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Recovery: paying it forward

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Old 03-06-2018, 07:23 AM   #1
Wide-O
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Default Recovery: paying it forward

His thread will be about recovery from addiction, and the ways some of us have decided to "pay it forward", and put the help and experience we had to good use.

Personally I have not gone through the channels/groups many people go through, so I wasn't familiar with the "landscape" in my country. But I always wanted to do something with a) my own experiences and b) the countless talks/discussions I had both on- and off-line in the last 5 years.

In the beginning of this year I bit the bullet, and decided to search for a way to get active in helping other addicts. I wasn't sure how & why, and was thinking about it until someone who will remain nameless (Hi Pam! ) kicked my butt and told me to stop procrastinating.

Piqued, I did a search on the internet for volunteers/places/groups where I may be of good use. I found a very obscure and 90's-looking website that actually seemed to have a good idea, and I called the single number on that page.

The short story is that almost 2 months later I am knee deep into participating in that project. The name of the non-profit organization is "Verslavingskoepel" - which translates roughly as "Addiction Dome": it is a place that unites all the different self-help groups and professionals who come in contact with people who suffer from addiction.

We will be officially registered this month, and the board of directors will be comprised of four "experience holders" as we call them - people who have had an addiction and found a way out - and 4 professionals. These are 2 GP's who have always been interested in helping addicts, a neurologist who was very frustrated by how difficult it was to treat (mainly) alcoholics, and the head of an official state sponsored mental health organization. These numbers in the board are no accident, but stand for the idea that the experience holders and the professionals have an equal say/importance/role, and by working together, will be much more effective in providing help.

Even though we aren't officially "open for business" yet, we already have quite a few people and organizations knocking at our doors. Somehow, the idea that this combination of people will lower the threshold has set foot in the mind of just about everybody who is involved in addiction treatment, and many see this as a great opportunity.

We have hospitals, ER's, police, and other organizations asking us for our help, to reach the people they encounter by using a combination of the usual staff (social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists) with "people who have been there". These people (of which I am one) will try to make contact (on call, or as a permanence) with the addicts that are brought in, to tell them their story, but also point at all the other stories and ways of people who have managed to get their life back on track. We do not recommend one single form of treatment or group, but try to instill the thought that it is possible to recover as early on as possible, and also try to find the best path forward (which could be AA, or CBT, or any of the existing models and organizations). Obviously, we are also there for the families and friends.

The program started in 2012 by one single brave person - who was with AA for 30 years - who was convinced there had to be better way to help addicts; everybody staying in their own corner, with their own absolute truths clearly wasn't that way. So he started contacting people all over the country, had countless talks and meetings - sometimes hours and hours about the meaning of a single word. He also contacted people from the medical and mental health world, and slowly, very slowly, he managed to get this movement together, and have all these groups agree that working together would be the best way forward. I can not begin to tell you how impressed I am with his dogged work, his patience, and his vision. Over those years, he has made good contacts with all the self-help groups, doctors, neurologists, local governments and police, the academic world, and even our national government. The idea is not to replace all these groups, but to work with them.

That first phone call I made? That was to this guy. We talked for 2 hours, and found that we had a lot in common, and were almost mirrors when it came to how we thought about addiction treatment.

From the next day onwards, my life & agenda (and e-mail inbox) changed radically. Apart from the meetings, I could also use my experience in IT to build them a new internal forum (like this one) to make it easier and faster to communicate, rather than to work with chain-emails (which got lost, people had wrong versions of documents etc.) and physical meetings (meaning people had to drive from all over the country). Mind you: this is all non-profit, so all the costs come out of the pockets of the people who participate. Oh, and a new website will go live too.

The physical meetings were often with 30 to 40 participants (all sponsors, or people who want to help or stay in touch), which is not ideal either...

We are now also preparing all our internal documents, charters, rules, and a big press-release (including social media) to get the word out and our name known.

While our work is still somewhat "local" (a province), it is everybody's expectation (even from the government) that we will work towards a nation wide model.

Perhaps early to say this, but I have been asked to be the vice-president of this new org - the president would be a GP. Nothing is in stone yet, and I still have to think whether I truly want it, what it would mean in terms of time, responsibilities, pressure (...), and there will also be a general meeting where there will be a final vote (although - for reasons of anonymity mostly, there are more positions than candidates at the moment; also, they want some "young blood" (ahem) to take it from here and put in our energy and enthusiasm. Many of the people who have joined the "movement" are 60 or even 65 plus.

It will be a balancing act between having the pleasure to finally being able to do something *useful* again - and actually helping people - and taking on too much - which has brought me in trouble before...

That's the intro. I kindly invite other people who are working in recovery to join this thread too - it's not about me, but about the whole concept of recovery, the possibilities, the efforts, and the fact that helping other people also has the benefit of helping yourself. "Volunteering heals" is one of our mottoes. I also welcome all comments, all people who might be interested in going the same way, and also criticism, as nothing is perfect.
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Old 03-07-2018, 02:09 AM   #2
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Really proud of your efforts Wide-O, Im not renowned for being so blunt. I must have had an inkling you needed to take the step toot sweet...
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Old 03-07-2018, 05:23 AM   #3
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If you hadn't, I might well still be sitting behind my PC wondering where I could fit in... As the man on the phone said: "You didn't call a day too early or too late"...
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Old 03-07-2018, 07:29 AM   #4
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Woohoo! Looking forward to watching the progress (I am secretly reverse engineering it to perhaps duplicate) so make sure you post the details
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Old 03-11-2018, 01:59 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wide-O View Post
His thread will be about recovery from addiction, and the ways some of us have decided to "pay it forward", and put the help and experience we had to good use.

Personally I have not gone through the channels/groups many people go through, so I wasn't familiar with the "landscape" in my country. But I always wanted to do something with a) my own experiences and b) the countless talks/discussions I had both on- and off-line in the last 5 years.

In the beginning of this year I bit the bullet, and decided to search for a way to get active in helping other addicts. I wasn't sure how & why, and was thinking about it until someone who will remain nameless (Hi Pam! ) kicked my butt and told me to stop procrastinating.

Piqued, I did a search on the internet for volunteers/places/groups where I may be of good use. I found a very obscure and 90's-looking website that actually seemed to have a good idea, and I called the single number on that page.

The short story is that almost 2 months later I am knee deep into participating in that project. The name of the non-profit organization is "Verslavingskoepel" - which translates roughly as "Addiction Dome": it is a place that unites all the different self-help groups and professionals who come in contact with people who suffer from addiction.

We will be officially registered this month, and the board of directors will be comprised of four "experience holders" as we call them - people who have had an addiction and found a way out - and 4 professionals. These are 2 GP's who have always been interested in helping addicts, a neurologist who was very frustrated by how difficult it was to treat (mainly) alcoholics, and the head of an official state sponsored mental health organization. These numbers in the board are no accident, but stand for the idea that the experience holders and the professionals have an equal say/importance/role, and by working together, will be much more effective in providing help.

Even though we aren't officially "open for business" yet, we already have quite a few people and organizations knocking at our doors. Somehow, the idea that this combination of people will lower the threshold has set foot in the mind of just about everybody who is involved in addiction treatment, and many see this as a great opportunity.

We have hospitals, ER's, police, and other organizations asking us for our help, to reach the people they encounter by using a combination of the usual staff (social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists) with "people who have been there". These people (of which I am one) will try to make contact (on call, or as a permanence) with the addicts that are brought in, to tell them their story, but also point at all the other stories and ways of people who have managed to get their life back on track. We do not recommend one single form of treatment or group, but try to instill the thought that it is possible to recover as early on as possible, and also try to find the best path forward (which could be AA, or CBT, or any of the existing models and organizations). Obviously, we are also there for the families and friends.

The program started in 2012 by one single brave person - who was with AA for 30 years - who was convinced there had to be better way to help addicts; everybody staying in their own corner, with their own absolute truths clearly wasn't that way. So he started contacting people all over the country, had countless talks and meetings - sometimes hours and hours about the meaning of a single word. He also contacted people from the medical and mental health world, and slowly, very slowly, he managed to get this movement together, and have all these groups agree that working together would be the best way forward. I can not begin to tell you how impressed I am with his dogged work, his patience, and his vision. Over those years, he has made good contacts with all the self-help groups, doctors, neurologists, local governments and police, the academic world, and even our national government. The idea is not to replace all these groups, but to work with them.

That first phone call I made? That was to this guy. We talked for 2 hours, and found that we had a lot in common, and were almost mirrors when it came to how we thought about addiction treatment.

From the next day onwards, my life & agenda (and e-mail inbox) changed radically. Apart from the meetings, I could also use my experience in IT to build them a new internal forum (like this one) to make it easier and faster to communicate, rather than to work with chain-emails (which got lost, people had wrong versions of documents etc.) and physical meetings (meaning people had to drive from all over the country). Mind you: this is all non-profit, so all the costs come out of the pockets of the people who participate. Oh, and a new website will go live too.

The physical meetings were often with 30 to 40 participants (all sponsors, or people who want to help or stay in touch), which is not ideal either...

We are now also preparing all our internal documents, charters, rules, and a big press-release (including social media) to get the word out and our name known.

While our work is still somewhat "local" (a province), it is everybody's expectation (even from the government) that we will work towards a nation wide model.

Perhaps early to say this, but I have been asked to be the vice-president of this new org - the president would be a GP. Nothing is in stone yet, and I still have to think whether I truly want it, what it would mean in terms of time, responsibilities, pressure (...), and there will also be a general meeting where there will be a final vote (although - for reasons of anonymity mostly, there are more positions than candidates at the moment; also, they want some "young blood" (ahem) to take it from here and put in our energy and enthusiasm. Many of the people who have joined the "movement" are 60 or even 65 plus.

It will be a balancing act between having the pleasure to finally being able to do something *useful* again - and actually helping people - and taking on too much - which has brought me in trouble before...

That's the intro. I kindly invite other people who are working in recovery to join this thread too - it's not about me, but about the whole concept of recovery, the possibilities, the efforts, and the fact that helping other people also has the benefit of helping yourself. "Volunteering heals" is one of our mottoes. I also welcome all comments, all people who might be interested in going the same way, and also criticism, as nothing is perfect.
Way to go!
On the way to keeping it alive
One day at at a time
Way to go!!
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Old 03-14-2018, 08:06 AM   #6
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Well, here is my story of "Paying It Forward" - the condensed version

I have a degree in IT. I made a small fortune in IT back during the DotCom boom. Working from home and having WAY too much money was my ultimate demise.

I nearly drank myself to death.

So, when my head finally cleared in 2012-ish I started to volunteer at a Community Centre in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I quickly became the building manager which included: opening, closing, food prep, cleaning, shoveling snow, trimming bushes, painting, plumbing, electrical work and ?. I am a jack-of-all-trades so this was an easy task. A weekly recovery meeting was dropped in my lap and I became the "head" of it to my dismay. I still am the "head" of this group to this day, it just stuck.

This led to me creating resumes, job development and placement for recently released inmates and the homeless and I then became known around town as "The guy that gets felons jobs".

I was offered a position at a local non-profit (which I accepted) and became even more well-known.

Now I work in the prison system, have received awards, have helped hundreds find jobs and have kept dozens of people from going back to the drink.

BUT, I am just a simple guy. I do NOT like the spotlight, I drive a 25 year old wagon, live in 400 sqft, and look like a "bum" on weekends with my green hoodie and ripped jeans.

I love what I am, what I do, and where I am going.
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Old 03-14-2018, 06:52 PM   #7
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I am a biomedical scientist (PhD, no medical qualifications). For many years I had a University teaching/research position, which I enjoyed.

I drank socially for many years though, with hindsight, this increased with time. Probably this was due to my Major Depressive Disorder; there is a strong history of this in my family. I may have been trying to self-medicate MDD with alcohol which was not a good plan.

About 12 years ago I realised that I needed to do something about this so I became a voluntary patient in a psychiatric hospital. I was there for about a month. It was a life-changing experience; apart from what the clinical psychologists and psychiatrists offered it was good to talk with other patients - this helped me to understand that I am not a "freak".

I have been sober since then though I still get urges (very rare currently). I am also in remission from MDD.

I am now semi-retired but am still active in science; I get manuscripts and grant applications to review. Some of the 50+ research students who I supervised keep in touch, some for social reasons and others asking for general thoughts, reviewing a draft that they wrote or asking me to be a referee.

I am content.
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Old 03-15-2018, 04:54 AM   #8
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Icehouse, that's some great stuff. You are way deeper "in the trenches" than I am, doing awesome work. For now I'm going at it from another angle, using the skills I have to help organize & promote.

One of my friends who is a professional movie director just offered to make a documentary about our foundation for free. Including a 30 sec ad that our national TV networks will air for free. That's what I'm bringing to the table for now, and it's great, but still...

As useful as that may be, I still want to actually do the real work of talking to folks and giving them some hope to a way out. Connected to what Kiwi describes, being in a rehab that was part of a mental hospital for 10 weeks totally changed my view on this world, and I was amazed - after a few uncomfortable initial days - how well I actually got along with the other patients, no matter their character, IQ, ideas.... without feeling any "better" or "smarter" than them. I remember talking to an alcoholic neo-nazi, a Jewish weed addict, and a Turkish Muslim who used heroin at the same time, cracking jokes... quite surreal. There was a part of humanity that surfaced that usually keeps hidden under our "beliefs & values". I hate to call it a "spiritual" awakening, but it surely shook my world.

Kiwi, back when I had to choose, I was wondering about doing a PhD. I was studying the field of non-verbal communication from both humans and animals (ethology)... and was totally fascinated by the domain. Yet I also saw that the academical world can be cruel, draining, full of petty politics. Anyway, I decided against it for a few reasons (money being one of them...), but I can see how it's hard to detect a depression in such a "safe" environment, where there is stress, but it's more hidden. Which may have been a reason why it took some time to find out that MDD was the real problem, is that a fair guess?

Like you, my drinking was self medication mostly. I used to combat stress with sports when I was younger, and also with performing on stage (pop music) but there was a period where I lost the time/drive for that, and at the same time the stress of my job increased. Alcohol, for which I had no interest for the longest time, seemed like a good medication. After all, it's not like I was walking behind a shopping trolley with a bottle of cheap wine in a paper bag, right? I mean, I was a $1,000/day IT consultant, so what could possibly go wrong? Uh oh...

Although half off-topic, may I ask what your specialty is?

Anyway, the trenches. No matter what my role will be in the organization, I will be one of the "EC's - or "Experience Carriers", which is the name we give to the "stabilized addicts" (there has been a lot of debate about what to call it, as you can imagine). And those EC's will do their "tours" going into the field actually helping people. which beats setting up forums or connecting with politicians etc. It's these people who will make the difference, who will be the bridge between folks needing help, and the qualified professionals/self-help groups.
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Old 03-15-2018, 07:07 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icehouse View Post
Well, here is my story of "Paying It Forward" - the condensed version

I have a degree in IT. I made a small fortune in IT back during the DotCom boom. Working from home and having WAY too much money was my ultimate demise.

I nearly drank myself to death.

So, when my head finally cleared in 2012-ish I started to volunteer at a Community Centre in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I quickly became the building manager which included: opening, closing, food prep, cleaning, shoveling snow, trimming bushes, painting, plumbing, electrical work and ?. I am a jack-of-all-trades so this was an easy task. A weekly recovery meeting was dropped in my lap and I became the "head" of it to my dismay. I still am the "head" of this group to this day, it just stuck.

This led to me creating resumes, job development and placement for recently released inmates and the homeless and I then became known around town as "The guy that gets felons jobs".

I was offered a position at a local non-profit (which I accepted) and became even more well-known.

Now I work in the prison system, have received awards, have helped hundreds find jobs and have kept dozens of people from going back to the drink.

BUT, I am just a simple guy. I do NOT like the spotlight, I drive a 25 year old wagon, live in 400 sqft, and look like a "bum" on weekends with my green hoodie and ripped jeans.

I love what I am, what I do, and where I am going.
Thank you so much for sharing you experience strength and hope and are not in the least ashamed
As you should never be
It take courage to change the things we cannot change
This is where I find myself getting sucked into taking my will back
I can suggest but must stop falling apart when my addict children fall off the wagon
This not about me
But your service to others
Just recently shared how lost in this cruel world I am
Fact not fiction
As I too give my all as it is the truth I choose to live in
How comfortable you must be in your ripped jeans and hoodie
And who ever judges one by their looks and status isn’t anyone I want to associate myself with
To give freely is receiving rewards beyond understanding
For in it you experience the joy of watching one take the steps necessary
Hats off my to you
Keep yourself healthy
Keeping it REAL
NEVER SUGAR COATING IT
as my boy says to me just not to long ago
I’m not as strong as you ar mom
(My choice of drug alcohol)
I tell my boy
What make you think it will power
I take it on day at a time
IT IS A “CHOICE”
period
So keep it real dear friend
As I worked in my tow in the EMS division
Many time I needed to put those who wold pick up drunks
And they would refer to them as EDP’s
Emotionally Disturbed Person
How that hit a nerve
This is when I had the opportunity to teach
“Nobody sets out to become a drunk or addict”
“I doesn’t discriminate”
Not a word ever in front of me when they returned from a job
Thank you for keeping it
ALIVE
IT IS SO OUT OF CONTROL
My story to follow
Love
Me
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Old 03-15-2018, 07:38 AM   #10
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Wide-O, I think that we very are similar in many ways.

My PhD was a mixture of protein chemistry, enzyme kinetics and mathematical modeling.

Since then most of my published work has been on immunology (relevant to the Autoimmune Diseases, Arthritis, MS and MG forums here) and on protein misfolding (relevant to the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's forums here).
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