Advocacy

Recovery Movement Needs a HUGE Megaphone!

file0001719225336My sweetie and I are just back from Austin, Texas, site of the Big Texas Rally for Recovery on Saturday preceded by a showing of The Anonymous People at the University of Texas School of Social Work on Friday night.

While chatting with TAP’s filmmaker, Greg Williams, and several other people in recovery, we heard there might be 500 people on the south side of the Capitol building Saturday afternoon. Cool, we thought, the rain will clear out by then and we will rock this place!

Well, the rain didn’t clear and to say there were a few hundred people huddled under umbrellas would be generous. But, as more than one person said, “The rain didn’t stop us when our addictions were active so why would the rain stop us now that we’re in recovery?”

Speaking out for recovery

Standing in the rain, watching the crowd, seeing some celebrities (Yes, I did get a hug from former Miss USA and recovery advocate Tara Conner!), I felt affirmed one more time that I’m in the right place at the right time.

Every time I get a chance to tell someone I’m in long-term recovery from addiction, that I haven’t had any alcohol or marijuana since May of 1991, and then explain specifically why my life in recovery is so good, I’m speaking out for the whole of recovery.

In fact, my sweetie and I had a nice explanatory chat with a photographer from The Austin American Statesman. A nice guy who may think just a bit BsCelebrateRecoveryinTX2014differently about addiction and recovery, and who might even pass along a slice of what he learned to his circle of friends.

Speaking out for recovery is everything from our chat with the photog (or with your doctor, insurance agent or neighbor) to Tara’s interview Saturday morning on Austin’s KXAN TV.

Speaking out for recovery means telling your state and federal legislators how addiction deserves the same treatment opportunities as any other disease. It means letting them know that jailing someone with addiction isn’t the answer to helping him or her get well but that a recovery oriented system of care is the most critical option for success.

We honor ourselves when we speak out for recovery. We show the world that recovery matters because it brings hope and peace into the lives of individuals and their loved ones.

The missing megaphone

The rain doused the ability for speakers to use a microphone at Saturday’s rally. Instead, they did their best to shout at the crowd. Sadly, much of the effect was lost except for those standing nearest the steps.

I was struck by the symbolism of standing on the Capitol steps–where laws affecting addiction recovery in Texas are debated–yelling to be heard. In the 15 or so years since the New Recovery Advocacy Movement began, many, many advocates have felt the frustration of not being heard.

We need a megaphone, folks, both literally and figuratively. Too many people–elected and others–don’t hear us. Our messages are not resonating deeply enough to make an overhauling change in the system.

Yes, we’re making progress, but the movement is too slow. One hundred Americans dies of a drug overdose every day, more than double the number in 1999. “Overdosing  is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, accounting for more deaths than traffic fatalities or gun homicides and suicides,” the Washington Post reported shortly after Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death earlier this year.

I don’t know what it will take for the Recovery Movement to get the attention it deserves, attention that AIDs/HIV, cancer and other causes get. But I do know we have to keep shouting. We have to use our personal megaphones whenever possible.

September is National Recovery Month. Are you using your megaphone?

Photos courtesy of xenia and Jay Janner of The Austin American Statesman

No Ice Buckets, Telethons or Parade Magazine Covers . . . Yet

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Confession time: I’m a little pissed, more than a little pissed, in fact.

Today is September 1, the start of the 25th annual National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, as proclaimed by President Obama. Across the United States, for the entire month, there will be rallies, walks, community gatherings and more proclamations.

But there won’t be ice bucket challenges, weekend televised telethons or Parade Magazine covers.

Please don’t take my pissiness for ambivalence toward the ALS, MDA or cancer-fighting causes. I do care, I care deeply, but I’m jealous that the antidote for the nation’s #1 health crisis–recovery from addiction–gets proclamations instead of prime time.

For now. We’ve made a lot of advocacy headway, in large part thanks to the cross-country tidal wave of Greg Williams’ documentary, The Anonymous People.  Lots and lots of people are speaking out about the hopeful and healing nature of recovery.

While small pockets of folks are starting to get it, we have a long way to go in educating the public about how recovery benefits individuals, families, communities and our entire social structure.

And that’s enough of my rant; it’s only half of my reason for posting today.

How does recovery benefit you?

While there is a national and worldwide push for recovery advocacy that is good and necessary to coalesce one voice (with talking points, thank you, Lisa Frederiksen!), at B Here Today, we’re more interested in your recovery and what brings you peace in recovery.

Starting with today’s post, the scope of B Here Today will shift slightly. If you’ve followed for a while, you’ve noticed that Monday’s posts have a theme of being present and mindful, while Thursday’s posts are dedicated to a recovery theme.

Beginning today, we’re melding the two because we believe that solid recovery is steeped in presence and mindfulness.  

When a person is open to a holistic approach to recovery, she or he will find peace in recovery. @bheretoday (Click to Tweet!)

There is no singular, correct approach to recovery and B Here Today supports whatever brings an individual to  joy and peace. The sky’s the limit on future post topics and while there may be an occasional post about a treatment center’s program, we’re not endorsing that particular treatment center.

The “new” B Here Today

We want your involvement in shaping our 2.0 edition of the blog. Please share your successes and set-backs in recovery. Ultimately, we’ll connect the information here with our social media sites to create a distinct and ongoing conversation about this idea of holistic recovery.

One thing to note: because addiction is a grim brain disease, by necessity there will be articles about the realities of the disease. You might see a post commentary after a celebrity death or after a stark example of stigma and discrimination.

If you have ideas for articles or would like to guest post, please send an email to me at beth@bheretoday.com. Over the next few weeks, you’ll notice some adjustments to the B Here Today site, all supporting the melded theme. Change is good, especially when followed by bold action (learned that one from Tess Marshall!)

Please be in touch with your suggestions and ideas about peaceful recovery through mindful living. Happy Recovery Month!

Meet Recovery Carrier Denise Mariano

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Today’s post is the eighth in a series of interviews with folks I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and/or working with. These people embody a true life of recovery from addiction. There are some–like thousands of others–who live recovery publicly, yet quietly. This month’s Recovery Carrier shies away from the limelight but spends countless hours volunteering to make her community, her state and her nation aware that recovery is possible, available and desirable. Please enjoy this conversation with Denise Mariano. 

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?

There are countless definitions of recovery; however, my vision is that recovery is all in the journey to a better you. It’s about the small steps coming together to make change whether it is in yourself or another. I truly feel recovery is a productive process that grows through hope, personal will and freedom. While not in recovery from addiction myself, I doBeth Denise think that my journey and my family’s experience have allowed me to become a recovery carrier by nature. My hope is that sharing my story will provide that product of hope to another.

What prompted you to begin the massive amount of volunteering and advocacy work that you do? Can you tell us a little bit about some of the projects?

My volunteering and advocacy developed over time. I never intended or had a plan of hitting the pavement with a goal in mind. My story is one that mirrors thousands of others – same chorus, different verse. When I talk about the chorus, I am referring to the paralyzing pain, fear and hopelessness that we, as parents, feel when our children are struggling with addiction. It was during this time that I did hit the pavement in researching everything and anything addiction related. My goal was to gather as much knowledge as possible to understand addiction so that we could better help our son make an informed decision around treatment options for him.

Little did I know that in the end there were no options, but even more tragic, there was no treatment available for him. Our son was in a deep spiral begging for help. Every door was closed. We were denied (with insurance) treatment at every facility in New Jersey.

For more than a year, we literally begged and pleaded for help. Not only were we riding the rollercoaster of addiction in our family, we were also learning how the system fails (on so many fronts) those struggling with addiction.

(To read more of Denise’s interview, click Denise Mariano 8-14.)

Photo courtesy of krosseel

Media: Tell the Addiction Recovery Story!

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Last week, actress Kristen Johnston accepted two awards in Los Angeles from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

One was a special recognition award for her work educating the public about addiction and substance use issues.

The other award was a 2014 Voice Award, which she accepted on behalf of Greg Williams for The Anonymous People

The Anonymous People’s Voice Award was one of 10 films selected from 125 entries and represents its fifth national award.

A teary Kristen

Johnston cried when she accepted her special recognition award, but not happy tears. She said, “I’m furious that it takes a celebrity’s death to make people care about addiction, about depression.”

“It’s time to stop focusing on the entertainment community, as if it’s a problem only we have.”

Johnston talked about traveling the country after her book, Gutscame out. During all the events and appearances, “I’ve never met one celebrity there but I did meet thousands of recovering addicts,” she said.

Thank you, Kristen, as always, for pointing out what so obviously needs to be said.

As we perch on the edge of entering September and the 25th National Recovery Month celebrations (more than 500 scheduled coast-to-coast!), the focus needs to be on the 23 million regular folks in recovery.

A great many of those folks will walk, march, dance and yes, step to the microphone in public and say, “My name is Beth Wilson and I’m a person in long-term recovery from the disease of addiction. What that means is I haven’t had any alcohol or marijuana since May of 1991 and my life is ON FIRE!”

The media’s diversion tactics

I’m a former media person so I know well that “if it bleeds, it leads.” The 24-hour news cycle, including social media, seems to eek out every piece of negative, dysfunctional, stigma-loaded story angle when a celebrity goes public with addiction and/or depression.

While that may be a blanket statement, it is true that celebrity deaths like Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, treatment admissions (too many to list), and multiple treatment stays (again too many to list) get scrutinized. I get it, to a degree, since they often live their lives very publicly amid mayhem and destruction.

When is the public going to say, “Enough, already!” When will thousands of viewers besiege general managers of local news networks–and their corporate counterparts–with letters, emails and phone calls demanding two things:

1. Stop the incessant–and insensitive–reporting about the train wreck of addiction without balancing said reporting with facts about the disease of addiction, and

2. Start reporting about the amazing nature of recovery because as we know, recovery works for millions in this country each and every day.

Now, I’m not placing the responsibility of telling recovery stories solely at the media’s feet. Each of us must share our recovery stories publicly, whether to extended family, coworkers, groups with whom we’re engaged, or from a podium.

How else can we change the nature of how addiction is portrayed in this country?

There is much to be done, but the terrific work of Kristen, Greg, Faces & Voices of Recovery, ManyFaces1Voice.org and the thousands of recovery carriers in hundreds of communities across the country is a fabulous start.

Recovery Month in September gives us momentum; let’s ramp it up. Where will you be sharing your story? One place I’ll be is the Big Texas Rally for Recovery in Austin on September 13.

Photo courtesy of butkovicdub

Love is Glass Bookcases and Rainbow Bridges

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Two interesting questions were posed to me yesterday.

1. What were the things I noticed when I first entered recovery?

2. As a person in recovery, what do I try to pass on to those new in recovery?

A giant glass bookcase

I don’t remember much about my first 12-step meeting. But I do recall a massive glass bookcase on one wall that contained all the literature the group used. I was given a blue book from the bookcase.

That group closed down a couple of years later and I gave no thought to the bookcase until it showed up in the lobby of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Kansas City where I had been hired as the director of prevention services.  (The organization is now called FirstCallKC.)

Although I don’t recall the details on how the bookcase arrived, I’m sure my boss (and sponsor and old horse-trader), finagled its arrival.

Odd that I thought about the bookcase yesterday.  Odder still that I related it to the transparency I saw in those early recovery meetings. People shared the raw details of their lives; I was raised to never let people really know what was going on with me.

Today, I talk a lot about transparency and allowing others to hold me accountable. In light of Robin Williams’ suicide, I think it’s critical that those of us blessed with recovery model transparency for others.

People with addiction or another brain disease deserve to feel safe and loved. They can’t know those things if the world is too busy judging instead.

My friend Tess Marshall posted recently to connect, connect, connect. Don’t take no for an answer if you know someone is suffering. Show them how to look beyond the reflection in the glass to the people standing around the bookcase ready and willing to help.

Silent killers

Depression, mental illness and addiction can be silent killers. It’s our responsibility, our duty to reach out, to reach up, to reach back to anyone and everyone who soundlessly screams.

Educate yourself, keep the conversation going and above all, be the love you want to give to others.

I heard an old Wynona and Naomi Judd song today that feels right to close . . . “Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine. Don’t you think it’s time?”
Photo courtesy of Archbob

**A special note about the photo:  Its rainbow colors and brilliant sunset are dedicated to Keeper Baylor, a retired racing greyhound who taught me plenty about building a bridge of love. Baylor crossed the Rainbow Bridge today and my heart is forever grateful. Race on, my beautiful boy.