Making History

Patty McCarthy Metcalf, Face’s and Voices of Recovery’s Executive Director, invited me a few months ago to contribute a blog (I did) and from time to time to write about FaVoR’s history. There is a lot of it. I was privileged to serve as Chairman of the board for six of the early years, so there is a lot to write about but there are important episodes. I was prompted by something I read to write this blog.

James Fallows, wrote an article for the March Atlantic Monthly, titled Can America Put Itself Back Together? He said, “Many people are discouraged about America, but the closer they are to the action at home, the better they like what they see. … in scores of ways, Americans are figuring out how to take advantage of the opportunities of this era, often through bypassing or ignoring the dismal national conversation.” In face of this, the New Recovery Advocacy Movement (NRAM) provides a positive presence and unity at the national level. We can state that our action at home takes place through the Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs) with all of their supportive activities.

In 2001, in St Paul, Minnesota, our founding campaign group recognized the value of putting a face on recovery and the difficulty of getting beyond anonymity and the prevailing existence of systemic stigma and discrimination. In putting forth a voice of recovery, we needed attention to the language and the message. Bill White, our recovery movement mentor, led us in this consideration. One of the activities for the group was to form a choir. We weren’t very good until we determined that the answer lay in singing from the same songbook. That meant, singing the same words, the same melody, in harmony, and with the passion associated with an anthem. The positive messages to be received like music to the multitude of ears. The anthem could be titled, “Recovery is a Reality.”

It has been a dramatic evolution, aided by the growth of the movement at the grassroots. More of the 23.5 million in recovery are standing up, standing out, speaking out and being proud about it—using assemblies and social media to take the message to the nation and the world. The movement now has a critical element, Young People in Recovery (YPR), where peer-to-peer support is powerful.

We learned early on that our biggest asset would be the power of our stories
In Fallow’s article, Phillip Zelikow, a professor at the University of Virginia and a director of a recent Markle Foundation initiative called Rework America, said, “There are a lot more positive narratives out there—but they’re lonely and disconnected. It would make a difference to join them together, as a chorus that has a melody.” Sound familiar? Our stories of recovery are the positive narratives out there. Without our many fellowships and per support, we would remain, lonely and disconnected. “ I pointed out the importance of a chorus that has a melody.

Our challenge in St Paul was to go and make some history. We have and are continuing to make history. Let’s be proud when history notes that through the difficult process of overcoming addiction, we overcame.

Merlyn Karst
Founding member of Faces and Voices of Recovery
and Advocates for Recovery-Colorado.
America Honors Recovery Award recipient—2008
Recovery Ambassador