Betty Currier, our Matriarch of Recovery Community Organizations here in North Carolina, watched me taking notes and leaned over and said, “You write this up for everyone, ok?” How could I refuse her? “This” is the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO) Executive Directors Leadership Academy conference in Denver a couple of weeks ago. It was a blessing for me to go. Forming some 10 years ago, now starting to gain energy and momentum from the efforts of a hard-working team, ARCO was filled with leaders from around the country. I’ll try to give a summary for you.

wantsneedsARCO, Faces and Voices and the whole Recovery Community Advocacy movement grew from a group of recovering people and recovery allies, from multiple pathways of recovery, some of whom are researchers, writers, policy brainiacs, providers and the like, wanting to fill the gaps created by a system that treats addiction as an acute disease rather than the chronic condition it is. ARCO, a sister organization of Faces and Voices of Recovery, brings together those in and out of government and non-profit orgs. to teach, communicate, network, brainstorm and fellowship.

Faces & Voices of Recovery was founded in 2001 at a Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota, the culmination of more than two years of work to provide focus for a growing advocacy force among people in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, their families, friends and allies. Since then, the addiction recovery movement has exploded – in the US and around the globe. In 2001, Faces & Voices of Recovery adopted a Core Positioning Statement, laying out the principles for a national campaign and elected a 22-member Campaign Advisory Committee to provide leadership to the campaign.”

It is as if small creeks and tributaries around the land have flowed together into a river. A river of recovery and life.

Here is a copy of the conference agenda. Allow me to relate some of the highlights.

Working agreements:

  • “Have fun, Keep it confidential, Stay open, One speaker at a time, Show respect, Silence those phones, Ask questions, No profanity”

Quotes I heard:

  • “It’s all about the power of change”
  • “I am grateful for the affliction of my addiction because it led me to help others”.
  • “If I belong [to the group} than I’ve got to pay my dues”
  • “……turn destructive to constructive.”
  • “The movement is tired but not burnt-out. We are re-energized at this time. We are hitting our stride and it’s time to accelerate.” I like that and can relate.
  • And: “What is our next role as a national advocacy organization?”

A core issue, that came up repeatedly, was related in Tom Coderre’s helpful overview of SAMHSA and the future of our movement. He talked about how we are poised on the edge of a transition and the challenge now is to come together and form an organized, consistent message with a distilled list of issues. We need to understand, together, the big picture so we may wisely pick the next battles. To me, that sounds like something the human race needs too.

PS: Some statistics came out in trainings and they gave us a useful snapshot. For example:

  • “The USA averages about 110 overdose deaths a day. The equivalent of a plane crash.” Every day.
  • Another one: Average age of psychiatrists in America: 68
  • A definition of mixed feelings: SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices
  • Beyond the foundational tools of The Anonymous People showings and Recovery Community Messaging Trainings, topics of interest included:
    • How to get your MCO (Managed Care Organization) to pay for Peer Support!-{I’m paraphrasing}
    • Making the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014 a Reality
    • The big picture on creating money streams-how to bring in the dough-re-mi
    • Recovery Schools-collegiate and high schools
    • Leadership and Recovery Community Orgs and Centers
    • And more.

A core truth spoken again and again is; Activation + Engagement = Self-care.

It was hopeful and gratifying to feel the desire amongst groups of people to model and grow the vision of Wellness. A Holistic approach to health building and the fuller picture of recovery.

My final take-away is one pondered many a time. The hard part, the rub, the sticking point is ………transitions. This is not a bad thing but a fact we want to illuminate. Allow me to use some examples to illustrate this point.

For some twenty years of recovery I have studied nutrition and other health building sources for my own growth, health and healing. It’s a fascinating science and it’s been interesting to learn truths as I wade through all the misinformation. Meanwhile, the point is: in the beginning you start out having to give up all sorts of foods which feels like you are deprived. 1) If you have a sugar issue you go through a detox-and that holds for other foods too. So you feel like you are giving up so much, which is …annoying. And 2) You think you’re gonna stay in that feeling, eating boring tasteless food that’s “good” for you, while continuing to have cravings. . There is some detox, but if you study and learn (especially how and what to cook) your meals get delicious and wonderful. At home we simply do not eat sugar or flour at all and only a little dairy and my meals are fantastic! Combining all we have learned and cooking a lot, my overall health has been greatly improved, including mental health. I will say that a cleanse is advised and you do have to cook! A key: Bone Broth

Now I must admit that out in the world I have allowed in a little regular “junk” in, but that aside, my regular diet is extremely healthy and tasty and I am not in a state of hunger ever. I’m not craving anything.

So it’s all about the transition, when we don’t “know” and are detoxing. The journey over the river feels fraught with perils but once safely on the other bank of the river we are happy.

Switch out drugs for sugar and you have the same story for those suffering from addiction. My recovery is simply the best thing that ever happened to me, ever could happen to and for me, now that I’m on the other side of detox and initial discovery. Looking back I am filled with gratitude for it all, but starting out, the journey seemed fraught with peril.

This is what I see in all of the Recovery Advocacy Movement. The citizens and providers and government(s) feel resistant and fraught with peril and we are charged with holding a space that creates comfort for those who are on this journey across the proverbial river to another shore. Comfort through sharing and instilling hope and faith.

If I may, that seems relevant for the world. All the belief structures and attitudes and philosophies and paradigms that are changing and make us nervous. I mean we don’t even have capitalism anymore, we have corporatism and everyone’s arguing in the media and nervous, when clearly we need to change. Change that comes in these fast-paced times that often seem out of our control make for perilous feelings! It seems best if we meet them by recognizing this is precisely where we are at now. In a boat punting across a mighty river, on our way to a safer shore.