Safety in Self-Help Groups

Safety in Self-Help Groups
~
MAJ John Donovan

One of the most important issues to confront recovery groups in decades has been the issue of “Safety in Self-Help” groups. Startling headlines and shocking news reports have circulated around the nation about predatory behavior within and around self-help groups.

Earlier this year the General Service Office of A.A. in New York, NY published a paper providing A.A. groups with much sought after guidance about how to deal with disruptive behavior within an A.A. group. This paper entitled:  Service Material from the General Service Office – Safety and A.A.:  Our Common Welfare, was printed on January 25, 2017.  The paper lays out the A.A. philosophy and suggestions for keeping groups safe.  Here are a few extracts:

  1. The paper states, “In any situation, if a person’s safety is in jeopardy, or the situation breaches the law, the individuals involved can take appropriate action to ensure their safety. Calling the proper authorities does not go against any A.A. Traditions. Anonymity is not a cloak protecting criminal or inappropriate behavior”.
  1. The paper adds, “As individuals, A.A. members are also “citizens of the world,” and as citizens we are not above the law”.
  1. Lastly the paper adds, “No A.A. group has to tolerate illegal behavior and any activity within an A.A. meeting is subject to the same laws that apply outside the meeting.”

Although not in the aforementioned paper, this excerpt from a letter Bill Wilson (co-founder of A.A.) wrote in 1969 clearly shows how Bill felt about the subject. He wrote, “This amount of charity does not mean that we cannot exclude those who disturb meetings or seriously interfere with the functioning of the group. Such people can be asked to quiet down or go elsewhere, or, to come back when they are better able to participate.”

In summary, the group’s welfare comes first. No one in a self-help group is above or outside the law.

MAJ Donovan is a person in long-term recovery and an advocate for veterans seeking recovery.  MAJ Donovan will present on “Safety in Self-Help Groups” on April 27 at the Annual Military Mental Health Initiative Conference to be held at the 133rd Air Wing located adjacent to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. 

3 Tips for Single Parents Managing Addiction Recovery

3 Tips for Single Parents Managing Addiction Recovery
by Sarah Lockwood
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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. 

Explore Irish Traditions This St. Patrick’s Day

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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. 

Tell the White House Why We Need Healthcare Parity

healthinsuranceIn 2008, Congress enacted the The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) to ensure that insurance companies cover mental health and substance use treatment no differently than they do other medical conditions. MHPAEA is a federal law that generally prevents group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than on medical/surgical benefits.

It is now 2016, and we’ve got a long way to go to make parity a reality. There are still disparities between the accessibility and coverage of MH/SUD treatment versus other medical care.

You can do something about it.

Last month, President Obama created a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force tasked with increasing awareness about comparable insurance coverage, improving understanding of requirements for health plans, and increasing transparency around compliance with the law.

The President’s Task Force wants to hear from you, from patients, families, consumer advocates, health care providers, insurers, and other stakeholders on their experiences and difficulties with accessing services and coverage.

Share your comments, experiences, and recommendations with the Task Force. Or, submit your comments by sending an email to parity@hhs.gov.

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

CARA Update – Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act


CARA Call-In Day Tuesday June 14th

In March the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), followed by the House passing the House Opioid Package of bills in May. Now CARA and the House Opioid Package of bills need to be passed by the Conference Committee in order to be sent to the President’s desk for signature.

Want to help make sure the recovery support provisions stay in the Senate CARA bill?

Contact your legislators and let them know how important recovery support services provided by recovery community organizations (like MRC), recovery high schools (like Pease Academy), and collegiate recovery communities (like Augsburg’s Step Up Program) are to you. Click the links below, and make your voice heard.

CALL HERE

EMAIL HERE

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

CARA Legislation on the Move

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BREAKING NEWS FROM WASHINGTON D.C. – CARA is on the move!

The Senate voted 95-1 to send the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) to conference with the House, in an effort to send a final bill to the president’s desk before Congress recesses in mid-July. (Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against the motion.)

CARA’s sponsors, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), are not among the Senate’s conferees, but Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will serve on the conference committee, along with 35 House members (see list below).

CARA co-sponsor Sen. Portman has been critical of the House’s package (which focuses almost solely on the opioid epidemic), saying the Senate bill is more comprehensive. Recovery advocates have also shown a preference for CARA because it prioritizes prevention efforts and includes provisions that address recovery programs. In a statement, Sen. Portman said:

“I’m pleased that CARA is the position of the Senate as we move into this conference discussion[.] My staff and I have been working very closely with our conferees, Senator Whitehouse, and other members to help find common ground between the two chambers.”

Unfortunately, no Minnesota legislators are members of the CARA Conference Committee. Nonetheless, our elected officials need to hear our stories. In order to ensure that the final bill presents a comprehensive approach to addiction, Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) is asking constituents to take action today. Tell FAVOR why CARA and a comprehensive approach to this public health crisis is so critical.

Republican Conferees:

  • Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California
  • Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan
  • Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia
  • Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin
  • Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas
  • Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia
  • Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan
  • Rep. Mike Bishop of Michigan
  • Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey
  • Rep. Brett Guthrie of Kentucky
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois
  • Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana
  • Rep. Susan W. Brooks of Indiana
  • Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter of Georgia
  • Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida
  • Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana
  • Rep. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Robert J. Dold of Illinois

Democratic Conferees:

  • Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey,
  • Judiciary ranking member John Conyers Jr. of Michigan
  • Education and Workforce ranking member Robert C. Scott of Virginia
  • Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington
  • Rep. Gene Green of Texas
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas
  • Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut
  • Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee
  • Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland
  • Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico
  • Rep. Judy Chu of California
  • Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut
  • Rep. Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire
  • Rep. Raul Ruiz of California

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

Authentic Connection vs. Shame

Authentic Connection vs. Shame
by Tyler Reitzner

There was a point in my active addiction that I had to be hospitalized to detox and stabilize. My drinking was causing significant damage to my liver and pancreas as well as spiking my blood pleasure to dangerous levels.  Spitting up blood was a daily routine. I spent six days in the hospital with doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists telling me “you can’t drink anymore or you will die” and I knew they were right.

When I was released I was optimistic about changing and was laughing with the staff as they discharged me but by the time they wheeled me to the lobby my mind was starting to race. I realized that I would be going back to my home, alone, sitting with myself. I took a cab home and halfway through the trip I had the driver stop at a liquor store. I was back in the hospital five days later.

Shame almost killed me, not alcohol. My drinking didn’t cause the shame; it was the best way that I had to deal with the shame. The feeling was crippling at times. It wasn’t the shame of being an alcoholic that kept me from getting help; it was the shame of being me, and not feeling worth it.

My shame is the brick wall at the core of my soul built of old wounds that tell me I am not good enough. It made the self-destructive lifestyle that comes with alcoholism feel comfortable and necessary. I felt isolated and worthless, to the point that alcohol became the only relationship that I felt comfortable with and I needed to connect with something.

Over 7 years later, I am in long-term recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Substance Use Disorder (SUD). I have focused on being myself, present, growing, and engaging in the relationships in my life. This is how I define authentic connection and it’s what broke down my shame wall and helped me feel worth living, even with imperfections.

The process started for me even back when I was in the hospital still in my active SUD. I had felt safe and taken care of while there. The staff treated me like a human and not a defective person. While I was in the hospital I felt sincere hope. When I left and lost that safe connection I felt the shame wall build back up and tell me I am not enough. Although, I did drink again, that feeling of hope stuck with me, and deep down I knew that I could connect to something other than alcohol. The recovery community became that connection for me. Authentic connection was the dynamite that started to blast apart the shame wall and lead to better relationships with my family who became a part of my community. However, the work didn’t stop there.

“You have to let us love you until you love yourself”, every defense mechanism I had kicked in the first time I heard that. That concept sounded terrifying to me because it meant that I had to learn to sit down, look myself in the eye and say I love you, Tyler, and you are worth that love. The love of my community made it safe to do that, and I now feel like I belong.

My oldest son and I recently had a discussion around recovery that validated my experience. We were discussing recovery and what it has meant to us and he made the following statement “I got to see you as you, and not the drunk you”.

Related Books for this topic by Dr. Brené Brown: Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong.  

Tyler Reitzner is a Patient Leader, Speaker and Behavioral Health Advocate. He lives with his wife and two boys in Minnesota.

Board Member: MN Trauma Project http://www.mntraumaproject.org/

Board Member: Minnesota Recovery Connection https://minnesotarecovery.org/

Director of Marketing and Outreach: FRrē, Family Recovery Resource Experts https://frre.net/

Coming this October! Podcast series and website, Strength in Brokenness, with Tyler and Dr. Ryan Van Wyk.

Historic CARA Legislation Passes House

diagramOn Friday, July 8, 2016, the United States House of Representatives almost unanimously approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA). The 407-5 vote bodes well for the bill’s passage in the Senate, after which CARA will land on President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

CARA includes policies and grant programs affecting prevention, law enforcement, addiction treatment and recovery support.

The implementation of CARA will:

  • Raise prescriber awareness through education about the danger of opioids;
  • Increase access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) for those with substance use disorder by increasing prescriber patient limits;
  • Expand first responder naloxone training programs and prescription drug take back initiatives, as well as general addiction treatment and prevention education, training and awareness campaigns;
  • Fund a comprehensive report on the reality of recovery in America and the collateral consequences of addiction;
  • Offer demonstration grants for states to provide a comprehensive response to opioid abuse; and
  • Provide grant funding for veteran treatment courts, treatment for pregnant and postpartum women, and recovery support services through recovery community organizations (that’s us – Minnesota Recovery Connection).

CARA’s financial commitment to expand recovery support services is modest – $5 million over 5 years – but overall CARA is a huge victory for recovery. CARA is an important step toward healthcare parity and a promising development that will further our efforts to end discrimination against those diagnosed with substance use disorder.

Please take a moment to thank your representatives for moving CARA forward.

Thank your representatives for voting YES on CARA.

Tweet your members of Congress #thankyou for voting YES on #CARA.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

The Senate Passed CARA!

July 13, 2016unnamed

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) – the first comprehensive addiction and recovery legislation to pass Congress in almost 40 years – is headed to the President’s desk this afternoon to be signed into law.

HUGE thanks to our own Julia Alexander for working on this legislation for more than two years! And Bravo! to the Addiction Policy Forum for all of its tenacity and perseverance!

Please take a moment to thank your Senators for voting yes on CARA.

Minnesota Recovery Connection

connect. recover. advocate. serve.

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