Skip to content

The Past Provides the Present

Merlyn Karst

And it surely is a gift.  Recent blogs on this site have featured Bill White’s Blasts from the Past. Also profiles from our Recovering Moms who are in the know and in the now. I contribute from my lived experience of the past and relate it to the now. I noted that an event would be held in the future—January 24— in Los Angeles, featuring a Recovery Ambassador training followed by a dinner and gala fundraiser. Faces & Voices of Recovery is working on a web site page for and about recovery ambassadors after the L.A. training.  We can spotlight all who have taken the training who are now leading recovery advocacy efforts as recovery ambassadors or as recovery carriers. Recovery carriers? Read on for more…

My blast from the past is to note that in 2004, our newly established organization, Advocates for Recovery (AFR) hosted one of the first Recovery Ambassadors Workshops, conducted by Johnny Allem, author of “Speaking Out for Addiction Recovery.” John de Miranda and Joel Hernandez were present. This publication served as our workbook for the session. over the years, the training and the publication have served me and many.  I have often referred to myself as a Recovery Ambassador. Recovery ambassadorship drives advocacy and builds community. From Johnny’s book, “A sense of belonging plays a vital role in human existence. People aspire to ‘community’ and experience alienation when exclude.  The sense of exile leads to desperation. A key symptom of addiction is isolation.” I often quote a friend who wrote, “Alcohol is out to kill you, but first it wants to get you alone.” The alphabet array of support groups provides fellowship, ritual, and community.

I have stated before that when at a loss for words, I use those of others. In a recent blast from the past, Bill White writes, “The contagion of addiction is transmitted through a process of infection–the movement of addiction disease from one vulnerable person to another.  The contagion of recovery is spread quite differently–not through infection, but affection.  Those who spread such affection are recovery carriers.  Recovery carriers affirm that long-term recovery is possible and that the promises of recovery are far more than the removal of drugs from an otherwise unchanged life.  They tell us that we have the potential to get well and to then get better than well.  They challenge us to stop being everyone’s problem and to become part of the solution.”

White says, “We all have the potential to be recovery carriers.  Becoming a recovery carrier requires several things.  It requires that we protect our recoveries at all cost–Recovery by any means necessary under any circumstances.  It requires that we help our families recover.” Recovery Ambassadors are recovery carriers—carrying the message—through the power of story.

​The Los Angeles training provides this information: The Recovery Ambassador workshop prepares individuals to become citizen advocates in the grassroots recovery advocacy movement. Participants will learn about: becoming a leader in a recovery community, forming new partnerships and connections with local organizations and networks, engaging in the national recovery movement and reducing stigma and changing mindsets of all Americans.

Back to the past.   In 2008, I was privileged to be interviewed by Bill White for a portraits inclusion on the Faces & Voices of Recovery Website. I spoke as a retiree at that time. “ I truly think that the generation of retiring boomers who have achieved recovery is one of our primary resources for leadership, support, and activism. They just don’t know it yet! Our task is to let them know. The nature of our work attracts advocates with age, experience, available time, and unallocated income. Most retirees have all of those. Many who take early retirement will face isolation and boredom—certainly unhealthy for someone in recovery. We offer them valuable benefits for use of this personal time. There are millions of stakeholders in lessening the enormous and growing economic burden of addiction. These costs may cause everyone’s comfortable retirement to be much less comfortable.” We have since realized the immense value of the lived experience from trained Peer Recovery coaches and peer support services. Of course, the age and experience of peer coaches covers a broad spectrum.  The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Recovery@50Plus inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment program is an example In recognizing and most-effectively treating addiction—age matters. AARP gives attention to over use of opiate pain relief. Organizations and communities give attention to the young through prevention and recovery programs. Faces & Voices of Recovery guides community involvement through Association of Recovery Community Organization (ARCO).

The Recovery movement will grow and thrive through action and advocacy of our recovery carriers and recovery ambassadors and the power of their stories about the reality of recovery. Now that is a blast!

Posted in ,

Phil Rutherford