An Ode is poetic praise. Owed is a debt recognized. Freedom is due both. My favorite Ode is Ode to Joy.
We celebrate July fourth as independence day. The liberty bell is cracked but freedom still rings. We owe much to our liberty and freedom, and unless impugned and diminished, they are being regained and appreciated. The Statue of Liberty invites with these words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”. The peril, pain, and persistence of the Pandemic is passing. The masses can now huddle (and hug). We no longer need to show our frowns, but hide our smiles behind a mask. We look for positive paths forward. No way becomes ‘yes way’; and ‘no, I can’t’, and ‘yes, but’ becomes ‘yes, I can’. Flip the memory switch to the positive. Recall the pleasant parts and diminish past problems. Use the positive virtualosity gained. It’s a ‘yes, can-do’ exercise. Sometimes it is hard to think positive thoughts. Go to your heart as they are often hidden there. However, here is some important information that will still require attention.
Before and within the pandemic and under the radar exists an ongoing epidemic of addiction and overdose from alcohol and all illicit drugs. Its impact has grown dramatically, with startling numbers of deaths. Those who have successfully overcome substance use disorders (SUD) and achieved active and sustained recovery owe a lot to freedom.
Those with freedom from SUD and the freedom to live a life of well-being and happiness, yes, can help others find that freedom.
Today there are many paths to recovery, with medically assisted recovery, treatment, and Peer support services. Individuals have the freedom of choice and assistance to choose wisely, to survive and thrive.
In a recent Bill White blog titled Recovery Song (Dragon’s Lullaby) I read the words, “I imagine a person battling a dragon, throwing pebbles at the beast to no avail, and then finding a melody that did not kill the dragon, but for some precious moments. Put it to sleep.” words attributed to Stephanie Chang, NCSU, Social Work 516 (Addiction, Recovery, and Social Work Practice). What it described to me was medically assisted recovery. While the dragon sleeps, the free-thinking person quietly goes about seeking support and guidance to paths to recovery. The Bill White blog is more than worthy of time and attention. * See is the link below *
I was pleased to read about advocacy and legislative efforts to reform the “50-year-old drug war” laws. I would like to take some liberty (no pun intended) with Bobby Darin’s Simple Song of Freedom. Some lyrics from the refrain, “Come and sing a simple song of freedom. Sing it like you’ve never sung before. Let it fill the air, tell the people everywhere we, the people here, don’t want a war. Just take the liberty to add a word. Tell the people everywhere we, the people here, don’t want a drug war. There could be a lot of ‘don’t wants’. We have a new perspective on the words lock down and lock up. In either case, freedom is lost to pursue reasonable and effective solutions to problems plaguing the public in general. Within the cancel culture is the imperative to cancel addiction. ‘Will you?’ requires skills of trust and persuasion and ‘You will’, requires threats and intimidation. We have to advocate with a ‘will you’ approach. These words from Hazelden/BFC Foundation,
Recovery advocacy represents a hope-powered community. Our lives prove that recovery is possible, and our stories inspire action. Recovery advocacy is about replacing misinformation with understanding, misperception with empathy, and denial with hope.
My early experience with advocacy was flying to Washington DC on July fourth. Approaching Ronald Reagan airport along the Potomac, the fourth’s fireworks were visible through a left side window. What a feeling. The freedom to fly and the blessing of liberty. I was to meet the Secretary of the Interior, to advocate on behalf of those who wished to have more access and use of public lands for recreational vehicles such as snowmobiles and wheeled vehicles. The case was made to be mindful of sound reason, rationale, and responsibility with recognition of conflicting views and using ‘skills of trust and persuasion’. The Secretary, a good steward of the lands, listened, understood, and agreed to support.
We need to be skilled advocates and there is much to learn and there are many provisions for learning through resources like Faces and Voices of Recovery Advocacy Toolkit.
Kermit the Frog told us in song that there are many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side —that someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection. May I suggest that Recovery is the Rainbow Connection for loving, living, and dreaming in its reality. White’s blog (see below) is titled, Recovery Song, Dragon’s Lullaby. We have Frog’s lullaby. It’s magic.
Merlyn Karst - Recovery Ambassador
In my previous blog, I wrote about the wonder of words. I will expand that to language. William C. Moyers, long-time friend and author, is vice president of public affairs and community relations for Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. He conducted a podcast interview with Dr. Stephen Delisi, Medical Director of Professional Education Solutions. The theme was, Person First Language Reduces Stigma. I am providing some of Dr Delisi’s remarks. He says,
It’s not something that people have always heard about. It is just as it sounds. It is language that is intentionally putting the person as a human being first as their identity before any deficit or illness that they might have. We still often will refer to people as an addict, an alcoholic, or a substance abuser. If you listen, that is not person-first. That is defining the identity of the individual by the disease that they have. It makes a big difference because non-person first blames the individual for their behaviors and implies that they are willfully choosing those behaviors rather than see them as a person first and the behaviors as a symptom of an illness with which they are suffering. Support meetings have other considerations. That is the individual choosing to use the language that is socially normed to that subculture. In those meetings, the use of that language does not have the same connotations and bias and stigmatization.
He speaks of research,
We can draw upon to understand how important this is that the most cited reason why an individual suffering from a substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health is the number one reason they cite for not seeking treatment or leaving treatment is the experience of bias, stigma, and the internalized stigma of shame. The very people we wanna treat—they’re not gonna come into treatment because of the language that we used. It isn’t just words, William. Language has the power to either hurt or to promote hope and healing, and we need to be in the business of educating towards the use of words that promote hope and healing for those who are suffering from these illnesses.
I am a supporter of medically assisted recovery. Dr Delisi points out,
People with opioid use disorder and the recovery community often see that people on methadone or buprenorphine have simply substituted one drug for another. We can change that by referring to these medications as what they are. They are medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
We need to educate about the purpose and benefits of these medications that assist in the process of recovery by placing the person first.
Particularly during the pandemic, I have traveled a lot and never left my recliner. Rick Steves Travels in Europe have taken me to many places. I have seen peaks, valleys, streets, and alleys. I’ve been in more cathedrals than I can count. And through it all, Steves always talks about the people, families, and relationships. The language may be different but there is understanding. In the context of this writing, he puts persons first.
Huell Howser is a California legend and is now gone. Under the banner of California’s Gold, his archives provide visits to wonders of California that I never knew existed. During his visits, he points out saying, “Look at this!” The amazing discoveries of the moment are always shared by and with the people involved, engaging the random visitors that include children. He closes with pictures taken with the people he has met and talks about what they have contributed with their stories of history and their own lived experience.
Both Steves and Howser used and recommended tour guides when on their journeys to places they had not visited. Different languages, different cultures, different food. It is all very personal and amazing when it puts persons first.
Incidentally, I also watch cooking shows and they originate from different places. Wonderful, appetizing, though sometimes strange, and prepared by chefs with recipes and knowledge. I haven’t gained a pound. Seems little difference between a Chief and a Chef. Both have skills and recipes for success.
Persons early in their recovery journey may feel they are visiting foreign territory. The Purpose of Recovery recently conducted a workshop on Peer Coaching Overview. In simple terms, coaching is unlocking a person’s potential for personal growth. A Peer Recovery Coach is active and has a year or more of sustained recovery. The coach works collaboratively with peers to help them achieve goals, solve problems, learn, and develop a full life in recovery. One of the features of the presentation was an assessment of one’s recovery capital. I look at this as capitalism with a social focus. They responded to a series of 50 statements. Response to this exercise had two results. Many attendees were pleased and surprised at how much recovery capital they had and two, recognized the opportunity and benefit of accumulating more. More can be learned by visiting TPOR.org.
The recovery journey is difficult and rewarding and is best served through guidance. I call it G.P.S.—Guided Peer Support that puts the person first. Did you know the Three Wise Men used GPS to lead them to their destination—God Provided Star. As Rick Steves says,
Keep on Traveling.
Merlyn Karst – Recovery Ambassador