On February 27, I celebrated my 90th year on the planet. In all the years, alcohol was my only drug of choice. It served me well until it didn’t. Active in the recovery movement for many years in Colorado, I returned to California in 2019 and helped to start a new non-profit called The Purpose of Recovery (TPOR). At The Purpose of Recovery we value positive recovery language through our peer support services and community advocacy.
Recently I noted that Alcohol Awareness was being diminished by all else going on and I determined to edit my recovery language to feature alcohol and its effects.
What I noticed is that my language works in any month, whether it is Alcohol Awareness Month (April) or not. Ok, so who do we help (individuals, families and those in recovery) and what do we tell them about alcohol? Particularly, how do we guide their research on talking to kids?
Each April since 1987, the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma, and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues.
Most adults in the United States who drink alcohol drink moderately and without complications. At the same time, alcohol-related problems are among the most significant public health issues in the country. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects about 15 million adults in the United States, and an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation. Read more here.
A young person’s brain is not fully developed until they reach their mid to late 20s, and any drinking while the brain is still developing can be problematic.
Regardless of age, alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment and coordination. It can also increase the incidence of aggressive or violent acts. Consuming large quantities in a short period of time — or binge drinking— which is defined as having 4-5 drinks on one occasion and is common among young people — can cause alcohol poisoning and even death. More than 16 million Americans misuse or are addicted to alcohol, which is a legal substance that is widely available and normalized in our society. Prolonged, heavy use of alcohol can lead to addiction as alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism. There is liver and heart disease, and other health consequences such as a weakened immune system and increased risk of developing certain cancers. Accidents related to alcohol use are among the leading causes of death for teens.
Every April the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month to increase awareness and understanding of the causes and treatment of the nation’s #1 public health problem: alcoholism. As part of Alcohol Awareness Month, the NCADD says local, state, and national events will be “aimed at educating people about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism, particularly among our youth, and the important role that parents can play in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives.
Alcohol Awareness Month Resources —NCADD has several helpful resources on its website. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) underage drinking prevention campaign, ‘Talk. They Hear You,’ has talking points and tools for coalitions, parents, and caregivers so they can start talking to their children early—as early as 9 years old—about the dangers of alcohol.
The Alcohol Action Network (AAN) is a project of the American Public Health Association and is a nationwide network of alcohol prevention practitioners and researchers engaging in alcohol policy issues in their states or local communities. AAN was initially established to address the shifting alcohol policy landscape at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to bring prevention specialists together to address policy issues as they arise.
I grew up in South Dakota with the awareness that Sioux Native-Americans were a seen and unseen part of life. A friend, Don Coyhis, is a recognized leader and mentor of the Sioux Nation. He posted the following:
Thinking positive thoughts will flush out negative thoughts. There is not enough room for both. When we do have both, there is an internal argument with ourselves until we decide which one should go. There is only room for one. We change ourselves by being convinced, which means “to be persuaded by argument or evidence. – Don Coyhis
Look forward to becoming a positive thinker and using language that supports others in recovery whether from alcohol or other substances.
You may be surprised when your friends become a “flusher” of negative thoughts too.
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/
September is designated as Recovery Month. Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders. It celebrates the millions of people as they live in the joy and reality of recovery. I have participated in Rallies and events primarily in Denver, Colorado since 2002. In 2018, Advocates for Recovery-Colorado, was the host to the national hub event. Country wide, these events provided the opportunity to announce the birth and carry the message of Faces and Voices of Recovery. Making history year by year, Recovery from Addiction is now a growing national and international recovery advocacy movement.
I now live in Orange County, California, I recently participated in an event named Recovery Happens originating in California’s capitol. Three well-known names were among sponsors. Faces and Voices of Recovery, Young People in Recovery, and The Phoenix. It is usually held on the Capitol steps, but as is today’s normal, It was virtual instead. I’m a fan of virtual technology. Unfortunately, it does not have the value of human togetherness and fellowship. We are involved in a Zoom Room Boom. It does allow an important factor. To achieve and maintain connections. I am participating in a Peer Coach Training with Peer Coach Academy in Colorado. SAMSHA’s theme banner says: Join the Voices of Recovery: Celebrate Connections. We are virtually connected in so many ways—apart but together. We are getting good at it. The definition of virtuosity is to have a skill and expertise as we see in virtual activities. I think it leads one to a new word --virtualocity.
I find it worth repeating what I wrote in a recent blog. In the real and virtual world, I make my bed, shower, and dress presentably for viewing and being viewed. No travel involved. Bed and board are at hand. check the “set”, settle in my comfortable chair, and put my best face forward.
The virtual world has merit through selective learning and social sensibility. If you are not earning, you should be learning. It will be of benefit to the establishment of health and well-being and even might allow being better than well.
Recovery Community Organizations are being formed at a growing rate with knowledge that the pandemic will put new burdens on the community from increased mental health and substance use disorders. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in use and misuse of the drug alcohol. Communities need resources, information, and leadership. I recently read this,
By repairing past and current harms in our communities, we bring new possibilities to the future
We have a role to play.
In a recent Bill White and Bill Stauffer paper, Nothing About Us Without Us, I noted the following: People with personal knowledge of the recovery process and the historical challenges faced by people seeking and in recovery free of conflicted interests are the best suited for recovery advocacy leadership. Guidelines: 1) Members of recovery communities are provided a voice in the selection of persons who represent their experience and needs. 2) Those representing the recovery experience at public and policy levels possess rich experiential knowledge of personal and/or family recovery from addiction. 3) Persons representing the experiences and needs of people seeking and/in recovery are free from ideology, political, or financial conflicts of interest that could unduly influence their advocacy efforts. This paper is important. Read this and another, Recovery Advocacy For a Country is Crisis.
We recently formed the first RCO in Orange County, The Purpose of Recovery. Our primary purpose is to promote and perpetuate connections, resources, and a collective purpose for providers of recovery support services in Orange County. It was established with support and guidance with connection to other RCOs in Northern California, Texas, Georgia, and Colorado. All members of Faces and Voices of Recovery’s ARCO, the Association of Recovery Community Organizations. ARCO links RCOs and their leaders with local and national allies and provides training and technical assistance to groups. ARCO helps build the unified voice of the organized recovery community and fulfill our commitment to supporting the development of new groups and strengthening existing ones. As the SAMSHA banner says, Celebrating Connections. A great purpose to be served during Recovery Month.
Together We Are Stronger.
Merlyn Karst, Recovery Ambassador