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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 10 1 21 – Reenergizing Mind, Body & Spirit

This week, I had the opportunity to be in Las Vegas to be a part of a meeting with other recovery advocates from all across the nation. We came together for Mobilize Recovery. The Southern Nevada Health District had us in good hands with rapid COVID tests, vaccine verifications and mandatory masking. Congressman Patrick Kennedy spoke about access to care barriers, while other leaders from around the country focus on the issues related to recovery and harm reduction. We heard from SAMHSA, including Tom Corderre, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and Dona Dmitrovic in her role as senior advisor to the Office of Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, about how the agency has a recovery focus and is working to get resources out to recovery community organizations. US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh talked about labor efforts. It was a packed agenda.

The current representation of lived recovery within our federal government is inspiring. I have a greater sense of hope than I have felt in recent years. I think many of us who have experienced systems that discount us in so many settings feel similarly when we see our federal agencies have leadership in recovery. One could see this group of leaders leading from their own lived experience and deep knowledge of our overarching goals and not simply uttering recovery words for proforma support. It felt different for me, I suspect it felt differently for many in attendance.

The movie Tipping the Pain Scale was debuted. Several people in the film were with us. This is a must-see movie for anyone who wants to see recovery in action. Pennsylvania’s own Roz Pichardo is in the movie, engaging people with love and saving lives. There was also an amazing concert, Recovery Out Loud with artists like KT Tunstall, Macklemore and spoken work poet, Joseph Green. The entire event was hosted at the Westgate Casino. The owners were generous in their support of the event because of the losses experienced within the family of the owners. David and Jackie Siegel lost their daughter to an overdose and have committed themselves to building recovery. They announced that they will be opening the first recovery-oriented lounge in Vegas.

So many people I had not seen due to pandemic isolation. So many great conversations. I learned a lot by listening to other people. We can typically accomplish a lot when such conversations are had in an open-hearted process, there is a lot of commonalities in interests and values across the entire recovery and harm reduction communities. I was able to have some in depth conversations that involved a lot of listening and deep dialogue in small group settings that are near impossible on virtual platforms and never occur on social media. One of the themes in the series of recovery movements interviews I have done (and are continuing to do) was the sense that we could have benefited from more in-depth conversations when the movement started to build a broad recovery agenda. That is still true.

One highlight of the conference for me was having the opportunity to ask Secretary Walsh questions about SUD workforce challenges and suggest a way to help support our substance use care system workforce through the Labor Department. He was able to immediately understand what I was saying because of his lived experience and the things I was talking about he has also seen with his own eyes. We will see what comes next in relation to the posed remediation. As a recovery custodian, my long-term goal is to leave things better than they were when I got into recovery. I am seeing an opportunity to pursue for the next generation in a way that puts some wind in my tattered and worn sails.

The Recovery Out Loud Concert will go in the annals of recovery history. Afterwards, I was thinking

about the wide variety of ways that people express their recovery advocacy. Art is about expression and informing by impacting people on the emotional level. That is how I experienced it. Watching Macklemore and his group perform with all of their beings hit me in the guts. I get him now. I have long loved KT Tunstall’s music, and she is like a ten-person band inside one Scottish woman. At the end of her set, she tossed her guitar pick out and it hit me in the forehead and landed in my lap. Missed the concert? You can see it HERE.

After the show, many of us were invited up to the Elvis Presley Penthouse Suite. The Siegal’s sent us a message of love. Very special for so many of us, unaccustomed to fair treatment, let alone red-carpet treatment. Being treated well can feel odd. The whole event in Vegas came across as having a vibe where we are a group of people worthy of respect and to be treated with dignity. I wish I could put in writing the places we are treated in very contrary ways, in front of our faces and behind our backs. One of the facets of implicit bias is that we grow so accustomed to poor treatment, we don’t expect any better. I am grateful for it. We should not allow ourselves to be treated like third class humans. That was the message that came through for me.

I had some time to look around the Desert Southwest and caught a sunrise in the world’s largest

stand of Joshua trees at Cima Dome, a portion of which were lost last year in a fire. Ravens sang as I could smell the trees and the rising sun began to warm the earth. Grateful for the moment, the grounding of my soul in this very special place. It was a cherry on the cake that was my week. Grateful for the time that reenergized me mind, body and spirit. That is what occurred.

What are you grateful for today?

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