A recent blog by Bill White has a picture of a butterfly with one wing in black and white and one in color. In the past I have written about the power of stories of recovery. Many stories are openly and fearlessly shared in the rooms of the alphabet soup of support groups. The rooms are essentially cocoons and metamorphous is gloriously happening. I contend that outside the rooms, too few get to see the butterflies. As I thought about the picture of the butterfly with one wing black and the other in color, I had an inspiration about the journey from addiction to recovery. I was reminded of a classic movie. The Wizard of Oz. The movie opens in black and white. Chaos, concern, worries, and stormy weather begins the story. The family doesn’t know what is troubling Dorothy and she runs away with her little dog and a few belongings. When she returns in the face of more a major storm, she finds no family and the door to safety closed to her. Then comes the tornado and the spiral to who knows where. Finally the turmoil abates. In my movie, a new wonderful world appears in living color and the wicked witch, addiction, has been crunched. More is revealed and there is encouragement to follow the road to recovery. It looks very inviting considering the paths of the past. Let’s call an intermission and move on. Cue the music.
Wouldn’t it be great if life were like that? However, like the yellow brick road in the OZ movie, the road to long-term recovery is not smooth but is rather winding. The flying monkeys are out there. They snatch you up and fly off to relapse land. There are temptations from different kinds of witch’s brew and other bewitching stuff. A touch of irony here— The characters in the movie were delayed in their progress when they lay down in a poppy field. In the real world, it may not be a layover but the end of the journey. So we say, fear not, it is a journey worth taking and there can be some lion-hearted, courageous, professionals and peers to show the way. Persevere and you get your brain back, your courage back, and your heart back. To help on the journey, the faces and voices of recovery have pulled back the curtain of shame and stigma and exposed the reality of recovery. My name is Merlyn, a person in long term recovery. Not Merlin the wizard and with no magic wand. The magic is in my story and the stories of millions of others who have trudged the happy road of destiny. On the way, share your story with young people. Our “munchkins” are our future and we need to prepare them for the storms but also help them see the natural rainbows without any mind-altering chemicals.
In Bill White’s recent blog, titled: Quality of Life in Early Recovery and Beyond (check the butterfly) he includes some survey information that describes what one might expect on the road to recovery. “These surveys provide retrospective confirmation of the improvements in physical/emotional/relational health and quality of life that accrue with duration of addiction recovery. They confirm that increased time in recovery is linked to enhancement of housing stability, improvements in family engagement and support, educational/occupational achievement, debt resolution, and increased community participation and contribution, as well as reductions in domestic disturbance, arrests/imprisonment, and health care costs.” He further notes that recent studies indicate that quality of life (e.g., happiness, self-esteem, and recovery capital) increases exponentially over the first five years of recovery and continues to increase in smaller increments in subsequent years.
In the past I have written about all of the elements that guide communities to be “recovery ready.” Borrowing more wisdom from Bill White, I learned that sustained Recovery Management (RM) coupled with recovery-oriented systems of care (ROSC) would provide the road map that assures the appropriate support along the journey. In a previous blog I mentioned progress along the road to recovery could be supported by G.P.S.—Guided by Peer Support. I also wrote that 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. For those who are want to begin the journey to recovery—close your eyes, click your heels together and repeat. I’m ready—Take me to hope, health, and happiness. Take me to hope, health and happiness. Take me…—and hold on tight.