We 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
THE GRATEFUL DEED
I write this as we celebrate another special holiday. Thanksgiving. It is indeed a grateful deed.
Though we should give thanks for many things each day, we single out this day to express gratitude. It is a time of family, fellowship, food, and fun—as it should be.
For those of us in active and sustained recovery it is a special day to give thanks. Family dynamics may differ, cultures play a role, but at the core is thankfulness and gratitude with family and friends. Those who experience the fellowship of AA recognize that the two most favored subjects for meeting discussion are gratitude and acceptance. My activity in mindfulness always includes both. At this point, I will add a bit of humor. Discussing politics at a family gathering can result in saving money on Christmas gifts. Considering inflation, it could benefit.
The pandemic changed this holiday event in so many ways. Gratitude was limited to thoughts of survival and “I don’t have it—yet”. However, we could come together virtually and maybe be more forthcoming and open with feelings. No masks to show frowns and hide smiles. We talk of turkey, gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Seldom is it said: “and alcohol”. Alcohol is legal, cheap, available, and acts as intended and more. We do know that alcohol causes more family turmoil, distress, and death than the other drugs. Alcohol kills slower, but Fentanyl has now entered the picture which is quickly deadly, and family gatherings need to share this information. Addicts must take risks to avoid “dope sickness.” There can be controversy but if balanced with care and concern for each other, there can be help, hope, and healing where needed. All were present as my brother, brother-in-law, and I accumulated over 100 years of sobriety.
I am grateful and accept the science of addiction. It explains the why of “why doesn’t he/she just quit.”
To know and understand the role of the brain in alcohol and other drug use is vital to living life with health and well-being. Naloxone (Narcan) is defined as an opioid antagonist and defies death from overdose. I am grateful and accept the knowledge of the many paths to, of, and in recovery from substance use disorders. I am grateful and accept the knowledge of the elements of harm reduction and medically assisted recovery. Both are 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 and serves persons and families. In early recovery, the first steps are investigation and contemplation. Now there is more to contemplate. Another word to contemplate is one I just learned--gradualism. The goal can be abstinence but a commitment to a process and toward progress should prevail.
William White has written countless papers over the years. A most recent one is titled On the Shoulders of Giants, which honors the addiction treatment and recovery advocacy pioneers and profiles 35 people upon whose shoulders the infrastructure of our field stands. Among names I recognize are Bill Wilson, Jimmy Kinnon, and Jean Kilpatrick, founders of AA, NA, and Women in Sobriety, respectively. There are the more recent prominent pioneers such as Lillian Roth, 1910-1980, and Jason Robards, 1922-2000, who Bill says,
Challenged prevailing stereotypes about addiction and addiction recovery through public disclosure of their own recovery stories.
Names I learned early on were the policy advocates who politically nurtured the birth and evolution of modern addiction understanding (e.g., Marty Mann, 1904-1980, Senator Harold Hughes, 1922-1996, Senator Paul Wellstone, 1944-2002). I met Senator Wellstone and Betty Ford. I have maintained connections and associations “Beyond Betty” over the years. They include the Betty Ford Center, Hazelden, and the Children’s program. Bill White, whose shoulders I have perched on, said with gratitude to the many of those,
Who stretched my mind, mentored my work, and showed me by their example how to conduct one’s life in this unique service ministry.
I am personally grateful and so should the millions in active and sustained recovery be what for may be termed the grateful deeds of the pioneers and present advocates in the recovery movement.
There is no vaccine for addiction. However, choosing a path to recovery and choosing to be vaccinated for COVID both lead to health, well-being, and peace of mind. Both serve the person, family, and community.
November is gratitude month and as it ends, we look forward to the next holidays. Though some don’t do deities, there is a Christ in Christmas. It is a time of caring and sharing. As I once read and wrote, before the sermon on the mount, Jesus was reported to have said;
If you don’t believe in me, believe in what I teach.
One of those teachings called for us to love one another. Happy Holidays, from The Purpose of Recovery Team.
Merlyn Karst — Recovery Ambassador