that’s the good news. and it is good. the other side of the story is that i have not been on my best behavior nor in my best frame of mind. i have wallowed in a little pity, played a bit of the victim, been a bit gamey and childish, and worked it more than i would like to admit. being human is really damn humbling…
am offering 2 selections with today’s post- 1 with homage to the mindful part of myself and the other with a nod to the diva that walks the catwalk inside my head with repetition…. mercury in retrograde leaves november 10- fingers crossed we make it without too much more destruction and re-creation..the title of this post is practicing mindfulness – the emphasis is on practicing.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act:
Eliminates the practice of unequal health treatment. This practice has kept individuals with untreated substance use and mental health disorders from receiving critically important treatment services. Providing parity provides insurance coverage for substance use and mental health disorders equally to other chronic health conditions like diabetes, asthma, and hypertension.
Improves access to much needed mental health and substance use disorder treatment services through more equitable coverage. Millions of Americans with mental health (MH) and/or substance use disorders (SUD) fail to receive the treatment they need to get and stay well. The lack of health insurance coverage for MH and SUD treatment has contributed to a large gap in treatment services. Improving coverage of MH and SUD services will help more people get the care they need.
- recovery centers in your community;
- recovery activities and websites;
- peer support;
- mutual help groups;
- faith based supports;
- education and vocational;
- mental health services;
- medical care, including HIV Services;
- financial and budget counseling;
- legal, and advocacy services;
- alcohol/drug and gambling services;
- prevention for children and adolescents; and
- parenting and family services.
Surprisingly, the TEN (Treatment Education Network) newsletter is still going strong. We are halfway through our 4th year and the content gets stronger. I still think it important for PLWH in Colorado to have visible proof that other people live with HIV and lead positive and happy, healthy lives-especially in rural Colorado. It must feel so isolating to be among so few. This was the initial purpose for the creation of this publication- to reassure all the readers that indeed there are everyday folks who have moved past the stun and the stigma and have gone on with their lives.
The 30th anniversary of HIV in America is probably a good time to reflect on all that has changed. If you know someone who may be challenged by their situation, please forward this to them. Maybe it will make a difference. In honor of my own 26 years of knowingly living with HIV, I am posting a vid of Carol Burnett singing Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here”. MWAH!
Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it’s just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
And you begin to wonder why you came
our team has been piecing together some ideas for a newer direction for the hiv positive patients who are (or are struggling with) dealing with substance abuse issues and healthcare adherence lapses. there are several factors which are closely related to many of these individuals challenges. trauma, stigma, depression, aging, sexual dysfunction, isolation, self-esteem, mental health are the first of many to come to mind.
most of the patients i see live below the poverty level. some by design, but most reside in this strata because this is all they know. insurance is not an issue as it is not a choice. luckily in colorado, there is a state program which is designed to give access to healthcare to every coloradan. so much of the basic and intricate healthcare issues and hiv care issues can be met. but honestly, many of these individuals don’t care about healthcare or hiv care. the avoidance of these as well as avoiding as many of their feelings beyond numb creates a perfect environment for drug and alcohol use to morph into abuse almost invisibly- at least to them. it’s quite a different story to the world around them as out of balance seems quite evident.
one thing that seems to be a reality in our city is that a sense of community and camaraderie in the world of alcohol and drugs exists and beckons. the bars- especially gay bars are community oriented and geared towards fun while you use. music, emcees, shows, drag shows, comedy, dancing, are all at our fingertips as we begin to cement our relationship with drugs and alcohol. the concept of fun is interlaced with use and as we all know it does feel good to get high. it’s moderation which becomes the issue, or maybe the lack of it.
so when people are conceptualizing themselves changing their use, or stopping their use, the idea of fun and festivity becomes a major factor. “life will be dull without the party” accompanies a belief that there will never be joy in their lives again if they stop using. seems pretty reasonable to me. felt that way myself actually. and if you think about it, the image of sobriety pales with regard to fun-loving. as a matter of fact, even though i believe that being sober has brought an unbelievable sense of calm and peace to my life, i don’t even think my using friends think of me as being very much fun. conversely, i would imagine they see me as a buzz kill.
anyway, we are trying to put together a visual and approachable set of peers who have gone through the changes involved in giving up drug use and drinking and have become conduits of joy. i know that i am much happier than i was before 9/29/04, and if you sit an chat with me for a while, i think you’ll believe it and feel it, and i know it is true of many, many others too! this is the subliminal message we want to disseminate. i am currently looking to seattle’s strength over speed for some inspiration. that grassroots effort has been in development for a few years and i believe they have affected lives. they mix together men who have stopped using meth with men who are actively using- some of those reformed are involved with 12-step and some are not. this encounter, no doubt, allows people weighing their options to see that life can easily continue successfully without the armor of substance protecting us.
the next offering is a workbook-driven curriculum for meth users that is evidence-based and hails from the Matrix Institute of CA. i worked with a version of it previously when i helped develop a program called the “mile high meth project” for another agency. the matrix has its strengths and weaknesses, but the structure works well and it is designed to engage user’s right brain in order to address the left. coming down off meth creates so much emotionality, that any process that can grab their attention is worth its weight in gold. this is not specifically for gay men. this is much more universal. this is also not poz-only. it’s not as if people discriminate when they are actively using, and i am trusting that same acceptance tendency can bring educational opportunities as well as personal growth and self-acceptance.
this layer will hopefully work as we extend our efforts here beyond gay men. in colorado, poz persons who are not gay men struggle with isolation and stigma even more intensely. there is a small sense if community among these subsets, but it is not cohesive. at least not at our workplace. thus far, we have started a drop in group for the gay poz patients and it seems to be making an imprint. this week heralds its 1-year anniversary, and i believe we have had almost 100 persons through our doors. and our substance treatment numbers for that population have quadrupled with the onset of this effort. and the work continues.
of course, what we are working towards includes helping people find their way to healthcare adherence and retention. the science has been available for some time to keep this virus manageable and undetectable. the costly and debilitating problems that unaddressed hiv infection brings can be greatly minimized by adherence. honestly, i have seen about 15 persons pass this year and most of them would be categorized in the aforementioned. i know that what i am working towards is how to save a life.
keep your fingers crossed… oh… and, can you see my heart smile?
of course the fray are from colorado turf. their stunning debut album seemed to almost usher in the latest indie music boon that we are now in the midst. i heard an interview with lead singer isaac as he talked about visiting a mountainside drug and alcohol recovery camp for youth and was inspired to write these lyrics. appropriate…. local…… lovely..
i was up late last night trying to send over some change for the next newsletter. i definitely am excited about this one. many articles by poz women who have traditionally stayed pretty quiet in these parts. and women feel stigmatized just as much (if not more) than any of the men. sexually transmitted viruses somehow have a moral connotation that accompanies them.
i have started the new position at the hospital. i find i am much busier and i like it. i have meetings today around the standards of care for substance abuse within the ryan white system. i am cheering silently that a friend who is back in the throes of IV meth use will go to rehab. i have asked my sponsor and one of my bffs to go to the lunch next weekend for the afr presentation. i am headed to grand lake next thursday for the weekend. and i have been approved to go to chicago in october for the opiate replacement conference- aatod. i will get to see some old friends and remember once again who i am becoming.
life seems to be opening up. there are many stories running at the same time. i am smiling. the current metaphor for my life may just be the rose of sharon bushes i planted in front of the house. they are small but in full bloom with flouncy purple blossoms caressing the breeze. they remind me of the change that is always in proces in my life and the world around.