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
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