Advocacy

Facing Addiction in America

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I met U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy last week in Los Angeles during the historic release of his report Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. When I introduced myself as part of the Facing Addiction team, he put a hand on each of my shoulders and said he was honored to work with us and that our organization is doing really good work.

Dr. Murthy is America’s top doc and he’s right. Facing Addiction is doing great work; I too am honored to work for an organization with such heart for getting America’s attention around the issue of solving the addiction crisis in this country.

What happens now?

I love this paragraph from Dr. Murthy’s preface in the report:

How we respond to this crisis is a moral test for America. Are we a nation wiling to take on an epidemic that is causing great human suffering and economic loss? Are we able to live up to that most fundamental obligation we have as human beings: to care for one another?

During this Thanksgiving Week, I wonder if we will remember our obligation to those suffering with, or touched by, addiction. Consider these facts reported by Facing Addiction’s co-founder Greg Williams in his recent Huffington Post blog:

  • Nearly 21 million people suffer from a substance use disorder but only one in 10
    receives treatment—that’s more than one and a half times the number of people who have cancer!
  • In 2015, substance use disorders affected 21 million Americans—approximately one in 12 adults and adolescents.
  • Implementation of evidence-based interventions around substance use disorder can have a benefit of more than $58 for every dollar spent.
  • Substance misuse costs society an estimated $442 billion each year in terms of lost productivity, healthcare costs and criminal justice costs.

Greg writes, “If every person in every community in America would stand up to addiction as they stand up to other major health issues, we would forever shift the way addiction is looked upon in this country. It’s our duty to take this historic moment and make it an enduring turning point for our children and generations to come.”

Indeed, there are walks, runs, ice bucket challenges and all kinds of other awareness-raising gestures for virtually every other health issue with critical needs. Where does addiction fall in the list of critical needs?

Alcohol- and drug-related deaths now surpass car accidents as the number one killer in the nation. When will we be sick and tired of these dubious distinctions?

The time is now. It’s time to join with the Surgeon General and say we’re ready to do whatever our hands and feet, hearts and minds can do.

We’ve seen reports from the Surgeon General’s office that have a major impact on societal change. Fifty years ago, the Surgeon General issued a report on the dangers of smoking and a call to end the tobacco epidemic gripping the nation.

Dr. Murthy issued a similar call to action last Thursday from the Paramount Theater in LA. Now his office is calling for an end to the public health crisis of addiction.

It’s time. Let’s make sure social media is our friend when it comes to spreading the news.

 

White Heron or Range Rover?

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Over the weekend, I was leaving my neighborhood when a majestic white heron, like the one pictured here, flew low across the street in front of my car.

Seconds later, I turned left onto Village Boulevard (speed limit 30 mph, I believe) when a burnt orange Range Rover with out-of-state plates suddenly appeared behind me, swerved around me and zoomed toward the main entrance.

Definitely not neighborhood etiquette, not to mention downright rude! I quickly opened my iPhone camera and tried to snap a pic of the license plate but I was too late.

I was furious! Good thing I was on my way to my regular Saturday morning 12-step meeting.

Then it hit me

Suddenly I realized how the previous 30 seconds was a microcosm of my life.

Two quick moments: Close encounters with a beautiful white heron and a rude driver of an ugly Range Rover–each eliciting strong, instant emotions. Which do I focus on after the moment has passed?

I laughed out loud when I got a mental picture of Little Beth stomping her foot and muttering through clenched teeth, “Range Rover.” But the adult, more expansive me? White heron, of course.

Choosing where to place your focus

You’ve had similar experiences, right? A moment of awe or wonder or thrilling adrenaline? And a second moment–maybe within the “good” one, that is ugly or hurtful or just yucky.

It’s the Cherokee fable about which wolf do you feed?

Your decision is crucial because it sets the tone for what comes next–darkness or light? Kind-hearted or gritchy? Loving or hateful?

In the split second you’re given to make the decision, try to see past your self-focused vision to the people your decision impacts. Your family, children, neighbors, or in my case, the people with whom I shared the suburban streets. Our decisions always have consequences.

James Allen said, “Man is made or unmade by himself. By the right choice he ascends. As a being of power, intelligence, and love, and the lord of his own thoughts, he holds the key to every situation.”

My entire Saturday hinged on the decision I made in the 30-second flash of the white heron and the Range Rover. We make those choices multiple times each day.

Teach yourself to be present to those moments and then choose wisely. Your day, and the days of everyone you encounter hinges on your choice.

Peace to all!

P.S. A quick shameless plug for Facing Addiction and the team on the ground in Cleveland at the Caucus for Addiction Solutions during the Republican National Convention. Catch Facebook Live news coverage and interviews. Next week it’s on Philadelphia to host the Caucus during the Democratic National Convention.

Photo courtesy of AcrylicArtist

25 Years of One Day at a Time

Becky and Me Step-Repeat

Within 25 years, one generation begats the next. A child is born, grows up, graduates college and starts a career.

Twenty five years ago, Tim Berners-Lee introduced the web browser and the internet was made available for unrestricted commercial use. The U.S. was involved in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The 911 emergency system was tested in northwestern cities.

On May 20, 1991, in Independence, Mo, I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and made a decision to try to stay sober one day at a time. I was 30 years old and had no idea what was in store for me. All I knew was something had to change–if it didn’t I would probably kill myself.

Fast forward 25 years

Anyone who invests in his or her recovery eventually stumbles upon a milestone. Gosh, I sure didn’t know one would arrive so quickly!

Early on, there were things I had to do to stay sober. I worked with a sponsor, went to a ton of 12-step meetings, read literature and got involved in service work. Generally, I did what I was told because that’s how it worked for millions before me.

As a few years piled up, life got better and I grew more comfortable living life without alcohol. I found out that people who drink socially didn’t really understand alcoholism or its basis in medical conditions. Friends and people close to me fell away, or at a minimum held me at arm’s length, never quite sure what to make of me.

People didn’t talk about addiction back then, not outside of church basements and smoky meeting rooms. No, 25 years ago, the public talked about “those people who could quit if they really wanted to.”

Today, thankfully, we’ve made much progress when it comes to seeing addiction as a treatable health condition. The world of recovery has changed a bit for the better, although we have a long, long way to go in ridding the collective public mind of reasons to shame “those people.”

The next 25 years and beyond

There is still so much to be done because only one out of 10 people who needs treatment for addiction gets it. Someone dies every four minutes in this country.

Think about that for a second–every four minutes. That’s about 350 people each day. Then think of a fully-loaded airplane falling from the sky every day in America. Every single day.

On October 4, 2015, more than 25,000 of us staked a claim in the soggy ground around the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital. We were UNITE to Face Addiction and on that day, we ended the silence around how we treat addiction in this country.

I’m privileged to work with Facing Addiction, the national non-profit birthed on that muddy day in DC. We want to reduce the human and social costs of addiction year-by-year until this devastating public health crisis ends.

You see, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve spent the last 20 years working in the field of prevention, treatment and recovery and I’ve always been pretty open about my recovery. Now, at 25 years of sober time and 55 years on the planet, I’m through hiding anything about who I am.

Now it’s time to figure out how I can really be of service. I’m talking big picture, as in, what’s my purpose, why am I here and how can I best be of service? Not small questions, to be sure, but I think I’m up to the task of finding the answers.

One day at a time that is.

Membership Program Answers “What’s Next?”

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After we threw a big party–the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally–for 25,000 at the base of the Washington Monument on October 4, people asked, “What’s next?”

Yesterday, Facing Addiction answered the question in a big way: What’s next is a national membership program that challenges how Americans deal with addiction.

I can say we because I write a lot of digital content for Facing Addiction. I can say deal with because the work will be comprehensive when it comes to shifting prevailing attitudes and beliefs around each and every aspect of our nation’s #1 health crisis. You can read more in co-founder Jim Hood’s article here.

Getting to work

Following the Rally in DC, we–or speaking for myself, I–sat in this space of feeling blown away by the event we pulled off. I mean, seriously, who does a first-time, national event in the non-profit world with Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, The Fray, and a bunch of actors and politicians?

Here’s the video recap (by the way, the guy in the military suit is the US surgeon general!):

Here’s the thing: people are paying attention. The ears of big-time influencers are perked up, intrigue is at an all-time high and Facing Addiction’s co-founders are meeting daily with people whose names would blow your mind. Mine gets blown on a regular basis and I’ve been involved for nearly a year!

Then there’s the work. We’re not slouching in the ambition department, folks. If you’re plugged into B Here Today socially, you’ll see references to the different target areas of Facing Addiction’s work throughout the remainder of the year. For a more detailed list of those areas, click here.

By the way, that link will also introduce you to the Become a Member page.

Membership in Facing Addiction

The comprehensive approach that Facing Addiction is taking to building programs and solutions to the addiction crisis will take an unfathomable amount of money. So, yes, your money is needed. But more than that, you are needed.

Your voice is needed. Your heart is needed. Your belief that we can become a branded organization that stands with the likes of the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association is needed.

Membership in Facing Addiction provides an opportunity that is rare in today’s “take your money and run” national non-profit world.  Parts of this membership package allow you access to unprecedented moments in history.

Don’t you want to own a part of the mission that completely reshapes how addiction and recovery are perceived? That shifts the problem from the halls of criminal justice to the hallways of healthcare facilities?Membership in Facing Addiction is all this and more!

Plus you get a t-shirt.

When my mom died of cancer more than five years ago, my family knew where to go for answers to impossible questions.

When it comes to addiction, the questions also seem impossible to answer. Facing Addiction is primed for the mission. We still need you! Sign up for membership today!

How to Be Mindful With Your Small Screens

La Jolla coastline

I read recently that awareness is a vast reservoir that holds each idea that stems from our outer selves–what we see, hear, taste, smell and touch–and from our inner selves–all things we feel and believe.

Because awareness is the big vat that holds it all, everything swirls together so that all awareness is equal. In other words, you can be aware that you’re seeing a beautiful sunset and be aware that you’re feeling peaceful and happy about seeing a beautiful sunset.

I’ve been wondering lately about whether compulsive social media use–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram–can filter awareness, or worse, block mindfulness.

Looking through a camera lens

My sweetie and I took a few days off last week and traveled to the Pacific coastal village of La Jolla, Calif. It’s one of our favorite places, probably because we met there 10 years ago. The seals and sea lions, massive cliffs with walk-through caves and the magenta sunsets hold a special place in our hearts.

I love watching the intense power of the sea as it crashes against the cliffs. The swirling white foam reminds of La Jolla foammarshmallow Fluff oozing over chocolate ice cream–my favorite sundae!

Of course I took lots of pictures with my iPhone. At some point, though, I became aware that by watching the phone’s screen to time a perfect picture, I missed watching the perfect timing on nature’s big screen.

By watching your phone's screen to time a perfect picture, you can miss the perfect timing on nature's big screen.… Click To Tweet

I had a similar experience last month at the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally in Washington, DC. Part of my job was to live-Tweet and Facebook the event–an incredible experience that I loved! But busily typing tweets (again, on a small screen) took my focus off the immediacy of the event.

I’m not complaining, but–here’s the awareness thing–I feel a smidge less mindful.

How do we find balance?

The Catch-22 for me, when it comes to social media, is that much of the work that I do in the addiction recovery and advocacy space involves being present to online activity and then responding. Nothing wrong with that.

I know I’m off-kilter and over-consuming when I find myself mindlessly cruising social feeds while waiting at an appointment, in line at the grocery-store, or (gasp!) stopped in traffic. No, I’m definitely not present in those moments.

I also know I’m overly focused on the small screen when I’m supposed to do something else, like a writing project, or journaling or some recovery work, and instead, I’m scrolling through Facebook.

Ah yes, we’re all guilty from time to time, and this post isn’t about shaming anybody, not even myself. What I do want to suggest is that you become more aware of how you may be putting filters between you and whatever your big screen happens to be.

There is a way for mindfulness and social media to coexist. The key word is awareness. Being aware and feeling aware keeps you conscious, mindful and connected to Life’s Big Screen. Here’s to beautiful scenery!