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.

Meet Recovery Carrier Dean Dauphinais

Today’s post is the seventh in a series of interviews with folks who live and breathe a life of recovery from addiction. While the disease of addiction reaches its tentacles to touch families, communities and society, there are people like Dean Dauphinais who push back against the disease with recovery. I hope you enjoy the conversation with this month’s Recovery Carrier.

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)

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?

When I hear the term “recovery carrier,” I think of a person who’s holding the stem of a dandelion with its round, white, puffy seed head on the end. All of those little seeds represent little bits of information about recovery; the truth behind Dean5-20-14Headshot2misconceptions about addiction, and hope for individuals and families dealing with this insidious disease. I envision a recovery carrier taking a deep breath and blowing on that dandelion like we did when we were kids. And all the windborne seeds, filled with useful information and knowledge, go on their merry way to find new places and minds to take root, grow, and spread the word about recovery. In that sense, I guess I am a recovery carrier. Lord knows I am pretty much constantly blowing on those “dandelion seeds,” trying to spread them around as much as possible. Not all of the seeds will take, but if only a few of them do I consider that to be a success. “Recovery carrier” is a pretty special term, but I don’t think of myself as a special person. I don’t have an academic background in addiction and recovery. I don’t have any special certification or anything. I’m just the father of a person in long-term recovery who’s trying to help other families that are going through addiction.

What brought you to advocating for recovery issues?  I know a bit of your background but would you share with the readers, starting wherever you’d like?

My 24-year-old son—who just recently celebrated two years of sobriety—suffered from depression and anxiety as a teenager. When he was around 15, he started experimenting with drugs—mainly pot and prescription meds. He was self-medicating in an attempt to feel “normal.” Unfortunately, my son’s experimentation led to addiction, and his drug of choice eventually became heroin.

As a parent, finding out that your child is addicted to heroin is pretty devastating. I was one of those parents who thought heroin was a drug used by “junkies” in the inner city, not by teenagers in the middle-class suburbs. And certainly not by my teenager. It was truly a wake-up call. I remember the day my son came to me in tears and told me he needed help because he was addicted to heroin. It was like I was living a nightmare.

To read more of Dean’s interview, click Dean Dauphinais 7-14.

Photo courtesy of Fantasywire

Meet Recovery Carrier Bill White


Today’s post is the sixth in a series of interviews with folks across the nation (and the Universe!) who embody a life of recovery, from the physical to the psychic.  I hope you enjoy this conversation with Bill White, founder, writer and producer of Chipur, an online treasure trove of articles about topics like depression, bipolarity, anxiety and addiction. Bill is also a distance counselor and mentor.

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)

Why is your website called Chipur? What does Chipur mean?

Several years ago my son and I were working on a name for my new anxiety/mood ick blog. So I said, “How ‘bout Chipper, as in ‘feeling?’” We liked it, but we started the domain name purchase thing and it wasn’t available. We tried several spelling variations and finally hit pay-dirt with “Chipur.”

And that leads to asking about your work and why you do what you do? What’s your story, Bill?

First of all, in addition to producing and writing for Chipur, I provide distance coaching and mentoring services. It flows beautifully using video, phone, email, and text.

I can remember having what I now know to be dissociative episodes when I was nine-years-old. There was so much more, but let’s just say something was up very early-on.

Somehow I managed to navigate through my childhood and youth quite well. But then came my junior year of college and all hell broke loose. Dang – sloppy drinking, anxiety and panic attacks, derealization, depersonalization, E.R. visits, intrusive thoughts, mood issues – every characteristic of Hades imaginable. And it continued at an awful intensity for some 10 years. I, nor anyone else, had a clue as to what was going down.

I checked myself in to a treatment center for compulsive alcohol use in 1984, and haven’t had a drop since. Still, the anxiety and all that came with it continued. I did all I could to find answers, and in 1989 was referred to the Anxiety and Depression Clinic at the University of Chicago Hospitals. I caught my first psychiatric diagnoses and began a meds regimen, which had darned-near immediate positive impact. No benzos, by the way. I also began some pretty intense psychotherapy.

So I continued on my recovery journey, as I furthered a marketing career. Fact was, though, an intense passion had been conceived and was growing within. I began a master’s program in counseling in 2004 at just shy of 50, and snagged my first license some two years later.

Why do I do what I do? ‘Cause I know how it feels to be lost in the woods, having no idea how to get out. It sucks. So if I can help someone in the same state of “lostness,” I’m in. And between my journey and training, I bring quite a bit to the healing table.

(To read more of Bill’s interview, click Bill White 6-14)
Photo courtesy of dsanchezagudelo

5 Steps to Spiritual Activism (And Less Pissiness)

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I’m feeling pissy, not all the time, just on and off.

There is so much good in my life.  I just spent the first night in our new home and it was uber-cool sleeping on air mattresses in an otherwise empty house.  The bedroom furniture arrives today and everything else tomorrow.

Work is good; picking up new clients and slowly starting to build my business.

My oldest niece is expecting her first child–a boy!– in a matter of days.  Hard to believe she’s old enough to give birth, but there you have it.

So with all the good, why am I feeling pissy?

Because people continue their inhumanity to other people.  Iraq and Iran are blowing up and lives are extinguished by the hundreds, maybe even thousands.  Much of he world detests America and many fear that some form of heinous terrorism on U.S. soil could make 9/11 look tame.

Children pour through the U.S. southern border into Texas and Arizona like drops of water through a sieve.  Children.  Can you imagine using children as pawns in a political chess game?

There is a heroin outbreak infecting children and teenagers from coast-to-coast.  “Hands down,” a friend of mine says, “the girls I admit to my sober living houses are recovering from addiction to their number one drug of choice–heroin.”

The world’s largest elephant–named Satao–was found mutilated and dead in Kenya, presumably a victim of ivory poaching.

Add man’s inhumanity to one of the most magnificent animals on the planet to the long list of atrocities.

I am much too connected to not see and hear these stories, and then absorb them into my heart.

The question becomes, “what are we gonna do about it?”

There’s only one answer

Marianne Williamson writes that just as people afflicted with addiction often hit what’s known as a physical, spiritual and/or emotional bottom, countries often hit bottom.  She claims that the bottoming out process is necessary for a phoenix to rise from the rubble.

In the meantime, we as individuals who love our countries but despise political posturing without effective results, do have power.

We can pray and we can meditate.

Does that sound crazy to you?

From Marianne’s Facebook post yesterday:

A study published in the Yale Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1985 reported on a group of advanced meditators from the Transcendental Meditation Movement who meditated in Jerusalem in 1983 during the height of the Lebanese Civil War. During the summer of 1983, on each day in which there were large numbers of meditators, violence dropped and stayed low for an additional day or so and then went back to its previous levels. The final data revealed that whenever the group of meditators assembled, there was an average of a 76% reduction in war deaths. 

She continues, “War is not just an external event; it is a field of fear-based consciousness that needs to be addressed on internal as well as external levels. And that will take all of our efforts.” Marianne then describes five steps of what she terms spiritual activism:

1) Atone in your heart for your own warlike nature – any thoughts or behavior of judgment or attack — and seek to change your life where necessary.

2) Spend at least five minutes a day in prayer or meditation, knowing you are part of a global field of consciousness at work on the inner plains to bring about world peace.

3) Seek to organize your own community of like-minded individuals to join you in prayer or meditation groups for world peace.

4) If it applies, atone with others for the behavior of your country if it has in the past, or is now, participating in unjust military activity.

5) Practice mercy and compassion towards yourself and others, particularly resisting any temptation to monitor someone else’s journey.

What are your thoughts on embracing prayer and meditation at the level Marianne describes?  For me, as a person in long-term recovery from addiction who has witnessed numerous miracles, I think she’s on to something.

I’m willing to try.  Are you?

Photo courtesy of DarrenHester

Let’s Talk About the Hope of Recovery

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Part of the behind-the-scenes recovery advocacy work I do is to comb through daily news clippings for relevant information for the ManyFaces1Voice campaign.  If you’re not aware, MF1V is the grassroots advocacy constituency of folks who’ve watched The Anonymous People and believe in the power of recovery.

What’s a relevant news clipping?  Let me start with what is not relevant, unless you’re into the sensational:

1)  Stories about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s drug- and alcohol-induced shenanigans, 2) Stories about how the war on drugs has failed–we get it, and  3) Videos and images of cooked spoons, syringes hanging out of arms and rooms littered with stacked liquor bottles and beer cans.

It’s hard to blame the media for the mostly shoddy way its reporters report the news.  Actually, it’s not hard for me at all since I used to be one of them.  I’ve always had a strong disdain for those who capitalize on the lurid details of addiction and then go home to their pretty house on a manicured lawn surrounded by the perfect picket fence to have a few cocktails.

But I digress.  The media, though not without culpability when it comes to reporting standards, are simply filling an economic need.  Yes, addiction reporting is a supply and demand business.  And unfortunately, the public’s demand is a greedy glut of ugliness.

So what are the good stories, the one’s focused on the hope and promise of recovery, the ones that reporters who get it are writing?  Here are a few of my favorite stories posted on the ManyFaces1Voice Facebook page (and ones that have received high visibility):

From  “These Three Companies Make a Point of Hiring Recovering Addicts”

From the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange: “Op-Ed: It Doesn’t Matter Whether You Believe Addiction is a Disease or a Choice”

From William L. White’s papers:  “Waiting for Breaking Good:  The Media and Addiction Recovery”

From Pacific Standard: “A Growing Number of Americans:  Drug Abuse is a Health Issue and Not a Crime”

Now, if you like short, inspirational videos, The Anonymous People’s Greg Williams has pulled together a library of masterful vids.  You’ll probably recognize a few of the faces.  Check them out here.  Spoiler alert:  There’s a new one going live in the next week or so that is really good!

I believe we’re making progress in shifting society’s conversation around addiction recovery.  The way I see it, the more those of us who can comfortably speak about how recovery is uber-cool, the more normal recovery will become to public eyes and ears.

Recovery is filled with hope and so am I.

If you have a recovery story you’d like to share, please leave a comment here or head over to ManyFaces1Voice’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of cbcs