An article written by John F. Kelley, Ph.D in Psychology Today prompted this blog. His article is titled: Let's Build Roads to Recovery and asks about what kind of roads we must build. Kelley points out that while our nation’s transportation infrastructure is in need of repair, upgrade, and expansion, deaths from transportation-related accidents continue to be dwarfed by addiction and drug overdose. Sound roads and bridges are one key facet of American safety and wellbeing. Just as roads and bridges transport us from one location to another, a strong public health infrastructure serves as the framework to transport those suffering from active addiction to a place of safety and recovery. Congressional forums indicate that our leaders are paying attention. Infrastructure must include effective recovery support programs. The President’s opioid task force has recommended expanding the use of recovery coaches and reinforcing the value of services like peer-to-peer programs, skills training, and supportive housing. Congress is the prime mover in implementing and adequately funding these recommendations.
A founding group met in St Paul in 2001, and during the construction and building of our campaign to show the faces and give voice to the millions in the recovery community. We determined that our primary messages would be delivered though the power of our stories. We were committed to examine many roads to recovery. I am of an age to remember dual-lane highways and not much infrastructure. Highways often sported a series of Burma Shave signs that carried rhyming messages encouraging road safety. A series of signs on the road to recovery might say: Sick and Tired? Using dope? Recovery Works. Health and Hope. Addiction Kills. Causes Strife. Recovery Provides. Better Life. You’re invited to think of others.
Now there are multi-lane highways, with lots of choices for the journey of recovery. One choice may be roads less traveled. Peer coaches can guide those looking for more access to on-ramps that lead to more roads to recovery—and once on, not taking off-ramps to relapse. Traveling the recovery road requires stops for fellowship fill-ups and spiritual refreshment. It’s a good idea to pull into an overlook for a new vista. How about bridges? How do we learn which bridges to cross and which ones to burn? Is the next bridge a bridge too far? Could it be a bridge to nowhere? There could be a guide in the passenger seat to help answer those questions. It can be a form of personal G.P.S.—Guided by Peer Support.
It is said that recovery is a process not an event. It is about the journey, not the destination. We may ask the question many times—are we there yet? These are thoughts to consider; however, there is a need for stops and stay-overs to contemplate where we were, enjoy where we are, and determine where we are going. When my words fail me or the words of others would serve better, I share them. Bill White is a mentor and is an educator with words worthy to share. He has helped me think about the language we use. Talk about digging our own potholes! In a recent blog, Bill wrote about addiction, recovery, and personal character. I found his views about remission and recovery to be very important. Bill’s blogs can be found on the Faces and Voices of Recovery blog site.
On the recovery journey, we arrive at a state one might call “remission.” Many may settle for that and be comfortable. With infrastructure support, there is more to be gained by continuing the journey and not settling for remission but pursuing recovery. It is a term appreciated and well used by those with the lived experience of having survived addiction. As Bill White says, “Recovery depicts the process of moving through and beyond remission to refill oneself, develop depth of character, and propel one towards relationships and contributions that reach beyond the self.” And further “recovery in this view requires replacing the ‘I’ language of alienation with the ‘we’ language of human connection—shedding the ‘selfie culture’ and embracing a culture of humility, tolerance, interdependence, and community.” This most assuredly recognizes the value of evolving and improving the content of our character. We can go from the past caricatures by others to the proud character developed during the recovery journey.
To all who begin the journey to recovery —have a safe and enjoyable trip and remember: There is comfort in ritual and fellowship and sharing the jumbled joys of the journey with others.