jotoMy good friend Tim Simmons, Consumer Affairs Specialist in the Piedmont, pitched me a wonderful service and I’m glad to pass it on.

Goodwill Industries, in Burlington, is offering employment preparation training/job search assistance to help individuals with a criminal history find employment

Jobs On The Outside (JOTO) is a 24 hour comprehensive training program that prepares individuals with a criminal background to successfully obtain and keep a job.

Here’s the flyer for more information.

RCNC Announces Executive Director

JASOn the local front, RCNC’s role as the anchor for NC RCO’s was solidified with their Executive Director hiring. Founding Board Member John A. Salgado, in sustained recovery since 9/2/09, has served as Executive Director of Fellowship Home of Raleigh and was the finance committee chair for RCNC before his new role as helmsman.

This role will include responsibility for opening a Recovery Community Center in the Triangle and continued cultivation and support of RCO’s around North Carolina.

Please join me in welcoming John to this new position.

Get Low

getlowI want to recommend a great & sweet movie, Get Low, starring the inestimable Robert Duvall. Movies that deal well with the topic of grief touch my heart like no other. It was clear to me, early in recovery that I had grief to deal with. Feel, Deal and Heal is the saying. The work I did, ably supported by knowledgeable practitioners and teachers, made it possible for me to become comfortable with grief to the degree that, I wouldn’t say I seek it out but I definitely don’t run from it and that is a huge blessing.

The question becomes H.O.W. do we feel deal and heal? In my recovery the studies of body and energy work confirmed that which I had suspected all along; to cope with pain too great for the childhood nervous system, we block the corresponding emotional flow that events trigger. Over time, the blocks become permanent and therein lies the damage. Unable to loosen our armor, we are unable to consciously feel inflow and outflow and the attendant emotions. To put it another way, we can’t grieve and cry, for example. This impedes natural emotional growth. A common fact for many men (and women) emerging into recovery from addiction. Energetic and emotional blockage creates a “backlog”, like a reservoir holding back water.

A) Many children are subjected to pain great enough that we feel overwhelmed, “swamped” with the fear and pain, which for us, as the little tykes we are, amounts to a feeling we might die. The child may not be conscious of that, but this is the purpose of the blockage, to keep us from a feeling of overwhelm.

B) In our adult state a backed up reservoir, in and of itself, feels overwhelming and as we begin down the road of recovery toward healing, the fear of overwhelm, being swamped, comes back. That’s the very thing causing us to hold back, to not cry and to not heal. Much of the addictions of society, not just drugs but too much work, money/shopping, food, love/sex, consuming, you-name-it are all in the name of keeping blocked and busy and distracted enough to not feel this backlog.


The body always seeks homeostasis but must have flow and feel supported to really achieve balance and optimal health. Think of a dam, sitting over a town and it’s going to blow, or a river, that rains are overflowing and causing a flood. The townspeople scurry fast and hard to get to safety, running to and fro, worried of destruction, and yet, after the storm, the waters do recede, the soil is replenished and everything comes back to normal. One of the reasons some Native tribes developed tipis, knowing the natural rhythms of the earth and life, was so they could pick up and move before the flood and come back later when the soil was healthier. Meanwhile, if one does not get pro-active, the barricade hampers the natural development of our being.

I love these movies when well done because various supports gave me the help I needed to drain (or lower at least) the reservoir, so to speak. Grief and emotional flow became safe for me. In time, I knew I would not be overwhelmed, in fact, the adult organism can’t be overwhelmed and has built in defenses that maintain safety. Our childhood trauma made life, being in our skin, not safe when in truth the body is always safe. We can self-regulate, learn to feel deal and heal and emerge into a much healthier emotional life. It’s a process, a titration.

Whew, lots of words. This movie and topic; armor, grief and emotional health, reminds me of a time, 10 years before I entered recovery, when I was in treatment for the second time in my life, and what the counselor said to me. But hey, we’ll save that for next time.I’ll post it on my blog next Wednesday.

Now, Get Low; Duvall, my favorite living actor, plays a 1930s Tennessee hermit, a fabled curmudgeon , who famously threw his own funeral party while he was still alive. Well supported by a wonderful cast, beginning with the quietly hilarious Bill Murray, this movie gets us to the heart of guilt, shame, grief and secrets keeping us sick. Our need to beat ourselves up, to not forgive ourselves and others, creates a downward spiral and can lead us to miss a lifetime of LIFE and here we see the pain and glory of it all. It’s a worthy journey.

Long-term addicts describe paths to better life

Jimmy Cioe, Program Coordinator for the Governor’s Institute on Substance Abuse and man-in-long-term recovery and Chris Budnick, Vice-President of Programs-The Healing Place, Raleigh, were interviewed by WNCN Anchor Sharon Tazewell on addiction, recovery and treatment issues, and the meaning of recovery for the nation and its people.

Finer Things in Life

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

- Lila Watson, Aboriginal activist

The New Yorker wrote about a young Inuit throat singer, Tanya Tagaq  from Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories of Canada and it took me back and made me want to relate all I learned working with Native tribes in New Mexico and Northern Minnesota, which frankly might not fill a thimble, so humbled by all that was I. I loved this video of her. The vocal is deep, real, a bit disturbing aurally and an encapsulation of what I saw in those most profoundly Native lands. Her voice and sound take me back to another time. There is a sweetness, humor and primal honesty in Native life that is unique in America, but can actually be recognized across numerous tribes globally. Sometimes art helps to convey this.

First let’s go to a documentary I saw a few years back, Genghis Blues. A blind blues man in San Francisco, Paul Pena, had fallen on some hard times. He had some success, culminating in pop/rock star Steve Miller covering a song of his, which created a yearly money stream but his wife had died and in his grief his health suffered including insomnia. For consolation, he would listen to a short wave radio late into the night. The nighttime upper stratosphere can bring in broadcasts from half-way ‘round the world and he got Tuvan throat-singing, of all things.

The Autonomous Republic of Tuva, wedged between Siberia and Mongolia, for centuries had been isolated from the rest of the world by jagged mountains and Soviet restrictions. Only recently had the Tuvan art form of throat-singing become known to outsiders.

With a population of around 300,000, Tuva ended sovereignty in 1944, and is considered a federal subject of Russia. A southern end of Siberia, it’s a wild land of wide open spaces. Tuvans, proud descendants of the conqueror, Genghis Khan, have historically been cattle-herding nomads, tending to their goats, sheep, camels, reindeer, cattle and yaks, and still are. And developing a profound form of voice known as throat-singing. The simplest explanation is they are able to sing two and three notes at once, also called overtone singing, though this hardly covers it.

“The art of Mongolian throat-singing is a style in which one or more pitches sound simultaneously over a fundamental pitch, producing a unique sound. The history of Mongolian throat-singing reaches very far back. Many of the male herders can throat sing, but women are beginning to practice the technique as well. The popularity of throat-singing among Mongolian seems to have arisen as a result of geographic location and culture. The open landscape of Mongolia allows for the sounds to carry a great distance. Ethnomusicologists studying throat-singing in these areas mark khoomei as an integral part in the ancient pastoral animism that is still practiced today. Often, singers will travel far into the countryside looking for the right river, or will go up to the steppes of the mountainside to create the proper environment for throat-singing.” - Wikipedia

Paul Pena had such an aptitude for it that he was invited to their annual Tuvan throat- singing festival and competition, and WON! “The blind blues man’s performance was so well received, he became the 1995 throat-singing champion in the style of kargyraa. He also captured the “audience favorite” award for the week-long competition. The Tuvan people had never seen or heard anyone like him.”

It’s a great story, a journey across cultures and land to show our common humanity. A group from the movie toured and I got to see them live and it reminded me of the renowned jazz man Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who could use a circular breathing technique to play two and three saxophones at the same time, similar to throat-singing, not needing to stop for breath. Also blind, he would stand at the lip of the stage and wail in overtones that sent chills. It takes me back to the wonderful era known as Free or Avant-garde jazz, exploding in the 60’s. The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra and his Arkestra, NC native Master John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and others, forged a path into brave new worlds of sound after decades of study and woodshedding the fundamentals. Adventurous promoters brought all these guys to Ann Arbor and my brother would take me and I was blessed to have my consciousness expanded again and again. Perceived as “noise” due to its non-diatonic scale usage and atonal qualities, nothing could be further from the truth. (Asian music comes from a much different scale background than western music) These were the Masters of our time, leading the way into unchartered creative territories. As is so often the case, the brightest flames burn fast and some were gone soon, Coltrane dead by 1967. Drugs were the scourge of the jazzman’s life and some of these artists’ were victims of the dis-ease of addiction. One Master who survived, Sonny Rollins, is not only in long-term recovery but still wailing at the tender age of 84 years of age.

So, back to Tanya, who will be coming to the Triangle area. There is a quote from the New Yorker: “Being free includes wearing seal, an important Inuit resource. ‘The people are being denied our natural resource because Paul McCartney thinks seals are cute’?”

There is so much we can learn from Native culture, we need the tribal as we go forward.

Here’s an excerpt from: “~A Rwandan talking to a western writer, Andrew Solomon, about his experience with western mental health and depression.”

“We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave.

They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again.

Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.”

From The Moth podcast, ‘Notes on an Exorcism’.

Here’s a glorious example of our North Carolina tribal history to watch as we ponder our western arrogance, which can be an impediment. Our need for open-mindedness is more important than ever.

I have faith we can get there.

Overcoming “fatalism writ large…Hope is oxygen”

david_carrA journalist I featured in an earlier blog, David Carr, died unexpectedly last Thursday. A New York Times columnist, a truth-teller, a man after my own heart and a man publicly in long-term recovery, he wrote a book chronicling his addiction and recovery.

Here’s a quote he left us with:

“The chronicity of addiction is really a kind of fatalism writ large. If an addict knows in his heart he is going to use someday, why not today? But if a thin reed of hope appears, the possibility that it will not always be so, things change. You live another day and then get up and do it again. Hope is oxygen to someone who is suffocating on despair.”

Updates & Notices

march6-rcmtHave you seen The Anonymous People? Have you taken the companion training, Recovery Community Messaging?

The Anonymous People is available on numerous instant streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon.

Messaging training will be here at the Governor’s Institute March 6th. Sign up here for one of the last spots left.

If needed, you’ll receive two credit hours.

Robeson County’s emerging Recovery Community Organization (RCRCO) has its next meeting February 25th from 11am-1pm at The UNC-Pembroke Dining Hall.

You may bring lunch or purchase lunch inside at a cost of $7.20- (“IT”S WORTH IT”! -they say). The Dining Hall is located in The Chavis Center, Building #20. Here’s a campus map.

If you plan to attend please RSVP to April Locklear.