‘2015 – The Year of Reinventing the Wellbriety Movement’ by Don Coyhis

5de8955239fe8af6972c6889e71ffa26Don Coyhis posted this powerful message on the White Bison website recently. As some of you know, I think very highly of Don and the amazing Native American Wellbriety Movement.

‘As some of you know, I had a stroke on May 11, 2014, Mothers Day. Given the reality of the event, we made some choices and decisions regarding White Bison and the Wellbriety Movement.

We hired Carlos Rivera as the Executive Director, promoted Kateri Coyhis as the Director of the Wellbriety Training Institute, and I moved to Chairman of the Board to provide support to the new White Bison team.

Thanks to the prayers of so many, my recovery was touched by a miracle.   I had excellent therapists and moved from a wheelchair, to a walker, threw away the cane in August and was back to 90% recovery by September and have continued to recover since then.

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‘Healing is in Our Stories’ by Deron Drumm

ddrummHere’s an excellent article by Deron Drumm about the importance of Stories in helping people recover and change the mental health system which appeared on Mad in America.

“It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story.” Iyanla Vanzant

I have spent a lot of time talking to politicians, media members and those working in the mental health system about the failings of the current method of viewing and treating emotional distress. I have come to the conversations armed with stats and outcomes about the bio-medical paradigm.

I have found that the people I speak with do not doubt the facts conveyed. They seem to agree that the current state of affairs is not good. The difference is that I think the tragic outcomes demonstrate the failure of the current system. The folks I talk to tend to think things are so bad because “mental illness is just that serious.”

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‘Prison-Based Recovery Advocacy (The San Quentin Story)’ by Bill White

San Quentin ARC Group Counseling Image‘The stage is set for a recovery-focused advocacy and peer support movement within the U.S. prison system.

The mass incarceration of drug offenders in recent decades, the growth of prison-based addiction treatment, the growth and diversification of prison-based recovery mutual aid, increased disillusionment with incarceration as a policy strategy of addiction containment, and the rise of grassroots recovery community organizations in local U.S. communities have all been part of this incubation process.

There is a growing critical mass of people in correctional institutions who are initiating and sustaining addiction recovery and who are pursuing service to others as part of their recovery processes.  Leaders are rising to articulate ideas and launch programs that address the particular needs and aspirations of people seeking recovery within the shadow of the criminal justice system.

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ManyFaces1Voice: Phil Valentine

Unknown-1Every now and again when I am feeling a little down, I see a piece of recovery film and it lifts my mood. I found a piece like this yesterday, a film clip from ManyFaces1Voice of Phil Valentine. Here’s what is said about Phil:

‘Phil Valentine is the Executive Director of Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR).

Phil has been instrumental in the development of the recovery movement. He’s been at CCAR since January 1999, when he organized CCAR’s first Recovery Walks! A sought after speaker, he is recognized around the world for his leadership.

In 2006, the Johnson Institute recognized his groundbreaking work with an America Honors Recovery award.

In 2008, Faces & Voices of Recovery honored CCAR with the first Joel Hernandez Voice of the Recovery Community Award, recognizing it as the outstanding recovery community organization in the country.’

’Self-Determination in Mental Health Recovery: Taking Back Our Lives (Part 2)’ by Mary Ellen Copeland

Unknown-7Breaking Down Barriers to Self-Determination
There are many assumptions about “mental illness” and mental health that must change, and are changing, that will facilitate the personal process of self-determination and taking back our lives.

When I first decided to reach out for help to deal with the difficult feelings I had been having all my life, I went through a lengthy questioning process (assessment) that had little or nothing to do with the way I was feeling.

I was given a diagnosis, told what that diagnosis would mean in terms of what I could expect in my life, and given medications that I was told I must take, probably for the rest of my life. Little attention was paid to my “out of control” lifestyle, my abusive relationship and my history of childhood sexual and emotional abuse and trauma.

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‘Stigma Reduction Through Recovery Contact’ by Bill White, Tom Hill and Greg Williams

Silence PosterMore insightful writing from Bill White and colleagues.

‘Debates continue on whether the stigma attached to persons experiencing alcohol and other drug (AOD)-related problems has a positive or negative social effect on the nature and magnitude of these problems.  Stigma promoters argue that public castigation of excessive AOD users prevents such use at a cultural level and exerts pressure for AOD deceleration/cessation among those with AOD problems.

Stigma detractors argue that such castigation inhibits help-seeking, forces excessive AOD users into subterranean drug cultures, promotes their sequestration through mass incarceration, poses barriers for the reentry of people seeking recovery into mainstream society, and places undue blame on individuals and groups while ignoring the ecology of addiction – the environmental conditions in which alcohol and other drug problems flourish.   

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‘How Can We Spread the News?’ by Kjetil Mellingen

kjmelliGreat article from Mad in America with excellent discussion.

‘Ever since I read Mad in America and later Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker, I have been wondering how to spread this knowledge to the masses and how to do this in a way that will make a difference to as many people as possible.

I used to teach creativity and brainstorming to corporations, and I would like to use the brain force of the MIA readers to find out new ways of influencing as many as possible with our message. In creativity research it has been shown that it is important to not be critical of your ideas in the early stages. Anything you can think of may be valuable, even if it seems crazy in the beginning. Often  the craziest ideas can bring the best results.

These ideas are called stepping stones. Just write them down, share them, and often you or others will see a practical modification of the idea that may actually be used.

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I Am Not Anonymous: Jodi’s Story, ‘Granny is in Recovery’

JodiText-1024x681(pp_w1000_h665)‘My name is Jodi Savits and I am a grateful person in long-term recovery. For me what that means is I have not used a drug or had a drink since October 14th, 2000. The 23 years prior to that were a miserable combination of both alcohol and drugs in one form or another.

I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood on Long Island in New York. For all outward appearances it was a loving, supportive family. Early on I was a very intelligent girl who received good grades in school and was going to be a doctor or a lawyer.  I went home from school every day and did my homework. I had very few friends. I guess I was a nerd.

At the age of 13 I found marijuana in my father’s bedroom drawer when he asked me to grab a sweatshirt for him. I took some to school and all of a sudden other kids wanted to hang out with me. The best part was the feeling- the numb. I was smiling and laughing without having to try. And so it began. As the years passed by I found and needed more and more to maintain the numb.

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‘Personal Reflections on Recovery Month 2014′ by Bill White

recovery monthThis month marks the 25th year of what has evolved into National Recovery Month.  With an early focus on the slogan “Treatment Works,” the event took on its recovery focus in 1998 just as new and renewed grassroots recovery community organizations (RCOs) were rising across the U.S.

RCO representatives came together at the 2001 Recovery Summit in St Paul, MN to launch the formal organization of a new recovery advocacy movement under the leadership of Faces and Voices of Recovery.

In the intervening years, Recovery Month celebration events have grown beyond what anyone could have predicted.  Local recovery celebration events that once welcomed a few dozen brave participants grew into the hundreds and then into the thousands.

This month, in community after community, recovering people and their families and allies will fill parks and streets as far as the eyes can see – an ocean of lives touched and transformed by recovery.   More than 450 recovery celebration events are scheduled this month in the U.S. and such events will also transpire around the world – from Vancouver to Cape Town, from Tokyo to London. 

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‘Peer Support in Mental Health: Exploitive, Transformative, or Both?’ by Larry Davidson

ldavidsonI am a great admirer of Larry Davidson’s work and writings. Three of his books are amongst my favourite reads in the mental health field – please see below. These books provide clear insights into the whys and hows of adopting recovery based care.

Here is Larry’s latest writing, which appeared on the Mad in America website.

‘The first time I tried to write about peer support – that emerging form of “service delivery” in which one person in recovery from what is described in the field as a “serious mental illness” offers support to another person who is in distress or struggling with a mental health condition – was in 1994. The manuscript was summarily rejected from an academic journal as representing what one of the reviewers described as “unsubstantiated rot.”

That same article was eventually published 5 years later (1), and used by the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to support its recommendation that peer supports be implemented across the country. (2) Now, more than a decade later and as peer support arrives at something of a crossroads, both of these reactions remain instructive.

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‘From the Rooms to the Streets’ by Bill White

Unknown-1‘Until recently, recovery from addiction was shrouded in public secrecy in the United States and in most other countries. Addiction has long been viewed as a personally and culturally intractable problem, and pessimism has reigned about the prospects of long-term addiction recovery.

These perceptions have been fed by the unrelenting public visibility of addiction-related problems, but the comparable invisibility of stable, long-term addiction recovery.

Historically, most people in recovery either completely eschewed recovery status (refused the addiction and recovery labels and culturally “passed”) or regularly cloistered themselves in “the rooms” of recovery mutual aid meetings before repeatedly and invisibly re-entering their civilian roles without acknowledgement of their recovery status.

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‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 9′ by William L. White: Recovery Advocacy and New Recovery Support

Bill talks about recovery as a new paradigm and its influence on treatment systems. He goes on to describe the new recovery advocacy movement and new recovery institutions and organisations. Most of this is occurring at a grassroots level.

I Am Not Anonymous: Mariel’s Story, ‘Together We Can’

Mariel-Text-1024x681(pp_w1000_h665)I’ll be finishing off Bill White’s talk this week, as well as highlighting some stories from the excellent website I Am Not Anonymous. Here’s the first of these stories.

‘My name is Mariel Harrison. I am 28 years old. I live in Point Pleasant, NJ. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, girlfriend and friend. I am also a consumer, a voter, a tax-payer, a home-renter, and a licensed/registered/insured driver.

I am a responsible, productive and valued employee. I am a diligent full-time student with a 3.9 GPA. I believe wholeheartedly in the healing properties of yoga and meditation, am a certified yoga teacher, lived in an ashram for 9-months, and hold nothing more sacred then my personal practice both on and off the mat.

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‘The Year of the Dragon’ by Bill White

SlayingTheDragon_2ndEd_Cover_Reduced_2014-06-19If you are interested in this field, this is quite simply one of the best books you will ever read. Bill, thank you!

‘A new edition of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America has just rolled off the presses. The first edition (1998) went through multiple printings and has been used as a text in collegiate addictions studies programs.

Of even greater import has been how this history helped many people in recovery see themselves as “a people” and contributed to the rise of a new recovery advocacy movement in the U.S..

It is ironic with all I have sought to do professionally within the addictions field that my most lasting contribution will likely come from my hobby – four decades of investigating the history of addiction treatment and recovery. It is thus fitting that one of my final acts of professional service will be releasing this new edition.

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Stamp Out Stigma

Stigma and prejudice in society are key barriers to recovery. Here is a new campaign against stigma.

‘1 in 4 of us is living with a mental illness. It’s time we stopped whispering and starting talking. Learn more at  http://www.stampoutstigma.com

ManyFaces1Voice: Patrick Fogarty

Unknown-4Check out the latest filmed Recovery Story from ManyFaces1Voice.

‘Patrick Fogarty received a gift on the day he was supposed to receive a sentence of years in prison.

During a caseworker’s pre-sentence investigation, Fogarty found himself being honest and telling her he had a “major drug problem.” He said, “I’m good with going back to prison. Send me back. I have nothing.”

That honesty – and the caseworker’s compassion – earned him a spot at The Healing Place in Louisville, Kentucky, the organization where Fogarty now works as a result of entering recovery in 2008.

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‘Portraits of Strength – Phillip Valentine’ by University of Connecticut

The purpose in my life, I’ve been blessed to find, is to carry the message of recovery. … Integrity is, for me, to live true to that calling. Philip Valentine ’87 (CLAS)

On Oct. 18, 1987, Phillip Valentine was in the birthing room at Rockville General Hospital in Vernon, Conn., high on cocaine and waiting for the arrival of his first child, a baby girl. He describes what happened next as a religious experience.

“I was in a kind of cocaine-induced haze, and when my daughter looked into my eyes, there was so much love and spiritual power,” he says. “That’s when God burned his way into my soul and said, ‘You’re not alone.’”

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‘PROTEST PSYCHIATRY – My Newest Film, Free!’ by Daniel Mackler

‘I just made a new film, called PROTEST PSYCHIATRY, on the psychiatric survivor-lead protest of the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in New York City.  And I’m thrilled by how it turned out.  For starters, I filmed it on no budget whatsoever, created the entire film in three days, and have uploaded it straight to Youtube, so it’s freeeeeee!

This film, for me, was an experiment.  I have been feeling lost as a filmmaker for the past year or more.  I think the big reason has been the process:  it’s huge and expensive and time-consuming.  Each film has absorbed months, literally months, of my life.  Well, all that changed five days ago.

Five days ago (May 2) I was hit with the inspiration bug:  to make a film a new way.

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Our Faces and Voices: Aaron Kucharski

Unknown-7Here’s an excellent film clip which helps highlight the exciting recovery advocacy that is going on in the US. People like Aaron really are going to make a difference, particularly when they are united in their message.

‘Aaron Kucharski uses the Faces & Voices recovery messaging training, Our Stories Have Power, in all aspects of his life, even once when a police officer asked him, “Have you been drinking tonight?”

He said, “No, I haven’t. I haven’t had a drink since September 6, 2003.”

Kucharski, who is the advocacy trainer for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) – New Jersey, says there was a point in his recovery where he shifted “from the shame of addiction into the pride of recovery.”

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‘Invisible Pain’ by Jonathan Keys

PdxJonThe issues raised by Jonathan Keys in his recent Mad in America article need highlighting and addressing.

‘In my practice as a therapist I often work with people who have been seriously hurt by the practice of psychiatry, either directly or indirectly through family members.

Many of them started taking psychiatric drugs for moderate depression, or for some anxiety, or for panic attacks. But as time went on, their doses went up. More meds were added. By the time they realized the drugs were making things worse, they were already stuck on a large cocktail of psychiatric drugs.

The side effects worsened and became intransigent. Increasing depression, lethargy, loss of libido, confusion, mental fog, weight gain, lowered immunity and poorer sleep became the norm.

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