Recovery Carrier

A Christmas Gift: Recovery Carrier Bill White

tree_languages

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.

IMG_1537

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

Lesser Yellowlegs

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

#RightsForRecovery: Advocacy in Texas

RightsForRecovery

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!

Meet Recovery Carrier Robert Ashford

file0001427735926

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Young People in Recovery (YPR) and getting to know several young people who not only live successful recovery lives, but also dedicate much of their time to advocating for recovery. This month’s Recovery Carrier epitomizes the meaning of both. Only 26 years old, Robert Ashford has poise, determination and a singular vision envied by people twice his age.

This is the 10th 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)

Before we talk about recovery advocacy and recovery carriers, let’s talk a bit about the current recovery movement and what it looks like to you. 

I believe this is actually the third recovery movement. If you look at history, there was something missing in the first two and is the reason why those movements died out (described in detail in the documentary The Anonymous People).

The first two movements were not grassroots—this one is—and the first two didn’t have young people. HRDA_HS-1aving young people as a part of the movement and getting more young people engaged, the movement will sustain itself. Guys like me can still be involved 50 years from now, but we need young people continuing to show young people that recovery is a good thing.

Not only are young people creating sustainability because we’re going to be around longer but we’re allowing people to not spend 20 or 30 years in active use because they’re seeing people like themselves recover.

I think we’re in a perfect storm to finally get it right.

When you hear the term recovery carrier, what does that mean to you?

I think of a virus. If I have this thing, am I carrying it to other people? I think back to Day 57 of my recovery when I found out about Young People in Recovery (YPR), became empowered in my recovery and realized the importance of not only telling my recovery story but what that could do for others.

People have to know the message of recovery, that it’s not just abstinence. I’m a whole-hearted believer in all pathways to recovery. There are a lot of roads that lead to Rome. You just have to find the road for you. It doesn’t matter which road you pick.

Telling people—especially young people—that there are tons of different options, gives them hope because they don’t know that. Having addiction means you lose your humanity, which means you’ve lost your hope. Carrying the message of recovery means you’re giving young people hope again and helping restore their humanity. Or at least you’ve started the process.

Are you a recovery carrier?

Yes because somebody was for me. If I hadn’t become empowered by YPR, if I hadn’t gotten the message of recovery—what it meant and what it could be—then I wouldn’t be here today. It is as important as my 12-step program. I’ll say that flat out.

(To read more of Robert’s interview, click Robert Ashford 10-14.)

Photo courtesy of hotblack

Meet the Recovery Carriers: All of Us!

file0001609395725

Here we are at the end of Recovery Month and try as I might, I can’t determine a single person for this month’s Recovery Carrier designee! I’ve met too many cool people, both online and in person, who are championing the cause of recovery to be able to name one. So, I’m breaking with tradition and bestowing Recovery Carrier status on anyone who keeps the torch of recovery burning.

Today’s post is the ninth 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)

Daunting but worthwhile task

If we apply Bill White’s definition of Recovery Carrier, then the simple act of reading this post and then talking about recovery to anyone (with infectious enthusiasm!), you are a Recovery Carrier. Congratulations! You now belong to a league of people who is clawing its way into the rational thinking of the general public, and by extension, elected officials.

Real change that encompasses a unified voice of recovery, one that speaks the language of hope and possibilities, is our goal. We strive to share our positive voices–all of us who say, “I am a person in long-term recovery,” and then share what recovery means for us–with all who care to listen. One day we will be looked upon with the same compassion as are those who deal with diseases like cancer, COPD, diabetes and ALS.

There is always hope.

A collection of Recovery Carriers

Following, in no particular order of importance, are the people and groups who embody the heart and soul of the New Recovery Advocacy Movement. They, along with previous month’s Recovery Carriers, forge a solid girder for recovery.

I’ve forgotten someone, I’m sure, so please include your additions in the comments section below.

1. Tom Coderre and his appointment as senior advisor to the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

2. The announced intent to merge by Faces & Voices of Recovery and Young People in Recovery–can you imagine how cool that organization will be?

3. Recovery high schools like Archway Academy in Houston and the brand new University High School in Austin

4. Greg Williams’ (The Anonymous Peoplenew project, Generation Found

5. Michael Botticelli, a person in long-term recovery has been nominated by the White House to serve as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)

6. The second edition, released this summer, of William L. White’s Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America

7. Anybody who participated in a recovery walk/rally (There were almost 1,000 across the nation this year.)

8. The National Alliance for Recovery Residences and the standards it sets for sober living homes

9. Therapists and counselors who strive to find unique ways to work with their patients and families, like Stephanie Coker and Lane Ingram, who incorporate laughter and improv comedy into their practices

10. My recovery writer colleagues who regular spotlight the phenomenon we call addiction recovery (See Recovery Carriers tab for individual contributions.)

11. Collegiate recovery groups like Eagle Peer Recovery at the University of North Texas

12. Mindfulness in recovery with the encouragement of yoga, breath work and other tools to engage a holistic approach to recovery

13. Peer-led recovery service organizations and nonprofits like SoberHood, which was recently awarded a multi-year SAMHSA grant to facilitate peer recovery services in Texas.

There you have it, my Lucky 13 List of Recovery Carriers. Please add your own to the list and help make Recovery Month 2014 a sturdy platform on which to build our recovery future.

Photo courtesy of o0o0xmods0o0o