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/