99 Homes

Of the movies watched over the holidays I did not expect my favorite to be this one. A taut, intelligent script superbly acted that compelled me forward through a gripping tale using one man’s story to shine universal concerns.
The promo says:

“Set amidst the backdrop of the 2008 housing market catastrophe, Dennis Nash, a hard-working and honest man, can’t save his family home despite his best efforts. Thrown to the streets with alarming precision by real estate shark Mike Carver, Dennis, out of work and luck, is given a unique opportunity – to join Carver’s crew and put others through the harrowing ordeal done to him in order to earn back what’s his. ……Director Ramin Bahrani imbues his characters with icy complexity to achieve his compassionate portrait of a man whose integrity has become ensnared within an all-too-relevant American crisis. Bahrani’s provocative character study…explore{s} the ethical dilemma at the heart of man’s struggle to reach higher – by whatever means necessary.”

The thing is-I’ve been looking for a house for us and it has been quite problematic. It’s fixer-uppers only in my price range in the Triangle and the time needed to evaluate these places means they tend to get snatched up, very quickly in front of my eyes, before I can fully assess. Apartments present other sets of problems not the least of which is noise. Dogs alone can be a significant source of it.

Meanwhile, I pull back and realize I’ve been watching this from many angles. I have beloved family and friends underwater on their homes and struggling with the same issues in cities all over the country. All hard-working people and I see others leaving places like Asheville, simply priced-out of an area. I saw a Legislative panel on substance issues, and leading NC Prison officials pointed out something in my heart I know to be true which is that there are plenty of services to help prisoners re-enter (at least in some counties), but to quote them, “We can’t find reasonable housing for them to live in.” This is a huge barrier. Ex-offenders striving to change and transform their lives will work and recover but their income will simply not be high enough to actually get them an apartment in many parts of the Triangle.
As is my wont to do, I read up a bit. Allow me to quote from a couple of well-researched New Yorker articles for some historical perspective:

“One thousand families. That’s how many Americans lost their homes each day at the height of the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt’s response to this relentless destruction created the most successful housing finance system in the world, a key to America’s political stability and emergence as an economic power house.

To stop foreclosures, the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) bought defaulted mortgages from financial institutions at a discount and sold them back to homeowners. Beginning in 1933, HOLC acquired one million mortgages-one out of five in the country at that time. Eighty percent of HOLC clients saved their homes when they otherwise might have lost them. And once every mortgage was paid off and the program closed, HOLC even turned a small profit.


HOLC gave borrowers a twenty-year mortgage with a fixed interest rate, allowing them to gradually pay off the principal over the life of the loan, a process known as amortization. At the time very few Americans had long-term mortgages.


Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare enough to draw crowds. Eviction riots erupted during the Depression, though the number of poor families who faced eviction each year was a fraction of what it is today. In February, 1932, the Times published an account of community resistance to the eviction of three families in the Bronx, observing,

 “Probably because of the cold, the crowd numbered only 1,000.”

These days, evictions are too commonplace to attract attention. There are sheriff squads whose full-time job is to carry out eviction and foreclosure orders. {emphasis mine} Some moving companies specialize in evictions, their crews working all day long, five days a week. Hundreds of data-mining companies sell landlords tenant-screening reports that list past evictions and court filings. Meanwhile, families have watched their incomes stagnate or fall as their housing costs have soared. Today, the majority of poor renting families spend more than half their income on housing, and millions of Americans are evicted every year. In Milwaukee, a city of fewer than a hundred and five thousand renter households, landlords legally evict roughly sixteen thousand adults and children each year. As the real-estate market has recovered in the wake of the foreclosure crisis and the ensuing recession, evictions have only increased.

But there are other ways, cheaper and quicker than a court order, to remove a family. Some landlords pay tenants a couple of hundred dollars to leave by the end of the week. Some take off the front door. Nearly half of the forced moves of renting families in Milwaukee are “informal evictions,” which, like many rentals, involve no paperwork, and take place in the shadow of the law. Between 2009 and 2011, more than one in eight Milwaukee renters were displaced involuntarily, whether by formal or informal eviction, landlord foreclosure, or building condemnation. In 2013, nearly the same proportion of poor renting families nationwide was unable to pay all of their rent, and a similar number thought it was likely that they would be evicted soon.
For decades, social scientists, journalists, and policymakers have focused on jobs, public assistance, parenting, and mass incarceration as the central problems faced by the American poor, overlooking just how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty. Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly everyone has a landlord.”

Here’s a respected business journal’s take on what high rents/real estate costs are doing in cities across the land.

The reason it’s imperative we look at these seemingly indirectly related issues (meaning related to SUD) is covered in this post from Rich Jones, a Peer Center pioneer in South Carolina. I’ve been angling, for a while, to bring him here to present his visions and truth.

This writing harkens back to John Bradshaw and Ken Wilbur and many others whose ideas on whole systems ring true from my experience:

  1. All systems {including individual humans-each of us is a “system”} seek homeostasis (balance)
  2. all systems incorporate feedback loops to function (even if the loops are based on conflict and chaos)
  3. hierarchies are a vital part of systemic functions including all roles, rules, and subsystems. Boundaries (rigid, diffuse etc…) facilitate these functions
  4. the system cannot be understood by reductionism (i.e. By looking at the addict alone). Must examine the whole {emphasis mine}
  5. change in one part of the system creates change in all parts of the system
  6. family values encompass some of these concepts and are passed down from one generation to another, affecting the dynamics of the entire system….

Reductionism No-Whole System Yes. To get anywhere we must examine the whole. Everything’s related so if we want true health all parts will be affected. This housing snapshot is an example, a template, we could extend to most every one of society’s systems.

All that said; how about a few more movie recommendations:

Mascots: the latest from the brain trust of Christopher Guest and his troupe of comic masters that gave us such wizardry as; Spinal Tap – certainly deserving of placement on a Top 10 film comedy list, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind (the title alone deserves an award) and Waiting for Guffman.

Danny Collins – Al Pacino as an aging pop star; there is a touching, true-story aspect to this, involving my favorite Beatle, that elevates.
Bayou Maharajah, a documentary that strives to tell the story of James Booker, an actual New Orleans musical genius.

5 Events of Value, Worth and Note

The 2nd Annual NC Addiction and Recovery Advocacy Day
Family members, allies, and people in recovery will gather at the North Carolina General Assembly, rallying support for solutions that promote:

  • appropriate & adequate treatment on demand,
  • robust recovery support services for individuals and families,
  • and the freedom for people in recovery to live full lives.
  • Come and be counted!

February 28 from 9am – 4pm – Registration and Details
Coordinated by Recovery Communities of North Carolina


Addiction Professionals of North Carolina
1st Annual Policy Summit
Substance use disorder treatment and prevention providers and advocates can expect big changes under new administrations in both Washington and Raleigh. Join national and state policy experts and elected officials in a day-long discussion about changes in substance use disorder policy and the role you and others can play in shaping those policies.

March 6 from 9am – 3pm – Registration and Details


NC Harm Reduction Coalition 2017 LAW ENFORCEMENT SUMMIT ON HEROIN AND FENTANYL       

  1. NC Law Enforcement Responses to Heroin and Fentanyl
  2. State Fentanyl and Heroin Death Data
  3. Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion in North Carolina and Across the US
  4. Angel Programs
  5. Individual Law Enforcement Agency Spotlights in Responding to the Heroin/Fentanyl Epidemic in NC
  6. NC Syringe Laws Legal Update
  7. Law Enforcement Naloxone Use in NC
  8. Q+A with Heroin/Fentanyl Users and Retired Users: What Helps?
  9. State Data Update on Heroin and Fentanyl Deaths
  10. What Should Law Enforcement Do for Follow Up Care After a Naloxone Event in the Field
  11. Legislation Aimed at Decreasing the Negative Outcomes Associated with Fentanyl and Heroin Users

March 9 from 8am – 1pm – Registration and Details


National Alcoholics Anonymous Corrections Conference
Bringing Recovery to Prisons around the State – Freedom from Bondage XXIX

  • Speakers, Panels, Workshops and more

March 10-12 from 9am – 3pm –  Registration and Details


Addiction Medicine Conference 
Asheville, NC

Attend the region’s premier conference for SUD related education!

The 2017 Conference will again provide clinically practical and up-to-date substance use related training, applicable across general medical as well as addiction specialty practices.

March 23-26Registration and Details

Virtue Series – Part 9

DISCRIMINATION – implies the power of discerning the motives of people and their character, and the ability to see the real truths below the apparent surface of situations. To discriminate emphasizes the power to distinguish the excellent and the appropriate; to judge between what is good and what is better; to weigh alternative courses of action in the light of karmic law; and to perceive the fallaciousness or veritas of teachings. It signifies a shift from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience.All spiritual traditions (starting with Recovery) at their mature levels agree that such a movement is possible, desirable, and even available to everyone. Intuition is a natural extension of the power of discrimination.

Virtue Series – Part 8

PATIENCE – is the willingness to await the outworking of natural processes. Patience stresses calmness or composure under suffering or provocation or in performing a demanding task. Impatience with another person arises from lack of tolerance and a selfish peevishness to have one’s own way. To fail to take the time to explain to a child or employee what is to be done and then jump down his throat because the task was not performed as desired is a typical example of impatience. Impatience is a major source of irritability in our world, and much of this is due to the desires which cannot be realized realistically.


Here are year-end summaries from the “Central Hub of the Recovery Movement”, facesandvoicesofrecovery.org and their collaborative sister organization facingaddiction.org, painting a picture of national advocacy recovery successes that propel us into and through 2017. Tomorrow I will forward facesandvoices detailed email of resources for your use.

  • Recovery advocates across the nation joined in our campaigns to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century CURES Act, which will bring millions of dollars to states to fight the opioid epidemic. Over 6,000 actions were taken by individuals through our action alerts.
  • Our Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO) has grown significantly with 20 new member organizations in 2016, each providing advocacy and recovery support services in their local regions.
  • We trained over 100 Recovery Ambassadors to lead efforts in their communities to speak out about recovery, eliminate stigma and advocate for policies that support recovery.
  • This year, four outstanding organizations received accreditation status by CAPRSS, the only national accreditation for organizations providing peer recovery support services.  CAPRSS LLC is a social enterprise of Faces & Voices of Recovery.
  • Our Everyday Recovery social media campaign shared powerful recovery stories every day throughout Recovery Month in September.

Thousands of individuals and families came out for our national hub event- the Big Texas Rally for Recovery in Dallas, to put a face and voice on recovery and celebrate with honored guests.

Plus:

  • On October 5th, 2015 organized 400+ advocates on Capitol Hill to meet with their elected representatives. As a result of those meetings there was a dramatic increase in co-sponsors for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which President Obama signed into law in July 2016.
  • Formed the Facing Addiction Action Committee with leaders from across the addiction spectrum who helped develop the comprehensive Action Agenda.
  • Brought together more than 400 organizations, representing 28+ million people, to endorse Facing Addiction’s Action Agenda.
  • Hosted wellness rooms and the first-ever Educational Caucuses for Addiction Solutions at both the RNC and DNC.
  • Launched The Addiction Recovery Appointments Project- to place people in long term recovery into Presidential Appointee positions.
  • Launched The Pilot Community Project which will choose 15 communities for a targeted grassroots approach toward changing the public response to substance use disorders.
  • Produced (with WETA), a one-hour special, The Concert to Face Addiction, commemorating the UNITE to Face Addiction rally on the National Mall, which aired 325 times across 70+% of US households.
  • On November 17, we partnered with the U.S. Surgeon General and Viacom to launch the Surgeon Generals watershed report, Facing Addiction in America: Alcohol, Drugs, and Health – seen 2+ million people with 18 million online impressions.

Virtue Series – Part 7

Humility – connotes the absence of arrogance, snobbishness, selfishness, pride, boastfulness and self-satisfaction. Humility does not imply weakness; rather is the result of strength, power and true personal completeness so that one need not feel he must contend for a place in the sun. Similarly, meekness is the absence of wrath, and it stems from a sense of complete control over one’s environment. Humility is the awareness of one’s shortcomings in view of the knowledge that Virtue always recedes from one’s present standing and that one has far to go to achieve Mastery.

Virtue Series – Part 6

FORBEARANCE – is self-possession and serenity of mind under any provocation and conveys the patient lack of a desire for retaliation. It is the overcoming of revengeful reaction to personal affronts and injuries. The nursing of grudges only breeds bitterness and psychosomatic illnesses. Forbearance is an attitude of non-resistance and a bending with the situation. Knowledge of karmic law provides the comfort that one’s desires for retaliation against an offender is pointless in light of the natural law of action and reaction. The offender will suffer karmically without our engaging in destructive thoughts; thus forbearance breaks the circle of repercussions typical of feuds. Forbearance becomes an exercise in humility; for personal pride and the need to uphold self are common causes of reactionary instincts.


A long time ago I read that our purpose here is to grow, and in that growth we increase our overall Mastery of Life and that resonated for me. To grow toward Mastership. The mundane aspects, the standard challenges, the stressors that can beset me, I am to grow in mastering.

That always resonated for me and I believe that is actual truth. Universal Law if you will. I want to be clear, a long time ago I did not apply that to my life. It was only an abstract thought. It took recovery for me to start down the road of application.

Recently I was driving at night and a bit lost and late and that lead me to ….gnash my teeth, you might say, and I began to laugh at my feeling of lack of mastery.
This article, Researchers say the average American suffers 40,000 bouts of ‘tech rage’ over their lifetime, really triggered my laughter and thoughts of this. When the computer “eats” something I have worked on I lose all sense of spirituality.

The thing is, it’s not the mundane aspects of contemporary life that truly beset, it’s the internal emotional. Here’s a succinct review, of a book, ‘Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman’that I believe is accurate and helpful.

A quote states, “The ability for an individual to have a healthy focus on a specific task in the middle of distractions is one of the most important predictors of success and excellence in a career. The key ongoing nemesis of focus is not noise and activity, but emotional distress.”

“Since focus demands we tune out our emotional distractions, our neural wiring for selective attention includes that for inhibiting emotion. That means those who focus best are relatively immune to emotional turbulence, more able to stay unflappable in a crisis and to keep on an even keel despite life’s emotional waves”

Which sends me to a quote from a loved one, “You can’t be totally free until you forgive everybody.”

Such a statuesque truth.

Easier said than done, hard to accomplish nevertheless I like having goals and visions and that’s a penultimate one. Forgiveness grows personal power that aids in “for the greatest good of all”.

This reminds me of my core take away from the AA Big book. To me the book can be distilled down to; once you’re past the booze (and rest assured you can get past the booze, though maybe what I mean is a topic for another time), it’s all about resentments.

From the Big Book:

“It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. …..with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. If we were to live we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.” {emphasis mine}

This is a window into a core fact. Hanging on to a past pain only keeps my energies out of the present. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”, said Nelson Mandela. The more I heal the past, the more I can be present in the moment, the more I focus, the greater success I have in anything I do. The path to achievement and success is that simple and that hard.
Healing is not stuffing it down to forget but truly making that epic o-so-lengthy journey from the head to the heart in acceptance and surrender.

I know the Big Book can get flack for its quaint if not antiquated writing. It was written in the later 1930’s during a crushing depression when numerous Americans were in danger of starving and we dug our way out partially by entering WW2, the most destructive war in human history. It introduced key spiritual principles into a world feeling bereft.

I believe this is not “a luxury of normal men” but a core truth from my experience, true for all humans. We are at a crossroads where this is essential.

To forgive all is to be free. Recovery is all about leaving enslavement (of any kind including mental) behind and growing freedom.

A short answer, from much study which has inexorably led me to the conclusion that; for those of us who have suffered from addiction, no matter what we think, for so many of us, the hardest most foundational forgiveness is to ourselves.

Really it’s like a loop.

We need to forgive ourselves and others and ourselves and others round and round. This issue often begins in childhood.

Which somehow manages to bring me to a comedy I want to recommend. An alternately tender, sweet, sometimes sad yet triumphant movie, ‘Ghost Town’.

I want you all to have a wonderful holiday and this little gem is my attempt to add to your winter joys. I myself will be headed to a bit of a vacation and need to pick a past newsletter to send when I’m gone. A golden-oldie if you will. So, hey like you I’m busy. So I’m going to skip the search for smashing adjectives and just tell you to see this movie. Ok?

Wait, I take it back. Let me try.

A lovely cast beginning with the oft times hilarious Brit import Ricky Gervais and the talented Tea Leoni. The movie ad says, “Bertram Pincus is a man whose people skills leave much to be desired. When Pincus dies unexpectedly, but is miraculously revived after seven minutes, he wakes up to discover that he now has the annoying ability to see ghosts. Even worse, they all want something from him, particularly Frank Herlihy, who pesters him into breaking up the impending marriage of his widow Gwen.”

By the way, while we are at it; Are you looking for a reliable Santa? Try LinkedIn.

Cool now we can get back to the next task at hand which for me is to;

Keep forgiving out there and have a fun holiday!

Virtue Series – Part 5

DEVOTION – is the consecration of oneself to an ideal or a cause such as to the service of the Highest Good for All. Devotion implies singleness of purpose which supplies an interest so great that serving the object of one’s devotion is a joyful, untiring experience. The finer emotions of allegiance, faithfulness, loyalty, steadfastness and reverence are involved in devotion, but to this is added the zeal in service due to love of and personal attachment to the object of devotion.

During this entrée into the Season of giving I’ve been thinking about the lessons learned from doing service. The theory and practice of service. It has been a source of egoic growth for me, a nice way of saying it shoves my “stuff” in my face. The saying goes, “Do the right thing, for the right reason. What I saw and felt over the years of service, was my own stuff underneath my desire to make a difference and working through that actually changed my relationship to service. It’s hard to explain, words here for me are imperfect. A talk I heard from a woman in recovery once ended with a great truth about this. She said that her lesson ultimately was, “She did not need to fix anything. Everything was already ok”. She realized she was always trying to fix stuff and that was about her stuff. My own desire to help, to make a difference still had to grow through my own unmet emotional needs to see what my truest motivations were. The right reason.

Speaking of service, Warriors in the Triangle brought the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery’s (CCAR) Recovery Coach Academy training here. CCAR are leaders, with a respected training and Betty Currier, who moved here in 2013 comes with vast experience in all that and offered to do trainings.  Here’s an RCNC podcast with Betty on this history and more.

“Recovery Coaching is a peer-based addiction recovery support service that is non-clinical and designed to engage others beyond recovery initiation through stabilization and into recovery maintenance.”

My mild impulse/thought when I first heard of this was it’s not time yet. That was motivated by the fact that Coaching is not yet a paid service within the public monies world of behavioral health here in NC. We have been chugging along striving to grow Peer Support as a paid service and I guess I didn’t want anything to conflict with that.

I was wrong.

The first trainings were here, at Governor’s Institute, in our conference room which means I got to get a sense of it and once I witnessed it I realized what a wise idea Betty (and her training partner Brenda Monforti) had. The trainings have since moved over to the RCNC location.

There are a number of takeaways but a key one is;

Coaching training helps those who wish to grow their Ally status, giving them the support needed to become effective volunteers. It grounds them in the multiple tools and principles that create and make effective coaches. To be an ally and wish to volunteer is to have an effective pathway into greater work. Volunteers are the pool by which organizations, say Recovery Community Centers get to see and evaluate appropriate new hires. Many organizations such as hospitals and hospice centers, etc. use this tool to hire.
When I, over time, get to grow my understanding of charitable, non-profit organizations what I often see is what those of us on the outside often don’t see. That the organization has done stupendous work developing policies, platforms, literature, data, experience and more and all that’s missing is more people to carry the message and enact the changes. The template is there, in place. Watching from the outside we will judge when all they need is more man-hours/help/service workers.

So the question of how do we grow our volunteer base becomes crucial. Central. That leads us back full circle to the wisdom of Recovery Coaching Training, which I have witnessed, grows volunteer bases. Win-win solutions.

My deadline looms and I am not truly connecting to the words I want for this but I can accept that today.
So I shall close with something I recently came upon and want to share with you. A tool that aids in my overall acceptance level.
Trolling the radio dial as I drive can lead to dismay-so in an inspired moment I switched to the AM dial and came upon AM Funny 570 – a full-time all comedy radio station. Some great bits from giants of comedy to unknowns. Give it a listen sometime and give yourself a lift.