<![CDATA[thepurposeofrecovery.org - Blog]]>Fri, 07 Jun 2024 19:01:50 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Stigma, discrimination, and nimby-ism...oh my!]]>Thu, 12 Jan 2023 15:23:41 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/stigma-discrimination-and-nimby-ismoh-my
Stigma, discrimination, and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) have been around a very long time.  Stigma is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something. Stigma often comes from lack of understanding and fear represented by inaccurate or misleading presentations of mental illness, including substance use disorder. Most regular and social media contributed to these factors. Literature identifies multiple dimensions or types of mental health-related stigma, including self-stigma. It is defined as an inability to cope with problems or daily activities, with feelings of disconnection or withdrawal from normal activities and unusual or "magical" thinking. One has excessive anxiety, prolonged sadness, depression, or apathy.  Self-stigma has been related to poor outcomes, such as failure to access treatment, disempowerment, reduced self-efficacy, and decreased quality of life.  Stigma often involves inaccurate stereotypes. Social stigma is the disapproval of discrimination against an individual or group, based on perceived characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. 

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and long-lasting changes in the brain. The changes can result in harmful behaviors by those who misuse drugs, Evidence-based harm reduction strategies minimize negative consequences of drug use. Harm reduction plays a significant role in preventing drug-related deaths and offering access to healthcare, social services, and treatment. Harm reduction services save lives by being available and accessible in a matter that emphasizes the need for humility and compassion toward people who use drugs. A comprehensive prevention strategy, with harm reduction are part of the continuum of care. SAMSHA says that harm reduction services can reduce stigma; promote a philosophy of hope and healing, distribute Opioid overdose reversal, lessen harm associated with drug use and support services among people who use drugs. So much for the tutorial …

I experienced these phenomena when I was a founder of a Colorado Recovery Community Organization (RCO), Advocates For Recovery and stigma was a driving force behind the creation of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national organization, of which I was chair for six years.  Throughout the years I wrote blogs and researched what was happening outside of the U.S.  I found an answer in Vancouver, Canada. They had a clean needle site, supervised drug use, medical assistance, a pitch for recovery and — fellowship. My association with a legislator Introduced a similar bill to the legislature to provide similar services in Colorado; but the bill failed to get the necessary votes.  I guess Colorado was not ready for that then.  Stigma, discrimination, and NIMBY came to the forefront again.

Fast Forward to 2019 and my return to Orange County, California where I became connected with a team of recovering individuals, family members, and allies who joined together to become The Purpose of Recovery — TPOR.  Our mission is peer support, family involvement, and to Be Known as an asset to the recovery movement. In addition, TPOR provides Narcan training, a safe and effective treatment for narcotic overdose that aids in harm reduction efforts.

Interested in learning more and getting involved in addressing stigma, discrimination and NIMBY-ism related to addiction recovery?  Consider connecting with The Purpose of Recovery in Orange County, CA and watch for our new open house event — save the date in early March of 2023!

Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, and Every Community

Merlyn Karst—Recovery Ambassador and TPOR Board President

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<![CDATA[GPS - Guided by peer support]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2022 15:33:16 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/gps-guided-by-peer-support

The Pandemic(s) Are Not Over. It’s December! In the past I have written about many of the elements that guide communities to be “recovery ready.” Our alcohol and other drug crises present an opportunity. The recovery movement is strong and growing. Holiday season causes us to focus on children. For the children and all of us, the nation’s communities must face and overcome the evil crisis that is drug misuse and addiction. They must review and understand sustained recovery, harm reduction, and the benefit of less than total abstinence.

“They’re not trying to die,” said Stamos-Buesig, founder and executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition of San Diego, which runs a mobile program providing clean syringes and other supplies to protect the health of people who use drugs. “They’re attempting to keep their use at a manageable level and stay alive.” As deaths from drug overdoses have hit record highs claiming an estimated 107,000 lives last year across the United States, many public health advocates, researchers, and activists are pushing to help people find out what is in their drugs and use that knowledge to reduce risk. 


Community Reinforcement and Family Training, (CRAFT) teaches families and friends effective strategies for helping their loved ones to change and seek ways to better themselves.  Of course, words were involved; words and the nature of response. What to say and when to say it might promote a change of behavior, remembering it’s a process not an event. Use reflection with positive reinforcement and patience and pride in small changes. It encourages 80% listening with reflective and positive attention and 20% “I” centered response, “I feel,”” I see”, “I hear”, to promote understanding and trust. 

I repeat— develop a recovery ready community. In the past and now today, we hear the words, together we shall overcome. A sense of common purpose and fellowship brings understanding, love, and care for fellow beings. No matter the cause, message, or disaster.  I learned that sustained Recovery Management (RM) coupled with Recovery-Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) would provide the road map that assures the appropriate support along the journey.

In a previous blog I mentioned progress along the road to recovery could be supported by GPS, Guided by Peer Support. Note: In announcing birth of a special child, God Provided Star (GPS) to where the special child lay.
Those who are in sustained recovery, work with those who practice harm reduction, have access to Narcan, be in touch with peer-based services, and last, pay attention to your recovery.

Merlyn Karst —Recovery Ambassador 
Recovery Is For Everyone—Every Person, Every Family, and Every Community

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<![CDATA[Recovery Is For Everyone—Every Person, Every Family, and Every Community]]>Mon, 31 Oct 2022 07:00:00 GMThttp://thepurposeofrecovery.org/blog/recovery-is-for-everyone-every-person-every-family-and-every-communityWe are now coming into November. The TV is quite littered with political ads peddling support for election or a cause, new administration, referendum, climate change, or abortion. Depending on one’s will, dedication, and passion, decisions will be made on November 8th . Whatever is true for you, may it come out in your favor. I have written blogs over the years. I have two rules. One, each will be on one page. Nothing except suggestions or references to get information that may be of personal or family use. My focus is always related to information useful to the recovery movement. This narrow focus, along with many others, has brought us a long way since our first summit meeting in St. Paul in 2001. The recovery movement has come a long way. A lot of research, the aftermath of the Pandemic, and the concern over the confusion for children and families underlie a very divided nation. We will know more after the election.
In St. Paul, I met two persons who made a significant impact on my understanding of the nature and purpose of MARS (medically assisted recovery) —Lisa Mojer-Torres and Walter Ginter. Later, we were to be recognized with America Honors Recovery Awards. Lisa’s input certainly added to my wisdom and understanding. Over the past years I, along with thousands of others, have increased our knowledge of the science of addiction through reading, listening, and speaking. Lisa. wrote with Bill White, in the 2010 monograph, Recovery-Oriented Methadone Maintenance. Bill White wrote, “My thinking about medication-assisted recovery had been evolving for years from hostility to ambivalence to tepid support to intellectual advocacy (and concluded) but the power and eloquence of Lisa’s story marks the first time I accepted medication-assisted recovery in my gut.” His response motivated me. I now know that there are professionals with knowledge of the science of addiction who can prescribe appropriate drugs. Methadone, buprenorphine, naloxone, and naltrexone can all be effective in treating opioid addiction. Naloxone HCI (NARCAN), can prevent overdose deaths. Medications are often an important part of treatment, more so when combined with behavioral therapies.
The HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy will continue to build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s year one drug policy priorities and actions taken by the Administration to address addiction and the overdose epidemic since January, including removing barriers to prescribing medication for opioid use disorder and providing billions in new funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery support services. Synthetic opioids, specifically illicitly manufactured fentanyl, are the primary drivers of overdose deaths in the United States. The U.S. Department of State plays a key role addressing the nation's overdose crisis, as part of a broader whole-of-government approach.
I found the following: “Peer support has become an increasingly popular source of help for individuals with mental illnesses. While the main type of peer support comes from people who have themselves suffered with mental illness, including SUD, peer support can also be beneficial when coming from friends who may not have gone through similar struggles. Peer support and clinical support have shown to be fairly equal in outcomes of re-hospitalization and relapse, but peer support has shown better outcomes in the recovery process. Specifically, peer support tends to increase levels of empowerment and self-efficacy (the belief in one’s ability to become better). This is mainly due to the social connectedness that comes from interacting with peers. The exchange of various strategies used to cope with daily challenges of living with mental illness is a crucial aspect of the peer-to-peer support community and is a great advantage to clinical support. Additionally, peer support builds confidence and hope for healing. Being a part of a community, whether that just be a caring friend or a larger group of people with similar mental health experiences, allows for greater social connections and empowerment than clinical support can provide. A major advantage of peer support is that everyone involved is equal. Sometimes, having a ‘professional’ in the group can be daunting."
“Peers can often form a stronger therapeutic bond with peers especially if they have experienced mental health struggles themselves. Besides genuine empathy, they are also able to promote treatment through personal empowerment and by becoming a role model for recovery. Even if peers don’t share the same mental health experiences, there is still a lot of value in that connection. People really feel better when they know they are not alone and that other people understand and share their experiences. Although clinical support has tremendous benefits, coexisting together peer support completes the puzzle for what someone with mental health challenges needs. Therefore, peer support is a valuable asset for individuals with mental illnesses and to have more substantial research in this area is crucial in order to make peer support a more well-established practice. Resources, connection, and community allow for building mental health equity.”
​Please have an OK election day and a good enough Thanksgiving. Let peace and love prevail!

Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador
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<![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

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<![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


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<![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


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<![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
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<![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
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<![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
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<![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 
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