I completed my 89th year on Mother Earth (32,506 days of life) and decided to share some personal past.
I recently read an Interesting Fact: If you were born in the 1930s to 1945. you exist as a very special age group.
You are the smallest group of children born since the early 1900s. You are the last generation, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the impact of a world at war which rattled the structure of our daily lives for years. I could write pages. Over the years I have written columns but with a rule that didn’t change. Say it on one page. The font must be big enough to read yet what is written about big enough to be informative, interesting, and useful. Sometimes I wrote in rhyme. Here is a verse:
Within ourselves the answers are found, and the courage to change within our reach. When we find the courage and use it well, then lessons learned is what we teach.
One wordy writer used to end with an apology,
Sorry, this would have been shorter if I had more time.
Here is a bit about some early days. I arrived on February 27th, 1932, in a small agricultural town in South Dakota. I was the new deal brought forth by my parents. Life expectancy in 1932 was 60. Franklin Roosevelt was the new deal brought forth for the country. The dust bowl coupled with the great depression made survival the focus. Fortunately, the government provided work programs that restored the dignity of work and saved the economy. I am forever grateful for my childhood. Despite the dust and depression, it was filled with love and promise. the critical value of early childhood education was understood and pursued. I was blessed with public school and church school. Jesus taught and loved me and this I know because the bible told me so. Some years later, I read that before the sermon on the mount, Jesus said to a group of doubters,
If you don’t believe in me, believe in what I teach.
My mom told me she covered my crib with a damp sheet, to keep me cool and dust free. Despite the dust and depression, years were covered with promise. I was cared for and nourished in mind and body. My parents and grandparents had wisdom, patience, and gardens. As a toddler, I tip-toed through the turnips and tomatoes and avoided the eyes of the potatoes. I didn’t like any of them. Liked Snap, Crackle, Pop. A little noise with the nutrition.
The years rushed by. I completed elementary and high school with several students attending all 12 years together. The 50’s brought the Polio virus with recreational shut-down, a fearful public, and behaviors now familiar—isolation and social distancing. I served two years with the military during the Korean conflict and received a university degree under the GI bill. I began my first job with a major energy corporation. Then marriage. Last year, wife and I recognized our 64th wedding anniversary. A son and daughter filled out the family and are now in their 50’s having full and drug free healthy lives and careers. Our daughter and granddaughter live doors away. She is now 18 and a wise and talented young adult with all the excitement and concern this new environment may provide. Previously I spoke of my first job with a major corporation. We moved a lot. I grew in the job and it lasted for a rewarding 16 years. I then joined a Japanese company and served in high executive positions. After 17 years of employment and Japanese/American relationships, I retired early and did some consulting and handled what life dealt. During a rough period, what life dealt changed my life.
In my life alcohol and nicotine were my only drugs of choice. I gave up nicotine over 55 years ago. Though alcohol use is legal and socially acceptable, driving under its influence was not. A DUI arrest and the consequences were costly and brought shame and guilt. No injuries or damages were involved so an Orange County judge thought I would do well In Nancy Clark’s Alternative Sentencing Program. I did well and saw the program having value for me and others and stayed with the program in administration and management for several years. Observing behaviors by drug users, the education gave me a glimpse of drug influence on the brain and resultant behavior. My solid sobriety began Christmas Eve, 1997. In 1998, my wife and I moved to Denver to share family matters. It became the foundational home for my involvement in the recovery movement and over the years, many associates formed, led, and grew organizations in the recovery field. Some identified as Servant Leaders. Faces and Voices of Recovery led the way in the Recovery Movement. I was a Denver Drug Strategy Commissioner and held Committee Chairs and became aware and involved in all matter’s marijuana —medical and recreational. Never tried the drug. Remember, the science of addiction and recovery changed my life. Pot is now legal in Colorado but the process and decisions that made it so were well informed though a bit swayed by the revenue picture.
I first learned of the science of addiction and pursuit of medically assisted recovery from Nora Volkow of NIDA, National Institute of Drug Abuse. I attended trainings on the Science of Addiction and Recovery by Flo Hilliard of FAVOR and others. I got new information and a depth of understanding. It introduced new understanding and reasons for risky, unhealthy, and unexplained behavior. It opened the door for forgiveness. Absence of alcohol and other drugs changed my life over 23 years and gave me new respect for mind and body. Alcohol no longer hijacked my positive thoughts and behavior and —write this down--Don’t Drink—and Thrive! All the choices, chances, and changes provided hope and opportunity. Recovery is an attainable reality for each who seeks it.
It allowed me many more birthdays, including this one. I returned to Orange County in 2019 and with a terrific team built on passion, resolve and purpose, formed an RCO in Orange County, The Purpose of Recovery (TPOR). Our service is caring and broad, including education. Our first virtual educational presentation was The Science of Addiction and Recovery. The whole and elements are available along with a great deal of information on our website, TPOR.org . Facebook is a source for encouraging much personal contact and sharing. It announces birthdays, weddings, special recognitions, and many notable activities and actions. I passed my annual physical with positive results and have received my COVID vaccines. With peaceful heart and quiet mind and with gratitude for family, friends, and fellowships, I will begin my 90th year.. I go to sleep with a classic playing. Tonight it is Ode to Joy.
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