Happy Thanksgiving

Today the subject is service and charitable giving. I began this space for “reviews” of art; leading films, books and music which bring us understanding and pleasure. With the coming holidays, the topic of service seems congruent because it is such a true source of pleasure.

My path to recovery was somewhat …”typical” in that addiction led me to long-term treatment which led me to 12-Step. In my work as a licensed alcohol/drug counselor I got enough overview to realize my beloved 12-Step has some shortcomings. This is one aspect of the Recovery Movement concept of multiple pathways to recovery in that no one knows what is best for all and we long to be inclusive. How I would characterize it is that one does not have to join twelve step to enter recovery, but that the underlying spiritual principles are highly recommended. All spiritual paths and religions have underlying spiritual principles and they tend to all distill down to the same ones. Every religion has a “Golden Rule”. One underlying spiritual principal is service. Service within twelve step offered me a step-by-step guide that was instrumental in my release from the bondage of self and addiction. The disease of addiction is a disease of self-centeredness and isolation. A simple commitment in early recovery, say taking the key to a meeting and opening the door each week, setting up tables and chairs, gave me numerous benefits. Addiction makes the simplest actions seem insurmountable, so the consistency, competence and connection with others that comes from commitment each week builds esteem out of the darkness. What the spiritual books taught me is that service is the truest path to self-esteem. No amount of therapy will actually build my esteem, I have to take action. Consistent action builds a pattern of good works while plugging me in to a community. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of good therapeutic talk. Cognitive awareness of the influences of my life is helpful. But action that takes me out of my head, commits to responsible living and helps others is the surest way to removing guilt and shame and crafting the web of recovery that is healing and forms stability.

This topic was triggered for me by stories in the media, starting with this.

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Science of Mind and other spiritual systems report much payoff from the practice of tithing, giving 10% of our net income to a charitable organization. So much so that I would have guessed higher numbers than this survey reports. Truly connecting and helping others just feels so great. As the article/study says “We find a strong and highly consistent association between generous practices and various measures of personal well-being like happiness, health, a sense of purpose in life, and personal growth. In our book we discuss the various causal mechanisms that produce this association. While greater well-being can encourage generosity, practices of generosity also enhance well-being. The causal mechanisms we identify involve everything from reinforcing positive emotions to developing a sense of self-efficacy to expanding social networks to increasing physical activity. Generosity, for example, often triggers neurochemical systems that increase pleasure and reduce stress. It also has the capability of reducing the maladaptive self-absorption that many ungenerous Americans experience. By giving away some of our resources for the well-being of others we can enhance our own. By clinging to what we have, we shortchange ourselves.”

As a 12-Step saying goes, “You got to give it away to keep it.”

Then this story came along and warmed my heart so. An NC story if ever I heard one.

“Jason Brown was once the highest paid center in the NFL. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill alum walked away from the game in 2012 and became a farmer. Now, he’s fighting hunger in Louisburg.”

As we enter Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I feel compelled to give thanks for all those who labor away, and to list a few trusted and beloved local charities that work to address the foundational problems of hunger and homelessness. No child should be hungry ever and it’s hard to change if you’re on the streets. So to me these are favorite issues. What are the issues that stir your heart?

The Food Bank of NC
The Interfaith Food Shuttle
The Healing Place
Freedom House

McKinley Morganfield

cullit101waters-bigIt all comes back to McKinley. But allow me to step back a bit. I had asked my older brother, Crispin, a seminal influence in my life, which record I should buy, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? I was taking my little allowance savings down to the record store to buy the first record of my life, and these were the first American releases for both bands and I wanted his input. My brother had already taught me a lot about life and was a budding musician with a band on his way to becoming one of the greatest rock and roll saxophone players alive, playing with everyone from the aforementioned Stones (Steel Wheels tour) to James Brown-that’s his horn section and sax solo you hear on the recording of James’ biggest charting hit, Living in America. Plus many more in-between, to this day. One of my brother’s wise traits was to never push me directly but to just give me some information, and I sensed his leaning toward the Stones and I chose that album. Pouring over the liner notes, in the song-writing credits, I saw the name McKinley Morganfield. I asked Crispin “Who’s this guy?” thus beginning my musical tutelage into the riches of American contemporary music starting with the Father of all rock and roll, The Blues.

An aspect of growing up in the rich fertile milieu of Detroit during the 60’s was all the music! The rock scene was strong and I got to see, in my high school and various teen dance locations, Bob Seger, Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5 and many others. PLUS! The Motown Review would come through the city, sometimes down the street at the Roostertail, a catering spot that was fairly easy to get into even at my young age, and featured many artists performing their 3-4 main hits, one after another. These gigs were integrated, black and white standing together and quite consciousness raising.

And let’s not forget George Clinton, who had moved to Michigan and expanded his Parliament/Funkadelic universe and used to play a milk industry union hall on the west-side and you’re talking psychedelic, baby.

Plus, Fillmore-like old theatres were bringing in the budding rock giants-Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and The Who and for a few bucks all that was available. I saw amazing triple bills like Ry Cooder, Captain Beefheart and Ted Nugent for three bucks. Creativity abounding in the air and the city vibrated.

To me the master was McKinley and still is today. We know him as Muddy Waters. One year before his death I was blessed to bring him to northern Michigan and he did not disappoint. A Buddha, a Teacher, an entertainer par-excellence. Of course, the Blues is the soil rock and roll sprang from and was expanded to rhythm and blues and soul, which I adore. In the end the fountain of the blues is the water of life that resuscitates me.

We have talked about American oligarchs who made fortunes from the Slave industry and how they learned the science of breaking a people to control them. This began with denying their rituals and spiritual practices and this translated into the fields they were working. Many tribes of Africa had developed complex means of communicating over long distances with song and speech and this was taken away once the slaves were put to work here, so they could not communicate amongst themselves. If they could communicate amongst themselves, then they could organize. What developed as a response to that became known as field hollers, which became what we would call songs. The slave owners let that practice flourish since it helped the slaves work more productively. From that grew the church’s influence which gave us Gospel. From that grew the Blues and then everything else. Sinning music on Saturday night and redemption music on Sunday morn. Muddy, born and raised around Rolling Fork, Mississippi, trekked up to Chicago, plugged in to an electric amplifier and the rest is History. No Stones, who took their name from a Muddy Waters song, or Eric Clapton or Led Zeppelin or many others would exist in the form they do without that northward trek.

The Carolinas have a rich blues, rhythm and blues and soul history, from which grew Beach Music. Beach music is Carolina soul and NC should truly take pride in that tradition. Like Muddy, many of the original greats have passed on, but some form of the bands still play live and God bless’em.

Everything Old is New Again

Diogenes

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen.

– Luke 8: 16-18

I have to weigh in on this whole heroin “epidemic” topic. I’m seeing a lot of these articles: the thing is, I’ve been seeing versions of these articles, since the mid-1960’s. Everything old is new again. My problem is I want us to change. I see our problem as we don’t learn from our mistakes. We don’t see the bigger picture.

In 1968, me and my buddies would go into Detroit (from Grosse Pointe, a short 5 miles or so) and buy heroin. In fact, many white kids drove in from the suburbs and bought heroin. So much so that it became a network news story. There were a rash of overdose deaths and major outbreaks of hepatitis. I watched my friends being interviewed on TV (with their faces blacked out) while I was sitting in treatment for heroin addiction. So allow me to paint a picture here. I’m going on 16 years old, sitting in this locked-down ward in the only drug treatment in the city, a hospital wing at Detroit Memorial Hospital, across the street from the 1st precinct of the DPD. Me and a lot of middle aged black guys. Oh yeah, and some white women from the suburbs too. The wing was half narcotics-withdrawal and half mental illness, mostly depression, and that’s what the white women were there for. Major depression or bi-polar, known as manic-depressive then. The hospital performed shock-treatments. In fact, we still do shock-treatments here in America. Unfortunately, they get results, at least in the short term, though they bruise the hell out of the brain. This treatment was not 12-Step meetings, not groups, just one psychiatrist visit every two weeks, meds and TV. And great food. A hell of a chef. So, there we are after dinner, meds dispensed, plopped in front of the TV and the newscaster begins the story by saying (I remember it well), “The people realize that heroin has come to their community”. And this room full of black men burst out laughing. Me, fairly naive and certainly undeveloped in many ways despite my drug history, turned to my buds and asked, “What’s so funny?” And they said “Hell kid the people done had heroin in their community for a long, long time. What they are saying is it’s come to the white people’s community”. OOohh, I said. And thus began my deeper education into the alternate history of this land of ours. Alternate as in they weren’t teaching this stuff in any school I knew of.

So we are back to me and my problem, my desire for societal change, when my own knowledge and spiritual path tells me I must change myself. Right now I’m seeing a lot of news stories that present the heroin problem as if it’s, at least partially, a new thing, and a recent emerging problem. That is unfortunate because it is misleading. The community has been under the weight of heroin for a long time. It was a billion dollar business in the 1930’s. Imagine that, when a billion really meant something. And there’s a topic for a future time: add up all the money, over decades, which the global drug industry has collected and it’s in the trillions. Just ask the DEA, who are charged with such accounting. Where, on God’s green earth do we think that is?? It’s in banks, people. And real estate, and etc. So any War on Drugs needs to start with the leading drug money laundering banks, because without them the whole shebang can’t function. Hence why the War on Drugs actually never failed because we never actually had a War on Drugs. We had a war on people of color, poor people of color, youth of color and our citizens. But hey, back to our topic at hand. If we are one country and care about our citizens who are supposedly all equal then we should understand how drugs have been tearing up the black and brown and native communities for a long long time. Starting with the alcohol we handed out “free”.

Heroin, and cocaine and meth have been in a series of cycles, every 8-10 years, since the early 1950’s. The reasons for these cycles lead to some interesting underlying facts and truth about our world, culture, government(s) and how they operate. I know because I have witnessed it and studied it. We are talking about how the business of a global industry works but that’s for another time. What you do see is one drug recede and one become prominent, but the flow of drugs is constant and always there. This heroin “explosion”, the articles like to point out, was triggered by easy prescription drug access which eventually goes away. Hence the slide over to heroin, a cheaper substitute to the prescription narcotics. We have seen that before, including back in the early 90’s.

We have also seen the drug company’s pernicious lies about a new drug, which the Doctors become complicit in, coupled with inventory “mix-ups” of drug flow that somehow get to the streets. Quaaludes and valium are examples of previous drug company mayhem that led to many deaths and our grannies in treatment. We went through OxyContin and recently Suboxone as current examples of corporate lies and mis-representation.

Meanwhile, this is another tip of an iceberg that includes systemic and institutionalized racism woven throughout our country and world. Racism leading to the real tip of the iceberg: Class structure. As Don Coyhis, from the White Bison Wellbriety movement shows us, if we remove a sick tree from bad soil, heal the tree and then place it back in the bad soil the tree will never truly flourish. We have to repair the soil from which everything flows.

It’s a great thing, to live over a span of decades, because you really get a perspective. In the Western world we tend to dread old age and not honor our Elders, but if you pay attention, you actually get perspective and see a bigger picture. Information, coupled with our experience and a willing mind becomes knowledge which allows us to co-create solutions. If enough citizens come together with knowledge and distill it down, you have wisdom. Then you know a way out together.

As we grow in our historic knowledge we see that we need to stop branding and packaging into smaller boxes various drugs and populations. That’s often a gimmick devised by someone to market a product or service. That is how our system works and is not necessarily nefarious, the intentions may be good, but it is a disservice. We humans have a hole in our core we fill with many items, which for those with genetic predisposition tends to be filled with drugs. And that is the problem. We want to make it safe for people to come forward and end their denial and begin the process of recovery. Our task is to hold the space of Hope and Faith toward recovery and healing for everyone who needs it.

BTW, four of the five kids, all my friends, interviewed on that TV news series back then, died. If any of this sounds bleak, please know that there is nothing BUT Hope in all this. Grace saved me. So you understand I have a mission. And a mission starts with the truth.

I Love a Compelling Story

It’s such a big ocean to draw from, the world of books, that it gets me thinking. That led me to Art Garfunkel’s website for inspiration. Art has listed every book he has ever read, since 1968 and it’s prodigious. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan, but Simon & Garfunkel were a seminal generational influence and he has a lovely voice and the list is impressive. The list is strong in the classics, which really got me thinking. I was pleased with the number of books from his list I have read, but I am never going to finish War and Peace. And I defy anyone, including Art, to tell me they finished Moby Dick to the last page. Grueling. I love the redemption story of Les Miserable but after the first 100 pages or so it just gets interminable.

I’m just sayin’…..Which made me think of Zingerman’s Deli. They promote the concept of, “What do you like?” Not snooty foodie types telling you what you should like, but mission-driven, service-oriented business’ asking you. Person-centered! My recovery lifted off in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, west of Detroit. Zingerman’s is a legendary delicatessen in A2. Legendary doesn’t convey. They have grown into 10 (11-12?) businesses, all in the area, instead of going for the bigger money by just spawning repeats or franchising. A bakery, coffee-roasting, a diner/restaurant, even a training/visioning wing. They felt the quality would suffer if scattered across the land. Their hallmark is quality, from the simple corned beef sandwich on rye to world-class fare from around the world. Plus service work, donating the seed money for Food Gatherer’s, a food rescue agency, providing 150 non-profits direct food assistance in the form of hot meals, nutritious snacks or emergency groceries to low-income adults, seniors and children in Washtenaw County. Early on Zingerman’s developed a relationship with my first work mentor, Dawn Farm, a Michigan addiction treatment center with an emphasis on the recovering community as the most important source of healing and recovery support, long established in A2. Zingerman’s is renowned for hiring graduates from treatment, providing a source of early employment for those emerging back into the work force.

 

133What also triggered thoughts of my favorite story is the return from Japan of Chris Budnick. He went to consult, discussing The Healing Place model of peer driven, long-term residential services and to teach his 12-Step/Mutual Aid history class he’s put together over the years. We mustn’t forget our history. BTW, The Healing Place has relationships with business’ in the Triangle that support and hire those in emerging recovery.

And the ideas of different cultures, especially the East, and what I like, all leads us to my favorite book of all, Noble House. A gripping/stellar tale, Noble House was James Clavell’s China story, which he began with Tai-Pan. For the Japanese side, his story begins with the estimable Shogun, a fascinating entry into another world. That introduction into Samurai culture led me to many history books plus the world of Asian film, with strong entries such as The Seven Samurai, Kagemusha, Yojimbo and Ghost Dog. The literary syntax is not Shakespearean but he can frame a sentence and the storytelling is nonpareil.

132And that’s really what I love, a compelling story that takes me out of my world and immerses me into another, particularly another culture. The best stories transport us into someone elses life. Because that is where understanding and community grow, when I walk a mile in their shoes. I think of that as the Middle East conflicts unfold, year after year. Underneath all the rhetoric is the idea that somehow Islam is our enemy and I simply do not buy that. I have known many Muslim’s, Islam is a peaceful path, and I simply do not buy that the majority of the 1.5+ billion Muslim’s in the world want to hurt our land. Anymore (I pray) than the majority of Americans want to bomb the Middle East. If I walk a mile in their shoes, they want the same as all peoples; good life and education for their children, a home for the family, community and freedom to practice their spiritual path in peace. Whatever the forces of war that whip up nationalism, we must resist by growing our understanding and remembering that all humans have way, way more in common than differences. Humanity’s destiny is to live and love in peace, sectarian ethnic polarizations aside.

Beyond Recovery to Healing

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. – C.G. Jung

I was always attracted to the study of psychology and psychoanalysis, from an early age. In my recovery, I accepted that I was studying in an attempt to understand my family dynamic so I might A) fix them or, later B) fix myself. The truth is you can’t think your way out of some “problems”. The recovery saying is, “You can’t think your way to better living, you gotta live your way to better thinking”.

changeThe long and short of all the study is I don’t fix anything. That does not mean we don’t want change. Change is good, so this might sound confusing. Words sometimes fail as the imperfect vessels that they are. One way to put it is; in early recovery I felt that some part of me was broken and just needed to be cut out, like surgery and then I’d be ok. My studies of body/energy work and healing (Polarity, Craniosacral, Radix, Bioenergetics, and Somatic Experience) led me to the understanding that it’s the opposite. It’s about embracing and integrating “in”, that we heal, not “cutting out”. Trauma affects the whole body but rests in the nervous system and healing rests in the Heart field. Nothing happens in a vacuum, everything is part of a whole which is a way of saying there’s a reason for everything, therefore everything contains a blessing and as I embrace the heart receives the blessing.

However imperfect these words, what we are describing is what actually happens in a healing process.

Another way to look at it is, as a kid I had injuries & cuts that meant stitches and I did (secretly) think of my scars as cool. I would never consider…plastic surgery to remove them. It’s the same with the psychic scars of childhood and life. They are a part of me and make up the whole(er) picture. We don’t want to remove them we want to embrace them. That has proven very true for me as far as my addiction disorder. I am glad I am an addict. Sounds odd yet many in long-term recovery will nod their head in agreement at this statement.

Another truth of this process: the hard part that trips us up, especially men, is grief. The stickler in this multi-stage process is the grieving process. We have been trained, for centuries, to armor up and not feel the full range of our emotional body. That’s the hard part that keeps so many suffering out there from coming in to recovery and healing.

It’s a stage of the process of healing that is logical and yet heart wrenching. Logical in that when we change an older part of us dies and we need to say goodbye. In nature, the snake is in tune with the rhythms of life and naturally molts its old skin growing into its new one. So many of us guys are tuff-enough, and won’t embrace the change which actually increases the pain and holds us back, stuck like cement. Grief is a natural part of life. I’m not just talking about big events like the death of a family member, I’m saying letting go is a part of life. Life and death are one and the same in the circle of life and we are raised in a culture that does not respect or honor that nearly enough to meet our true human needs. So we are not taught to grieve, how to grieve, what rituals will soften that and facilitate that and make it easier.

As to psychology, a couple of ideas the psychoanalysts gave us was; in our tabula rasa state what happens in childhood can imprint and scar (or esteem) us, retaining the memories in our sub and un-conscious brain. And this, the unconscious brain, is where our unconscious belief structure, our paradigms, then originate. The spiritual path is about uncovering those thoughts and beliefs that we have attached to, beginning a process that frees us from the unconscious influence. Then choice enters the picture. Put another way, it is in my best interest, and the collective best interest, if I know why I think and act the way I do. Then I deepen my relationship to Free Will.

You understand, Madison Avenue, essentially think-tanks and massive corporations, work hard to uncover just this sort of information to increase their effectiveness in manipulating our behavior to their liking. Including in the realm of politics. The next Presidential election will spend-they predict-one billion dollars to do just that.

And since we are going there, that billion, mostly donated from aforementioned corporations, are not donating that as charity and service work. They are, for all practical purposes, loans. And they expect to be paid back, with interest! As we head to the polls, I’m just sayin’….

From Mose Allison to Words and Pictures

moseallisonI’d been wondering, from the vast universe of books and music, which to discuss next when I saw this great movie. First let’s start with music. An experience I had as a promoter, one that adds excitement to the work, is bringing in artists you have never even seen live. In fact, sometimes, in that pre-internet time, I hadn’t even heard their records. Now YouTube has everything, for free. Anyways, it adds a bit of a gamble, an incipient addiction I never fully engaged in, gambling that is. Occasionally, you are truly rewarded. Mose Allison was one such act.

Later, I realized this was a common feeling among promoters and club owners everywhere, this reverence for Mose. I didn’t want to pay what his agent was asking, knowing the date would lose money, and eventually the agent relented and I got a date. I was in Northern Michigan and the scene was young and I had a budget to follow. One aspect of the budget was I did want to rent a top notch piano for him. I walked in the backdoor as Mose was doing a sound check, and he looked up, I pointed at the piano and mouthed, “Is that ok?” and, not breaking stride, playing away, he said, in impeccable hipster, “Immaculate baby”. Maybe you had to be there, but his presence, quiet yet really powerful, was truly and authentically too cool for school. The theatre held 280 and I had two shows. If I remember correctly the first show had over 100 attend but the second only 60 or so. Mose played 2 hours, for each show. That’s when you get to the character of an artist. He could have shorted the second set but the people who did pay and attend are fans and he gave them a full-out night. Lest I state the obvious, that’s a bit over 4 hours of music not to count the earlier sound check of about an hour. And he was so good! He slayed, he killed, he laid them out in the aisles! Who woulda guessed? And then he hung with us late into the night. And this is a witty, witty social commentator and satirist woven throughout superb musical artistry. If you don’t know Mose, it’s possibly because his records never fully captured his grace-filled power. That’s a challenge for some artists. And, of course, corporate radio never played his music, truth teller that he is. And at 86, he’s recently retired from the road. So you can’t see him live anymore. I recommend his records highly! So where’s that leave us on the movie front?

wordsandpicturesWords and Pictures, with Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, has some bluster, but it also has some of that tender power in it. I love all kinds of movies–gangster, crooked cops, samurai, b sci-fi, comedies of all stripes, action-adventure, you-name-it. The ones that are nearest and dearest now are the quieter tender movies. That is where life really resides, in the splendor of a bird’s song and the beauty of a sun rise. Tender Mercies, Fearless w/ Jeff Bridges, Resurrection (from the 70’s-Ellen Burstyn), Breaking Away, Local Hero, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Philomena, Hellboy (hey-it’s a love story), The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Intouchables, Never Cry Wolf, Wonder Boys, King of Hearts, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and many more.

The thing about movies is they are fun, they entertain, which I want. And yet…..to me, it’s more important, that art illuminates in ways that expand the Mind’s ability to understand that straight linear thought can’t. That’s what art offers us, and what W & P discusses. And what it does, over a number of topics that are (mostly) successfully woven together. And I just love that! Oh yeah, and by the way, an alcoholic enters recovery. And I really love that! So it’s win-win and then more wins! I’ve said enough, I’m going to leave it at that. The movie has my synapses firing taking me beyond my capacity to critique. I will say it does do the best job I have seen yet of explaining the drawbacks of our smartphone/iPad/social media tech world. It’s not perfect, most movies aren’t, but I hope you enjoy it.

Frequent Flying

frankzappaWhen I was 9 I wrote Frank Zappa a letter and he wrote back. What happened; in my beloved Marvel Comics, along-side the x-ray specs and Atlas work-out ads, was an ad for his “fan club”, United Mutations, and when you joined they sent a questionnaire and I filled it out. I was probably whiny (the letter’s long gone) and complaining about my parents. His response was along the lines of, “Shut up you little twerp, I’m not Ann Landers. Go to the library and educate yourself”. I took him at his word and proceeded to do just that. In truth, I was taught to read early, there were books around the house, my brother turned me on to important books, ideas, etc. and I just grew it from there. This applied to every stage of my life, so when recovery entered my life and then later treatment became my work I applied myself to self-education. In truth, many great teachers and mentors were placed in my path and I worked to stay open. I realized over time that I was being given a very well-rounded education in what our treatment continuum consists of in the United States. That morphed into understanding the underlying paradigms. That idea, paradigm shifting, is a theme of mine because of some of these teachings. A major mentor for me is in this concise page from the New Yorker on homelessness. Philip Mangano crossed my path, some 16 years ago, and it took me a couple of years to grasp the implications but the shift was worth the work. If you would, read the page linked and then meet me back here.

It was, for me, counter-intuitive after I got in recovery, the idea that we should be handing out free apartments. This succinct idea, that you help people with full, basic services, on their way to change, was quite revolutionary. So much of the media blather, the Fox “News”, Rush radio, Koch-fed, Republican/Democrat, right/left noise is around services for those hurting. They say we are spending too much on “welfare” and we need to get back to good old American initiative. It is true that people need to take initiative, exert effort, participate in their own recovery and rise above their circumstances. We’re talking about hands-up, not hand-outs. Those suffering need support to do it, sometimes you can’t do it alone. I was badly addicted, living in the streets, headed (soon) to prison or death, you take your pick which is worse. And a “free” treatment center, a peer-centered recovery home, lovingly run, saved my life. Literally. And from that day, over 21 years ago until now, instead of me in prison costing society tax monies, I have been working and paying taxes. I have paid off debt instead of impending bankruptcy. Etc. Etc. Etc.

The beauty of this whole Housing First philosophy is that it works, in hard dollars-and-cents ways. It saves money, HUGE money, in city after city. I participated in those initiatives and saw them succeed in other cities. It’s time to make it a national priority. We hear a lot of lip service to that, Veterans needing better care and all. There are plenty of pockets of just that happening, and now it needs to be a true national priority. I’m no bleeding heart liberal. I have no problem with appropriate consequences, as long as they are applied evenly throughout all strata of society. Wall Street looted hundreds and hundreds of billions recently and no one went to prison. The system engenders a lot of resentment which fosters an “I’d better get mine any way I can, they got there’s” attitude throughout our society. So, we can talk about “welfare” all you want as long as we include the vast corporate welfare that’s been going on for decades.

A note on all this. A key component, an element of the bigger picture is: the workers; EMT, nurses, case managers, counselors, peer support specialists, licensed people, etc., they have to be really good at their job to create change. To hold a space that both meets and accepts clients exactly where and as they are and lovingly support the motivation for change takes real skill. The field is filled with those kinds; passionate, working to make-a-difference, mission-driven people. Now, the issue is; THEY NEED TO BE SUPPORTED. The workers need effective, healthy supervision from administrations not to mention a fuller web of recovery supports in place beside them, to be truly successful. This is what a Recovery Oriented System of Care is about. Though there may be some front-loading cost in the early stages, much of this is ultimately in the nature of free supports that are naturally there in the community. Because that is what creates full success, the community working together. Lack of community/disconnect is what makes us sick, what creates dis-ease. Community creation/connection is what makes us well. As the system creates change and increases success, what we like to call “improved outcomes”, the whole chain of workers feel empowered which creates an upward spiral of increasing success. They get charged up. Then we go beyond recovery all the way to healing.

Here’s a short PBS news video of a New Jersey Doctor (plus a link to a larger New Yorker article) applying the same ideas from a medical perspective saving millions of Medicaid dollars. In one city. Millions.

I would like to close with this note from our historian, William White, on “What Distinguishes Addiction Counseling from Other Helping Professions?”

“What the addiction counselor knows that other service professionals do not is the very soul of the addicted-their terrifying fear of insanity, the shame of their wretchedness, their guilt over drug-induced sins of omission and commission, their desperate struggle to sustain their personhood, their need to avoid the psychological and social taint of addiction, and their hypervigilant search for the slightest trace of condescension, contempt or hostility in the posture, eyes or voice of the professed helper….If there is a therapeutic stance most unique to addcition counseling, it is perhaps the virtue of humility. While seasoned addcition counselors muster the best science-based interventions, they do so with an awareness that recovery often comes from forces and relationships outside the client and outside the therapeutic relationship. It is in this perspective that the addiction counselor sees himself or herself as much a witness of this recovery process as its facilitator. In the end, the job of the addictions counselor is to find resources within and beyond the client (and the counselor) that can tip the scales from addiction to recovery. To witness (and to be present within) that process of transformation is the most sacred thing in the field, and what would most need to be rediscovered if the field collapsed today.”