart’s reply, “Just as many as necessary, Your Majesty.”  

Pete Neilson, CEO of CCAPP was animated, informative, and personal, and gave me insight to harm reduction, a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.  Just as the many paths to and of recovery do, it broadens the spectrum of chance, choice, and change. I learned a new word from Pete— gradualism. It expresses the realistic and practical side of harm reduction. It also adds credence to my support of medically assisted recovery to allow the return of rationale and reason.

I repeat, curiosity will lead to healthy, helpful, and hopeful learning. 


I heard a statement, “What the people need is a good listening to.” John Steinbeck wrote about storytellers and their importance to some semblance of well-being in the California camps and the gatherings during the depression, drought, and dust bowls— the “dirty thirties.” 
And it came about in the camps that the storyteller grew into being, so that the people gathered in the low firelight to hear the gifted ones and the people listened, and their faces were quiet with listening.
Oh, and there was music. So many western songs have sweet and sorrowful lyrics. My latest find was this lyric,
and once upon a time, You turned the water into wine, An’ now, on my knees, I’m turning to You, Father, Could You help me turn the wine back into water?
Wishes and worries don’t change the past. Be in the know and now.

​I leave you with this thought. 
Being ashamed brings regret and remorse. Being shamed brings resentment and retribution. Words matter.

​Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador
]]>
<![CDATA[RECOVERY MONTH MUSINGS WITH MERLYN]]>Sat, 02 Oct 2021 07:00:00 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/recovery-month-musings-with-merlyn
On September 25, with the initiative of The Purpose of Recovery, the first annual Recovery Connection Rally in Orange County was held at Kiwanis Land Park in Garden Grove. The temperature was in the 70s — a day to be lived in comfort and joy. It was a memorable occasion for all of us.  September is National Recovery Month, begun in 1989 under the name of Treatment Works! Now in its 32nd year, the theme is RECOVERY IS FOR EVERYONE: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community. With registration necessarily capped at 500, a host of Community Partners showcased the broad spectrum of resources available to those seeking help and hope.

The hundreds of attendees enjoyed music, line dancing, speakers, and a lunch of hot dogs, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, chips and drinks.  Kids were bouncing, having snow cones, and their faces painted. With all of that, the biggest take-away was new knowledge, friendships, and fellowship. As an introductory speaker, I shared the following remarks. Read on and be present in heart and mind. 

As a person in active and sustained recovery for more than two decades. I enjoy the benefits of that reality. The primary benefit is longevity.  My next birthday will be my 90th. I woke this morning seeking a peaceful heart, a quiet mind, and a purpose. My path to recovery began almost 30 years ago. My recovery paths took me to Colorado and then back to California. When The Purpose of Recovery’s idea for this rally was born several months ago, there were many unknowns’, not the least of which was what place and space. We thought somewhere between a big back yard and Orange County Fairgrounds. Here we are, in Kiwanis Land Park, on a beautiful September day. Welcome. We have so many to thank as we planned and prepared with the pandemic present and the many unknowns. It would have been easy to say fuhgeddaboudit. But like on our paths to recovery, with knowns and unknowns, you persevere and move forward. Beyond our committee, we were joined by Mitch Cherness and the Orange County Collaboration. I met with Billy O’Connell, Huntington Beach this morning.  I particularly want to recognize our community partners. As with the first of anything, one is not sure of what to expect. Their presence showcases the resources available in Orange County for recovery support. Thanks to so many for their preparation, presence, and purpose here today. I reserve some heartfelt thanks to all of you for being a part of this amazing event. It will be a good experience in support of our second annual recovery rally next year!  The great thing about recovery—IT HAPPENS, every day, every month, every year.  Many are here to celebrate recovery and others are here to find out what the celebration is all about. Please visit with our community partners for insight, assistance, and understanding.   Whatever the reason for your presence, I invite you to find some joy, gain wisdom and knowledge, and pass it on.

I was privileged to be a founding member of Faces and Voices of Recovery which began 20 years ago in St Paul Minnesota. In a few days, it will celebrate 20 years with a virtual conference.  In 2001, a group of us came to St Paul to construct ways and means of establishing a presence and putting a face on recovery. We needed voices with common language in recognition that by our silence we let others define us. Through discussion and planning we establish foundational messaging aimed at reducing stigma and discrimination. We set out to change the language and eliminate labels. Labels have a sticky side for a reason. I have eliminated relapse from my language and call it set-back. It allows one to get back on track, and not look back. Note how I introduced myself, not as an alcoholic, but as a person in active and sustained recovery. We were challenged to return to our communities and begin the work. I lived in Denver at the time, and we started Advocates for Recovery—Colorado.

Labels have a sticky side for a reason. I have eliminated relapse from my language and call it set-back. It allows one to get back on track, and not look back. Note how I introduced myself, not as an alcoholic, but as a person in active and sustained recovery.

I now live in Orange County, but Denver held its 19th recovery rally this year. As lived experience is foundational to peer recovery services, I will share some Denver highlights. It is the birthplace of The Phoenix Multi Sports and of Young People in Recovery, now national organizations and both are present here today. I became acquainted with the LGBT community—now there are more identities. I was not a member but a friend and ally and at one rally, we recognized an LGBT leader as the Recovery Advocate of the Year. He now heads Embark/Peer Coach Academy-Colorado with broad recovery services.  I had the experience of watching the emergence of their movement and the advent of pride and purpose. To support our recovery movement, I believe those in sustained and active recovery should stand up, stand out, speak out, and be proud about it.

Here in OC, we have established the first Recovery Community Organization, The Purpose of Recovery and initiated the advent of this rally. On September 1, TPOR was a sponsor and participated in the kickoff of recovery month at the Capitol with Calrecovery and CCAPP. Our team is present here today to meet, greet, and answer questions. Our website can be reached at TPOR.org. Again, thank you for your presence and attention. Be a sponge, soak up fun, joy, and knowledge and go forth and squeeze it out among persons, family, and community. Remember, they don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care.  

It has been said, the toughest lessons to be learned, is, what bridges do we cross and which ones do we burn.  Let’s make connections and bridge the gap to recovery. 

​Merlyn Karst – Recovery Ambassador
]]>