105: Being of Service Outside of our Program (Sort Of)

What is our responsibility, or commitment, in our recovery? Is it solely to the program or fellowship environment we belong to? We have spent most of our recoveries believing that showing up at a meeting to be of service to the newcomer arriving at that place is all we need. But is there more? Are there needs in the recovery/addiction community that go unmet when we only show up at our local meeting? Maybe if we invest some of the time in a bigger picture, we can be of greater benefit to our society and recovery community. We talk with Jenn T. about how she has branched outside of her program to take a proactive approach to helping the addiction recovery community. Jenn talks about how there is money earmarked to be spent on recovery, but in many areas, this money ends up going to for-profit treatment centers by default, because there are no other programs available in the community. Jenn goes on to talk about how to get involved with existing non-profits, or start your own if none exist in your area. Join the conversation by leaving a message, emailing us at RecoverySortOf@gmail.com, or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or find us on our website at www.recoverysortof.com.

Jenn T’s email: voicesofhope414@gmail.com

Wound Care episode

Drug Policy Alliance episode

Health Department episode

Jokes episode

Recovery Cafe episode

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recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature hey welcome back it’s recovery sort of i’m jason i’m a guy in recovery that’s a kind of a peer-ish person depending on your definition as you’re always with billy i’m a person in long-term recovery and then we’re also here with jen t today who is the ceo of voices is that the right title executive director executive director of voices is that above ceo is that i think it’s the same thing do we just call it random titles for people like yeah like which one you want which one do you like best chief executive officer or executive director i think executive director is more accurate because we are a non-profit okay so you executively direct what is that actually what’s executive is that like that’s the guy who like makes the rules right or enforces the rules and forces and forces the rules right so you’re the enforcer you’re the direction of enforcement i like to think of it as more like a conductor of the orchestra you are the orchestral conductor of voices of hope virginity is with us today we’re going to talk about uh peer work and you know government funding that’s coming into neighborhoods and and what we’re doing with that and what we maybe as people in recovery could step up and do a little better with that or how we can influence where it can go and uh so we’re going to give jen you know a few minutes to describe her passage of how she got to this place and why the hell she’s here today and take it away jen hey everybody i’m jennifer i’m also known as billy’s wife um yeah we’ve been the sponsor of recovery sort of for how long now it’s been a year and a half two years two years what a sponsor means for recovery sort of is that we give them space um they have a basement i think i i think i purchased the first microphone though which i don’t know where that is it’s not here now so you guys are totally upgraded um yeah so we are the non-profit that sponsors this uh podcast and i just wanted to come on to thank the listeners who have donated to recovery sort of and they’ve kind of passed it along to voices of hope we have a fund that we call the recovery sort of fund and we use that fund to pay for things that don’t fall under any kind of grant for covering like uh shoes you know we got a person who was homeless a pair of shoes and you know some meals we’ve given to people we actually paid for a week in a recovery house for a guy um so we we appreciate that extra funding being there for people who are in need and i want to thank all of you guys who have contributed it definitely helps a lot to those people who really need something right now yes and just a shameless plug if you would like to help people in recovery you can donate we don’t keep that money or use it for ourselves at all we pass it along yeah there’s a there’s a paypal button that’s hidden uh very discreetly tiny at the bottom of the recoverysortof.com website page uh so if you if you seek that out you can also contribute and tell your friends and like subscribe yes thank you thank you guys um so you know we’ve learned a lot over the last two years of voices of hope from the podcast you know i think of some of the people that you’ve had on that we’ve listened to as a group um like the recovery cafe episode you know we all listened to that and was picking up ideas and things that we liked and didn’t like um when you had the drug policy alliance people on that was really really cool um when you had the nurse our wound care nurse on we loved everybody loved that so much and you should probably talk to him again um there’s been some serious uh and hopeful situations you know that he’s encountered now that we have him full time that voices goes out on the mobile wound caravan but you know people who’ve been helped that have actually experienced an amputation at this point but are still grateful to have their lives and it’s just a wonderful thing to see how people who care can influence the lives of other people i stopped listening a few months ago let’s get into it bring it up that would be like yelling at billy after i would listen be like what the heck are you guys talking about in there what are you doing is this before he started like i that this is just when we said we too much right we you yeah yeah well that’s kind of hard not to but so you haven’t heard any of the ones where we argue about clean no oh because he takes your side how he takes my side okay that’s good i think that um he’s on your side yeah it’s uh it’s difficult to uh you know have unbiased opinion i’m sure a lot of listeners feel that way that we have a lot of different opinions but it’s been neat to see how you jason have changed through this process of doing the podcast from being a um 12-step purist to being like anti-12-step

dude this is a recovery podcast well it’s recovery sort of yes so i just figured you guys will work it out you don’t need my input i’m actually shocked though i got i got to be honest like when we talk about those things and billy tells me a little bit about how it frustrates you i’m i’m like how could she guide voices in the direction it goes and feel you know learn all these things about the the compassion and the empathetic view and the non-judgmental stuff and then still hold tightly to the traditionalists like 12-step beliefs it’s kind of shocking and not like a judgment kind of way just i’m just like baffled let me explain please do i am very empathetic and supportive of multiple pathways of recovery i know they work for many people but i also have a deep and profound respect for those those entities and what their traditions or guidelines are whether i you know believe and celebrate recovery right and i think it’s awesome i’m not going to be okay with somebody going in there and advocating for them to worship a buddha or to you know change their policies to fit what a person’s looking for and so i have a deep and profound respect for 12 steps and and their traditions have helped thousands of people they don’t need to be changed what needs to be changed is just talking to people about where they fit best and how can we support them in their journey and because you know the 12-step fellowship has helped me so much you know it’s just given me the life that i have and then not just the outside life but the inside life that i have such a deep and profound respect and adoration for it that um i want you to have that too you know i’m like how could how could each question and uh be against and present it present us in a certain way when uh i have experienced um love and support through different faces in different places but through that that fellowship but i do appreciate all of them you know well but even down to the idea of like the wording of clean meaning that other people are dirty like that i just it’s surprising that that doesn’t trouble you like i i don’t know i feel like and and look it’s not that i think the recovery community of a 12-step fellowship hasn’t been hugely instrumental in my life and that i don’t have a deep respect for that but i think sometimes we might go to this place of reverence where we decide things can’t grow and change and be adapted for better use right like any time we’re talking about holding on to something the way we’ve always done it and that’s our main reason for doing it some way to me that says we’re not opening our minds to really think about if that works best we’re just saying well that’s what we’ve always done that’s how it works we got to keep doing that i’ve learned through the fellowship that the change is best implemented through watch what i do and ask me why i do it versus shame and ridicule oh do i shame and ridicule people do and you know you definitely do maybe not so there’s certain things that have dropped from me over time and i just show it i don’t and then there’s that’s righteous it’s self-righteous when i say to others well you need to do that too it’s hard though right i’m sorry i’m cutting you off i know just the idea of like it’s almost to implement change we do need the people that are just silently doing the new thing and i think we also need some vocal people that are kind of out you know shaking the box up and and drumming up like why do we hold to these ideas and and yeah the advocates in tradition one when we talk unity must come first so there’s principles in the way that we do that i think is really important and um there’s something else i was going to say about that you know clean that there’s language to certain fellowships sober recovery addict um adult child of an alcoholic there’s there’s a language inside of meetings that we use to connect with one another and to try to talk about the same things that we don’t necessarily use outside of that fellowship because it does take a different context like to me clean and then n a i’m not thinking of dirty i’m thinking of there’s that’s an achievement of me for me you’re thinking of abstinence from certain decided drugs but not all drugs right it’s abstinence it’s absolutely from some drugs it’s absence is defined by me you know my sponsor if i’m unsure you know but uh for me to try to say well what is it for you and a beta and it needs to be this and it needs to be that and if you’re not sure then you’re this and that it’s like there’s some there’s another focus that we can we take the focus from that negativity to more inclusive it’s okay you know and this is why people might say something different i can have those conversations with people who are close to me i’ve had them in recovery you know like you know the desire is not can’t be measured those kinds of things you know i don’t ever i feel like there’s conversations are not beneficial at the group level like in a meeting they’re more beneficial one-to-one if i’m making relationships with people in the program and being a sponsor or a leader i’m talking about it in a loving caring way for both sides i want you all to know listener that jen comes on with this really loving and compassionate voice which makes me look bad no matter what the hell i say but it’s difficult because you’re right it is about unity and i feel like that’s kind of my issue going into this is that we don’t want people to speak up in an unifying way because the program needs the unity but the problem i have is that the program doesn’t have the unity that i would think it needs i think it’s separate from that unity we’re pushing people away we’re not unifying people and that’s a problem to me in order to keep our space sacred we have to have boundaries we can’t be all things to all people like you i know you’ve heard we’re just not that and aa told us that right and aaa told n a people addicts we’re not all things for all people use a a and then they we we made our own space and voice is a hope is an organization that we identify there’s need for additional spaces and we have a place for those fellowships to meet and we reach out and encourage them to meet and create and be here at one central location so you have to have that hard time finding them you know they’re here so but that’s an outside issue right but my sponsor says you know it’s got to be safe for us um people who are trying to live life without the use of any drugs to make to mar my view of reality um if there’s one place that can be safe from people who use drugs you know um are trying to live life without the use of

you drugs cut all that out but that’s just between you and me is that but is that i mean we don’t any meanings aren’t safe from people that are using drugs we welcome people that are using drugs so i don’t even understand that well you know we’re trying to uh learn through the 12 steps how to live life without the use of drugs and our literature is pretty clear about what abstinence is and um i think so it’s really not well if you’re looking for the gray you’ll find it but if you’re really looking for direction it says absence is is not using any minor mute altering chemicals oh you do right when you’re talking about caffeine nicotine okay but or any drugs to replace drugs or for the treatment of addiction that’s the difference well and this is where my i think my fundamental problem comes in and maybe this just means i i don’t belong in n a anymore is that i don’t think and this is a topic i want to actually bring up with billy at some point i’m not sure addiction is a disease i think drug abuse is a coping mechanism so that really redefines how i think we need to treat it well this might really get to the root of the real problem here jason somewhere along the line i think i’m just gonna say you forgot that the disease is not about using drugs exactly that it’s about the spiritual self-centeredness that underlies the drug use which means there is no drug to treat addiction which means that that whole thing about we can’t accept people that use drugs to treat addiction is [ _ ] because they’re not using drugs to treat addiction they’re using drugs to treat a drug problem and the program is about treating addiction which is not a drug problem right so that whole statement about what’s clean or abstinent is false because it doesn’t fit in it sounds like you’re doing a lot of mental masturbation there buddy you’re baffling yourself with some [ _ ] maybe i’m just gonna say that because that’s what i can spot it because i got it well how can you say in one sentence that addiction is not the drug use but then say well clean is not using drugs to treat addiction well i think with any 12-step program it tells you that the first part of trying to recover is to stop the behavior what brings us to n a is typically our drug use but i come from a place when i first started my meetings that i went to had gamblers uh food addicts alcoholics it would and i was taught that it’s not the drug use is just the symptom that’s why i don’t get caught up in what’s clean and what’s not it’s very clear about certain things but when i did my first step when my sponsor was all about the nature of the disease which is um obsession compulsion and self-centeredness that if untreated will result in me acting out in some way to get out of myself and out of my head so you know i don’t know if you have that i mean because if you have a drug problem all you need is a detox right and maybe that’s all you needed was to be scrubbed up and now you’re good but for people like me who i have i have a serious problem inside of my ears with viewing life and love and people and relationships um i had come from a place you know before recovery of a lot of fear of all those things and over thinking right so that self-centeredness is the overthinking of things reliving the past and thinking about the future and thinking about what you’re thinking that i’m thinking about these things in my head that i didn’t know was a disease a spiritual part of the disease until i did that first step and but i can get separated from that truth and focus on well i haven’t used that i haven’t acted out in that symptom for so long this is 10 years i haven’t done drugs i must be good my life is alright and i get that way when i’m not sharing about my feelings i’m not in touch with myself um and then it’ll crop up in other areas you know my disease of self-centeredness the symptoms of self-centeredness i can see them in your life isolation distrust of others embarrassment guilt shame substitution are we talking about me rationalization i’m sharing part of my story here and i have to watch out for those things when i’m in recovery because those are the red flags that addiction is coming back up so if you can focus on the symptom and get lost in the sauce and forget that what we’re doing here is more deep it’s spiritual in nature it’s about learning a new way to live new way to view people in life and love so i think we’re coming from you know different planes and i don’t know from what i’ve heard from you you’re a [ _ ] addict and it’s not about the drugs it’s about your internal side now you can cut all that out of this podcast well i have a i guess a different sort of question to go a little bit different so how does therapy view people that are using like it’s a it’s a coping method if you’re doing but i mean do you tell people well you can still use whatever you’re on or you encourage them to try to stop like this i guess does using impair someone’s ability to participate in therapy so that depends on who you ask um what i will say is and this is where i think the view separates a little from this idea of addiction being a disease so much is that we look at addiction as a coping mechanism which is really exactly what jen just described she said the disease is more this like core of self-centeredness and these acting out behaviors including drugs are the the coping mechanisms we use to try to compensate for the way we feel in that self-centeredness right which to me is pretty much kind of what therapy says um our goal is that anything that interferes with your life and makes it worse in your eyes we want to help you find ways to stop or do differently or do less right we want anything that bothers you to happen less in your life that’s the goal does that mean if you are on drugs that we can’t start doing something absolutely not like we start there right we what do you want to do about that how can we work around that how can we start to deal with and process some of the things that are causing you to feel that way right like i didn’t so i and i look at like step six and seven in n a i could just keep praying to have one particular character defect removed right like oh my god i’m i’m looking at porn way too often god you gotta take this porn addiction away right you gotta take this obsessive porn use away but they always talk about like the tissue box when you take that one out the next one pops up okay hey i’m relieved from the porn viewing i have three weeks of utter peace and enjoyment in my life it’s totally serene and then i start doing something else right and that was my experience until like my prayer in in step seven stopped being to remove this particular character defect and started being hey can you like help me be whole and love myself because then i don’t need all this other acting out [ _ ] right and i’m not saying i ever get to this place of complete wholeness or that i never act out that’s not the goal but i get closer to that and i think that’s therapy’s point like we want to talk about the underlying stuff the ways you feel about your childhood the ways you’re hurt the ways you feel like you’re not enough and you hate yourself because the more we do that the less you’re going to need any of this other [ _ ] you use to try to cope with that and i think that’s what the steps do and i guess that’s kind of my beef is that like why do we put this hard cap on who’s included and being able to do that and not and like let’s just start doing it we don’t have any evidence that says it doesn’t work we don’t it’s written in some words but who the [ _ ] made that up on before we had suboxone right we just kind of made that up and we all stick to it and i’m like but there’s other places you know there’s aca there’s but nobody listens to the actual wording in the step anyway we all say oh you got to be clean before you work it but the first step actually says you have to stop whatever acting out behavior you do before you work it and nobody [ __ ] follows that everybody goes through their second round of steps and they’re still in the process of acting out in some ways and they still work to step and try to stop it like i just why do we listen in one way and not i’m going to oa i’ve gone to aca i’m going to essay you know for support in that specific area but i know that you know like you said with therapy it’s like i remember reading there was a pi public information thing where it said you know if you want to use drugs that’s your problem but if you want to stop that’s ours and so any is not for the i got a difficult drinking issue maybe on the weekends n a is a place for where nothing else worked and i am desperate for change if you can get if you can use and you can get your life together please do it this one safe place is for people who are very sick this is my view very sick not just kind of we need a little people to talk to it’s like i am very sick i am going to die because i can’t stop this behavior and i need people who have been there and have found a way out and continue to live that way that’s my special space but aca you know is another great program you know oaga but to to to be like well let’s just change n a to b these other things too it’s like i i don’t know why that is such a hard pill for you to swallow and pun intended that for those of us who need that that deeply you know why would it not be okay yeah i wonder if it’s the idea of like a sort of to use modern verbage like safe space like you know when you go to n a you expect to be hearing from people that are abstinence-based recovery you don’t expect to hear someone share and tell a great story and how recovery’s been great and then go oh yeah and by the way i drink every other saturday or i use every other weekend you know what i mean i have

and i can’t i have tried to do just this or just that and i can’t and this is the one safe space and so i guess that’s where that respect and understanding of like what it really is i mean why aren’t you so freaked out about people going to church why aren’t you encouraging people to go to church instead of na to talk about their you know suboxone or other things that they’re doing but you’re laser fa focused is like on n a because n a is the big player for you it’s no it’s the hub it’s the hub of recovery in america it is not do you have not been around if your program is as big as that billy and i have fight changing around the world n a is not the it’s a hot spot here in cecil county but just great over to harford county it is not it’s the a-a oh okay a-a-n-n-a together are the hot spot of recovery they’ve become the hub so when that’s the place you’ve heard of like yeah i’ve heard of all these acas and oas and and saas after i got in recovery and started talking to recovery people but i didn’t know any of that [ _ ] was real the ones that are universal everybody’s heard but you got introduced because of drug use had you had a porn problem as your primary issue you would have been introduced to essay before na yeah i get that i don’t know another thing interesting though and this is just from talking to recently people in you mentioned harvard county is that it seems like aaa is now making a transition to be something different than they were before i guess over in harford county a lot of the addicts and people going through treatment seem to find a home there which i just i find that interesting like is aaa adapting its understanding of those things and is it changing and evolving it’s very community related like every 12-step fellowship that i know whether we were massachusetts utah or florida or harford county cecil county baltimore you know wilmington it’s very community driven like that community makes up the rules and and and who’s going to go where and where the cool people are and uh but i find that with listen to the podcast there’s a with jason there’s a um a tendency to be like this is my experience so this is how it is this has been what i’ve experienced so this is where it’s at everywhere and i’ll be like listening to you and be like no jason you don’t you know you you’ve got such a laser focus on your own experience that it’s hard for you to understand that things are very different outside of your bubble okay so in the places where na is not the the main player or the hub or a a is not the main player the hub i guess my point would be there probably isn’t a hub there’s nowhere for people than addiction to go seek help as a group and find other people like them there’s been very i can’t even count on one hand how many places i found where there’s not a a hub okay and that’s fine but that doesn’t mean there’s another one it’s not like there’s some other group out here called uh recovery anonymous where everyone’s welcome well their celebrate recovery is huge in certain care in certain areas as well well okay and that’s fine but that’s still a very laser-focused group right on one particular venture of people in california you know that whole chemical dependency anonymous thing is huge and maybe this is where my problem is maybe i’m better at n a but the truth is just that i don’t want to accept the fact that i want something that’s more inclusive and and i have these strong ties to n a because it did so much for my life and so it’s like i don’t want to let go of that but i also want to be a part of something that really i believe serves the recovery population better than anybody maybe that’s it maybe maybe you’re growing trying to make it tie in because that’s where i want to be and the fact is i just need to get the [ _ ] out yeah you’re turning your anger on the one thing that’s helped you when it could be a more peaceful transition where you can be i love n a it has helped me so much and now i’m going to experiment with other things i have friends that are doing that you know and that you’re like angry and [ _ ] about it honestly because i think to justify leaving it’s like it’s okay man ah it hurts and that’s sort of what transition is a little bit towards what you do i think it’s like you have your role in n a that you’ve had for all these years but you found another way to like channel and be more inclusive and help other people outside of just that and those two things can exist in the same space you know how to become a peer so i’ve been in this recovery community for a long time to step outside for over 20 years just you know working different jobs n a is the way because it’s really helped me um it’s been instrumental and it’s given me a community but um you know i was in between jobs and one of billy sponsey the great scott tice was like yo jen you don’t say his last name he passed away is that legal now i mean yeah okay i’m sure he wouldn’t care um he’s like jennifer man you should do this job at this health department they got this new peer thing they’re doing and i’ve been trying to do it it kind of sucks for me but i’ve been going out there and talking to jails and talking to to schools and i think you’d be really good at it and i was in between jobs and i was like all right i’ll try i guess i’m going to go tell my story at different places what i thought right so i applied for this job and the day that i get it and start scott quits thank you scott um and you know i learned a lot i couldn’t believe it and i have i’ve been doing the work since 2012. and i have not told my story yet and not to cut you off but what was interesting so scott was doing that work and he found i’m gonna say that his struggle and all that was the opposite of what you say so his struggle in that was they wanted him to be inclusive in introducing these other ways of recovery and he was like absolutely not the only thing that works is absent in space and the 12 steps and all that other stuff is [ _ ] and i’m not saying it works and i’m not and so he was at at odds with the job you know being inclusive of these other things he was so married to that idea so anyway i learned in this government job this health department job about the opioid epidemic i mean granted i’m in n a but i didn’t realize how many people were dying um because these were people i feel like never even knew about n.a or got there lots of people and i learned about the lack of services i realized that were available to people who wanted help i realized how much the 12-step fellowships were no longer in a lot of locations that were when i first got clean like when we went took h i meetings into the jail when i first went to the jail and i had six months clean the cos would bring us in coffee they were so happy to see us and um now we can’t even get in there they like closed us out and a lot of the tr rehabs were like closing the 12-step fellowships out and replacing it with their own stuff and their own pathways of recovery their own aftercare there was no services you know the detox was going from the hospital and that they weren’t doing anything with people who came in for substance use which i knew from the streets you know we knew that if you really wanted to get help you had to go to the hospital and tell me you want to kill yourself and that’s the only way they’re going to help you and you had to be sincere but to be on the other side of watching that go down watching the gap of people who are struggling the systems that help them and the actual recovery community it was like they didn’t know that there were people who had 20 years over or 10 years clean in in the community they didn’t think or no those people even existed there was no connection to the recovery community and i was like dudes man i can bring i’ll bring this room full of people who have double digits this stuff works and we are large and strong in the community and they were like okay you know i’m like oh my gosh um and telling them about the people and all the the networks in in the real world outside of that state agency and i was shocked and it was disheartening and um i remember one day the guy one of my supervisors sat down and said jennifer i was wondering if you could um have a conversation with the president of n a in this area and um see if they would reduce their stance against the whole abstinent thing you know because it’s um you know people are not feeling like they’re welcome and you know they are clean if they’re on methadone you know they’re not using other drugs and i was like whoa dude number one there’s no president and i’m certainly not in connection with anybody who says they are i said it’s a it’s a group kind of decision and a cultural thing and this is the history this is where it’s at but there’s other places and um you know it was just a shock that this guy worked in the field for 15 years 20 years didn’t know how the 12-step fellowships worked right he really thought there was a regional president and explaining it basic stuff you know so working there and he said his name was mike he’s like oh he was on the podcast he was on he said jennifer how about getting a group of people together people who want to volunteer here and just have like a group and see if you guys can come together and address certain things and so there was a bunch of people you know it was crispy was on here it was me it was a lawyer again a lady named beth so it was like people in recovery family members sam was there and uh we met and we decided on our name voices of hope we met at the health department and we had four things we wanted to do so that we decided we were really going to try to advocate for one was an in-county detox that accepts medicaid what we have all these people dying and no detox two was a 24-hour recovery community center we all remembered times and two o’clock in the morning early recovery where we needed people three was um legal syringe exchange you know we had no program here it wasn’t even legal to have and we knew that people were really suffering with uh soft tissue infections from needles sharing needles i mean i shared needles you know if only there was a needle exchange program when i was using um i’m mad every time i give blood that we didn’t have a needle exchange that i could have been a part of because my veins are wrecked from just i used the same [ _ ] over and over like i was like yeah you use these 100 times it’s great so they get like totally flat and then the other thing we wanted was youth services to help young people in recovery um so you know from 2013 now to 2021 where we’re at now we have legal syringe exchange which we do um we have a recovery community center that’s not exactly what we want i mean it has peers available to talk to people and to net treatment to treatment navigation crisis intervention and personalized recovery supports but it’s not like the coffee shop hangout spot yet but we’re getting there we have meetings every night of the week now and uh peers that work you know we’re open seven days a week from uh 8 a.m to 1 a.m you know and that’s one of the things i think that’s different and it calls back to more what you’re talking about like the recovery community center the idea of that was not to be like the old-fashioned like a.a clubhouse that has like 27 aaa meetings and maybe one meeting from some other fellowship that feels half the time unwelcome there but an actual legitimate place where different people have different recovery pathways can come and feel comfortable can get connected like the recovery cafe idea i feel like if every community had something like that where it was more like hey yeah we have meetings here every night but they’re not any particular program it’s just hey we come out it’s all it feels more maybe like group therapy maybe some nights it just feels like we’re just [ _ ] hanging out right and that also existed throughout the day if that was in every neighborhood within walking distance i don’t think i would give a [ __ ] what any stance was because i honestly think that would take over as the hub for everything because i feel like it would be the place people wanted to be right i yeah yeah but that does roll into something else you know it’s like how can we advocate for that service to be every in every county in maryland right so voices of hope is an anomaly it’s unique we have 40 peers on staff now we’re in two locations we have five different locations we’re in two different counties we still don’t have youth services and we don’t have an in-county detox but we have something that’s kind of similar where we’ve sub-contracts been three years working on this project of uh subcontracting a met with a medication provider to provide person-centered medication services methadone suboxone and vivitrol and kind of address the issues that we have seen in our community for years uh people who are struggling on those medications and need supports to to kind of easy on easy off switch up pathways and have that support in between and after you know uh so it starts this week uh we have our two first clients and it’s it’s not part of voices of hope it’s kind of like a subcontracted service in within voices i hope so but everybody who is going to that service comes through voices who appears to make sure that a person-centered recovery treatment plan is developed and that we can provide them wrap around services like transportation and your basic needs and maybe recovery housing is being met it’s innovative i haven’t heard of anyplace else that’s really doing it truly doing this and it’s scary i feel like okay so those people come in and you’re helping them and and while they’re with you they’re getting help they’re getting compassion they’re getting empathy they’re getting you know these things we believe people need like you know billy talks about the the book he read where the disease of addiction is kind of conceptualized as the disease of isolation right and we need to be more inclusive and that’s i would say whether that’s exactly true or not that is a huge part of coming into recovery is getting back into connection with people in the world right so while they’re here they’re getting that and i think that might be some of the problem when people come to see anybody at my work right all of us uh sit in meetings and talk and we’re like well where do we send them like yeah they can get the help they need with us for an hour a week but where can i send them where they could go if they wanted to every night of the week and they could also form these bonds in connection and they’ll be extremely welcome and they can also work a helpful program for them and there’s not a place for that and i think that might be part of my bitterness too it’s like i want to send them where i got help but that might not be where they’re at just yet and i have nowhere to send them and uh and i’m disappointed that we don’t have that greatly and i think we can me too and uh which is who’s gonna do it if not you

different pathways of recovery you know i just feel like i was in a cush kind of going in my recovery i wasn’t doing my h and i meeting and helping newcomers when they asked me to sponsor them and i was not aware of my bigger community at all and i guess it’s not it’s just god’s time god’s god’s time god’s way and i i would not have gone out to do that it was like through scott tys you know that was the only way that was going to happen but the the story is and then my message is is that we in the recovery community and that’s people in recovery family members and allies we need to look in our communities we know people are dying we know people are suffering and we can change it together um there’s only hope in us doing something because the people who are doing it are doing it for money those are the ones that are stepping up and claiming this but those who really have compassion and empathy for their communities can do something that is motivated by just trying to help and fill the gaps and you know we talk about you just said you know why if this was in every county well maybe it should be and whose job is it to do that but ours you think i thought somebody else was doing this stuff like i thought somebody else was going to annapolis and advocating on behalf of the recovery community and the family members you’ve lost loved ones and allies and come to find out they’re not there’s nothing there there’s treatment providers for properties for profit treatment providers doing it and when they say we have money for recovery you know who’s taking it is the treatment providers the hospitals and the government agencies and what i can see what they’re doing with it is they give it to each other and they make a lot of programs that have really good on paper but you go to access that and somehow it’s not applicable it’s not there and so what i’ve realized is that oh my gosh we’ve got to create a network and you know i was just talking to you about you know mobilize recovery just met in vegas last week and that’s through ryan hampton a guy who um i think he’s in california who’s bringing all these grassroots recovery community organizations together to try to pull us together to add to build his capacity and then advocate for the recovery communities and people in recovery but it’s got a long way to go and faces and voices of recovery say they are the leaders but when i talk to them they’re like so deep into policies that i don’t even think they are they don’t have their ear to the recovery communities you know because they’re certainly not giving me any kind of help um personalized help and trying to survive and get funding so there’s nothing going on even in maryland and we’re above the curve of most states except for arkansas and and a couple of others that uh be honest how the [ __ ] did arkansas become the leader in anything right right i think i don’t i mean who knows but damn that’s what i gotta find out arkansas get ahead of us or any state i would be asking that they’re the ones that were able to put together laws that said uh peers need to be in jails and emergency rooms and all these places and they made a statewide network to train peers and put them in there and the the law we need a law that says substance use needs to be treated in the emergency room every emergency room and who’s going to do those laws it’s like there’s no lobby for recovery communities because who can make money on 12 steps nobody who makes money on the recovery community nobody that’s why we don’t have any lobbyists so it takes people who really care enough about their community and say man this has got to change to step up and do something about it with people that are like-minded and not really take an interest in it and it works you know we’re making some big changes but we’re taking big risks as you know we have failed as things but we just keep going um until until it’s all gone you know i think i know the answer to this question already but i still have to ask

this episode has been brought to you in part by voices of hope inc a non-profit recovery organization made up of people in recovery family members and allies together members strive to protect the dignity of those that use drugs and those in recovery by advocating for treatment harm reduction and support resources and mentoring please visit us at www.voicesofhopemaryland.org

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is it your opinion that members who’ve been in recovery for an established amount of time for some amount of time where they feel pretty solid in their recovery might actually benefit the recovery so what i feel like happens is we get into a program whatever program that might be and we get along and we’re like the best way i can be of service is to show up in this program as often as i can maybe the theory might need to be you know one of those nights i go to that program that i like that helps me maybe i could do something different in my community that might affect more like yeah if i’m here i can help the new person walking in the door but maybe that’s good for one night a week and maybe some other night a week it might be more useful for me to like really start getting involved in my community and taking action outside of this is that your opinion so my message that i’m sending out will touch the hearts and minds of the people it intends it needs to hit because you know the especially the anonymous fellowship you know um that means anonymous jennifer now this is the things that people have said to me anonymous jennifer that means you don’t tell people you’re in recovery uh anonymous jennifer uh you’re just look i’ve been called an attention [ _ ] um i’ve been told i’m breaking all the traditions um the traditions have no rules we’ve established um and i’ve had people say i was an egomaniac doing it for myself um you know people say oh jen that’s great but don’t ask me and don’t even put me out there you know because there’s still a huge stigma for people who are in recovery and you see it with teachers nurses lawyers moms soccer coaches they don’t want to be out as i’m in recovery you know it’s just not there i mean it really takes a a special kind of hit on your heart for you to be willing to step up and out and you just see it newcomers right newcomers are like ready to tell the world they’re in recovery because everybody knew how terrible they got a meme about that it was horrible out there and everybody knew that so but then you get some time and you’re like oh okay you know tone it down just live your life and and yeah i do my service work here in the fellowship and on 12-step calls and so you know and i have to respect that you know when my sponsor says you know you go ahead jennifer go ahead and do what you’re doing you know um but she’s not interested and that is okay you know i it’s it’s okay so i think for i was born an advocate i was born for the heart of the underdog for the people who are suffering struggling and then i saw it happen in my own family and with my neighbors and in that pain i said there’s got to be something that is being done or that i can do when i saw there was nothing being done i was like well [ _ ] man so then there’s people that are called to the work i just ask people to listen to their own hearts and minds and look and see if nobody’s doing it would you and if somebody’s doing it would you help them if they’re struggling because that’s what it’s going to take to make a real difference well and i think that’s the problem in 2021 um coming from you know my professions experience is that we’re all like that’s what’s leading us to have so much life disturbance from these things in our lives is the fact that we have so many things in 2021 that take us away from that unity of of mind body and and spirit true self whatever you’d like to call it right and so we’re not even in touch enough to know what it is that’s on our hearts to listen to them right that’s what i think we’ve stuffed all this stuff and blocked it and we got our smartphone games and our netflix all [ _ ] day binge in it and and look i’m not judging people or or putting you down for that but i think that’s the stuff that keeps us from being able to hear what is on our hearts because i truly believe that a whole lot more people would step up if they were able to be in tune and hear the message from inside of them right uh you said earlier like if if it’s not our jobs then whose or something along those lines and my thought was less like well i don’t even want to put that on people that it’s your job but like wouldn’t you want to like i feel like most people would like if you if you interact one-on-one with somebody on the street you want to do something it hurts you to not do something for most people right but it’s easy to sit in our homes watching our netflix playing on our smartphones doing our comfortable life getting our starbucks and this is me too i’m not pointing the fingers at anybody here it’s easier to do that because it’s it’s safe and hidden from all that what’s really out there and what isn’t being done and it’s like to take that time and and see what’s not being done and get in tune and do our healing and then realize [ _ ] i can’t just sit here and watch this once i’m healed like i got i gotta step up now there’s more to this and it’s i like what you were saying there and i think i was while you were saying i was thinking about to like it takes recovery um to you know filter out you know the demands of my addiction and my self-centeredness to be able to sit still for a minute and it takes work you know the 12 steps work to to then be okay with who i am who i am and what i’m feeling not be so afraid of my feelings and to be able to get a message from within and be safe with feeling it and listening to it because i think for certain periods in recovery people were like okay i just want to be normal so that means you know husband kids school job house and then there’s like these feelings that come up like oh no that’s a weird feeling you know let’s push that back down and if it keeps coming up okay it might be dissatisfaction or a passion thing or a message and we’re like oh no no no and if it gets too loud we might be like oh no i’m going to take something to shut this up first i got to change jobs or or you know spouses or

and i whatever to control that i’m going to try to dictate where my life goes and for me and my recovery it’s like when i try to do that i get with hit with a lot of you know worse feelings but it takes recovery in order to to process that kind of stuff you know so um with new people they are just like ready to go you know voices of hope is full of a lot of people with like less than two years you know are super passionate man we’re gonna use that passion and train them and get them out there to help people because they can really connect with new people but uh usually with people in recovery you know we can’t attract them to the pure force because uh by the time they got two years they’re already in a whole mode of career and and and doing their thing and i make money mm-hmm i gotta bring the money but uh so peer work is uh is fulfilling work good work um you know but for a lot of time a lot of places it’s entry-level work well and and that’s maybe one of the things uh what you know we call peer work i think and now in current times it’s like very much looked at as an established job position but it also includes like not paid for work right like we could step up in our community and be peers and advocates without ever getting a sent for it and i get it like i didn’t want to donate a whole lot of my time before i’m not blaming anybody who doesn’t but like that that is a thing like you don’t have to take that on as a job to you know find a peer network or or a community outlet or outreach to help in your area and say oh that night i’m not going to that program this week i’m going to go there for a few hours and just spend it around the community and see what’s up yeah i find um there’s a few that are passionate like that most seem to be driven by the monetary aspect um and then the other biggest advocates that come to the table unfortunately are mothers and fathers who lost their loved one you know to overdose um they can be our biggest advocates um but you know for me i’m like whatever it takes man let’s just get some stuff done and we have been able to i think um you know we got a lot of people in the treatment a lot of people in recovery housing i’ve been com passionate advocates to people who are still using drugs and i think like you said i wanna it’s like this is a place where we can be like whatever you think is gonna work but here’s the education on all these pathways there is abstinence there’s detox there’s medication there’s different levels of medication there’s a religious like everybody has a preference and a lot of people have already tried some things but if somebody wants a certain pathway it’s important for us to know those people in the different fellowships that we can connect them to you know give them a phone number referring to a a good meeting like i can’t be your sponsor as a peer but i can introduce it to some people that would make good sponsors so peers are people who are equal i’m not a counselor i’m an equal person in recovery yes i have some power because i work for the organization but peer work is like hey man you know when we go out in harm reduction in hope street and we talk to people we’re building relationships that um are built on compassion and empathy and just checking in with people and seeing how you’re doing not trying to convince anybody anything um but just telling that we care and then slipping in there yeah i used to be in the same kind of situation and i went through treatment and now i go to you know these certain meetings and um and i’ll see you next week i hope you’re here you know and then after a couple weeks and then or months or never they’re like hey man i really need to go into i really want to get treatment and um we bring them into the recovery center and give them the options and hold on to them not just well here’s some phone numbers give them a call on monday it’s like we will hold on to them until that bed date is available you know a safe place to get a shower i mean yeah we might have to get medically stabilized through community doctors who really give a [ _ ] um but you know we’ll hold on to them and then when they get out you know we’re calling them how are you doing do you need a ride in the meetings or what’s going on um and then they’ll turn around sometimes and volunteer here and then we hire them you know we have a girl who you know has been our wound care appear so anyway peers are people with lived experience that share their experience strength and hope with recovery to um inspire and support people and sometimes the story isn’t they get treatment in recovery sometimes the story is you will be their friend while they’re homeless and being a sex worker or dirty and or and dying or without their kids i mean the worst case scenario is for that person you know and they have nobody but they will have a voice of hope here they’ll see them on tuesdays to say hi and care about them and that’s part of the work you know um people with wounds that you know they’re going to have to get an amputation but we’re going to walk work walk that with them um so it’s not uh savior work it’s um at the end of the road work a lot of times and once in a while somebody’s going to try to to use your vision of hope to inspire them to to get better and do better but in maryland peers are not medicaid reimbursable which means there’s no funding stream like other states probably arkansas has medicaid reimbursement goddamn arkansas which provides hospitals and treatment organizations the ability to put peers on staff but because it’s not medicaid reimbursable it’s all grant funded so people are hustling for those funds and um so it’s a capacity building stage for maryland just to get in position to have peers everywhere because it works you know it’s an evidence-based practice that uh is proven by samsa that it allows clients or participants to engage in treatment longer feel like they have a higher quality of life and success so uh it’s not just saying it sounds good it actually helps quite a bit you mean we actually invested money into research to prove that having a friend made your life better wow right i think i could have told you that but they were like there’s no proof right back to that connection yeah yeah i mean they just did a study i i was reading about it where they looked at the medical health outcomes of people as they age who don’t keep intimate relationships versus people who do and people who don’t have intimate relationships as they you know get 50 and older have the same health outcomes as heroin addicts it’s like yeah i mean you need friends it’s it’s hugely important to your life close friends yes that you share your feelings with yeah not the not the hey how was the game the weather’s nice kind of friends you need yeah i need to tell you about how i want to [ _ ] choke my wife when she pisses me off and i need to tell you about my kids and how i want to strangle them some like it’s we need to talk about the [ __ ] that hurts if you missed it jen keeps giving me like the side eyes that’s directed right at me i was ignoring it uh so yeah well i mean where do people go with this you’re in a community that has no voices of hope that has no you know recovery cafe that has no anything that’s helping people except maybe a couple of program meetings a week where do you even start how do you even i mean this like yeah you’re in a position now where there’s a program and there’s 40 paid peers on staff and that’s awesome but when you started it wasn’t and and how do people find this ability to start when there isn’t any funding and it’s just about hey we’re going to donate every other saturday to going and doing something useful okay so this is just my opinion but i would suggest that you get somebody else that might be interested you know maybe it’s a couple people and i’ll really look around and see is there anything going on in my town in my community uh you know look through the calendar of events in your local newspaper because sometimes they’ll have it posted if you still find nothing no organization that’s doing recovery supports in the community or peer engagement that’s what you want to look for peer peer recovery specialist then go to your local health office your health department chances are they have a funding stream that’s called recovery that’s going to somewhere else that’s going to a treatment organization or that health office itself to do work and you can ask about it you can ask them if there’s a rosk committee in your town which is short for recovery oriented systems of care that’s a a big push from the federal and state governments to try to get these rask meetings where people who um treatment providers halfway houses uh recovery support networks are supposed to come together to talk about the continuum of care from crisis to actual recovery in the community um and and dig deeper and you might want to ask your health office well what do you guys get every state got recovery money right so when we talk about the nation’s response and this is just my understanding i’m not a doctor at this or anything this is my little world you know understanding is that when the national government said we’re going to do an opioid response and every state is going to get sore dollars state opioid response dollars it was to fund a four pillar system uh one is law enforcement one is of course one is prevention and one is treatment and one is recovery i do believe so every state got recovery dollars you just got to find out where did your recovery dollars go to right now we have this opioid settlement right a lot of states sued perdue and all these places to get some money for the overdose deaths that we’ve experienced from this every most states are getting money where will your money go will it go like the way of the tobacco money where it was went to write you know new roads and some government people got cars and and things like that or can you make sure that that opioid money at least goes to the children of those who died at least goes to the recovery communities you know when they give recovery dollars to treatment organizations that have the ability to charge insurance companies and medicaid and medicare for their operations and they have millions of dollar budgets and and people who you know very well compensated and they’re taking their recovery dollars for your state or county because you have no mechanism to receive it who’s getting the money in cecil county we’re fighting for it you know so there’s there’s our county government’s like talking about oh we’re gonna do um you know some uh disbursements they’ve been doing some you know through their oocc and oit is complicated but i believe we have a seat at that table um but the state the st i had we have to hustle because there’s no mechanism in maryland for it so you know that shepherd pratt and all those hospitals are gonna be like we’ll take it because we’ll hire peers in our emergency room and recovery in the community is not the same as treatment right so if you have people peers working in treatment in hospitals but not in the community to make that connection then it’s still just treatment right recovery is different than treatment and and the only way that these funding mechanisms can make that distinction is if you guys put a seat at the table but that means getting together and deciding what do you want what’s going to make recovery in the community that means outside of jails and hospitals and rehabs work what do people that you know need is it jobs is it education is it housing then organize and get a seat at the table and if you need help or at least some direction feel free to reach out to me um i’ll do what i can because we are invested in not only our survival but in the empowerment survival recovery community organizations throughout maryland and the country how do they rate you oh it’s uh voices of hoop 414 gmail.com there you go yeah i just along with similar veins uh one of those states and i can’t remember one i just read the title this morning when i was reading the news was they’re taking the coronavirus relief money and using it to build prisons i’m sorry okay yeah relieve us from what are they gonna house corona virus people i don’t know yeah so just saying like money that’s supposed to be earmarked for one thing gets used however the hell people in power decide to use it and you know how much is giving a shepherd pratt or or a large recovery institution maybe you know like one of the bigger fancier ones how much help is that really given our community when they already have plenty of funding and they’re not seeming to change the tide in in the recovery world a whole lot already all right so let’s let’s do something different right let’s create things that don’t exist if we need them let’s make things more accessible whatever it takes i mean i i keep trying to talk billy into starting our own uh the recovery sort of program yeah

i don’t even know what that looks like and maybe that’s what holds me up from starting it right and maybe it’s this desire to not leave my home so to speak of you know my fellowship but i think it’s needed and i don’t know what it looks like and maybe i don’t have to going in maybe i just start it and then we [ _ ] figure it out as we go but well i can’t do it by myself billy yeah not putting a spot on you i know for me and as a result of lots of different things and reading research this podcast you know working with voices stuff i think for me a big personal change as a person in recovery is i don’t look at my recovery community now as just the people in n a like that’s what it used to be you know what i mean so i could show up and do an h i commitment or sponsor somebody and being what i’m doing all this work in my recovery community now i can look at that like my community is a much bigger broader thing than just me it’s the people that are using out there on the street like those are also my community and i can look at things i can do to help that community not just the people in my little close and a group right and and i think that’s where the conversations that are on this show and that happen outside of this show like i know i’m i text people just randomly ask questions out of nowhere you wouldn’t sponsor you wouldn’t walk somebody on some boxing through 12 steps like i was having a conversation yesterday with somebody just getting all this feedback in this information has drastically changed who i am as a person right uh over the last two years and a week now i mean you talk about people coming from an anonymous program i didn’t want nobody know who the [ _ ] i was i don’t care now like yeah i need to put my name out there and i need to be looked at as somebody who came from this place and is a upstanding member of the community now and that’s what we do and we can do and we’re capable of and our potential and like i i don’t want to be the [ _ ] role model for that because i [ _ ] up in my life but but i mean the fact is like i don’t want to be anonymous anymore and my feelings have changed about a lot and as much as i felt attacked earlier like maybe that did help me come to some conclusions about you know maybe this is where my my frustration is coming from is that this just isn’t a fit for my belief system anymore and or maybe it can be both like look i am i’m a die hard because of my experiences my personal experiences right with the fellowship but i do this work too they they can marry each other there’s so much disappointment about what i feel like we need versus what i feel like that’s offering at this point and that’s really tough that’s the entryway of what you build there’s always that piece if you want to know what i personally do it’s this piece right here but i’m invested in all this other stuff that’s good for the community um but it’s humility it’s humility to to for me to be like this is what happened this is what worked for me not everybody and you coming to a place now where you’re willing to be unanimous right it’s your own personal journey god has a personal journey for you it’s so often we we look at i think we look at other people’s journey we’re like comparing and being like well i’m right you’re wrong you should be here i should be there and it’s like this is a personalized life journey and it’s all okay you know as long as it’s going to a good place and um i think for some of us we have to in order to change we have to be like well that sucks so bad so that’s why i’m changing it’s like instead of being like i am drawn to this this is cool this is cool and that’s cool and i keep thinking of like any time i let go of something like claw marks all over it it’s almost like any time i i kind of move away from something i have to slice it up to show everybody why i’m doing that to justify my move or my growth and uh which could be a reflection this is just you and me talking that maybe you need to hang out with people who are doing a lot of growing n n a like um you know there’s a lot of people that are adding to their base you know growing and changing or just an n a becomes a piece maybe not just a base but remember when everybody telling you like we used to say you know and it’s just the tip of the spiritual iceberg right there’s a whole lot under the surface that we’re gonna experiment and grow and change with but i never in my gratitude and in my humility i always respect that which has given me life to this point but sophie’s waiting for me so i gotta go she’s protesting she’s calling me now how do we wrap it up guys that’s it i go out there and and you know if you feel so inclined do something in your neighborhood to make it a better place right this isn’t just about uh like i think billy and i kind of realized today this isn’t just about showing up in our program like maybe it’s a little more than just showing up in our program and thank you everybody for donating and listening i appreciate you all billy jason i love you so love you too uh yeah just do what’s good for you and then hopefully that fits in with what’s good for the the community as well stay safe did you like this episode share it with people you think might get something out of it check out the rest of our episodes at recoveryswordof.com also while you’re there you can find ways to link up with us on facebook twitter instagram reddit youtube anything we’re always looking for new ideas got an idea you want us to look into reach out to us