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.

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MRC Recovery Spotlight: Jonda Crum

I feel as if there were Recovery Community Organizations available 20 years ago when I was using and selling drugs, I may have seen my way out of that lifestyle sooner.

Minnesota Recovery Connection is a Recovery Community Organization, a grassroots nonprofit whose staff, volunteers, and Board of Directors are all people in personal or family recovery, or are community allies. We are dedicated to strengthening the recovery community, and we are proud to share our stories. This month, we hear from intern Jonda Crum.

MRC: How did you get involved with MRC and what does MRC mean to you?
Jonda: I was speaking to my doctor about going back to school for chemical dependency counseling. He had heard of MRC and about the Recovery Coach Academy they offered. He suggested I investigate that to see if that was something I wanted to do. After learning more about the opportunity, I decided to enroll and receive the Recovery Coach training. At the same time, my sister had to go to prison and that was a difficult time for me. However, after I completed the training, I pressed on and started volunteering at MRC, and I have been there ever since.

Getting involved with MRC has been a life-changing experience for me and I have seen how the same is true for many others in the recovery community. I feel as if there were recovery community organizations available 20 years ago when I was using and selling drugs, I may have seen my way out of that lifestyle sooner. MRC is one of the best things that has happened in my life.

MRC: What do you do at MRC?
Jonda: I am currently on a community engagement internship and some of my services include the supervision and training of MRC volunteers, heading up volunteer orientations, and I facilitate MRC’s All Recovery Meetings as well.

I desired to become a Recovery Navigator last year, however because my computer skills were not that strong, I was not selected, and that position requires intermediate computer skills. So, one of MRC’s Recovery Navigators, Justin McNeal hooked me up with someone at Twin Cities RISE, which is an organization that provides career training and professional development opportunities. As a result of going through their free program, I was able to learn the required computer skills as well as focusing on my individual development.

Because of my involvement with MRC and Twin Cities RISE, I was able to work at MRC through TCR on a paid internship. I then applied for a Recovery Navigator position through Recovery Corps. Beginning September 16th, I will be one of three awesome Recovery Navigators at MRC!

MRC: What is something that you are proud of?
Jonda: I am proud that my daughter now sees me in a positive light and for the fact that she says she brags about me all the time. My younger sister has always looked up to me, so when I got sober, she decided a year later to do the same. I couldn’t ask for anything better than that from her. I also take pride in and am relieved that I went through treatment only once and have successfully stayed sober for 2 ½ years! I am just so grateful for being sober, being at MRC, and feeling the accomplishment of getting up every day without feeling the need to use drugs or alcohol.

MRC: Who inspires you?
Jonda: I think Brene Brown is such an incredibly uplifting and awesome person. I also see many people in recovery every day, and each one of them inspires me. My sister, of course. And especially my daughter who see me as the person I am today. I wasn’t in her life for over 15 years, and when we talk, she never brings up the past. We only talk about our future together.

MRC: If you were to go back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Jonda: To not be so hard on myself. In the past, I seemed to only see the glass as half empty and certainly could not recognize the good things about me. Today, the opposite is true. I am managing my emotions better and telling myself to always go easy on me!

Minnesotans Mobilize Recovery!

L - R: Tim Rabolt, Pam Lanhart, Randy Anderson, and Christopher Lee Falck.

Last month, four Minnesotans participated in the first Mobilize Recovery conference, an initiative of Ryan Hampton’s Voices Project that took place in Las Vegas on July 11-12, 2019. The goal of the convening was to kick off a massive national effort to organize and train hundreds of carefully selected individuals and advocacy groups from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. to work together and maximize impact to end America’s addiction crisis. Mobilize Recovery was one of one hundred projects worldwide selected as a part of Facebook’s Community Leadership Program.

Participants were selected through an application and invitation process, and four Minnesotans were chosen to contribute their knowledge, experience and passion to the event: Randy Anderson (Mobilize Recovery Region 5 Mentor), Christopher Lee Falck (MRC Peer Recovery Specialist), Pam Lanhart (Director, Thrive Family Support, an advocate and ally for the recovery community), and Tim Rabolt (Executive Director, Association of Recovery in Higher Education).

MRC caught up with these recovery movers and shakers and got their thoughts about the experience.

What motivated you to apply to attend the Mobilize Recovery Conference?

Randy: What really motivated me is Ryan Hampton’s passion, motivation and drive. I feel very fortunate to call Ryan Hampton my friend. We originally connected through Facebook a few years ago. I’ve never seen anyone rise to the top so quickly as Ryan has.  His personality is contagious, and you can’t help but want get involved with whatever he’s undertaking.

Christopher: Strengthening the Recovery Movement!

Pam: As a family member impacted by substance use, I’m passionate about family recovery and the family voice. If we are going to have stakeholders at the table, families need to be represented. I want to show that whole families can recover and healing is possible. It is almost always the family that initiates help first and there are far too many roadblocks they encounter. They are almost always vilified as part of the problem but a healthy family can be the beginning of the solution.

Tim: I was invited to attend!

It was clear that Minnesota is on the cutting edge of many initiatives for change in the treatment of substance use. I am honored to live in a state where we have some model programs such as Little Falls and Moorhead. I am looking forward to engaging in the community conversations to help make our systems even better. – Pam Lanhart

What’s the one thing that you valued most about the experience?

Randy: For me it was the participants. Often times when doing recovery advocacy or fighting to change systems, one thinks they’re alone with the struggle. This was the first conference, town hall meeting, community forum or event that I’ve attended in the last five years of doing advocacy where I’ve been in a room with 129 other advocates from every corner of this country. Most events are filled with individuals we refer to as grasstops, this was mostly grassroots, people like me working hard, often times for no financial compensation, because it’s the right thing to do –  clawing, kicking, screaming, yelling, whatever it takes to get the job done.

Christopher: Networking, Seeing that we’re not alone in this fight!

Pam: The diversity of voice and perspective. There were people representing almost every pathway to recovery. Knowing that we are all different but creating a unified voice to help create pathways for recovery was humbling and inspiring.

Tim: The conversations with individuals from so many different backgrounds, demographics, and geographic locations.

What do you plan to do next as a Recovery Advocate?

Randy: Thanks to Ryan Hampton, Facebook and The Voices Project we are going to start to coordinate efforts that each community identifies as a need or issue for them. I’m excited to see what’s next for all of us!

Christopher: Run for Region 5 state representative. We have some good recovery advocacy leaders that are living up to our high expectations – I am excited to be contributing to the movement.

Pam: I will participate in Region 5’s initiatives, whatever is agreed upon as the greatest need. I am also passionate about diminishing stigma among first responders, such as hospitals and police departments, as well as continuing to work with families to help them understand that addiction is a disease that should be treated as a medical issue with proper loving, compassionate responses.

Tim: I think we have not even scratched the surface nationally in terms of the potential of the recovery movement- particularly around scaling recovery support services. Every community needs access to and availability of quality recovery support services- and that’s what I will keep pushing for.

A Year of Sunrises

There’s no getting around it, 2020 was a challenging year. It was especially hard on people with Substance Use Disorders. Structural racism, stigma, and health disparities exacerbated by COVID-19 collided in 2020, and the emerging statistics present a grim narrative.

And yet, we are resilient. We know that each new day is both a gift and an opportunity. As the sun rises above the horizon every morning, so too does another chance to take a step forward, regardless of where we traveled the day before. Recovery is a process unique to each of us, but we share the promise of renewal.

I never fully appreciated the beauty in a sunrise until I entered into recovery. Now I cherish the moment when that glorious burst of pink and gold and light breaks open a new day. A source of joy and inspiration for me in 2020, even in its darkest moments, was the daily sunrise photo that my friend and colleague Gary Branchaud posted on social media.

In his recovery, Gary has also rescued 224 dogs, all of whom have found homes.

A person in long-term recovery and a member of the Red Lake Nation, Gary is the co-founder of Sober Squad, a recovery movement that he and Colin Cash started on the Mille Lacs reservation that has now spread throughout Minnesota and beyond. Every morning Gary posts a photo of the sun rising above Lake Mille Lacs, sometimes adding an inspirational quote and always including the admonition to “Make it a great day and REMEMBER to hug those close to you.”

Being near the lake at sunrise is part of Gary’s recovery journey and cultural healing. “Our medicine is really strong just before the sun rises,” he told me. “About three years ago I started sitting by the water and waiting. When the sun rises you can hear it, like a snap.” Every day at that moment he says a simple prayer that the sun will shine on everyone. “It helps me be grateful,” he said, “and it reminds me that I am only human.” The rare time Gary doesn’t post a sunrise photo from Mille Lacs is when he’s out of town. “I still say a prayer for everyone, though,” he added.

Here is (almost) every sunrise from 2020, each captured and honored with a prayer for us all by Gary. Miigwech, Gary, from me and so many others, for sharing the gift of sunrises with us in 2020. As we begin 2021, the recovery community is stronger than ever in its resolve to lift up and support all who are affected by Substance Use Disorders.  We will move forward, with gratitude, one sunrise at a time.

– Wendy Jones, Executive Director, Minnesota Recovery Connection