California—Still Dreaming and Scheming

California—Still Dreaming and Scheming

Merlyn Karst

Posted in: Advocacy & Public Policy, Peer Recovery Support Services, Recovery Community Organizations

I can now add shaking to the mix. Earth— be still. My family and I have returned to California after more than 20 years in Colorado. We returned to familiar surroundings in Southern California.  It also is where I began my journey on the road to long-term recovery. It continued successfully through almost 20 years in Colorado. I appreciate friends and associates, along with early and continuing support for the founding of Advocates for Recovery— Colorado and Faces &
Voices of Recovery, nationally and internationally. All have kept me active and involved through the years. We have moved and are settling in. California has long been designated as “the golden state” related to the early rush for gold. It is apparent that during the time of my absence that the alchemists have been at work. The golden California poppy fields have been overshadowed by the invasion of the product of other poppy fields. It reminds me of what happened to the characters in the poppy field episode in the movie, The Wizard of OZ. The wizards behind the political curtains in this land of OZ continue to deal with the diversity and depth of humans being and humans doing. There is varied diversity and depth in brains, hearts, and courage among all those humans. In the face of the reality of the agonies and ecstasies that life provides, the Wizard of Oz was handing out hope. It was quickly revealed that gaining and maintaining hope needs help along the risky road “home”. It is obvious that there is opportunity here to continue in the activities I know well. I can support the help and hope needed in seeking the reality of recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

I referred to the land of OZ In an early blog and will include, as Bill White terms it, a blast from the past. I found analogy related to the road to addiction and recovery in the movie The Wizard of OZ. The movie opens in black and white. Chaos, concern, worries, and stormy weather begin the story. Dorothy runs away but returns to find no family and the door to safety closed to her. Then comes the tornado, and the threats, and the spiral to who knows where. Finally, the turmoil abates and suddenly a new wonderful world appears in living color and, in my movie, the wicked witch, addiction, has been crunched. Wouldn’t it be great if life were like that; however, the flying monkeys are out there. They snatch you up and fly off to relapse land. There are temptations from lots of kinds of witch’s brew and other bewitching stuff. 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. Promise. My name is Merlyn, a person in long-term recovery. I’m not a wizard and have no magic wand. There really is no wizardry on the road to recovery. Its just you, being willingly involved in the work required. My magic is in my recovery story and the magic in stories of millions of others who have trudged destiny’s happy road.  On the way, the magically positive and powerful stories must be shared with young people. Our “munchkins” are our future. We need to prepare them for the storms but help them see the natural rainbows— without any mind-altering chemicals.

California’s past is noted for it’s dreamers and schemers. To many, a scheme suggests some devious plan not designed for the common good but for ill-gotten gain. However, by definition, a scheme is a systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect. In 2001, a group of schemers and dreamers met in St Paul. Minnesota. From that gathering came the plan to put a face and a voice on recovery and to evolve a strategy to accomplish that. Emotion became notion, notion was put in motion, and a recovery movement was born. The recovery movement grows and thrives today. Faces & Voices of Recovery has a national presence and voice in Washington but with its roots in communities through the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO). The Phoenix, in my new community, is a member. Upon my arrival in California I was prompted by an important activity for a Peer Coach—to be a resource liaison. I went searching and was pleased to find resources for prevention, treatment and recovery. I noted familiar terms like Medically Assisted Recovery (MARS), Peer support— from peers with lived experience and training— sober living homes, celebrations of rehab successes, and an alphabet soup of support groups. In my previous work in California, I was administrator of an alternative sentence program and supported the use of early drug court programs. The justice system has changed. I will review California’s prop 47 and its effect. There is still purpose and value in the courts dealing with misdemeanor alcohol and other drug offenses to provide reason and resources to reduce recidivism.

In carrying the message of recovery, there is no substitute for the power of story. As a recovery ambassador, I will continue to carry the message of the reality of recovery for millions across the country. California may be noted for areas of difference and indifference, but it holds a share of those millions. It is a story that must be told. Do tell.

MJK