Advocacy

Unite To Face Addiction is Recovery’s Moment

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Here’s a startling image: Every four minutes, someone (usually a young person) dies as a result of addiction–the equivalent of a jumbo jet falling from the sky every day with no survivors.

Tragically, as we’re all too aware from scenes of the crash of Lufthansa Airbus A320, airplane passengers have no control in situations like what happened in the Alps.

But addiction deaths are preventable. That’s right. No one has to die from addiction.

Yet, the leading cause of death among young people is accidental overdose, surpassing car fatalities and homicides.

Everyone knows the war on drugs failed.

America tried everything. We passed tougher laws. We built new prisons for drug offenders. We repeated the mantra, Just say no.

Fortunately, there is a solution. When it comes to preventing and intervening in addiction and in supporting treatment and recovery, lots and lots of good things are happening.

Here are three:

1) After nearly a decade of battling for a sober high school in New York City, actress and activist Kristen Johnston’s SLAM organization (Sobriety, Learning, and Motivation) finally gets its wish. SLAM recently announced a new collaboration with a public school in Staten Island “to take the extraordinary step of implementing an intensive recovery program specific to the many teens in NYC seeking recovery from drugs or alcohol.”

2)  Mainstream media is calling out alcohol advertisers, saying they should self-regulate advertising just as the tobacco industry does. A report in JAMA Pediatrics concluded that seeing or watching alcohol ads helps move kids toward their first experiences with alcohol. Can you just say, NO!

3) More bloggers and online journalists are telling incredible stories of recovery, like my friend Cathy Taughinbaugh. Cathy recently published a guest post by Elizabeth Garrison who lived through teenage addiction, faced prison time and now has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

There are hundreds of thousands more stories of grand accomplishment. Unfortunately, most of these stories are minimized rather than celebrated, but then addiction is often minimized even as our kids and young people are dying in droves.

Unite To Face Addiction

We need an alternative. We need a sweeping, new approach of EPIC proportions. 

Praise God, there is one on the horizon.

With a little luck and a whole lot of elbow grease, you’ll hear about Unite To Face Addiction in the coming months. Here are the Cliff Notes:

A new collaborative group called Facing Addiction has developed a pretty incredible strategic plan, comprehensive in scope, to address the nation’s addiction crisis. Facing Addiction consists of members from the worlds of business, science, public policy, medical and community leaders.

Their kick-off event is Unite To Face Addiction–a major musical celebration and rally that will happen on The National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the weekend of October 3-4. They’re expecting more than 100,000 people and, knowing some of the principle partners of Facing Addiction, I have no doubt  those numbers will swell.

I know I’ll be there. You won’t be able to keep me away. Why?

Because I’ve never felt such hope that we’re teetering on the tipping point of solving our nation’s Number One health crisis of addiction.

Remember the AIDS Quilt and what it did for changing the perception around HIV/AIDS?

The AIDS Quilt was displayed on The National Mall in 1987. Since then, billions of dollars have changed the course of the movement and people today live much differently with the disease than they did in the 1980s.

This is the recovery movement’s Quilt Moment. Won’t you join us? Receive updates by signing up here and check out Facing Addiction on Facebook and Twitter. And please, share with your friends!

A Christmas Gift: Recovery Carrier Bill White

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On the last Thursday of each of the preceding 11 months, the B Here Today Recovery Carrier post has started with these words:

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.” (www.williamwhitepapers.com, 2012)

Today, on a day traditionally set aside for celebrations of love and giving, here is my Christmas gift to you: A collection of thoughts and writings from the consummate Recovery Carrier and muse for this series, Bill White.

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Me with Bill White

Recovery is contagious, and as one who attended the St. Paul, MN, gathering of new recovery advocates and carriers in 2001, I’m proud to help spread the infection of recovery. Thank you, Bill, for your decades of passionate service.

I hope you, dear readers, enjoy the remainder of this holiday season.  May it bring you peace and prosperity, joy and love.

From Bill’s essay, “Recovery Carriers”:

Addiction recovery is often caught before it is chosen—meaning that one can get swept up in recovery in a process as unplanned and as irrational as how one got caught up in addiction.

Catching recovery involves exposure to people in recovery with whom one can identify and who serve as catalysts of personal change.

I don’t think this is something you can decide to be. It is rather something that emerges within some people out of the very process of recovery or from experiencing what Ernie Kurtz (1996) described as their “own dark night of the soul.”

From the keynote address at the NorthEast Treatment Centers 40th anniversary celebration in Philadelphia in 2010:

Addiction is a disease of exposure—a collision between personal vulnerability and social opportunity.

My message is a simple one: Recovery is contagious.

As a culture, we have recognized this process of social contagion. We have long referred to surges in alcohol and other drug problems as epidemics—a term most often applied to communicable diseases.

The contagion of addiction is transmitted through a process of infection—the movement of addiction disease from one vulnerable person to another.

Addiction is visible everywhere in this culture, but the transformative power of recovery is hidden behind closed doors.

From Amplification of Remarks to the Association of Recovery Community Organizations at Faces & Voices of Recovery Executive Directors Leadership Academy Dallas, TX, November 15, 2013:

Recovery is contagious. This phrase suggests that recovery can be “caught”—interpersonally transmitted—before it is chosen. Recovery is spread through exposure to recovery carriers (“wounded healers”)—people who make recovery infectious through their persona and their love and service to those still suffering. Positing the contagiousness of recovery counters the ideas that people must “hit bottom” before recovery is possible and that family and community are powerless to affect addiction until the addicted person is “ready” for recovery. This notion of contagiousness suggests quite the opposite: that recovery initiation has as much to do with hope as with pain, and that hope can be elicited through interpersonal encounters with people living vibrant, meaningful lives in recovery.

Thank you, Bill, for your words, ideas, thoughts and expressions of faith in this thing we call recovery. Our field, as well as all those in recovery who call you friend, are blessed by your work.

Please share this post widely on social media; each time you do, you keep the conversation about recovery alive and well. Holiday blessings to you and yours!

Photo courtesy of pippalou 

Meet Recovery Carrier Becky Vance

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When it comes to recovery-related issues, Becky Vance is one of the most passionate people you’ll ever meet. We met nearly 10 years ago while working on the field services team for The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, then known as The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Our lives have changed drastically since 2005: while neither of us works at The Partnership any longer, we still live and work and breathe recovery–as a couple. Having Becky as the November Recovery Carrier not only honors the professional work she does, but expresses my loving gratitude for the many ways she models recovery for me in our daily lives together.

This is the 11th 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.” (www.williamwhitepapers.com, 2012)

When you hear the term “recovery carrier,” as it relates to addiction, what does that mean to you? Do you think you’re a recovery carrier?

A recovery carrier is someone who is not afraid to share the miracle of her own recovery with anyone. In fact, she is always looking for new opportunities to share her story withBvanceRally others, because she knows others will pass it on. Yes, I believe in my heart that I am a recovery carrier. People often tell me that my passion for recovery is infectious and I love that! I even joke that I am the poster child for recovery; if you think about it, that’s really true, at least to the people I meet that haven’t been exposed to recovery.

What makes you uniquely qualified to do the work you do?

It may sound kind of weird but I believe that God selected me to share this message of recovery. I did not wake up one day and say “I think I’ll share my recovery story at a breakfast of 100 corporate leaders to help promote the value of drug-free workplace programs.” Not at a time when I had a huge fear of public speaking! That particular event, which we called “Sex, Lies and Drugs in the Workplace,” turned out to be a sentinel event for me, and was the launching pad for the work I do today.

As a result of saying “yes” to sharing my story outside of a 12-Step meeting, which was absolutely terrifying to me at the time, I’ve been able to touch more lives than I could ever imagine.

Tell me how your personal story fits into why you do your work.

Maybe a better question is, How do you carry the message of recovery in your work life? I have been truly blessed for the past 26 years to have jobs that allowed me to share my recovery story with literally thousands of people.

(To read more of Becky’s interview, click Becky Vance 11-14)

Photo courtesy of AcrylicArtist

Mindful People in Recovery Manifesto: Free!

People are writing all kinds of manifestos these days. Lifehack.org even published a cool post called “10 Insanely Awesome Inspirational Manifestos” that includes several worthy of emulation. But please finish reading here before you click away . . .

By definition, a manifesto is a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.

I’ve held a vision for this blog since its inception in May of 2010–to share and explore how mindfulness and presence lead to a happier life. It’s a pretty simple mission.

Somewhere along the line I began to incorporate a recovery theme too and for a while split the posts between the two themes. But I soon began to feel like a house divided because I thought I was writing for two different audiences.

Wait. Don’t mindfulness and recovery naturally go together?

This past summer, a spiritual two-by-four smacked against my head. GUS (God-Universe-Spirit) had my attention. Ow.

Anybody who lives on a successful recovery path is mindful and anyone who is mindful has the ability to recover from anything.

Oreo cookie, anyone?

I began to watch people in recovery and easily noticed that people who were mostly happy, joyous and free from worry and fear had some sort of mindful practice.

Conversely, people with a well-developed sense of mindful presence tended to rather easily bounce back from life’s more shitty moments. They recovered from a mental, spiritual or physical deficiency with grace and dignity. I’ve witnessed that too.

Getting back to the Manifesto

Then I made another observation. Mindful people tend to intuitively know how to bounce back. Their faith is instinctual so they have at least an idea of where to turn for help or who to consult to start the process.

But with people new to recovery, the concept of mindfulness is foreign; therefore practicing presence is like teaching a rescued stray greyhound who’s only known homelessness how to play with dog toys. So what if the hedgehog squeaks?

The Mindful People in Recovery Manifesto is that squeaky hedgehog toy.

The MPR Manifesto is a terrific summarized reminder of the truths of recovery for those in long-term recovery as well.

If it resonates with you, I’d love it if you’d tell your friends, your colleagues, and anyone you know in recovery about the MPR Manifesto. Post it on your bathroom mirror, next to your computer or on your refrigerator. Share please with your social media connections.

Let’s start a Mindful People in Recovery Revolution. Let’s advocate for the continued Oreo-cookie connection between mindfulness and recovery. But please don’t dunk the Manifesto. It’s not milk proof.

The MPR Manifesto

Here is your free copy to download. And don’t forget to share on social media!

Photo courtesy of Penywise

#RightsForRecovery: Advocacy in Texas

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There’s something rotten in the city of Plano, TX.

The neighborhood around Bentley Place, a transitional living home for men in long-term recovery from substance use disorders, stinks with NIMBY–Not In My Back Yard. Worse, city officials are breaking laws of decency and humanity instead of enforcing them as they turn their collective heads and close their small minds.

The owner of Bentley Place, Michelle Adams, its residents, and their landlord are under attack.

Citywide ignorance

Neighbors have made false allegations of drug deals. City officials have harassed neighbors by going door-to-door at all hours gathering information about so-called wrongdoings.  Police are following up on complaints when cars are not parked the exact distance from a curb.

The Narcotics Division even paid a visit to the house (no drugs on the property!) and, finally, there has been the threat of a lawsuit against the landlord.

Why? Because neighbors, and apparently the city of Plano, are misinformed about people in long-term recovery. For the moment at least, they would rather intimidate and discriminate than receive education about how recovery works.

Michelle hopes to quietly change their perceptions. She wants to make a difference in the neighborhood; she’s all about education, information and collaboration. Michelle wants folks to know that people with substance use disorders can and do lead lives in recovery on par with the daily lives of Bentley Place neighbors–but they need help getting there.

Federal fair housing laws

At Bentley Place, and hundreds of other recovery houses across the country–people in recovery regain their lives under protection afforded by federal fair housing laws. These residents meet house expectations that they’ll get jobs, tend to their chosen recovery path, share household duties and above all, maintain their recovery.

Michelle, herself in long-term recovery, knows first-hand what it’s like to feel the unsavory weight of discrimination. When she left prison after serving 13 months for three felony drug charges, she couldn’t get an apartment in her name.

“I decided at that point I never wanted to see another woman with the look in her eyes that I had,” Michelle said.

It wasn’t long before she opened her first recovery residence–Recovery Inn for women–in 2008.

Ironically, she had help from the Small Business Development Center in Plano. Michelle also brokered a mentoring arrangement between her residents and students and professors of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and with members of St. Andrew United Methodist Church, also located in Plano.

Organizing peaceful support

Michelle has no interest in retaliation against her Plano neighbors. Instead, she and Young People in Recovery-Texas, will hold a large-scale vigil this Saturday in support of all recovery residences dealing with discrimination and harassment from the communities charged by federal mandate to protect them.

“This organization of support isn’t to combat the city or the neighbors–it’s to educate and inform,” says Robert Ashford, chapter lead and board member Young People in Recovery. “Protesting is often about anger and violence; rallying for recovery is something different, something more. We are lending our voices to those who need to be empowered, joining with them to educate those who seem to be heartily misinformed about what recovery is, and what it looks like.”

In addition to the local event, satellite locations will set up in San Antonio, Lubbock, Houston, and Austin. This case will be watched closely by recovery advocates across the country.

Why should you care?

You should care about Bentley Place because its mistreatment symbolizes the agony of discrimination felt by people in recovery every time they can’t get a job or insurance–or a place to live.

Society–including neighborhoods and cities–should see to it that its citizens get every ounce of support they need. People in transitional recovery homes are our sons and daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, siblings, coworkers, pew mates and fellow Rotarians.

Would we treat the people within the walls of our home the way the folks at Bentley Place are being treated? Of course not. So let’s extend a hand of compassion and an arm of support.

As Michelle says, “Let’s all row our boats in the same direction.”

If you’re local to Dallas/Ft. Worth, come out on Saturday night to 4021 Carmichael Dr., Plano TX 75024, at 7 p.m. Don’t come early because from 5-7, Michelle and her staff will open their doors to neighbors who do want to learn about recovery or at least get a free cup of coffee and a cookie.

If you can’t be with us in person, please consider supporting the cause on social media using the hashtag #RightsForRecovery.

See you Saturday night!