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
In the old West, when a community was plagued by bad guys, the townsfolk got together and formed a posse and chased the bad guys out of town. Western movies starring the Lone Ranger usually ended with the Lone Ranger riding into the sunset and a townsman asking, “who was that masked man” Any irony in this today? We might define each peer posse as being a group of peers with a common purpose to overcome the “bad guys”— Substance Use Disorders (SUD). First responders respond to the purpose and needs of the moment.
Clinicians and Peer Specialists respond to the purpose and needs of the future and the sustainability of positive outcomes.
It takes passion and courage but they get a big bang for their pluck.
In a previous blog, I wrote, Together We Are Stronger. A voice is a whisper, many voices are a shout. I note that there are many communities, collectives, coalitions, consortiums, and cultures seeking a broad spectrum of choice, chance, and change. With all these words and labels starting with “C”, there must be some relationship to the term “C” — change. It simply means transformation, so “Cs” the day. Between the pandemic and politics, its happening. Indications are that both parties are giving attention to the needs for clinical and peer support rather than incarceration. There is growing attention to the various mental health issues developing and growing due to the negative social impact of COVID-19. These include depression, suicide, addictions, and domestic abuse.
In 2018, mostly in response to the opiate crisis, congress took action in the passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. It includes policies and resources that support people in recovery from addiction across the lifespan. This provision reauthorizes and modifies the Building Communities of Recovery program to include peer support networks. It provides funding for community organizations providing long-term recovery support services related to substance use disorder.
There are opiate funds available. Seek and you will find. Recovery Community Organizations are being formed at a growing rate with knowledge that the pandemic will put new burdens on the community from increased mental health and substance use disorders.
Nothing About Us Without Us. People with personal knowledge of the recovery process and the historical challenges faced by people seeking and in recovery free of conflicted interests are the best suited for recovery advocacy leadership. RCOs can motivate and educate the newly elected or re-elected community leaders. “By repairing past and current harms in our communities, we bring new possibilities to the future.” Community leaders will be true and valuable servants.
The founders launched Orange County, California’s first Recovery Community Organization recently, The Purpose of Recovery—TPOR. Preceding the launch were conferences, trainings, virtual meetings. Legal matters and site visits to providers of Substance Use Disorders. Our focus was on peer support services. It was gratifying to learn about so many humans doing for other humans being. A fun experience for me was a visit to a new resource, Recovery Road providing food, clothing, and a place of fellowship. I loved the sight of stacks of Vienna sausages. Yum. The Salvation Army complex was a wonder of complete services to men and women. It was a community unto itself. It rang my bell. There are many providers and partners with TPOR with mutual opportunity to serve the local communities. Websites, Facebook and social media provide a broad range of information and resources. Working in peer support is an especially rewarding experience. You get to share the tools, skills, and information you have learned to transform your own life with individuals going through similar struggles. Not only do you get to contribute to the lives of others, but you also sustain your own recovery and wellbeing in the process. As more and more learn about the impact of peer support, opportunities, and career paths for peer specialists the support will grow and expand. The growth of peer support has the potential to radically transform the ways we support people in the behavioral health system. All states have a certification program with defined paths to career opportunities. Our California certification entity is CCAPP, California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals. The Association of Recovery Community Organizations—ARCO, provides a broad spectrum of information about Peer Recovery Services and vital insight into the national recovery movement.
Remember, they don’t care what you know till they know that you care.
Merlyn Karst – Recovery Ambassador
I observed and I write. Over the last year the nation has gone through an incredible test of wills. Hindsight can’t be 2020. Alarmingly instructive but so filled with events and irony it sinks under its own weight. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Pretty shallow when weaponized for misinformation and here and there it seems the Dementors from the Potterverse were filling the sky. Voldevirus was anywhere and everywhere. A banner’s four words have had more improbable impact for cause than reason or truth. You can name some. Peer’s pressure and protests migrated into mob manipulation and intimidation. I can’t breathe. I note most impactful but diminishing words started with a “V”. Violence, vengeful, vitriol, voice, voter, and vicious. Look close, even Word has two V’s” in it. Verily, only virtual and vaccine are positive. Words have different meaning, use and understanding depending on cultural identity in the worlds of “woke” and the threat of “cancellation.”. This ostracism is akin to stigma and discrimination which has been an ever-present burden for those pursuing recovery from Substance Use Disorders (SUD) and mental issues. Which brings me to the title, The Power of Will and its historical relevance to long-term recovery.
Willpower is defined as the ability to control your own thoughts and the way in which you behave. In the early days of attention to alcoholism, it was often heard, as a moral judgement, why doesn’t he/she just quit? Certainly AA, the 12 steps and support of others provided choices, chances, change. and continuity. I met and heard Nora Volkow, M.D. of the National Institute of Health in 2002. I gained my first insight about the work on the science of addiction. It was exciting and hopeful for future medically assisted recovery that has evolved and in use today. I attended training with Flo Hilliard, Faces and Voices of Recovery. Her training program was titled The Science of Addiction and Recovery. We understand clearly that not understanding and overcoming craving and fear of the pains of withdrawal will drive wrong choices. With medical assist, and other therapies and recovery support, the brain will resume important activities. Remember, if you are not earning, keep learning. There are countless virtual opportunities. I recently was more informed about what I have written. You Tube, Many Paths to Recovery 11/20/2020. A New PATH—California RCO and ARCO member.
Many years ago, I stated that if it is called willpower, it must be intended to have power. That power to make wise and healthy choices about behavior is reduced and at some stage eliminated with the intake of mind-altering chemicals or actions.
More education is needed. Abstinence, where possible, remains the best solution. Current medicines, and there are several, provide restoration and stability and allow the brain to use them to overcome craving and fear of pain of withdrawal and to resume a more normal life. Oddly, in the recovery community, there is still a stigma associated with MAT. Another recovery advent, harm reduction programs, are controversial. In the aforementioned virtual presentation, Dr. Tom Horvath, Practical Recovery outlines principles, beginning with the first principle,
that recognize self-guided change (natural recovery) as the foundation of all successful treatment.
So, a properly functioning brain is essential for self-healing.
The pandemic has had a disastrous effect in elevating all the elements and possibility of a set-back —perhaps a better word than relapse in the recovery process. We need all to get-back and on track. Medical assist and virtual fellowship on the chosen path to active and sustained recovery will help. We have to use resources virtually and wisely and quickly. Victory over the Virus and use newly learned Virtualocity. As the year closes, we revere the word vaccine. It has literally provided the wind beneath our wings of hope as we proceed to 2021. Close your happy eyes and enjoy the uplift into the New Year!
Nothing is so bad it JUST couldn’t be verse
Don’t just wake up feeling captive, You better just wake up The Positive.
OR The Positive will just keep sleeping, doom and gloom just keeps creeping.
Feeling really down is just really dumb, as there is just no point in staying glum.
Covid vaccine? you can just wait for your big stick. Just follow protocol and parry the big sick.
Each day It just may seem there’s no justice. Just don’t worry because eventually there just is.
Just don’t fret about things not legit, The Positive will shadow you, so don’t worry—just do it.
Merlyn Karst – Recovery Ambassador
September is designated as Recovery Month. Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders. It celebrates the millions of people as they live in the joy and reality of recovery. I have participated in Rallies and events primarily in Denver, Colorado since 2002. In 2018, Advocates for Recovery-Colorado, was the host to the national hub event. Country wide, these events provided the opportunity to announce the birth and carry the message of Faces and Voices of Recovery. Making history year by year, Recovery from Addiction is now a growing national and international recovery advocacy movement.
I now live in Orange County, California, I recently participated in an event named Recovery Happens originating in California’s capitol. Three well-known names were among sponsors. Faces and Voices of Recovery, Young People in Recovery, and The Phoenix. It is usually held on the Capitol steps, but as is today’s normal, It was virtual instead. I’m a fan of virtual technology. Unfortunately, it does not have the value of human togetherness and fellowship. We are involved in a Zoom Room Boom. It does allow an important factor. To achieve and maintain connections. I am participating in a Peer Coach Training with Peer Coach Academy in Colorado. SAMSHA’s theme banner says: Join the Voices of Recovery: Celebrate Connections. We are virtually connected in so many ways—apart but together. We are getting good at it. The definition of virtuosity is to have a skill and expertise as we see in virtual activities. I think it leads one to a new word --virtualocity.
I find it worth repeating what I wrote in a recent blog. In the real and virtual world, I make my bed, shower, and dress presentably for viewing and being viewed. No travel involved. Bed and board are at hand. check the “set”, settle in my comfortable chair, and put my best face forward.
The virtual world has merit through selective learning and social sensibility. If you are not earning, you should be learning. It will be of benefit to the establishment of health and well-being and even might allow being better than well.
Recovery Community Organizations are being formed at a growing rate with knowledge that the pandemic will put new burdens on the community from increased mental health and substance use disorders. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in use and misuse of the drug alcohol. Communities need resources, information, and leadership. I recently read this,
By repairing past and current harms in our communities, we bring new possibilities to the future
We have a role to play.
In a recent Bill White and Bill Stauffer paper, Nothing About Us Without Us, I noted the following: People with personal knowledge of the recovery process and the historical challenges faced by people seeking and in recovery free of conflicted interests are the best suited for recovery advocacy leadership. Guidelines: 1) Members of recovery communities are provided a voice in the selection of persons who represent their experience and needs. 2) Those representing the recovery experience at public and policy levels possess rich experiential knowledge of personal and/or family recovery from addiction. 3) Persons representing the experiences and needs of people seeking and/in recovery are free from ideology, political, or financial conflicts of interest that could unduly influence their advocacy efforts. This paper is important. Read this and another, Recovery Advocacy For a Country is Crisis.
We recently formed the first RCO in Orange County, The Purpose of Recovery. Our primary purpose is to promote and perpetuate connections, resources, and a collective purpose for providers of recovery support services in Orange County. It was established with support and guidance with connection to other RCOs in Northern California, Texas, Georgia, and Colorado. All members of Faces and Voices of Recovery’s ARCO, the Association of Recovery Community Organizations. ARCO links RCOs and their leaders with local and national allies and provides training and technical assistance to groups. ARCO helps build the unified voice of the organized recovery community and fulfill our commitment to supporting the development of new groups and strengthening existing ones. As the SAMSHA banner says, Celebrating Connections. A great purpose to be served during Recovery Month.
Together We Are Stronger.
Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador