• Bill Stauffer

Spending Time with My Tribe


Like many others, life has been a bit of a struggle for me over these long months. It has taken a great deal of energy to refocus myself and stay contributive and positive on a daily basis. Some days are easier than others. Yesterday started out as one of the rough ones, but it was Tuesday, and that means we have our statewide COVID-19 recovery call that my organization, PRO-A has been holding every week since March on Tuesday at 10 AM, people in PA who are interested and involved in the work can register to attend HERE.


The idea of the call started with an insight that we have brothers and sisters trapped in addiction across PA and that the recovery community had, as a consequence of the COVID-19 Pandemic become more isolated. People in recovery are more likely to work service industry jobs and at the very same time lost their jobs and their face to face recovery support connections. Recovery thrives in an environment of connection, hope and purpose. Addiction festers when people become isolated, lose purpose and become hopeless. We must stay cognizant that addiction is our parallel epidemic and we are losing a lot of people to addiction because the COVID-19 pandemic has created conditions in which addiction and its consequences become even more prevalent. Our friends and family members are dying at increased rates from addiction. We must help them.


We wanted to be part of the solution and so we set up the zoom call.


The zoom call is generally a highlight of my week. I am constantly amazed by the power of our little community that has drawn together each Tuesday morning. We start out the call with people sharing what has gone well in their community. Focusing on strengths is a recovery orientation and helps generate hope and purpose. We then go over a challenge of our statewide community and through the process, people support each other, share resources and problem solve things that are not working well. They include people falling through the cracks, lack of access to services or COVID-19 related challenges. It works.


I don’t think that there has been a single week in the 36 weeks we have been facilitating the call that I did not feel better than I did before the call began. This week was something special even for this group. Someone shared how they had lost someone they had been working with and they had been having a rough time as a result. Another person spoke about doing an overdose reversal and experiencing vicarious trauma from the experience. Another person had done an overdose reversal while taking a walk in the park and how they were at first grateful that they were in the right place at the right time but then became angry that they had to keep doing this. There was a whole lot of support and understanding in the room. We talked about how naloxone is becoming increasingly hard to get in Pennsylvania. We are losing lives because people simply don’t have any. It is horrible that we are in such a circumstance during a pandemic. We problem solved how to get a hold of some to give to our first, first responders: friends and family members of persons who are still using drugs.


There was a verbalized awareness on the call that this is what we do. We do this work to save lives and get people into recovery despite all the barriers and the trauma and the constancy of the work. Nearly every one of us deals with these challenges off the clock or on the clock, day in and day out year after year. We do it because it must be done, full stop. We agreed to support each other and acknowledged that we have a responsibility to each other to make sure we healers and helpers remain vital. We are a tribe.


As the call progressed, I realized how proud I was of these people. Unsung heroes, saving lives because it is what they know and that this is a life time commitment. I ended the call with some tears in my eyes and I was grateful that my computer camera was on the fritz. I realized that while we are separated by miles, I was with and experiencing community with my people – members of the recovery community, some of the most very special people on earth. Spending time with my people gave me hope, purpose and connection.


I needed it.

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