advocates for recovery

mirage

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superior mirage of the boats painting
mi·rage
noun
1.
an optical phenomenon, especially in the desert or at sea, bywhich the image of some object appears displaced above,below, or to one side of its true position as a result of spatialvariations of the index of refraction of air.
2.
something illusory, without substance or reality.

i can’t remember being filled with as much anger and disappointment as i \have now coursing through my veins. well- that’s not true- the last time was in 2008. connectedly, there are lessons here for me- i just need to get some distance before i can let all those in. and that anger just may be the same ancient anger- a little like the kraken unleashed.

i have a tendency to say “yes” to things when i might want to honestly take a closer look. but even then- as in this case, i may only see what i want to see. i push past the red flags and keep my eye on my prize.  one of the biggest part of this is the inability for me to comprehend that i might not have been up to the task. how do i hear what is going on that isn’t being said? how do i see beyond what i want to see? a really frustrating aspect to my current predicament is that i did say “no” once. i just didn’t stick with that answer.

as i was reading about mirages, i came to understand that mirages are caused by refractions of light with the influence of heat. images appear to be different than they are- whether they bend in an inverted direction or not depends upon the circumstances. in my current situation, it remains to be determined which this is. but no doubt it has been a mirage. or maybe more pointedly, i saw something i wanted to see that just wasn’t there.

so for fun- i thought i would google how to wake from a bad dream. here is something i found. i doubt i will follow all these steps, but it certainly offers some perspective. and i need to smile these days. otherwise i am cavorting with the kraken.

Steps

  1. 1

    Realize that this is a dream, and nothing can harm you. To do this, it may help to try attempting something you could never do in real life.

  2. 2

    Look around and see anything out of the ordinary. If you find something, say a flying pig, think about it and realize this would never happen in real life. This may help you wake up if you realize that you are dreaming.

  3. 3

    Decide if you wish to avoid or face the object of your fear.

  4. 4

    To escape the dream into a different dream, try to look down and begin spinning in place. A series of images should flash by, and this will usually change the dream scene without waking you.

  5. 5

    First of all, try the standard wake up procedure. Throw your head back, and try to open your eyes. Concentrate on waking up, and use as much willpower as you can muster. Don’t worry if this fails – some people just can’t do it quite so quickly.

  6. 6

    If the previous step didn’t work, try controlling your dreams. If you are not totally and utterly lucid, this probably won’t work. Just try to teleport (again, extreme mental willpower) to a place with a giant alarm clock or wake-up machine, and do whatever you need.

  7. 7

    If you just want to wake up, try reading something like a book or a sign. Do not “just know” what it says, concentrate on the words and the letters. This usually activates a portion of your brain that is disabled in REM sleep. This is the same reason why you musn’t panic if you aren’t as smart in dreams as you are in real life.

  8. 8

    Blink! Close your eyes and wait a few seconds before re-opening them. Since your eyes are already closed in real life, sometimes when you open your eyes in a dream you open them in real life, waking you up. You may have to do this several times before it works.

  9. 9

    A classic: Pinching yourself. It works for some people.

  10. 10

    Failing all of the above, you can attempt to fly away. This will signal you are in a dream to your brain. To do it, simply jump and try to, well, fly!

  11. 11

    Stop thinking about the nightmare. Close your eyes, tightly and try to think about the real world. Think about your bed room scene, like what is it like when you wake up. Talk to yourself, and now try to open your eyes. You will feel that your eyes are actually glued together. Just concentrate on the real world.

  12. 12

    Another way of escape is to climb up onto an escalated ground (ex: the top of a staircase, a cliff) and just jump off.

  13. 13

    Run straight into a wall. You won’t be hurt, but you will wake up. Or run into the enemy and let him/her eat or harm you. You won’t die or hurt as well but you’ll wake up.

  14. 14

    If you are able to talk in your dream (sometimes you can’t): Keep saying “Wake Up!” over and over.

  15. 15

    If all else fails, attempt to kill yourself in the dream. Contrary to all the myths, this will not kill you in real life. Try anything. Whether its flinging yourself from a roller coaster or cutting off your own head, figure out a way.

we rallied

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i spent 4 months married to the production of a 4 hour event (pics from recovery rally above) and i am completely pooped. i still have other commitments and things to do. but life and melancholy have slowed me down. 

i am still in shock over the passing of my friend. without realizing it, i find myself overwhelmed and reactive with an emphasis of trying to cut my self free of my life. i have dropped this service commitment and that commitment until i found myself ready to set free some resources for others because i don’t feel i can handle them right now. but a friend reminded me to just chill and  stop making decisions right now. i just need to be for a bit and i guess that’s what i’ll do.

until then, please consider watching the 1st rough clip of footage. big kudos and thanks to tim ryerson of tnt productions for the work.

living the promises

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If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and selfpity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

throwing a party- or more accurately – a rally, takes some patience. it takes help, it takes attention, it takes money, and it takes time. i must say i have had quite a ride working on this event- 2012 Recovery Rally Colorado.
there have been so many steps- securing the venue, lining up speakers, recruiting volunteers, keeping volunteers busy, finding the right sound person, securing sponsors, engaging resource vendors, supporting the volunteers, securing funding streams, networking, and the one that probably makes my heart sing the most- marketing.

i have learned that i am enamored with helping develop a “look’ for these things and working to get the word out. now that the festival is tomorrow, all of this particular heart-engaging work has come to a close. i will get to share stories, test my courage by speaking to our participants (easy because i have a purpose- introducing  others). i hope and pray that i will not make an ass of myself- although i do realize that if i do make an ass of myself i will still survive somehow.

but the opportunity i have had to give a face and an image to this festival is one of the promises coming true for me in my life. i get to be useful and in the process, my heart gets involved. i don’t have to yearn for the approval that i used to need almost as much as i needed air to breathe.

so there are many last minute details to finish to ready for the party. pick up a guest from the airport, pick up the programs, finalize the water situation, answer a multitude of emails, find a balloon arch, find weights for the tents, troubleshoot a few last minute snafus.

it seems moot at this point to hope for a successful rally. it is already in motion. and i feel like i have already been part of a success. it feels fantastic. and i am completely grateful. many thanks to jena at rockethouse designs. and thanks also to afr for the opportunity to dance to my own music.

Colorado Recovery Rally 2012 program

Honor Guard

Advocates For Recovery Brochure

the anonymous people

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image- greg williams.. the anonymous people

i came across this vid on kickstarter by a guy named greg williams. it is a testament to the burgeoning social change movement that has been kicking up its heels on the eastern seaboard over the last 10 years. addressing the undeniable stigma of addiction as well as highlighting the lackluster outcomes of our now traditional substance treatment, the film asks questions about the invisible block of americans who have moved beyond their addiction and become happier and more productive members of society. this fact, of course, never getting much airtime or front page coverage, unlike the devastation and drama caused by active addiction.

the film clip stirs so many emotions in me. i believe that the wonders that have touched my life in recovery have rocked my world. it’s hard to imagine that others wouldn’t  want this if they understood it, even if they  only got a fraction of the relief i have found.

none-the-less greg williams is tapping into something greater than himself here. i encourage any readers to watch his clip and consider a contribution to his efforts. the local recovery organization i volunteer with has decided to donate enough to snag a private showing next year with a guest appearance by greg as well as a q&a. i fully support recovery coming out of the shadows and into the light.

here’s the link for his kickstarter project.

recovery is my double helix

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i wanted to just give an update on the things happening in my life. i have realized that this blog has become a bit watered down. i journal here now and again about some personal process but with a vague quality because i am an addiction counselor and there is necessary confidentiality. sometimes my days are challenging with the people i counsel- maybe more than sometimes. but i also find that i have just as many challenges (if not more) with the structure of my workplace and the colleagues and policies i work with. these are day-to-day challenges that i often need to process, but when i blog about them i am as vague as possible so as not to implicate anyone in particular. this style waters down my posts and i assume they seem bland and hazy. certainly they do not mirror the frank qualities of my early posts before i entered counseling or healthcare. i used to have the freedom to write my truth. i have spent the last couple of years trying to develop a style that will convey a perspective as well as the “zoom out” quality that my spirit and my life have taken on with ongoing recovery.

opportunities have made themselves available to me on a steady pace since i got clean. and challenges have made themselves unavoidable in tandem. these seem to co-exist in my recovering life just as a double helix is part of my dna. as opportunity and success careen forward, it becomes necessary to address character defects and re-examine old wounds and current motivations regularly in order to avoid meltdowns. i have begun to share in meetings that one of my greatest barriers has been my own ability to be ordinary. so much of me carries a belief that i am less than (or not as good as) others. since this has been a lifetime belief developed from the times i was 9 or 10, fatherless and yearning for male companionship, sexually active with older peers and publicly humiliate by those same peers for the same activity, i also developed a keen ability to tune out or shut down my feelings in order to keep going and not fall apart. it seems no wonder now that i chose getting high as an alternative to living in truth. it allowed me to transcend  the brokenness i felt.

you know- the funny thing is that i didn’t understand any of this about myself until i was 4 or 5 years clean. the denial was so embedded that it took time to bubble up to the surface. and believe me when i say there was not a party when i first encountered these ideas. it was reliving the trauma of it all first and then finding a way to climb out of the ancient emotional  hole i had again crawled into. doesn’t this sound like a hella lotta work? it is. and i can’t be anything but grateful because i had no idea i had carried that crap around all those years.

so here’s the flip side of my sober life experience. while i am helping myself grow emotionally from the 10 year old boy who was riddled with self-esteem issues and enough defense mechanisms to keep palestine safe, i also came to understand that the emotional landscapes i had traversed such as having a mental health diagnosis, being hiv positive, being gay, being fatherless could become assets and sources of support for others. and i now believe that the reason that i survive all the things i have is because i have experienced all the things i have. my challenges and tribulations have become my assets.

and while all this ancient history is rewritten and re-edited, i have managed to accomplish the following:

i am part founder of an organization called TEN – i started a newsletter in 2008 for HIV positive individuals in Colorado and it is still being published.
i author 3 blogs – The Climb, TEN, and After The Pop!
i am board chair for AFR- Advocates For Recovery.
i have chaired AFR’s annual Rally For Recovery for the last 2 years.
i am on the BHPAC- Colorado Behavioral Health Planning and Advisory Council.
i am on a team working on BRSS TACS– Bringing Recovery Support Services To Scale in Colorado
i co-chaired the Denver HIV Planning Council for 3 years.
i have introduced peer coaching and peer mentoring to a large Colorado Public Hospital SA clinic

for me this seems a solid amount of service work. not amazing, but solid. and when i couple it with the internal work that has been done, i am reminded that i am not in charge at all and that i am so grateful i have a spiritual program to keep me somewhat balanced. i have developed a buddhist sensibility somehow- probably because the buddhists are so sensible when it comes to drama. recovery has become a lesson in letting go of drama for me. or at least not being caught up in it.

somebody that i used to know

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image credit… giampaolo sgura


                                               Now and then I think of when we were together
                                               Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
                                                        Told myself that you were right for me
                                                           But felt so lonely in your company
                                               But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember

                                                You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
                                                     Like resignation to the end, always the end
                                                 So when we found that we could not make sense
                                                       Well you said that we would still be friends
                                                    But I’ll admit that I was glad that it was over…. gotye

the last couple of weeks have been the slowdown after a couple of months of a whirlwind in my life. i had been so very occupied all 7 days and most nights for most of the spring that i hardly had time to catch my breath or get any perspective. recently though, i am steeping in some uncertainty, a strained relationship or two, and a general loss of direction.

part of me is worried because i generally thrive on being inspired and do well when i don’t take time to reflect. but these recent days and this downshift offer me a not so easy but necessary peek at the road now traveled. a dance or two with serenity have graced me with a deeper understanding of my own nature and biology.

it has mostly been my style to inspect my feelings and my struggles and certainly there is that natural bent today. it is not where i need to take my introspection at this time. i need to apply the technique i suggest to so many others so very often. i need to zoom out.

i sit on the board of a recovery organization and there is so much to do with not enough know-how. i have to accept that my best is good enough, even though everything won’t be perfect in my eyes. and i have to let others take leadership roles, help out, and make mistakes. all this imperfection does not translate into a poor job or a failed me.

at my work, i do not get to make the decisions. many of the rules and policies don’t seem to be geared toward the goals i have with my work. this creates conflict for me. i have a tendency to feel useless and want to give up, rather than stay in the game and work towards change- including compromise and defeat. i want to face a defeat with abandonment, because that is what i have always done. maybe i have never felt connected enough to anything or anyone to work through conflict. it’s always been less complicated to leave. even if i lose a piece of my heart.

as i write, i lean toward thinking how fucked up i really am. that phrase, albeit applicable, isn’t the story. it isn’t all me. it’s just the damaged part of me. the part that continues to lose influence as i walk with the light. creating change in my life is in process. i am patient. i am impatient. i have faith. i struggle to remember faith. its all jumbled and it seems so clear.

i have fewer close friends than i have ever had in my life. but the friends i have are simpler and more honest than i ever imagined. i am gobsmacked at times by the clarity that my intermittent interactions with friends provides. and i have never felt more comfortable by myself before.

To undertake a genuine spiritual path is not to avoid difficulties but to learn the art of making mistakes wakefully, to bring to them the transformative power of our heart…….Jack Kornfield

life reclaimed

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Life Reclaimed- A Community Discussion

yesterday i had the opportunity to share some experience i have collected over the years around meth use and especially recovery at a community forum hosted by the mile high meth project at a local restaurant it was titled “life reclaimed” and that title seems to have held a specific meaning for me as my role in it unfurled. i was scheduled to speak with one of the doctors from my workplace, but he called in the last minute with illness. maybe he had fears speaking in a room full of gay men. i know i certainly did. i have felt challenges being around groups of gay men since the 70’s and my coming out days. my experience was that we (gay men) are not the most supportive, leaning mostly towards judgmental, catty, and bitchy. yesterday morning met me with those same fears and eventually led me to the opportunity to walk through those fears.

i had no idea how i was going to speak for a full 1/2 hour or really how the words would come out. i have been quite busy (thankfully) and did not really write anything down. i did scribble some talking points as i sat in the restaurant waiting to go on. thank goodness i did.

turns out that i didn’t need the notes but once. as is my norm, once i started talking i found some flow. i began talking about when i worked for mhmp and was in chicago doing research on creating that program. i stayed with one of my best friends that weekend and my heart was flooded with memories, some so vivid and powerful that i believe i have been changed forever. the trip certainly cemented my commitment to working with addiction and gay men. and what a ride it has been.

well, chatty cathy ended up talking for an entire hour (and a little more). the smokers were getting antsy and needed a break. i talked about some of my experience. i talked about soar– science of addiction and recovery- and how the brain changes with extensive drug and alcohol use. i touched on mat- medicated assisted therapy (which was the doctor’s original bit). i talked about recovery, about being a part of the lgbt community and being in recovery, about pride and the perils of connecting with the debauchery. i talked about afr and my role with them including the recovery rally in september. and i talked about the peer mentoring project going on at my workplace now.

all this chatter led me to realize that i have changed over these last years. i have waded into the water and i have been baptised. and i have come away feeling filled with spirit. looking back- i don’t think i’d change a thing. 

Shirley Horn – "Quietly There"

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i have this cd playing in my car right now. every time i slip behind the wheel and start the ignition, i am whisked away to a magical time in a recording studio somewhere and shirley re-teaches me that some things just ain’t that important.

here’s to life
yet again ms shirley horn..
i truly adore you.

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pieces of me

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image credit.. damien blottiere

Common to my recovery advocacy work and my work in recovery management is the proposition that there are multiple pathways of long-term addiction recovery. I recently collaborated with Ernie Kurtz on a monograph that tries to convey what we know about such pathways and styles of recovery from the standpoint of history and science [20]. In this work, we plotted variations in the frameworks of recovery (religious, spiritual and secular), the scope and depth of recovery, styles and contexts of recovery initiation, and differences in recovery identity and relationships. We also tried to answer the questions of when recovery was stable and durable and whether recovery was ever completed. Our goals were to both summarize current knowledge about recovery for addiction counselors and recovery advocates and to stimulate future recovery-focused research…William L White
 
it has been a zany month. i got pneumonia at the end of february and was basically out of commission for 2 weeks. i then worked 19 days in a row including some training for the rosc intervention i am championing at my workplace. 
it has not been overwhelming, but it has been a lot. 
my sponsor reported that he was in the hospital all week with a carcinoma scare. he went to the emergency room on monday and the hospital kept him for observation all week. he has already undergone esophageal surgery (highly dangerous) and this new development is not without concern. it is definitely one of those times when my personal lack of power is magnified. 
we have decided to start the recovery rally 2012 on september 8. we are hoping to secure civic center park this year. the last couple of years, the rally has not been held downtown. we consciously made an effort to separate ourselves from a similar event (now dark) that left a tainted footprint in its wake. the rally committee meetings should begin in april. i hope we can create an event for memory as it will be the return to downtown denver. 
just feeling a little sassy this morning. my friend robbie posted this on fb and i was flooded with some memories of days gone by. i still think spp is a hoot and i know i had some crazy good times. and i certainly don’t have any misgivings about having no desire to recreate those days.

stepping through doorways

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image credit…. vadim piskaryov

it occurred to me today that i have spouted the phrase that is the title of this post so many times that my audiences certainly have grown weary of hearing. i wonder sometimes why i haven’t done the same. truth be told however, it is my truth that it seems i have been stepping through doorways of opportunity since i laid down the meth pipe and let go of the wine glass.

in 1995, i was visiting paris with a friend. we stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment on the isle st. louis for a week. we visited versaille, pere lachaise cemetary, la reine restaurante, veaux le vicomte, and the unforgettable flea market. in the middle of my stay (which was rife with alcohol abuse) i was awakened one night feeling a poking on my upper arm. it was direct and it felt purposed. i woke to see a hooded figure standing beside my bed. this figure gestured with its left arm and directed the movement towards a doorway that stood behind him. as i remember it, i paused for a few moments, but chose to symbolically go through that doorway. 
it is a haunting and very vivid memory. visually i can still recall it, and i can recall the feelings surrounding this event in my life still. my belief is that i volunteered that night and much of the hullabaloo that has made up my life since then is connected to that decision somehow. shortly thereafter, i began to circle the drain with alcohol use. i drank heavily and got a repeat dui. during treatment for that offense, i had a strange psychological break as well as a physical meltdown. i became so weary- what with my full time job and community service- and my hiv was proliferating like ivy in my body. a good friend trapped me in his car to discuss his overwhelming concern about my well being and demanded that i go to a doctor. 
it  turned out that to continue living,  i needed to start “the cocktail”. luckily, it was 1996 and the meds had really advanced. that began a trail of health rejuvenation that was remarkable to me. continued drinking and a topsy turvy sense of my life’s purpose caused me to leave my job of 11 years and take a corporate post. this led to frustration and anger at living in a city where i had come to die. anger led me to san francisco which brought me to my knees with dot com bust followed by 9/11 followed by 3 bouts of kidney stones followed by a sinister crystal meth addiction. 
this particular addiction tumbled me through some outrageous craziness like fred flintstone in his time machine.  my last days on the west coast were absurd and obtuse. when i look back at living on the street in la’s skid row with a hooker who worked out of a pup tent to distract me, it seems more like a performance piece than a slow descent into madness.  and when a fellow addict hustled me yet again by stealing the brillo out of my pipe, the straw that broke appeared. 
back to denver, addiction to avoidance in tow, i landed here and rekindled my slow burn in hell. embezzling money from a longtime friend for the purpose of keeping meaningless sex going found me hallucinating at the bathhouse like ebeneizer in his bedroom on christmas eve. the nightmares on that night remain just as vivid as the paris dream. each of these incidents led me to the next and then the next. 
i found sobriety after the embezzlement issue. treatment was an albatross that didn’t really work. therapy with a counselor and psych meds became the path to my resurrection. i had no idea where to find sober folks so i hit the 12 step rooms. i got a call to work as an advocate for plwh- nothing i had ever planned. this led me to understand that i had understanding and communication skills that could be helpful to people. i took classes for counseling. i got a call to work on a meth project for gay men. i got to be creative. this positioned me to get hugely triggered with ptsd which led me to more therapy and working through old old misery. this led me to a job at a hospital. through a few jostles with trauma triggers, i have found myself in a position to help shape some changes at this public entity. at the same time i find myself serving as chairperson for two boards of directors and am helping shape the evolution of both these organizations. 
these opportunities and situations have all appeared like doorways in front of me- much like the night in paris. i have only recently come to understand (and accept). that i am compelled to continue stepping through these opportunities. they are leading me somewhere, and the process colors my life with a sense of adventure and fulfillment. 
as i thought about writing this post, i came across several similar articles about going through doorways. i am not sure if i have lost sight of my path because of the luminescence of what’s ahead. i honestly hope i am not overlooking the wisdom of what’s already been. 
much of these last paragraphs are new insight. i don’t honestly know where my movements will lead. i can’t say for sure that my motives are holistic. inspiration, drive, intuition collectively contribute to my decisions.  i can only trust that i am where i am supposed to be.
image credit…. fotofacade
“Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” study researcher Gabriel Radvansky, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame, said in a statement.
“Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized,” he added.
To come to this conclusion, Ravansky and his colleagues conducted three experiments, the results of which are published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. In the first, they had college students virtually move objects from a table at one side of a room to a table at the other side of the room, as well as to virtually move objects from one room to another room and crossing beneath the doorway…. reposted frum huffington post
The researchers found that the students were more forgetful when they moved between the rooms, versus when they were just moving from one table to another in the same room.