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
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
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
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
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.
Each year we take the opportunity to celebrate the millions of Americans who are in recovery from mental and substance use disorders. Formally the province of SAMSHA, National Recovery Month is under the auspices of Faces and Voices of Recovery. Faces and Voices will be heard and seen across the Globe in Celebration of the Reality of Recovery in all its forms. California kicks it off from the Capitol steps on September 1st. Our new RCO, and first in Orange County, The Purpose of Recovery, will be there.
The following is a brief review of some origins and history of the Recovery Movement. In this, I include the names and words of others’ whose passion and purpose gave birth to a campaign to put a face and a voice on recovery. I learned from the words of William Cope Moyers that he and Jeff Blodgett met with leadership of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and presented an idea to build connections through building alliances. Its Leadership Forum recognized the worth and wisdom to generously fund and launch the Alliance Project. More than two years’ work was done by the Alliance Project and its affiliated sponsors. They provided focus and channels for a growing advocacy force among individuals recovered from addiction, their families, and allies. I was privileged to be a part of an Alliance Project conference with plots and plans. I first met White Bison’s Don Coyhis there and learned the lesson of connection and unity from his ball of yarn. There were focus groups and a national survey by Peter Hart & Associates called the Face of Recovery. The Paul Samuels Legal Action Center offered to assist with the issues of stigma and discrimination. Johnny Allem, who had headed The Society of Americans in Recovery, (SOAR), contributed much. All activities set the stage for the 2001 Recovery Summit and incubation of what has become The New Recovery Advocacy Movement. (NRAM).
In October 2001, at the invitation of RWJF and with support of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), nearly 200 of us assembled in St. Paul, Minnesota. The assembly was called The Faces and Voices of Recovery Summit. It met with 3 goals to be considered:
1. To celebrate and honor recovery in all its diversity
2. To foster advocacy skills in the tradition of American advocacy movements
3. To produce principles, language, strategy, and leadership to carry the movement forward.
An important consideration was the need for Unity of Action and Purpose by all recovered people – regardless of recovery path and inclusive of every path – and was regarded as essential to success. Impact on the American public is directly related to unity of message within the recovery community. Carol McDaid, who followed me as Board Chair of Faces and Voices of Recovery, reflecting on the Summit said,
Looking back, I think we took unity for granted. History is clear. We have never gotten anywhere without unity of purpose. It is my sense that some of that unity has been lost along the way… It is certainly not too late to focus efforts on unity and I think it is vital that we do so.… when we fail to do that, we are not taken seriously and all the resources that could save lives and build recovery community flow elsewhere.
William Moyers, in an interview said,
I think we have missed an opportunity to grow the movement through more philanthropy
I believe our prospects have improved greatly with the growing number of Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs) and the obvious economic and social impact on persons, families, and communities.
I agree with William White who said,
There was electricity in the air from the moment we gathered, and I distinctly remember thinking at one point that what we were doing could mark a new chapter in the history of addiction recovery—a line in time between that in the future would demarcate ‘before’ and ‘after’. You see, many of us knew of each other but we had never gathered as recovery advocates. The energy generated by finally placing so many of us in one place was amazing. That energy and its resulting shared vision is what I most remember…there was a calling for us to move beyond clinical models of care to models of community organization and cultural revitalization. All these influences stirred within the pot of the 2001 Recovery Summit. And we also knew we were there to accept a torch passed to us from recovery advocates of earlier decades.
I found the words of others’ fascinating, enlightening, and worth attention. I recall spending time with Susan Rook and credit her with the words “By Our Silence, We Let Others Define Us”. Senator Paul Wellstone was our keynote speaker and said,
This is the beginning of a civil rights movement.
The analogy to rights movements through America’s history rang throughout the three-day meeting. Jim Ramstad, our legislative champion, was present. It was a magical three days as afterwards we set out to make some history. Fact is it almost didn’t happen. Turbulent times.
As the last day came to an end, William Moyers said,
I realized we had pulled it off, we had conducted the summit in between the 911 attacks and the start of war. It was in the nick of time, and we managed to get it done. We are STILL HERE!
Faces & Voices of Recovery was born and will celebrate its 20-year anniversary in October in St Paul. William White quoted author and Pulitzer winner, Barbara Tuchman as saying,
The most difficult task of the historian is to capture the contextual roots and cultural significance of vibrant social movements while they are “still smoking”.
An interesting statement, given the events of the last few years.
We are soldiering and smoldering on and fanning the flame of the reality of Recovery. We stand up, standout, speak out, and are proud about it.
Find the Joy—and celebrate.
Merlyn Karst —Recovery Advocate
The prime source for quoted interviews is found at https://recoveryreview.blog/
Factoid: The old children’s proverb “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was used as early as 1862 to refrain people from engaging in verbal bullying. Over time and with experience, we gained a new perspective. I found a poem that perhaps is an indication of reality,
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me and sticks break only skin, while words are ghosts that haunt me. Slant and curved the word-swords fall, it pierces and sticks inside me. Bats and bricks may ache through bones, but words can mortify me. Pain from words has left its scar, on mind and heart that’s tender. Cuts and bruises have not healed, it’s words that I remember.
Now, bullying depends on it. A multitude in the population depends on it. Some words have worn out their worthiness and are worthless.
William White wrote,
For more than two centuries, Addicted and recovering people in America have been the object of language created by others. People experiencing severe and persistent alcohol and other drug problems inherited a language not of their own making that has been ill suited to accurately portray their experience to others or to serve as a personal catalyst for personal change. The wrong words stigmatize and dis-empower. In 2001, in St Paul, Minnesota, the group assembled learned that by our silence we let others define us. We gave birth to Faces and Voices of Recovery. Understanding the sound of silence led us to the making of our language and it’s resounding and growing joyful noise about the reality of recovery.
Orange County California’s The Purpose of Recovery organization, TPOR, is offering a series of informative learning experiences through virtual presentations. We have done The Science of Addiction and Recovery and a most recent one was on Recovery Messaging. William White wrote,
Many of us have carried a message of hope on a one-to-one basis. This new recovery movement calls upon us to carry that message of hope to whole communities and the whole culture. It is time we stepped forward. Shape this history with our stories, our time and our talents.
Across the board all the moms and dads mention one golden rule of Inuit parenting. Never yell at a child.
Our movement can’t be successful when led solely by those impacted by addiction and accompanying injustice. We need to share our message and inspire allies and others to come join us in the new recovery movement. The learning opportunities in the Recovery Messaging are the result of years of study, revision, feedback, and evaluation of retention and useful purpose. Among the slides is the information that choosing the language of recovery is key. It is followed by examples titled “Say this, not that.” Examples of current language, alternatives, and reasons. I have focused on a few words. The latest is relapse. I prefer and promote set-back. It leads to a mindful slogan. Get back, on track, and don’t look back. Labels have a sticky side for a reason. stigmatizing labels like “addict” and “alcoholic” stick when identity as a “person in recovery” is positive and appropriate when recognizing substance use disorder.
With others from TPOR, I completed a 10-week CRAFT course, Community Reinforcement and Family Training. It teaches family and friends effective strategies for helping their loved ones to change and seeking to better themselves. Of course, words were involved—words and the nature of response. What to say and when might promote a change of behavior remembering, it’s a process not an event. Use reflection with positive reinforcement and patience and take pride in small changes. I learned of a counselor who suggested 80% listening with reflective and positive attention and 20% “I” centered response, I feel, I see, I hear, to promote understanding and trust. I do not have family issues but as a peer recovery coach, it adds greatly to TPOR and my tool kit.
I read an article about a book titled Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaelean Doucleff. She visited and wrote about visiting and embedding with families in small villages in Mexico, Alaska, and Tanzania She observed parenting by the moms and dads in the villages. What caught my attention is her statement,
The children’s conduct and behavior was very good. Say what? Doesn’t yelling put more power in words no matter whether addressing a child or adult? In the context of this writing, the words we use to encourage behavioral change should not need volume to communicate. Too many decibels are numbing and dumbing. I like the expression, “He drives words with a velvet hammer.” The voice I hear and the words I hear are mine. I pay attention.
Don Coyhis is President and co-founder of White Bison, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Don is the founder of the Wellbriety movement The book Red Road to Wellbriety is a book of healing that is culture-specific to Native Americans, but it may be used by all people. He and William White have written many words together about addiction and recovery in Native Americans with cultural considerations and challenging the “firewater myth” among them. I love the words I read.
Native purification and healing practices (sacred dances, the sweat lodge, and talking circles). Such elements as teaching metaphors (e.g., the medicine wheel), symbols (e.g., the sacred pipe, eagle feathers), rituals (e.g., sweat lodge, smudging ceremonies. These words say healing to me. Don Coyhis wrote,
Words are important. If you want to care for something, you call it a flower. If you want to kill something you call it a weed. A word to the wise, use words wisely.
Merlyn Karst — Recovery Ambassador
Good Afternoon. Thank you for your virtual presence. I am, virtually and otherwise, Merlyn Karst, a person in long-term recovery, as a result, I haven’t found it necessary to take a drink of alcohol for 22 years, my only drug of choice.
My standard answer to how much did you drink is—just enough—until it wasn’t.
I found that alcohol is out to kill us, but first wants to get us alone. I retired early and went from corporate executive to consultant while paying the consequences of DUI’s through Nancy Clark’s Alternative Sentencing Program. No jail time and the positive experience led me to stay with the program as administrator for several years. Time in our Recovery Centers, instead of jail, saved lives, families, and productive careers.
In sustained recovery, I have had a full and healthy life and have accumulated 88 years of lived experience.
After 27 years in Orange County, my wife and I relocated to Denver, Colorado. I immediately pursued activities in the justice system and the agencies serving the recovery community. It led to a meeting in St Paul, Minnesota in 2001. The meeting centered around the fact that by our silence, we let others define us. We needed to put a face and a voice on recovery. With respect for anonymity and its role in recovery, we set forth to develop a language, an identity, and a message so that individuals in recovery could stand up, stand out, speak out, and be proud about their reality of their recovery. Faces and Voices of Recovery was born. It birthed a movement that is now national and international. We adjourned the meeting with the words, from our movement’s leader, Bill White. Let’s go make some history—and so we have and so we are.
I was privileged to be its board chair for the first six years. At the same time, we started the RCO, Advocates for Recovery-Colorado. We featured advocacy and peer supported services and training. We assisted in bringing the Betty Ford Children’s Program to Denver. I learned very quickly the value of an executive director to the growth and success of a national and/or recovery community organization. I praise and appreciate Pat, Patty, Tonya, and now Donella. A few months ago, we moved back to California and Orange County from Denver. Denver was the birthplace of an organization many of you know as The Phoenix, now growing nationally and internationally. Besides renewing a relationship with Nancy and Alternative Sentencing Programs, I made contact with Lauren Deperine, the Director of The Phoenix in Orange County and San Diego. Through Lauren, I was introduced to Donella Cecrle, and through her, Janie Tsao. Our common interest was the development of a Recovery Community Organization (RCO) that could serve the needs and interests of a variety of those principally involved in Substance Use Disorders (SUD). We want to be a catalyst for expanding peer specialist training and support, with an eye to providing career path opportunities. Though Donella, Janie, and I have not physically met until this week, (from 6 feet) The 3 of us have contributed to the ZOOM Boom through countless virtual meetings and attended several trainings and conferences. Following the work of Donella and several others, we are together today to share progress in the development of our new RCO, The Purpose of Recovery. We invite you to be a part of our purpose and promise as we become a collective of the purpose and promise of recovery for all. As our logo portrays, our heart is truly in it.
We must always remember, they won’t care about what we know until they know that we care.
Merlyn Karst - Recovery Ambassador
Good Afternoon. Thank you for your virtual presence. I am, virtually and otherwise, Merlyn Karst, a person in long-term recovery, as a result, I haven’t found it necessary to take a drink of alcohol for 22 years, my only drug of choice. My standard answer to how much did you drink is—just enough—until it wasn’t.
I found that alcohol is out to kill us, but first wants to get us alone. I retired early and went from corporate executive to consultant while paying the consequences of DUI’s through Nancy Clark’s Alternative Sentencing Program. No jail time and the positive experience led me to stay with the program as administrator for several years. Time in our Recovery Centers, instead of jail, saved lives, families, and productive careers. In sustained recovery, I have had a full and healthy life and have accumulated 88 years of lived experience. After 27 years in Orange County, my wife and I relocated to Denver, Colorado. I immediately pursued activities in the justice system and the agencies serving the recovery community. It led to a meeting in St Paul, Minnesota in 2001. The meeting centered around the fact that by our silence, we let others define us. We needed to put a face and a voice on recovery. With respect for anonymity and its role in recovery, we set forth to develop a language, an identity, and a message so that individuals in recovery could stand up, stand out, speak out, and be proud about their reality of their recovery. Faces and Voices of Recovery was born. It birthed a movement that is now national and international. We adjourned the meeting with the words, from our movement’s leader, Bill White. Let’s go make some history—and so we have and so we are.
I was privileged to be its board chair for the first six years. At the same time, we started the RCO, Advocates for Recovery-Colorado. We featured advocacy and peer supported services and training. We assisted in bringing the Betty Ford Children’s Program to Denver. I learned very quickly the value of an executive director to the growth and success of a national and/or recovery community organization. I praise and appreciate Pat, Patty, Tonya, and now Donella. A few months ago, we moved back to California and Orange County from Denver. Denver was the birthplace of an organization many of you know as The Phoenix, now growing nationally and internationally. Besides renewing a relationship with Nancy and Alternative Sentencing Programs, I made contact with Lauren Deperine, the Director of The Phoenix in Orange County and San Diego. Through Lauren, I was introduced to Donella Cecrle, and through her, Janie Tsao. Our common interest was the development of a Recovery Community Organization (RCO) that could serve the needs and interests of a variety of those principally involved in Substance Use Disorders (SUD). We want to be a catalyst for expanding peer specialist training and support, with an eye to providing career path opportunities. Though Donella, Janie, and I have not physically met until this week, (from 6 feet) The 3 of us have contributed to the ZOOM Boom through countless virtual meetings and attended several trainings and conferences. Following the work of Donella and several others, we are together today to share progress in the development of our new RCO, The Purpose of Recovery. We invite you to be a part of our purpose and promise as we become a collective of the purpose and promise of recovery for all. As our logo portrays, our heart is truly in it. We must always remember, they won’t care about what we know until they know that we care.
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