Recovery Community Messaging Training Coming to Asheville

Way back I became attached to the idea of bringing Recovery Messaging to Asheville. It just took a while to find a place. Thanks to the efforts of @RCNC_RCO‘s Doc Holiday, all rested up from his Ok Corral adventure and Vaya Health’s own UN Ambassador to All Things Recovery (and Peer Support Training) Richie Tannerhill, we finally have a location. Richie’s been doing Messaging in the outlying areas for quite a while but I had me a hankering to come to Asheville so all three of us could come together to give our spins on Messaging and the Recovery Movement. It’s Friday the 13th of January 2017.

The Chinese tell us that Friday/13 is a lucky number perceived as a harbinger of change. Change is the one-word answer I give to the question, “What is recovery?” So I’m feeling particularly spiritual when I ponder the great tale of Messaging and the Recovery Movement coming to the great spiritual center of the Smoky mountains – Asheville – as a welcome to the great new Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness – on a day of change!! Don’t forget to register!

Maybe see you there.

Virtue Series – Part 4

KINDLINESS – is the sincere desire never to bring hurt to another. It is the consideration of the feelings of others as well as gentleness, sensitive benevolence and sympathy expressed in word and deed.

A couple of buzzwords I hear repeatedly out-and-about in my work and from this field are trauma and adversity.

I hope it’s clear from my writing that it is a great thing we are dialoguing about trauma. I was abused as a kid, it deeply shaped my outlook and approach to life and the great blessing recovery gave me is the stability to go ahead and work to heal the past. How successful I am in all that is debatable but at least I got a chance!

So I love these topics, but I need to be clear: Often, often, often when we use words like trauma and adversity; those are proxy terms for poverty. The engines of power that are driving that poverty are benefited when we refuse to look at that.

These thoughts came out of a talk with a friend about the election, who said, “I’m just not as good as you, I’m concerned about the cost of my insurance, you’re concerned about everybody.”

I am definitely not better than anyone else and certainly have the same sort-of financial concerns but; I am concerned with “everybody”.
Why? Because:

  • I was low and someone helped me up and I am grateful.
  • Going down the road of my petty concerns over the greater good is a troubled losers path. My understanding is “as one goes so we all go”. There are systemic issues that hold people down or at least are inefficient and as we address them we shall lift many others up.
  • Karma. Our misunderstandings of this concept are legion but the basic idea that what goes around comes around everyone has some recognition of. So, again, as the systems grow equitable the circle can begin to stop rotating back to the problems and start becoming solutions.
  • I’m repeating myself here but in no way is this about “free stuff for lazy people”. Hands-up not hand-outs. AND! All people deserve a chance (or two or three).

This does become demanding as it “requires some vigilance and active engagement with who we are as people and how we engage with others.”

Here’s a lovely example of a way to apply new thinking to ongoing problems. A St. Louis school district realized there was an unusual reason for low attendance and set about to fix it.

Back at the ranch, the 8th Annual NC ONE Community in Recovery Conference felt like a great event, a success, a fun-filled work-week. A couple hundred Recovery Warriors exchanging ideas, it was lovely talking recovery with friends and informative seeing Keynote Larry Fricke talk about the history and origins of Mental Health Peer Support and where we are headed. Larry was Georgia’s Director of the Office of Consumer relations and Recovery in the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases and wears many hats today including Director of the Appalachian Consulting Group. It was innervating to see the questions (and answers) David Whitesock’s talk–his model of building Recovery Community Organizations with attendant Centers–generated.

Ellen Kesler and the whole NWAHEC team are to be thanked for their continued support of All Things Recovery.

Next, here’s early notice of a worthy topic – a May Women’s Recovery Conference in Asheville.

Next, ATTENTION Western NC-FIRST at Blue Ridge is selling affordable Christmas Trees fundraising to continue bringing low-cost treatment for SUD and mental health support, and here is the flyer link.

While we’re on the subject of Western NC–recently re-located RCNC ATR Wizard Doc (Ralph) Holiday is wrangling a Messaging Training in Asheville for Friday January 13th—details forthcoming. Look for me, Doc and Richie Tannerhill to have a ball.

Keep growing kindness out there, and Happy Thanksgiving,

Virtue Series – Part 3

COURAGE – is quite distinct from bravery, which is usually an instinctual response to a perilous situation and implies lack of fear and bold recklessness. Courage, on the other hand, carefully takes into account the dangers of a situation in advance of action and is the product of reason sustained by marshalling one’s powers of moral determination in the face of personal fear. Resolution, tenacity and determined morale are associated with courage; and it is the noble quality of character which enables one to stand firmly for his convictions in spite of persecution.

I was talking with some peers and friends in this field, about our culture and its creation of a mind/body split in us humans and how that is a primary source of
dis-ease; mental/emotional/physical. It got me thinking.

Much of our dependence/addiction, depression, suicide and violence can be laid at the feet of this mind/body split leading and allowing us to go to war. Lack of connection to our own emotional body causes us dis-connect from ourselves, triggering us to destroy each other and the planet.

This is not normal behavior; this is not “human nature”. This is a learned behavior. Racism, for example, is learned behavior.  Racism-and other discriminations-are a pernicious evil that need to be actively confronted. NC’s history as a leader in the Civil Rights movement shows us that. Racism is a tool of powerful forces, used to maintain and grow our division with each other. Seeing the true, underlying issues show us it’s not about race, ethnicity, color; it’s about privilege, it’s about class.

The truth is we can model/teach/create Love as we now teach violence.  Have no doubt, we do teach violence.

At the same time, I want to balance this with the facts, (from Richard Rohr’s newsletter), “Even though we continue to see war, racism, classism, genocide, and ignorance, violence is actually declining. We may be more aware of the world’s suffering now than ever before, but as compared with previous periods in history, we are living in a relatively peaceful time.”

This dis-connect creates a vulnerability for whole groups of people to be manipulated by effective tools, empowered by television and all media. You can see symptoms of this manipulation in everything from our purchases to our military/industrial/intelligence complex.

Throughout time, for the known written history of humankind, many nations have avoided dealing with profound issues of injustice and mistreatment, while thronging opportunistic egomaniacs who blame it all on “immigrants”.   Like the opioid “epidemic”, none of this is new. It is all related though. There is nothing new under the Sun including the solutions to all this.

My desire for health and healing led me to various bodywork systems, teachers who showed me that the key is to pay attention to the body and work with held-in somatic energy.  Scientist/Philosophers like Wilhelm Reich showed us that “You cannot change your thoughts at a basic level without change in your body, in what you do”.

My own work showed me that (re)integration of the emotional body can be painful & hard and, despite my pro-active intentions, slow going. The more you feel the more you feel. Coming out of a lifetime of avoidance through drugs means feeling was not my actual “natural” state. This is a core window into the issues of resistance to recovery; the lack of training or even awareness/understanding of how to live in and deal with uncomfortable feelings.  As we shine the light and shrink stigma, I believe a side-effect will be reduced stigma toward feeling in general.  Then we’ll see less and less of media stooges parading themselves as macho, all puffed-up as if they are tough guys, as if that’s an answer. As if!

The goal is a fuller-body emotional response to life. We cover ourselves and armor up to deaden pain but then rob ourselves of the true joy of living. Inhibition of an emotional impulse creates tension, which can become permanent. This full-body emotional response is about allowing full feeling response not inappropriate behavior as a reaction to life. We are not talking about an external show of emotionality; we are talking about internal emotional growth and capacity. Maturation.

Wilhelm Reich (24 March 1897 – 3 November 1957), unfairly maligned leader in energy flow studies and student and eventual peer of Freud’s; discovered key energy flows and responses for human growth, such as the core “instroke and outstroke” of energy, like a wave, that animates us alive. His work developed the first systems that release armor and create greater emotional response.

Mark Twain visiting Tesla’s Laboratory

Though he did work with clients, his passion was as a scientist. In that realm, he delved into areas that included free energy motors, free electric power from a global grid and weather control (we’ve know how to bring rain for decades). Lest you shrink from these topics, know that Tesla (the man who taught Edison to wire the nation with AC instead of his planned DC) and others have done fascinating work in this area. There are loads of books out now with schematics, etc. For related information try Jim Oschman’s ‘Energy Medicine’.

These areas make for interesting study when you follow just what happened to Reich and what the FDA did to him.  He was brought up on charges related to someone involved with Reich supposedly making claims that an invention of his, the Orgone Box, could cure cancer. It is doubtful he ever said that and it was never proven that anyone made those claims, nor was he charged with anything else. Painted as a kook (though far from it) he did appear to be losing steam during his trial and by all accounts the lawyer for the case was inappropriate. (Personally, the world is so goofy and at times painful, a little kooky seems appropriate). Found guilty, he died in prison after doing 2.5 years of  a four year sentence. As he languished in prison the FBI began what has been called the most thorough book burning ever accomplished in America, to the point that they were almost wiped out. Makes me wonder what they were afraid of. An ignominious end for a man searching for the truth.

We live in different days. Various factors have led to a flood of new information available to everyone. Whole new syntheses of outlooks are forming due to this outpouring of information. I have faith we will not shrink from our search for the truth. The Native Elders of this land would remind us that none of this is “new” information.

Allow me to end with a circle back to a bit more historical perspective, here’s a link to a review of a book, Haunted by Leo Brandy. “…some social scientists believe fear is seven times more likely to spread than any other social attitude.”

Virtue Series – Part 2

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

SINCERITY – conveys the absence of hypocrisy, affectatiousness, sham or deceit. The sincere person is genuine and straightforward in his desire to learn and practice what is right. Conscientiousness and honorable conduct are closely associated with sincerity; but sincerity should be practiced with knowledge of right thoughts and actions because most of the evil and wrongheaded errors brought upon the Earth have been the result of sincere though misinformed persons. The acquisition of the other Virtues is impossible without sincerity and the depth of application it affords.

I was standing on-line making pizzas at a Domino’s, next to a University of Michigan Grad student who was in the Alcohol Studies Program. Like many schools, U of M has a long-standing Alcohol Studies Department.

I like science, as it gets us closer to reality. I have never seen science and spirituality as necessarily opposed. I have seen people, with so-called spiritual beliefs, who love to argue anti-science, but that does not get us closer to reality. That there is a Source, an order to the universe does not necessarily conflict with science and vice-versa. Science supports understanding of that order.  The bottom line; we are always trying to get to the truth, which demands I slog through my own beliefs that need to grow/expand therefore my paradigm assumes I am a student for (and of) Life, always (hopefully) learning and that our roles here are as Scientist/Philosophers. To me that’s the true Paradigm. As the saying goes, “The head is a great employee but a lousy boss”. I have to merge the heart.

I’ll come back to pizza and U of M but must digress. This topic was triggered by an energizing talk I saw from Dr. Kevin McCauley who Tom Edwards and Mariel Swiggard and the team at Pavillon brought to NC. Interesting guy, doctor, in recovery, lots of very interesting experience and research, a brainiac who surfed us through a more holographic snapshot of the Brain, Addiction and Recovery which will always catch my interest. My brain loves these snapshots though I don’t find them deeply altering of what I feel we need to do in response to the national calamity of dependence/addiction. This is where the spiritual enters. What begins recovery and ultimately heals us is; community. Deeper community is what’s missing, is what’s needed and what many are working to build. The New York Times recently wrote on meta-studies that point out; “Researchers Uncover an Epidemic of Loneliness”.  I’m over my limit of links to the NY Times so I can’t put it here, but I recommend it for perspective. We’re lonely, particularly as we age and it leads to illness.

In a world where overpopulation is a legitimate topic the thought of rampant loneliness seems troubling, even bizarre. There’s 7.4 billion of us and we’re lonely?!  Yes.  For perspective, if you go back say 100 years and read the studies of tribes around the world untouched by western civilization a fact that emerges is some areas, some tribes had no actual word for loneliness. They weren’t perfect, they were human and had problems but there was simply no concept of loneliness. Imagine.

I can link to this excellent overview of a 75-year study of what makes people happy. A summary, “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”


Back to Domino’s. Mind you, this was long before I quit drugs and entered recovery (some 35 years ago). I remember asking him, when he told me of his studies; “What do we know these days?” And he immediately said, “Well, alcoholism is clearly genetic. We know that”.

So I guess we “know” that even more now. And at some point it’s less relevant to me because of what William White points out. “We’ve studied the brain on alcohol plenty, how about we study the brain on recovery”. {I paraphrase}

To honor the head/science side, I am including a link to Bill’s recent announcement he’s taking a respite from writing and, as a service, linking a list of the more than 160 recovery blogs posted to date.

I want to leave you with this talk from Dr. Corey Waller on “Why what we do in Addiction Medicine Sucks”.  Our Executive Director Dr. Sara McEwan used it in a MAT class she gives; a serious talk from a very experienced Medical Director. His talk both resonates with my own experience and study and, on at least a couple of points, pushes my buttons and triggers disagreement.  I’ll keep coming.

For cappers here’s a William White interview with Dr. Waller, discussing his involvement in the ROSC efforts of Western Michigan.

Virtue Series

Kids at Ghana, Africa Recovery walk listening to Speakers

Kids at Ghana, Africa Recovery walk listening to Speakers

CHARITY – stresses brotherly love, clemency, leniency and an interest in the welfare of others to the extent of giving of oneself. It is a whole-hearted sympathy toward the suffering which man must endure until he begins conscious advancement. Charity precludes criticism of others.

My oldest friend drank himself to death recently and it has lead me to ponder and contemplate much. I have a sincere desire to meld them into one essay but am up to three different ones so far.

Oldest friend in that we were in the 1st grade together and knew each other ever since. Amazing person. No really. Loved by many people from numerous diverse circles. Intelligent, positive, witty, learned with many interests, one who helped connect people in ways that enriched their lives. I could go on.

He received the biggest award the state gave, Michiganian of the Year, praised by a Governor, Senators and Mayors.

A leader and activist, “he touched countless souls with his fierce intellect, abundant sense of humor and dedication to causes great and small.”

You would have loved him and knowing him would have given those who need it greater insight into the truth of the disease model of addiction.

He did enter recovery staying for almost two decades but returned to use and never stopped.

It made me think of this recent article from Robin William’s wife, Susan.

Robin, having remained drug-free for many years returned to use and then treatment. Not too long after that he was diagnosed with Parkinson Disease and then the little-known but deadly Lewy body disease (LBD). She-they actually-did much research and each revelation was direr. As she said, “LBD began sending a firestorm of symptoms our way.”

Some two years ago, Robin ultimately suicided and the pain of that is unimaginable for many of us and speaks volumes when you read this article she wrote for the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Susan Schneider Williams serves on the Board of Directors for the American Brain Foundation.

I’m of an age where I’m losing friends, especially those who did not get the full joy of recovery. Life is often about feeling and it leads me to remind us of solutions.

The world has problems, lots of problems but there are solutions for (almost) every one of those problems.

Here’s a few of my favorite solutions.

This superb analysis from surgeon and author Dr. Atul Gawande is about a New Jersey Doctor’s application of a model I have worked with myself that begins from the premise, “Can we lower medical costs by giving the neediest patients better care?” The answer is a resounding YES!

One of the many beauties of this model is its application to behavioral health needs. In fact, it’s success comes from it’s treatment of the whole person.

Next we move into a story, again from Dr. Gawande, I would say is parallel to the first. This one addresses real-time/real-world studies applying outcome-based payment streams to medical (and behavioral health) groups that lead to greater financial savings coupled with higher outcomes. Pockets of medical groups sign on, achieve greater outcomes and are awarded on the back end by the insurance companies. Lots of data for everyone to see.

This means we know what to do, we know it works and the first article means we know how to do it. And it actually “makes” communities money.
Then, for good measure, let’s include this story, that reminds us of another universe (parallel to the 1st article- Hot Spotters) that gives us another model that succeeds, both outcome-wise and financially. Bring homeless in from the cold and then you can engage them and lo and behold things get better AND YOU SAVE MONEY!

I’m sensing a theme here.  You know, I feel better already.

Btw, Longmire’s back, on Netflix, and it whips like a Wyoming dust devil painting a portrait of struggles characterizing Native vs Western culture. It’s a cop show but I say it’s a great cop show. I shall endeavor to speak as Henry Standing Bear for all my days. I won’t succeed.

Recovery Event Reminders

October 14-15 – Raleigh/NCSU Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Recovery Conference

October 31-November 2 – Morganton/Asheville Carolinas Conference on Addiction and Recovery

November 4 – Chapel Hill/Orange County Recovery Community Messaging Training Free/3 credit hours–Public Welcome

November 9-11 – Clemmons NC ONE Community in Recovery

November 18-20 – Winston-Salem National AA Tech Workshop

November 24 – USA Thanksgiving Take day off Please

December 7-9 – Pinehurst NC Council of Community Programs

December 19-24 – USA Begin Celebration

January 1, 2017 – Happy New Year -reminds us what’s important

Leadership From A Dancing Guy