Beyond Backgrounds

“I believe that housing is a human right.”

Peer recovery support is a non-clinical, strengths-based approach to helping individuals on their recovery journey. It’s provided by people who have lived experience with both substance use disorder and recovery, known as Peer Recovery Specialists here at Minnesota Recovery Connection. They work 1:1 with individuals in activities that engage, educate and support the person as they work toward personal recovery goals. Having a safe place to live and call home is a critical part of recovery but often not easy to secure when mental health or substance use disorders have contributed to bad credit, a criminal record, or other background barriers.

In 2020 MRC partnered with HousingLink to provide peer recovery support services to help people overcome barriers to renting their own place to live. Beyond Backgrounds is a program intended to help people who are able to pay rent but face challenges in finding housing due to criminal, credit or rental history barriers in their background. Participants who identify as seeking help for mental health or substance use disorder can get connected with one of MRC’s Housing Support/Peer Recovery Specialists who will provide peer recovery support and help them navigate finding housing. Additionally, when a landlord rents to a Beyond Backgrounds participant, they have access to up to $2,000 of free insurance provided by HousingLink if the landlord incurs qualifying expenses that exceed the security deposit.

The program started last January as an initiative of the East Metro Crisis Alliance to serve Ramsey, Washington, and Dakota Counties and has since expanded to Anoka County and the Saint Cloud area. Almost 100 people have been successfully housed in the program’s first year, and about half of the people housed choose to continue working with a Peer Recovery Specialist for ongoing recovery support.

MRC’s Peer Support Project Coordinator Justin McNeal built the infrastructure for MRC’s role in the Beyond Backgrounds partnership and was the program’s sole Housing Support/Peer Recovery Specialist during its first few months. As the program took off, however, he quickly needed to add three more Peer Recovery Specialists to the Twin Cities team: Howard Collier, Ruth Kashmark, and Farhia Budul. In November the program expanded to Saint Cloud, and MRC partnered with the local RCO, the Recovery Community Network, to have Cynthia Garcia Magallenes serve as the Housing Support/Peer Recovery Specialist for that area.

“I believe that housing an individual is one of their basic needs and if you can get someone housed they are more likely to have a stable life,” said Justin. “It’s incredible how hard it is to find a place for someone to live when they have multiple barriers, most of which are associated with a time when they were not in recovery.” The Housing Support/Peer Recovery Specialists spend part of their time finding landlords who are willing to work with people with barriers, which can be a challenge at times.

As hard as it is to hear “no” from landlords, all the hard work is worth it when someone is successfully housed. “The other day I got to be with one of my participants as she accepted the keys to her new home,” said Ruth Kashmark. “She and her four children had been living in a hotel room for a year. Getting her into a single-family home after all she’d been through was a victory for her, for me, and for the recovery community.”

Ruth has taken over leading the Beyond Backgrounds team now that Justin has moved on to build another new MRC program, and she’s excited to see it grow. “I’ve had my own barriers to housing as a result of substance use disorder, and being able to help others overcome those same barriers is something I’m passionate about.”

If you have questions about Beyond Backgrounds or would like help enrolling in the program, feel free to contact Ruth at ruth.kashmark@minnesotarecovery.org or 612-584-4158, ext. 232.

Explore Irish Traditions This St. Patrick’s Day

Image source

Explore Irish Traditions This St. Patrick’s Day
by Sarah Lockwood

For many Americans, St. Patrick’s Day is all about enjoying a parade and heading to a local bar to drink a pint or two of green beer. But what about those who don’t want to spend the occasion drinking, either because they abstain from alcohol for health reasons or are even in an alcohol recovery program?

As it turns out, there are all kinds of ways to enjoy St. Paddy’s Day – and plenty that don’t require a single sip of alcohol! The favorite early spring holiday that celebrates the patron Saint of Ireland is a great excuse to explore this fascinating culture from across the sea. The Irish have a rich musical, dance, and language history. Try a few old traditions on for size this year for a change in step.

Many people have heard of the popular Irish show Riverdance, where traditional music and steps are performed on a stage. Irish dancing is actually deeply steeped in community – and is not a spectator sport. One fun tradition is the Irish ceili dance (pronounced kay-lee). The ceili has been around since the 1500s. It is a fairly straightforward folk dance performed by couples to jeels or rigs. Attending a ceili is a great night out: you’ll get great exercise, use your brain to follow the steps, and maybe even meet new people! Competition level ceili dancers are out there, but most events are tailored to people who are new to the steps. You won’t be alone – an opportunity to learn step-by-step is often provided. This is a great date night out for adults, but can also be a fun physical education lesson for children middle school-aged and older.

If dancing just isn’t your thing, the Irish have a long musical tradition to dive into. According to the Irish Tourism Council, there are several types of Irish music. The first is ceili, which is all about dancing. The second is seisun (pronounced seh-shoon). They define this type of music as “an informal gathering of musicians.” Some of the instruments played are familiar to Americans, like the guitar and the flute; others less so, like the Irish drum. The Tourism Council explains that because the music is somewhat improvised, songs blend seamlessly into each other, keeping the fun going. If visiting Ireland, the songs also vary by region. Stateside, try looking for events in Irish pubs, Irish heritage organizations and even churches. If you really want to get authentic, Irish Music Magazine lists some of the best Irish music festivals of the year – many of which are in Ireland or Scotland – though there is one a little closer to home at Disney World in Orlando.

Another way to connect with Irish heritage is through the beautiful language. Omniglot, an encyclopedia of written systems and languages, notes a resurgence in interest in the Irish Gaelic language, partly due to people outside of Ireland wishing to reconnect with their roots. In fact, they note the University of Montana has one of the largest and most comprehensive Irish Studies and Irish Language courses in academics internationally. If you’re looking for something in Ireland, look no further than the Irish International Festival – described as the largest celebration of Irish language and culture – which takes place for the better part of March. One initiative they support is learning the Gaelic language. In addition, they have resources to teach songs, ceili dances, and even short films. Another app offers beginners lessons in the Irish gaelic language for free. Each lesson is short and easy to follow, and available on Apple, Windows or Android devices.

No matter what your reason is for enjoying a sober holiday, investing time in the Emerald Isle’s history is a wonderful way to spend St. Patrick’s Day.

Ms. Lockwood offers resources on substance abuse and addiction treatment via The Prevention Coalition. 

3 Tips for Single Parents Managing Addiction Recovery

3 Tips for Single Parents Managing Addiction Recovery
by Sarah Lockwood
Image Source

Single parents have incredibly full plates. For single parents who also happen to be recovering addicts, each day carries even more struggles in terms of balancing kids, work, home, and sobriety. Single parents managing addiction recovery must prioritize self-care to reduce stress and avoid a relapse; the following three tips will help you do so successfully.

  1. Strengthen Your Support System

Single parents tell themselves they have to do it all on their own, but managing addiction recovery and balancing your kids’ needs with your own requires a support system. Recovering addicts often find themselves with few friends and family members because of the broken relationships that remain long after recovery begins. But, when your friends and family members see that you are in recovery and that you are focusing your time and energy on your children, they will be more willing to reconnect with you, repair the relationship, and become a support system for your children and you.

Other areas of support include those people in your recovery program. While your friends and family may be available to take kids to sports practices and help you balance their busy schedules, the people in AA and NA are a valuable support system when you need to talk with others who understand your struggles. 12-step programs will welcome you and give you a judgment-free area in which to share your story and gain encouragement and support for staying sober.

  1. Create Stress-Free Environments

Many times, addicts become addicts because they turned to drugs and alcohol to escape the pressures and stresses of everyday life. Now that you are in recovery, you need to take steps to create stress-free environments. You may not be able to control your work environment, but you can control your home environment and make it as healthy for yourself and your children as possible.

Stress-free living is possible at home if you begin by reducing the clutter in your home. Single parents don’t have much free time to clean, and looking around your home and feeling as though there is so much do to quickly becomes overwhelming. Plan a weekend with your kids for decluttering and organizing your home. Sort your belongings into piles: what you want to keep, what you want to donate or sell, and what you need to throw in the garbage. Then, follow through and organize what you are keeping, take a trip to a charity or second-hand store with the items you are donating or selling, and place throw-away items in bags. Then, work as a family to ensure everyone’s belongings are in designated spaces and that you have created a clutter-free home.

Next, make your home more relaxing by adding a few plants or photographs of nature and allowing natural light inside. Create a relaxing space for yourself with books, a journal, music, and comfortable pillows. Get in the habit of spending time in this relaxing space each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, so that you can recharge your batteries and decompress.

  1. Make Time for Active Fun with Your Children

Another way to reduce stress and balance single parenthood with addiction recovery is to exercise as a family. While many single parents in recovery do not have time or money to join a gym or attend fitness classes, they do have time to spend with their children in fun and healthy ways. For example, organize a dodgeball night with friends or set aside a Friday night for a family hike. Some families enjoy kayaking or biking together, while others enjoy hitting a local park for a game of pickup basketball or baseball. Whatever you choose to do, leave electronics and other stress-inducing items and thoughts behind so you can enjoy your time with your family.

Single parents can manage their busy lives and their addiction recovery by strengthening their support system, creating stress-free environments, and making time for active fun with their children.

Ms. Lockwood offers resources on substance abuse and addiction treatment via The Prevention Coalition. 

East African Women and Recovery

I am an East African woman in long term recovery. What this means to me is that I get to be the mother my children deserve to have in their life. It means not being defined by the shame and stigma that my community/family instills on me for being in recovery.

Read more

Social Media and Recovery Advocacy: The New Frontier

Social Media and Recovery Advocacy: The New Frontier
From Faces & Voices of Recovery Blog
by Brooke Feldman

Perhaps more than any other sociological advance we’ve seen over the past decade, the widespread use of social media has had a tremendous impact on the New Addiction Recovery Advocacy Movement. The ability to connect across counties and continents has facilitated the transfer of information and fostered opportunities for networking in ways never before imagined. The ability to virtually mobilize and organize the recovery communities online has magnificently spilled out into the physical world at recovery meetings, social events, advocacy days, conferences and massive rallies such as last year’s Unite to Face Addiction event in Washington, DC. In addition to these powerful benefits, the ability to put a face and voice on recovery has never before been more real as hundreds of thousands of people each day publicly disclose being a person in long-term recovery for the larger world to see on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. This public disclosure of recovery status has moved our movement giant steps away from mostly preaching to the choir and out into a place of serving as beacons of hope and sources of inspiration for the greater world to see. All told, the widespread use of social media has certainly advanced the New Addiction Recovery Advocacy Movement, yet as with all advances, the widespread use of social media has also brought new challenges for us to grapple with. This blog is the first of a series that will explore some of the challenges of social media and recovery advocacy that our community must discuss, struggle with and get to the other side of.

Language
With so many styles and varieties of recovery experiences that are embedded in individual and cultural contexts, coming to a place of one universal, non-stigmatizing and all-encompassing set of words and messaging is no easy task and remains one that our movement still struggles to unite around, spread and sustain. With social media providing a very public forum for self-disclosure and conversations around addiction and recovery, we see at least just as much use of less favorable language as we see individuals using the research-backed Faces and Voices of Recovery messaging. In order to continue moving forward with promoting non-stigmatizing language that will transform minds and hearts, our movement will have to acknowledge all of the factors at play in the variability of language, the real benefits of that variability, the potentially harmful limitations and challenges of that variability and ultimately new strategies for moving language forward.

Pictures
The notion that a picture is worth a thousand words is one that the advance of social media has brought square into the forefront. As we see unsavory and stigmatizing images used by the media for stories about addiction and recovery, how will the recovery advocacy community unite to demand better from the press? As we see an abundance of videos posted that demonize victims of an overdose, how will the recovery advocacy community unite to demand an end to public shaming that only leads to more discrimination, stigma and lack of awareness about the reality of recovery? As we see countless memes using stigmatizing language or poking fun at addiction and recovery, how will the recovery advocacy movement unite to counteract these images with memes that instead use strengths-based language that promotes the universal value and reality of recovery?

The challenges surrounding the language and pictures used on social media are just two of a number of areas we must address as we continue forward movement in the new frontier of social media and recovery advocacy.

Stay tuned for my next blog on this subject which will explore the personal and collective responsibility that comes with advocacy on social media…

brookefeldmanBROOKE FELDMAN, Faces & Voices of Recovery Recovery Blog Manager
Brooke openly identifies as a person in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder.  While recovery means many different things to many different people, what this means for Brooke is that for over 11 years, overcoming problem alcohol and other drug use has enabled her to stop the intergenerational transmission of addiction that claimed her mother’s life at a young age.  Furthermore, recovery has enabled Brooke to combine her own lived experience with professional and educational experience to live a life of service dedicated to supporting others around initiating and sustaining recovery.  Brooke firmly believes that long-term recovery is possible for all individuals and their families, so long as they have access to the resources and supports they need.  Much of Brooke’s professional, volunteer and writing efforts go toward ensuring that those resources and supports are more readily available when, how and where they are needed.

contact

Contact

How can we support your recovery today?

800 Transfer Road, Suite 31 • Saint Paul, MN 55114 • 612.584.4158

Sign Up for Newsletter