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
I observed and I write. Over the last year the nation has gone through an incredible test of wills. Hindsight can’t be 2020. Alarmingly instructive but so filled with events and irony it sinks under its own weight. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Pretty shallow when weaponized for misinformation and here and there it seems the Dementors from the Potterverse were filling the sky. Voldevirus was anywhere and everywhere. A banner’s four words have had more improbable impact for cause than reason or truth. You can name some. Peer’s pressure and protests migrated into mob manipulation and intimidation. I can’t breathe. I note most impactful but diminishing words started with a “V”. Violence, vengeful, vitriol, voice, voter, and vicious. Look close, even Word has two V’s” in it. Verily, only virtual and vaccine are positive. Words have different meaning, use and understanding depending on cultural identity in the worlds of “woke” and the threat of “cancellation.”. This ostracism is akin to stigma and discrimination which has been an ever-present burden for those pursuing recovery from Substance Use Disorders (SUD) and mental issues. Which brings me to the title, The Power of Will and its historical relevance to long-term recovery.
Willpower is defined as the ability to control your own thoughts and the way in which you behave. In the early days of attention to alcoholism, it was often heard, as a moral judgement, why doesn’t he/she just quit? Certainly AA, the 12 steps and support of others provided choices, chances, change. and continuity. I met and heard Nora Volkow, M.D. of the National Institute of Health in 2002. I gained my first insight about the work on the science of addiction. It was exciting and hopeful for future medically assisted recovery that has evolved and in use today. I attended training with Flo Hilliard, Faces and Voices of Recovery. Her training program was titled The Science of Addiction and Recovery. We understand clearly that not understanding and overcoming craving and fear of the pains of withdrawal will drive wrong choices. With medical assist, and other therapies and recovery support, the brain will resume important activities. Remember, if you are not earning, keep learning. There are countless virtual opportunities. I recently was more informed about what I have written. You Tube, Many Paths to Recovery 11/20/2020. A New PATH—California RCO and ARCO member.
Many years ago, I stated that if it is called willpower, it must be intended to have power. That power to make wise and healthy choices about behavior is reduced and at some stage eliminated with the intake of mind-altering chemicals or actions.
More education is needed. Abstinence, where possible, remains the best solution. Current medicines, and there are several, provide restoration and stability and allow the brain to use them to overcome craving and fear of pain of withdrawal and to resume a more normal life. Oddly, in the recovery community, there is still a stigma associated with MAT. Another recovery advent, harm reduction programs, are controversial. In the aforementioned virtual presentation, Dr. Tom Horvath, Practical Recovery outlines principles, beginning with the first principle,
that recognize self-guided change (natural recovery) as the foundation of all successful treatment.
So, a properly functioning brain is essential for self-healing.
The pandemic has had a disastrous effect in elevating all the elements and possibility of a set-back —perhaps a better word than relapse in the recovery process. We need all to get-back and on track. Medical assist and virtual fellowship on the chosen path to active and sustained recovery will help. We have to use resources virtually and wisely and quickly. Victory over the Virus and use newly learned Virtualocity. As the year closes, we revere the word vaccine. It has literally provided the wind beneath our wings of hope as we proceed to 2021. Close your happy eyes and enjoy the uplift into the New Year!
Nothing is so bad it JUST couldn’t be verse
Don’t just wake up feeling captive, You better just wake up The Positive.
OR The Positive will just keep sleeping, doom and gloom just keeps creeping.
Feeling really down is just really dumb, as there is just no point in staying glum.
Covid vaccine? you can just wait for your big stick. Just follow protocol and parry the big sick.
Each day It just may seem there’s no justice. Just don’t worry because eventually there just is.
Just don’t fret about things not legit, The Positive will shadow you, so don’t worry—just do it.
Merlyn Karst – Recovery Ambassador