I write this as we celebrate another special holiday. Thanksgiving. It is indeed a grateful deed.
Though we should give thanks for many things each day, we single out this day to express gratitude. It is a time of family, fellowship, food, and fun—as it should be.
For those of us in active and sustained recovery it is a special day to give thanks. Family dynamics may differ, cultures play a role, but at the core is thankfulness and gratitude with family and friends. Those who experience the fellowship of AA recognize that the two most favored subjects for meeting discussion are gratitude and acceptance. My activity in mindfulness always includes both. At this point, I will add a bit of humor. Discussing politics at a family gathering can result in saving money on Christmas gifts. Considering inflation, it could benefit.
The pandemic changed this holiday event in so many ways. Gratitude was limited to thoughts of survival and “I don’t have it—yet”. However, we could come together virtually and maybe be more forthcoming and open with feelings. No masks to show frowns and hide smiles. We talk of turkey, gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Seldom is it said: “and alcohol”. Alcohol is legal, cheap, available, and acts as intended and more. We do know that alcohol causes more family turmoil, distress, and death than the other drugs. Alcohol kills slower, but Fentanyl has now entered the picture which is quickly deadly, and family gatherings need to share this information. Addicts must take risks to avoid “dope sickness.” There can be controversy but if balanced with care and concern for each other, there can be help, hope, and healing where needed. All were present as my brother, brother-in-law, and I accumulated over 100 years of sobriety.
I am grateful and accept the science of addiction. It explains the why of “why doesn’t he/she just quit.”
To know and understand the role of the brain in alcohol and other drug use is vital to living life with health and well-being. Naloxone (Narcan) is defined as an opioid antagonist and defies death from overdose. I am grateful and accept the knowledge of the many paths to, of, and in recovery from substance use disorders. I am grateful and accept the knowledge of the elements of harm reduction and medically assisted recovery. Both are a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Just as the many paths to and of recovery do, it broadens the spectrum of chance, choice, and change and serves persons and families. In early recovery, the first steps are investigation and contemplation. Now there is more to contemplate. Another word to contemplate is one I just learned--gradualism. The goal can be abstinence but a commitment to a process and toward progress should prevail.
William White has written countless papers over the years. A most recent one is titled On the Shoulders of Giants, which honors the addiction treatment and recovery advocacy pioneers and profiles 35 people upon whose shoulders the infrastructure of our field stands. Among names I recognize are Bill Wilson, Jimmy Kinnon, and Jean Kilpatrick, founders of AA, NA, and Women in Sobriety, respectively. There are the more recent prominent pioneers such as Lillian Roth, 1910-1980, and Jason Robards, 1922-2000, who Bill says,
Challenged prevailing stereotypes about addiction and addiction recovery through public disclosure of their own recovery stories.
Names I learned early on were the policy advocates who politically nurtured the birth and evolution of modern addiction understanding (e.g., Marty Mann, 1904-1980, Senator Harold Hughes, 1922-1996, Senator Paul Wellstone, 1944-2002). I met Senator Wellstone and Betty Ford. I have maintained connections and associations “Beyond Betty” over the years. They include the Betty Ford Center, Hazelden, and the Children’s program. Bill White, whose shoulders I have perched on, said with gratitude to the many of those,
Who stretched my mind, mentored my work, and showed me by their example how to conduct one’s life in this unique service ministry.
I am personally grateful and so should the millions in active and sustained recovery be what for may be termed the grateful deeds of the pioneers and present advocates in the recovery movement.
There is no vaccine for addiction. However, choosing a path to recovery and choosing to be vaccinated for COVID both lead to health, well-being, and peace of mind. Both serve the person, family, and community.
November is gratitude month and as it ends, we look forward to the next holidays. Though some don’t do deities, there is a Christ in Christmas. It is a time of caring and sharing. As I once read and wrote, before the sermon on the mount, Jesus was reported to have said;
If you don’t believe in me, believe in what I teach.
One of those teachings called for us to love one another. Happy Holidays, from The Purpose of Recovery Team.
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