Meet Recovery Carrier Robert Ashford

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I’ve had the pleasure of working with Young People in Recovery (YPR) and getting to know several young people who not only live successful recovery lives, but also dedicate much of their time to advocating for recovery. This month’s Recovery Carrier epitomizes the meaning of both. Only 26 years old, Robert Ashford has poise, determination and a singular vision envied by people twice his age.

This is the 10th post in this Recovery Carrier series.

William White defines recovery carriers as “people, usually in recovery, who make recovery infectious to those around them by their openness about their recovery experiences, their quality of life and character, and the compassion they exhibit for those still suffering.” (, 2012)

Before we talk about recovery advocacy and recovery carriers, let’s talk a bit about the current recovery movement and what it looks like to you. 

I believe this is actually the third recovery movement. If you look at history, there was something missing in the first two and is the reason why those movements died out (described in detail in the documentary The Anonymous People).

The first two movements were not grassroots—this one is—and the first two didn’t have young people. HRDA HS 1 226x300 Meet Recovery Carrier Robert Ashfordaving young people as a part of the movement and getting more young people engaged, the movement will sustain itself. Guys like me can still be involved 50 years from now, but we need young people continuing to show young people that recovery is a good thing.

Not only are young people creating sustainability because we’re going to be around longer but we’re allowing people to not spend 20 or 30 years in active use because they’re seeing people like themselves recover.

I think we’re in a perfect storm to finally get it right.

When you hear the term recovery carrier, what does that mean to you?

I think of a virus. If I have this thing, am I carrying it to other people? I think back to Day 57 of my recovery when I found out about Young People in Recovery (YPR), became empowered in my recovery and realized the importance of not only telling my recovery story but what that could do for others.

People have to know the message of recovery, that it’s not just abstinence. I’m a whole-hearted believer in all pathways to recovery. There are a lot of roads that lead to Rome. You just have to find the road for you. It doesn’t matter which road you pick.

Telling people—especially young people—that there are tons of different options, gives them hope because they don’t know that. Having addiction means you lose your humanity, which means you’ve lost your hope. Carrying the message of recovery means you’re giving young people hope again and helping restore their humanity. Or at least you’ve started the process.

Are you a recovery carrier?

Yes because somebody was for me. If I hadn’t become empowered by YPR, if I hadn’t gotten the message of recovery—what it meant and what it could be—then I wouldn’t be here today. It is as important as my 12-step program. I’ll say that flat out.

(To read more of Robert’s interview, click Robert Ashford 10-14.)

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Recovery Language: Fuel for Positive Change

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Last week I posted about the power of recovery. This week, let’s dig a little deeper to focus on the language of recovery and how it is power fuel for positive change.

Greg Williams said in a recent interview with The Bubble Hour:

“I deeply, deeply believe that changing our language will change everything. Public policy is driven by public perception and public perception is based on how we think and how we talk about people.”

Why is language important?

Words matter. Anytime you start a sentence with I am, you define yourself by the words that finish the sentence. @bheretoday (Click to Tweet)

Say these two sentences aloud:

I am a recovering addict.

I am a person in longterm recovery.

Two things about the first sentence: 1) “Recovering” implies that a person continues to use drugs or alcohol, at least in the public’s mind, and 2) “Addict” is a negative, stigmatized word.

However, the second sentence–I am a person in longterm recovery–is considered person-first language. Plus, shifting from recovering to longterm recovery, moves public assumptions from current use to past use.

Believe me, this is not just about semantics or “tomato/tomahto.”

Recovery Community Messaging Training produced by Faces & Voices of Recovery emphasizes that we have to define our recovery because the public doesn’t understand it.  We need to say “longterm” because we need to describe that our recovery is ongoing.

When should you use recovery language?

Anytime, anywhere because the more you talk about recovery in a positive light–and share how recovery has improved your life–the recovery movement takes a step forward.

According to the Messaging Training, some words with a negative connotation are:

Survivor, addict, alcoholic, self-help, abuse or abuser, as in she abuses alcohol or he is a drug abuser.

Also, and this may surprise many people–you shouldn’t refer to addiction as a disease or as a health problem because that sets you up for a debate and takes the focus off recovery.

As you think about the circumstances where you might share your recovery–with family, workmates, neighbors, or in the media–consider this a reminder that you won’t break 12-step traditions about anonymity so long as you don’t refer to your 12-step affiliation. If you have any question at all about anonymity and advocacy, there’s a wonderful pamphlet that will answer all your questions.  Click here.

Create positive change

Ultimately, this new language and the telling of our stories will catalyze local and national change. The problem we’re addressing, as seen by the recovery messaging training, is four-fold:

  • Need more opportunities for people to achieve long-term recovery
  • Need more effective treatment and recovery support services
  • There are discriminatory policies
  • The public and policymakers don’t know about the reality of recovery

However, proper messaging by a growing group of individuals will address the solution:

  • A strong national recovery movement organized at the local, state and federal levels
  • Putting a face and a voice on recovery to break down misperceptions that will change attitudes (stigma)
  • Advocating to change policies (discrimination)

I’ll leave you with a thought from William White, author and recovery advocate:

I urge you to participate in these discussions and debates about language. This is not about superficial political correctness. It is about the future of recovery in America. It is time we embraced a new language that helps us talk about how we heal ourselves, our families and our communities. It is time we as a country abandoned a rhetoric that declares war on our own people.”

Photo courtesy of xenia

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9 Affirmations to Open Your Heart

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My body is talking to me; yours is too. The question is–are you listening? How can you and I listen to the cues our internal selves push to the external?

I’m convinced we listen with our hearts. I don’t know about you but I’m occasionally guilty of allowing things to block my heart.

Things like moving too fast through my days, not nurturing my body, not caring for my soul and just plowing on like doing is much more important than being.

Money worries get in the way if I allow it.  And I’ve been allowing. Push, then push some more.

How can I make more money? How many more clients do I need?

Sometimes I catch myself working for money instead of working to serve others. I’ve been guilty of writing for money instead of writing for others.

Priorities askew, once again, and my body keeps talking.

My blood pressure is too high and there’s something going on with my kidneys that has to do with not properly releasing toxins. What? Me not let go of something?

Within the last few days, my heart started listening, though. Awareness is a powerful motivator (as is fear!) Listening requires a partnership with action, I think. When action follows awareness, or listening, then change is inevitable.

Part of my process for change includes affirmations. They always seem to help my heart listen.

I uncovered these nine simple thoughts a few days ago and they seem to help settle me; maybe they’ll do the same for you if you’re dealing with a life challenge.

I have faith that divine order is working in my life.

Love is my nature, so I let love stream forth.

With God-given vision, I perceive good and bring it to reality.

I abstain from my ego’s false perceptions.

The good I seek is looking for me.

I am a radiant point of light.

I let my thoughts be love intentions.

Today, I judge no thing and no one. 

Be here, find peace in recovery. (You may notice that’s the new tag line for this blog–check out the header!)

Do you use affirmations when times are tough? Do you have a favorite? Please share! And I’d love it if you’d share this post on social media links below.

Photo courtesy of behakboo42

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How to Share the Power of Recovery

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I now know that I went about telling my family I was in recovery from alcoholism in all the wrong ways.

No wonder they looked so baffled, confused and even a little angry.

How I wish I had known then about recovery messaging and the power of using the right words and ideas when it comes to speaking to my family, friends, employer and my community.

I thought everyone would be ecstatic that I was no longer drinking.

Turns out it wasn’t quite that simple. Had I made my story about all the good things that were happening as a result of entering recovery and stabilizing my life, instead of focusing on how I would no longer be a train wreck in others’ lives, people may have understood better.

The good news is it’s never too late to share the power of recovery

Does anybody besides the recovery community care about recovery, let alone how powerful it is? As a matter of fact, research by Faces & Voices of Recovery reports that yes, the public does care; in fact:

  • A majority (67%) believe that there is a stigma toward people in recovery
  • A majority (74%) say that attitudes & policies must change

People want to know about recovery! That second stat? That 74% want to see change in policies like access to treatment for people with addiction? I find that so damned exciting!

The thing to remember is there’s a right way and a not-so-helpful way for those of us in recovery to approach the telling our stories.

The not-so-helpful way is to focus on your addiction. In my case, it was me wrongly describing to anyone who would listen how I would no longer be an 80-mph train barreling through my loved ones’ lives. Or me constantly saying things like, “Oh you know, that’s what I did when I’d had 12 Bacardi and Cokes!”

The right way is to focus on the stability of recovery, on the great things that have happened in your life as a result of recovery.

So what does all this mean in the big scheme of things?

Let me back up for a second. When I talk about delivering a message, I’m talking about sharing your story with family, friends, neighbors, the person next to you on the train, your pew-mates at church, the person in line with you at the grocery store, and definitely, the media, if that’s something you’d like to do.

The message is shaped, of course, depending on your audience, but for the most part, it’s the same content.

Do people in recovery want others to know that people with addiction get well?

Again, referring to the Faces & Voices study, 88% of people in recovery believe it’s important for the public to see that thousands of people get well every year. That’s a pretty impressive number for a community that is supposedly anonymous, isn’t it?

Here’s something for you to wrap your mind around: You’re not telling your story for you.

Even when you’re having a one-on-one conversation with your next door neighbor, you’re representing the recovery movement. The chat you have may very well change the thinking and impact the actions of another person attached to your neighbor.

Our purpose is to create opportunities for others by sharing the news of how recovery kicks ass in our lives. @bheretoday (Click to tweet!)

I’ll leave you with this: Five years ago, with 18 years of recovery, I embarked on an odyssey that changed everything about my life except my recovery. All the bold and scary-as-hell steps I’ve taken since late 2009 brought me to an understanding that I must participate in the New Recovery Advocacy Movement.

You see, it’s because of recovery that I participate in recovery. And now my life is all about living the dream so that maybe, just maybe, someone else can too.

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Are You Praying to the Devil?

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For those of us who enter recovery through 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, or through treatment centers steeped in the 12-steps, we’re told that we’ll come to believe in a power greater than ourselves (Step 2).

That is, belief will come as a result of allowing concepts like powerlessness and unmanageability into our foggy brains.

Later as we work through successive steps, sponsors and others tell us that we get to choose our concept of a higher power. We can even name it, if we want (I eventually chose GUS for God-Universe-Spirit).

You may have struggled, like I did, with the whole “God thing,” based on childhood drama around the church. Now, my mission here is definitely not to diss anybody’s past or present beliefs. I will say, however, that in more than 3,500 12-step meetings when the topic of God is raised, I’ve listened to people inevitably talk about the challenge of aligning their childhood idea of God with their recovery concept of God.

If you stick around the rooms of recovery long enough, you’ll find out two things:

1. Although most people call God, God, nobody really cares what you call your HP.  2. By and large, everybody who holds an HP close to their heart, believes that HP is an all-loving, all-caring, all-nurturing entity.

So here’s a question, if you believe that God (insert your term) is absolute love, complete goodness and wants only the best for you, what happens when crappy stuff happens?

Does the devil answer prayers?

I’m a huge fan of Rev. Ed Townley, a Unity minister in North Carolina, who writes a daily message by way of email. Last month, he wrote about a woman who was down on her luck. From his post:

“There was a general energy of sympathy and self-recognition in the room. But then she said something that made me sit up sharply. ‘I pray. Of course,’ the woman said, ‘but even then, I have to be careful. I believe that sometimes the devil answers prayer!'”

Like Rev. Ed, my beliefs are rooted in New Thought, meaning we are all expressions of God’s divine love and that God has no opposing team headed up by the devil.

Thoughts are prayers

It’s easy to credit God with providing supreme direction when things are going well. You should give yourself credit too because chances are you’re a positive thinker, a glass-half-full kind of person.

In the spirit of New Thought beliefs, those positive thoughts are prayers. Called affirmative prayer, you hold what you desire close to your thoughts, or as we say, “thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.”

Obviously, positive thoughts do have an opposite but the principle remains the same. When we focus on negativity, when we adopt a “yeah, but” attitude because we’re sure the worst thing will happen, we are siding with the devil.

How you ask? As Rev. Ed says, by misusing our power.

“We make choices that create fear instead of love,” he explains. “And then we use those fears that we have created to justify the creation of more fears, until our minds are filled with a whole mass of negative energy that believes in itself.

“We bring more of that fear into tangible expression,” Rev. Ed continues. “So in a very real sense, we could say that Satan is answering our fear-based demands for more negativity.”

The moral of this story? Stay positive or you may find yourself praying to the devil!

Photo courtesy of MGDboston

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