I’m Merlyn Karst. After a long and successful career in corporate America and while living in California, I retired in the late eighties. I then worked as a consultant and dealt with my own issues resulting from misuse of the drug, alcohol. This led to my becoming an administrator of an alternative sentencing program dedicated to finding solutions other than incarceration for drug related offenses. I coined a phrase – providing reasons and resources to reduce recidivism. Finding a path to long-term recovery, for others and myself, has provided huge recovery dividends. I saw so much evidence that recovery healed families; it made a profound and lasting impression. I found myself to be a sort of “recovery ambassador. “
After moving to Denver, Colorado, I continued to carry the message of recovery. In 2001, I attended a meeting in St Paul, Minnesota, and those attending set out to put a face on and guide the voices of recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. It began with this statement. By our silence, we let others define us. We determined that we could reduce stigma and discrimination through the impact and positive power of our stories of recovery. We also determined the need to change our language, our labels, and our identity. We needed to be, to act, and to speak out, as persons in long-term recovery.
Recovery is a reality for millions. Remember the over-arching question for many things: Who knew? The answer – too few! Our own organization, Advocates for Recovery-Colorado, was also born then and, with Faces & Voices of Recovery, became determined to educate and inform. Faces & Voices of Recovery is now the nation’s leading recovery advocacy organization with an international reach. The nation should be excited about a new and growing addition to the recovery movement, Young People in Recovery (YPR). It has added their powerful and passionate faces and voices. There are several recovery-oriented organizations and state and national agencies that now recognize and embrace the evidence of the reality of recovery. They also recognize the value of those in recovery as peer-to-peer providers of peer recovery services. Who better to carry the positive message.
Consider this statement statement by Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” There are 23.5 million persons – young and old – in recovery from addiction. This, to many is an extraordinary claim. We contend that we are the extraordinary evidence. In order to achieve understanding and belief, we need to give much more light and life to the evidence. Millions in long-term recovery are now sharing the power of their stories of lived experience with good health, citizenship, and well-being. A statement to those with long-term recovery is: Stand up, stand out, speak out, and be proud about it. Of course, in early recovery, many seek the comfort and cocoon of anonymity. Eventually, it would be great to let everyone see the butterflies. We are many and we are beautiful.
This blog post was provided by Merlyn Karst, founding board member of Faces & Voices of Recovery and current Board Member, Advocates for Recovery in Denver, Colorado, a Charter Member of the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO).