From a family recovering journey, I have gone through the stage of typical denial, anger, and confusion. When I finally surfaced my head above the dark water, I found not only my loved one but a lot of his recovering peers are also struggling more or less. I found my family members and friends are still confused. It made me keenly aware that there are many obstacles and hidden challenges along the way. It also made me fully recognize the importance of the needed support for you. I guess I can throw a few key words of support, like make connections, families, friends, sponsors, .. and more. But, what strikes me the most is finding truth to ourselves, finding the value you see to yourself, and finding a purpose in your life.
Through this, I found my purpose. My purpose is to support you. And yet, HOW? My little lived experience, without knowing the landscape of what you have gone through, I struggled again. Thanks for a lot of friends and families, I found comfort knowing I am not fighting this by myself. That family peer support allowed me to believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that got me through the most difficult time, and allowed me to stand on my own feet right now. I felt the peer support and peer coach that got me through this, ought to be the support to all of you and your families. This is in addition to whatever your current recovering path you are on. Coach is someone with the same lived experience that connects with you to guide you with your own decision.
Then, I look at Orange County, and found no organization offers that. Hence, The Purpose of Recovery is established just to offer that and more of course. So, if this concept is new to you right now because we are the first organization to roll this out, we know there will be more in the future. Thanks for the hard work from the team and special thanks to Merlyn and Donella, we are happy and ready to share our vision with you today. I also want to thank my own family that taught me to be compassion and loving each other from a different perspective. We all know recovering is a lifelong journey. Just to know that we are here alongside you. Again, I am glad you are with us today!
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