Advocacy

Heroin Overdoses Do Occur Outside Hollywood

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“Oh my God. What is it with Hollywood? Philip Seymour Hoffman, Corey Monteith, Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston . . .

“What is going on in Hollywood so that all these stars are overdosing?”

Questions asked (paraphrased here) of Joe Schrank in a recent interview shortly after Hoffman’s death. Joe is a recovery advocate, an addiction specialist and was featured in The Anonymous People.  He had a great response: “If you were to follow accountants around with cameras, you would also see an addiction problem.”

Addiction respects no one’s economic status, but the media does

This post isn’t meant to be about Hoffman’s death, although like probably every other person in recovery, I feel immense sadness over the loss of another brilliant mind and gifted soul.  This post is about the abject abhorrence I feel toward the media sharks that frenetically jumped into the story’s bloody waters.

It’s disgusting and makes me want to rip my coveted journalism degree off my office wall and heave it into the trash bin.

The inflamed story:  A Hollywood star with scads of money–a junkie–found with a syringe hanging out of his arm and hundreds of heroin packets lying around his apartment.

Cue the viewership.  Dial in the readership.  News editors shouting from desks coast to coast (and probably around the world): “This story has legs folks, and will for some time, so get as much mileage out of it as you can!”

Are you sick of it yet?  Are you tired of the sensationalized and impersonalized “reporting?” Do you find yourself wondering how the snuffed-out essence of the man who was Philip Seymour Hoffman got lost in the race for ratings?

I can’t stop thinking about it, about the apartment in New York where one moment there was a living being and the next moment his breath was simply gone.

The stigma of addiction

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 100 people die every day from a drug overdose. The number parallels a nearly 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of prescription painkillers, a precursor, if you will, to heroin.

Yes, big name celebrities are dying.  But so many more are dying in cities like Columbus, OH, Albuquerque, NM, and Charlotte, NC.

Regular people, living regular lives, some trying to find recovery, others simply struggling to find themselves.

Time Magazine reported that Hoffman didn’t have to die. This sentence caught my eye: “The stigma of addiction and the lack of organized advocacy for affected people have been the biggest barriers to change.”

But what does “stigma of addiction” really mean?  Some people say they don’t buy the whole addiction-is-a-disease story.  They think people with addiction could quit if they really wanted to or just tried hard enough.

Yeah, tell that to the families of the recently deceased.

This article in The Fix does a nice job of explaining stigma:  “Stigma impacts us all, both consciously and unconsciously, and is perhaps the single largest contributor to the mortality rate.”

Consider these eight points, and then go to the link for a full explanation:

  1. 1.  People fail to seek treatment.
  2. 2.  The medical profession fails to treat addicts properly.
  3. 3.  The mental health profession ostracizes people with addictive disorders.
  4. 4.  Funding for addiction treatment is discriminatory.
  5. 5.  Addicts get sent to jail.
  6. 6.  Even when people do get to treatment, stigmatization can continue and contribute to poor treatment outcomes.
  7. 7.  People in recovery are always under suspicion.
  8. 8.  They confront stigma-based roadblocks constantly

The good news is that thanks to recovery advocates like Joe Schrank, movies like The Anonymous People and campaigns like ManyFaces1Voice.org, as well as regular people like you and me, the tide is slowly shifting about attitudes toward addiction.  We have a voice and our voices have power.

Plus, there are signs that some folks in Hollywood are also getting sick of the dramatic, minutia-driven media coverage about celebrity overdoses.  Thank God!  May the souls of all those lost rest peacefully knowing that there are tens of thousands of us determined to become an “organized advocacy for affected people.”

You’re welcome to join us.  ManyFaces1Voice.

Photo courtesy of wallyir

New Recovery Carrier Series

file8461296758117Meet B Here Today’s Recovery Carrier Lisa Frederiksen

Today begins the first in a series of interviews with folks across the nation (and maybe the world!) who live and breathe a life of recovery.  Please enjoy this chat with Lisa Frederiksen, author of BreakingTheCycles.com.

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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?

I do consider myself a recovery carrier. In my view, a “recovery carrier” is someone who is sharing with those in their sphere of influence information, expert opinions, current research, stories of hope and/or engaging in advocacy efforts related to the many aspects of addiction recovery. This advances the fact that addiction recovery is real; it happens to real people and it happens all the time.

Not only that, but the information, research, expert opinions, advocacy efforts all help others understand the complexities of the disease of addiction, which in turn reinforces the fact that there is no one, nor right way to do recovery – many paths will get you there, and it’s in our sharing that we help others find one (or ones) that will work for them.

(To read the rest of Lisa’s interview, including her answers to questions about her work, challenges facing recovery carriers, how the New Recovery Advocacy Movement compares to other movements in American history and where she sees the addiction recovery field in 10 years, click  Lisa Frederiksen 1-14).

Photo courtesy of Alvimann

ManyFaces1Voice.org is Recovery in Action

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(This is the first in a regular Thursday series about addiction and recovery.)

“We’ve certainly sold addiction in this country but we don’t sell hope very well.” ~ Greg Williams

Ask anyone if he or she knows an alcoholic or a drug addict and they’ll probably give you a long response about their brother-in-law’s drunken rampages or their aunt’s booze and pill bottles stashed throughout her house.  You’ve heard those stories.  You may have even starred in the story.  I sure did.

But if you ask whether they know anyone in recovery for addiction and ask them to describe what that person’s life is like in recovery, you’re likely to get a somewhat blank stare.  Either they don’t know anyone in recovery or, if they do, all they can say is “Yeah, he quit drinking” or “I heard she was going to those AAA meetings.” (Seriously, I’ve known people who confuse Alcoholics Anonymous with the motor club organization.)

Why should the public know more about what life is like for someone who has entered recovery?  How can they possibly know about the hope Greg Williams mentions in the above quote?  After all, people in recovery–even long-term recovery–are living the best-kept public secret of our time.

The Anonymous People

You may have heard of Greg.  Anyone who knows me very well at all has heard of Greg and his Kickstarter-backed, wildly successful independent documentary film about the 23 million people in America in long-term recovery.  Doesn’t that number blow you away?

I’ve written about the movie here and referenced both it and the New Recovery Advocacy Movement several times.

Greg’s movie has propelled the movement forward by light years for two reasons.  First, Greg is an incredibly visionary guy.  He’s distilled decades of the historical aspect of recovery, talked with and interviewed gazillions of people, shot a boatload of film and cobbled it together into a 90-minute powerhouse.

Have I mentioned that at this writing, The Anonymous People has grossed $200,000 in box office sales and has been viewed by about 50,000 people including some high-level folks at the White House?

The second reason TAP  has lit a firecracker under the recovery advocacy movement is because, folks, we’re living in a perfect storm.

America (and many other countries that have embraced the film, including Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand) suffers a collective form of PTSD after years of train-wreck reality shows and celebrity overdoses.  Don’t you think it’s time to hear about the hope of recovery? 

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People are shaking it up.  They’re learning the difference between the anonymity traditions of their 12-step organizations and advocating for recovery (click here for Advocacy With Anonymity pamphlet).

They’re learning how to share their stories at Rotary meetings, in church groups, city council meetings and schools in a way that presents recovery in a positive light.

They’re learning how–if they choose–to visit with city leaders and congressional and senate staff at the state and federal level.  They’re learning the phenomenal power of the ballot box as they help enact initiatives, statutes and laws.

But most importantly, people in recovery are learning their worth and value as citizens of this great country.  They’re allowing their recovery lights to shine and people are beginning to respond, like the good people of Boston who elected their first person in long-term recovery to that city’s highest office (Mayor Marty Walsh took the oath of office earlier this week.).

ManyFaces1Voice.org is The Anonymous People and recovery in action.  Visit the site, watch a few videos and get a feel for addiction recovery’s new culture.  You can also visit us on Facebook and Twitter, and as always, drop a note here in the comments section.

“We will shape the future of recovery with a detached silence or with a passionate voice.” – Bill White

The Upslide to Icemageddon 2013

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I’ve been out of my house twice in the last four days, both times for a two-mile, round-trip, carefully timed excursion to the grocery store. I think I’ve gained 10 pounds.

You may have heard that Dallas/Forth Worth, like much of the country, was besieged by arctic temperatures and, the death knell of any metro area, several inches of ice. As a quick aside, ice is ice whether weather people call it freezing rain, sleet, or–here’s a new term learned just this morning–freezing fog.

I’m extremely thankful for my warm house, the food and a safe little area in the yard for Jazzy to do her business.  Many, many more were not as fortunate as my little family; particularly those stranded for 12 hours on an interstate in the northernmost region of the metroplex. I cannot imagine the fear and bone-chilling cold.

An abundance of time

I spent the weekend getting some work done, reading and watching my beloved Missouri Tigers get beat in the SEC Championship game (It’s okay, boys. What an incredible sophomore year in the conference!). I also spent a fair amount of time in prayerful contemplation about the year drawing to a close and the lessons delivered through the grace of my willingness to receive them.

This month of December feels like a time of culmination, like the entire year has been spent in preparation for ending the year on a high note and then sending it to eternity in style.  This year, perhaps more than any other and certainly in the recent past, I’ve been acutely aware of striving to learn lessons in humility, simplicity and forgiveness. During this Christmas season, I believe we each have an opportunity to have something new born in us, or at a minimum, to at least become aware that we share an inherent goodness with the rest of mankind.

I’m wondering, do you feel a similar sense of culmination?

Ah-ha’s of awareness

First, I think of my life a little more than four years ago, before I entered what I call my Technicolor phase, as one of anticipation.  Seems I was always in a state of: Just wait until . . . everything is good now, but who knows what will go wrong when . . . the other shoe is going to drop like a lead-filled boot at any time . . . sure, I’m fine now, but . . . you just never know when you’re going to wish that . . . 

And my personal favorite: But what happens if . . . 

Even though I was in recovery then, life held very little appreciation of the present because I was absorbed by pending (and imagined) catastrophes, big and small.  Then there’s now. On good days–like today–I revel in simplicity. Cyclones may whirl around me but as the old sage said with a twinkling smile, “Let ’em whirl.”

Second, I’ve been feeling like a kid in one of Anne Lamott’s Sunday School classes.  She says she never fails to tell them that they are loved and chosen just in case they don’t hear the words anywhere else. Lately, I’ve imagined Anne’s words draped around my shoulders like a softly knitted shawl and like those kids are asked to believe, I too believe that I’m meant to do great things in this life.

As are you.

Finally, and this one is kind of funny, I’ve had an acute understanding of late that energy flows in the direction from which it originates.  I really need to stop downloading games onto my iPad.  Since actions generate energy, when my attention is given over to the blessed games, it’s not on something of bigger importance, like sleep.

Sleep means I’m more productive during non-sleeping times and these days, my head needs to be in the game.  I’m doing some really exciting work for one of the most important issues on the planet–the recovery advocacy movement–so I need more focus! Where do I want to focus my energy?  On creating tremendous writing content.

There you have it.  The upslide to the weekend’s icemageddon.  How was your weekend, and better yet, how is your 2013 shaping up?

Be safe. Be light on your feet (especially in icy conditions) and most of all, be love.

Are You a Free Range Learner?

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This past weekend I re-connected with a favorite past-time: doing nothing.  No obligations, meaning no school. For the past 10 weekends I’ve spent the better part of both days chained to online libraries and university software.

Happily, my first grad school class–and last, for now–is behind me. My whole body grins when I realize that 10 weeks of regimented nonsense–for a mere $6,600 of federal loan–is finished. In fact, I’m probably through with traditional learning models, especially those that provide zero self-gratification.

Well, except for the A in the class. I may have groused through the majority of 10 weeks but a commitment is a commitment.

Now it’s on to the open range

Now that I’ve decided to leave the traditional learning world behind, at least for now, I’m becoming a Free Range Learner.  Don’t know about free range learning? My friends LaDonna Coy and Raye Shilen (@coyenator and @RayeShilen) are wizards and are teaching me everything I know (which isn’t much at the moment!).

LaDonna and Raye describe free range learning this way:

Free Range Learning is a form of learning that is informal, dynamic, self-directed, observational, and social.  It isn’t new, just has new tools enabling more of it.  Free Range Learning puts (you) the learner in control of the educational process. You decide who to learn with or from, what to learn, when to learn it and where to learn. Social media (the social web) enables this kind of learning by providing endless people and content, and it’s always available from any Internet connected device. (Check out LaDonna’s blog post at Learning Chi for more information.)

In addition to flexibility, any learning I do needs to be fun. And help me eventually pay the bills. But mostly just fun.

That’s the way I want to live my life and grow my business–by having fun. Content marketing, the history of recovery advocacy, networked nonprofits–all three are areas where I feel passion to learn right now.

Do I care about fundraising? No, but that’s an area my sweetie finds passion and reward. See why free range learning is so cool?

But wait, there’s more!

When you decide to embrace the kind of learning that stokes your heart’s fire, you become truly present to your work. You get excited to interact with others. You become authentic. Stepping into your very own learning process–not one dictated by someone else–honors your imagination and your intellect.

Can you imagine waking up every day energized and jazzed to learn and grow and set the world on fire with your knowledge?  I can, especially now that the damn class is finished.

I think about free range learning this way: I get to mosey around in my own educational barnyard, plucking what I want from bookshelves, both real and virtual. Then I get to hop online and check in with like-minded people via social media.

It’s a sweet gig, and believe me, a whole lot better than 10 weeks of learning how to do academic research and write 20 different kinds of citations.

But that’s just me. Here’s to more weekends (and weekdays, for that matter!) of doing what you want to do!