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
MEET MERLYN! A LEGEND AMONG US.
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