Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 Focus: What can I do to make a difference to someone in my world?

Taking his morning walk on the beach, a man sees thousands of starfish washed ashore. The tide is going down and these starfish are stranded on the beach. The man sees, ahead of him, a child bending down, picking up something, and throwing it into the ocean. As he gets near, he sees that the child is picking up starfish, one by one, and throwing them back into the ocean. The man says to the boy “There’s so many starfish on the beach, you can’t make a difference.” The boy looks at the adult and says nothing. He simply bends down and picks up another starfish and throws it back into the ocean. Then the child speaks and says “It made a difference to that one.”

Let us take our ability to respond, to speak, to love, and to make a difference and go out there and change our world, one thought, one word, one action at a time. We are not victims — unless we choose to be. We are not powerless — unless we give up our power to act. We are not too late — unless we give up.

Ask yourSelf what you can do to make a difference in your world… What you are inspired to do may seem small, or it may seem monumental. But if you act on your inner voice’s guidance, you will feel rewarded beyond words. You will feel “on track” with your purpose.

Excerpted from the article:
Speaking Your Truth: It Does Make a Difference
by Marie T. Russell.

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Love is Letting Go of Fear
by Gerald Jampolsky.

Love Is Letting of Fear has guided millions of readers along the path of self-healing with its deeply powerful yet profoundly humble message. Embrace it with an open mind and a willing heart and let it guide you to a life in which negativity, doubt, and fear are replaced with optimism, joy, and love.

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Sunday, April 27th, 2014 Focus: I choose to be present and conscious in each and every moment.

Life is good

Life is good

Sometimes we can believe ourselves to be ‘feeling’ something when in fact we’re thinking about it, coming up with theories and ideas, concepts and beliefs about it.

All of these, no matter how noble they may seem, serve to separate us from the direct experience of right now, and it is direct experience – of ourselves, of life, of everything all around – which is the essence of this time.

The more we can be truly and fully present – conscious in each and every moment of the very breath which leaves and returns to our body, of the air on our skin, the thoughts passing through our minds, the emotions arising and passing away – the more deeply we can come to know the truth, the deepest truth, of this powerful time.

Excerpted from the article:
Deep Abiding Truth: Everything I Call “Mine” is Fleeting
by Sarah Varcas.

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A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke
translated and edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows.

A Year with Rilke provides the first ever reading from Rilke for every day of the year, including selections from his luminous poetry, his piercing prose, and his intimate letters and journals. Rilke is a trusted guide amid the bustle of our daily experience, reflecting on such themes as impermanence, the beauty of creation, the voice of God, and the importance of solitude. With new translations from the editors, whose acclaimed translation of Rilke’s The Book of Hours won an ardent readership, this collection reveals the depth and breadth of Rilke’s acclaimed work.

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Saturday, April 26th, 2014 Focus: I am learning to recognize the signs that point me in the right direction.

Learning the language of spirit is not difficult, you just need to familiarize yourself with how Spirit communicates with you. The sound of spirit comes in the form of gut feelings, thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere, visions, and dreams that tell a story. Also, there are many messages that come in the sacred form of animals, numbers and symbols.

There are signs everywhere to point you in the right direction, guiding you as to whether you are to go or stay put. There are also many that give you the encouragement you may need to keep moving forward. Think of a time that you had a bad gut feeling and proceeded forward with what you knew didn’t feel right. Did it turn out with a happy ending? The answer is probably “no,” as I haven’t heard a story yet that ended otherwise.

By the same token, taking a chance on a gut instinct that feels positive may reap enormous rewards, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time. Now before you go out and jump from the rooftop because you were guided to fly, you must learn how to be discerning in interpreting these messages. The wings you have been shown are probably meant as encouragement that you are on the right track, not a literal message to jump!

Excerpted from the article:
Learning to Read the Signs
by Pamela Jo McQuade.

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In 2004, I penned an essay that opened with the following sentences:
“Something is reawakening inside America. People whose stigmatized condition left them hiding alone or cloistered in subterranean subcultures are stepping into the light to tell the stories of their wounds and their redemption. They are offering their time, talents, and testimonies to address alcohol and other drug-related problems in their local communities and in the country as a whole. They exemplify a transition from self-healing to social activism that could aptly be described as a style of radical recovery.”
That essay went on to describe this style of recovery in considerable detail. Here are a few more excerpts.
“Radical recovery is the use of one’s recovery from addiction as a platform to advocate social change related to the sources of and solutions to community-wide AOD problems….Radical recovery is making amends and expressing gratitude through the vehicle of social action. It is mobilizing communities of recovery to build relationships of influence with other community institutions. It is a vision to reshape the ecology of addiction and recovery in America.”
“Radical recovery recognizes that visibility and voice come at a price within a society that continues to stigmatize those linked to AOD problems. It seeks only a vanguard of recovered and recovering people whose personal circumstances allow them to stand as living proof of the proposition that recovery is a reality for millions of people around the world. It is the use of the personal testimonies of that vanguard to convey hope to individuals, families, and communities. It is the recognition that recovery is a gift bringing duties and obligations that transcend the self.”
“Radical recovery recognizes the existence of predatory industries that promote and profit from addictive products. When those with AOD problems are sequestered in ever-increasing numbers in jails and prisons, radical recovery asks: what individuals and institutions profit from such circumstances? It openly confronts the ways in which public health can be sacrificed for corporate gain. Radical recovery is the recognition that young men and women of color and disenfranchised whites have become the raw materials that feed the institutional (prison) economies of many communities. Radical recovery is willing to confront treatment professionals and treatment institutions that view people with AOD problems as a crop to be harvested for personal and institutional profit.”
“Radical recovery is inclusive (in its tolerance and celebration of the multiple pathways and innumerable varieties of recovery experience) and respectful (of the traditions and folkways of various communities of recovery). Radical recovery frees one from the need to have the single recovery answer and allows one to celebrate the diverse pathways that foster escape from the addiction quagmire. It allows one to respond to such differences not out of defensive criticalness but out of true joy for another’s freedom. Radical recovery makes no claim other than one’s own experience and is not threatened by experiences that are different. It affirms choice in recovery and celebrates the diversity of those choices. Stated simply, its motto is ‘recovery by any means necessary’.”
“People in recovery are looking beyond their own addiction and recovery experiences to the broader social conditions within which AOD problems arise and are sustained. A radicalized vanguard of people in recovery is using personal transformation as a fulcrum for social change. They are living Gandhi’s challenge to become the change they wish to see in the world.”
The 2004 essay ended with an invitation: “Prophetic voices are rising from communities of recovery across America. Voices of the formerly hopeless are becoming instruments of personal healing and community renewal and redemption. If you share this call to a larger platform of service and believe that your personal/family story can touch others, come join us. Become part of this movement.”
What has changed in the decade since my essay on radical recovery was first published is the degree of mobilization of recovering people in the United States who are extending their personal recoveries and traditional service work to this larger arena of recovery-focused social action. New and renewed grassroots recovery advocacy organizations are rising across the U.S., as they are internationally. New recovery support institutions (recovery centers, homes, schools, industries, ministries, and cafes) are spreading. An ecumenical culture of recovery is being constructed. Recovery is emerging as a new organizing paradigm within the alcohol and drugs problem arena. Last year, more than 120,000 people in recovery and their families and allies participated in public recovery celebration events across the U.S.–something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Greg Williams’ award-winning film, The Anonymous People, is inspiring people in recovery worldwide to embrace this new style of recovery activism. The opening two decades of the twentieth century may well be noted historically as the era when people who were once part of the problem of addiction became a significant part of its solution.
As a treatment and recovery historian, I have noted with great fascination the potential link between personal destiny and historical progress. Some of you may not yet be aware of it, but you were born for this moment in time. Some of you may still be wondering why you achieved recovery against so many odds. There may be a larger purpose buried within the answer to that question. Are you ready to help make some history?

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‘Lost lessons from an earlier era’ by Bill White Posted: 23 Apr 2014 03:59 PM PDT

‘My 2009 monograph outlined in considerable detail the history, theory and status of peer recovery support services (PRSS) in the United States. In the years since the monograph’s publication, voluntary and paid recovery support services have dramatically increased in the US and internationally.Â

Such growth has recently prompted me to reflect on the pre-professional days of addiction counseling in the United States (1965-1975) when people in recovery constituted the core workforce within newly arising addiction treatment programs.Â

The current expansion of PRSS raised the following question: What experiential lessons from this earlier era could inform the present implementation of PRSS? Here are my top 20 answers.

Rich History
1. PRSS flow from a long tradition of “wounded healers” – a tradition based on the discovery that people who have survived a life-altering disorder or experience may acquire through that process special sensitivities, insights and skills that can benefit others in similar circumstances.Â

Experiential knowledge can pose significant threats to prevailing professional/scientific ways of knowing, but much can be gained from an integration of these diverse pathways of understanding.

PRSS and Stages of Recovery
2. PRSS can be effectively delivered across the stages of long-term recovery:Â 1) precovery, 2) recovery initiation and stabilization, 3) recovery maintenance, 4) enhanced quality of personal/family life in long-term recovery, and 5) efforts to break intergenerational cycles of addiction and related problems.Â

The dominant acute care model of addiction treatment, with its near-singular focus in stage 2, has been marked by a progressive erosion of recovery representation within the treatment workforce. The current resurgence in PRSS marks a resurgence of interest in the other stages of addiction recovery.

3. One of the most potent ingredients of PRSS is continuity of contact and support over time. PRSS are one of numerous vehicles through which acute care models of addiction treatment are being reshaped into models of sustained recovery management.

4. PRSS can serve as an adjunct or alternative to professionally-directed addiction treatment. The adjunctive role is particular valuable for those with the most severe and complex problems; the alternative role is well-suited for those with lower problem severity and greater recovery capital.Â
Vulnerability for Exploitation
5. The service commitment of recovering people can be exploited within rising or expanding systems of care in ways that undermine both role performance and the personal health/recovery of these workers.Â

The modern system of addiction treatment was built on the backs of people in recovery, many of whom were then discarded through the professionalization and commercialization of addiction treatment.

Role-Person Match
6. Duration of continuous recovery, by itself, is an inadequate criterion for judging who can effectively deliver PRSS.

7. Knowledge and experience with one particular recovery pathway (e.g. 12-Step recovery) does not by itself constitute a credential to facilitate recovery initiation across other pathways of recovery (e.g., secular or religious pathways).

8. Working in the PRSS arena does not constitute an effective program of personal recovery; history is strewn with the bodies of those who believed it was. PRSS are based on the primacy and stability of personal recovery and wellness.

9. The recurrence of alcohol and other drug use and related problems among PRSS specialists is uncommon but does occur and is best responded to in a manner similar to any other health-related issue that affects employee performance, e.g., supervisory support, linkage to assistance, and progressive discipline.

10. Role clarity is essential for the effective implementation of PRSS. Such clarity includes defining boundaries between PRSS roles, professional roles and helping roles within recovery mutual aid organizations.

11. Those working in voluntary and paid roles delivering PRSS can find themselves, because of this role, estranged from the professional community and the recovery community. Support for transition into and sustained performance within this role is essential.

12. Essential elements of support for PRSS include careful selection to avoid role-person mismatch, recognition of legitimacy of PRSS roles within interdisciplinary teams, adequate compensation and benefits for paid PRSS roles, structured orientation and training, regular supervision of critical incidents arising within the service delivery process, and coaching related to career ladder options.

PRSS within Multidisciplinary Teams
13. Early tensions between PRSS roles and other service roles are normal and are usually replaced over time with mutual respect and effective collaboration.  That said, there are some persons credentialed by experience who do not work well with professionals credentialed by education and training – and vice versa!

Professionalization of PRSS
14. The professionalization of PRSS can inadvertently diminish critical dimensions of peer recovery support, e.g., loss of recovery carrier role via prohibitions/limits on self-disclosure, reductions in mutual identification and its subsequent effects on engagement and retention, and loss of assertive linkage to communities of recovery. Â

15. Excessive professionalization and commercialization of PRSS roles can undermine the service ethic within indigenous communities of recovery resulting in long-term harm to the community in which such excesses occur.

Ethics of PRSS
16. The ethical mandate for PRSS roles, like that of all helping roles, is to practice within, and only within, the boundaries of one’s education, training and experience.

17. The ethics and etiquette of PRSS need to be informed by core recovery community values and filtered through the cultural context in which such services are being delivered.Â

Rule-based ethical mandates drawn from other professional disciplines cannot be arbitrarily imposed on PRSS roles without compromising their effectiveness. This is particularly true for those PRSS roles involved in assertive outreach and engagement or long-term recovery monitoring and support.

18. The potential for the emotional, sexual and financial exploitation can never be completely eliminated within any helping relationship, but these risks can be minimized within PRSS through effectives systems of screening and selection, orientation and training and rigorous ongoing supervision.

Effectiveness of PRSS
19. Counselors in recovery are not more or less effective than counselors without lived recovery experience; recovery status of the counselor is not in itself a predictor of therapeutic engagement or long-term recovery outcomes within a counseling relationship.Â

That principle has not yet been tested in the delivery of non-clinical recovery support services:Â persons in recovery may bring special assets to the recovery support process, e.g., experiential knowledge of addiction and recovery, knowledge of local cultures of recovery, etc., but those assets have not yet been catalogued or evaluated in terms of their effects on short- and long-term recovery outcomes.

PRSS and Mobilization of Community Recovery Supports
20. There is a tendency to cast the PRSS role in the mold of a junior counselor or “treatment buddy.” While peers can provided substantial support to the intrapersonal processes of addiction recovery, their unique strengths (what they bring that other service roles do not) are their ability to nest personal recovery within a natural culture of recovery and to expand community recovery capital through their efforts to organize and mobilize indigenous recovery supports within the community.’

This article appeared on Bill White’s website in April 2014.

Thursday, April 24th, 2014 Focus: The only thing I have control over is my choice to either react mindlessly or respond mindfully to “what is” in the current moment.

Right Brain
Often fear originates in our mind because, try as we may, we have little control over the future. And the future is where we tend to look for our security, seeking the assurance that everything will be all right.

The illusion is that we have control over many variables in our daily life and that seems to make us feel better, at least temporarily. However, we really have control over very little, other than our next breath and our next thought. The only thing we have control over is our choice to either react mindlessly or respond mindfully to “what is” in the current moment.

There it is: To practice the art of uncertainty is to get comfortable with being “out of control.” By this, I don’t mean being out of control of our own actions and behavior, but rather letting go of the need to control the actions and behavior of other people, including their opinions of us. It also means understanding that we have no control over the future, what “should or shouldn’t” happen tomorrow, but at the same time, it means developing an inner knowing that everything will be all right.

Excerpted from the article:
The Illusion of Control: Seeking Security
by Dennis Merritt Jones.

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The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It — by Dennis Merritt Jones.

The Art of Uncertainty is an invitation to the reader to consider its essential message: learning to love the unknown by staying present in the moment. If the difficulties of recent years have taught us anything–particularly those who “did everything right” and still saw it all fall apart–it’s that none of us has as much control over our lives as we believe. The only thing we can control is our next thought. What if we could learn how to be at peace with uncertainty and embrace the possibility that the future is full of mystery, excitement, and unlimited opportunity? What if we discovered that a new paradigm can be more fulfilling, more rewarding, and more peaceful than what we have known? Living in the I don’t know and loving it is an art form we can all master and The Art of Uncertainty is the perfect guidebook.

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Monday, April 21st, 2014 Focus: Is this bringing me peace? Am I willing to let go of this?

Certain situations can sweep us up and swirl us around in a whirlwind until we feel we have fallen to the ground. These may be emotional situations and I am not suggesting that you hide your emotions, as they are there to be experienced. However, see whether you could take a moment to draw back so that you can see the situation more clearly.

If you realize you are being carried away by negative thoughts, bring your awareness back to your breath and ask yourself, ‘Is this bringing me peace? Am I willing to let go of this?’

Enjoy watching how your life gets easier as you move away from the struggle within yourself. Enjoy simply asking for a change and watching that change show up.

Excerpted from the article:
How to Change & Let Go
by Nicola Phoenix.

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Reclaiming Happiness: 8 Strategies for an Authentic Life and Greater Peace
by Nicola Phoenix.

Presenting eight common misunderstandings about the body and spirit — such as egoism, fear, attachment, and disorder — this manual shows how to divert life away from these behaviors towards happiness, peace, and harmony. This guide helps readers find their divine nature and shows them how to live life aligned with it in order to acknowledge the true magnificence that lies within.

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