Taking Action Summit: Well-Intended Stereotypes and My Role in the Recovery Movement
Good afternoon, thank you for joining this session, Well-Intended Stereotypes and My Role in the Recovery Movement. My name is Michele Herrmann and I would like to welcome participants who are joining through the virtual platform, as well as those of you who are here at Eastman School of Music. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce the speaker today. I've had the pleasure of working with her for several years, and I consider her a friend.
Kelly Quinn is the community outreach specialist for Strong Recovery at the University of Rochester. Recently promoted, Kelly previously served as a peer recovery specialist where she developed peer-led support groups and other programs. As a person in recovery, Quinn strives for transparency in her own recovery process, stating, "Just by living authentically we empower others to do the same." In 2020, she founded Recover Collaborative, which is a 5019(c)(3), which provides training for those pursuing Certified Recovery Peer Advocate certification and professional development for the CRPA certified.
Kelly also partners with community agencies as they develop peer advocate service lines. At the end of this presentation, we'll have a question and answer period for both in person and virtual attendees. I turn it over to you Kelly.
- Thank you, Michelle, and thank you everyone who's come here to attend this session. I'm really excited and passionate about this topic that we're gonna be speaking about today. And the topic is Well-Intended Stereotypes and My Role in the Recovery Movement, ie, all of our roles in the recovery movement. So before we begin, I would like to establish some working agreements that we can all kind of agree on at any point in this presentation, due to the topics and the things that we're gonna be talking about, it may create some feelings, and I'd like to challenge each of you to really sit with those feelings and investigate where they may come from, why are they manifesting?
So the first is I would like to ask everybody, and we're all gonna agree to have a willingness to be vulnerable about our beliefs and attitudes, 'cause that is the nature of this presentation. We're gonna have open mindedness towards fellow members who are participating in this session, and their beliefs and opinions as they're shared during the course of this presentation through question and answers, and so forth. We're gonna have a willingness to allow each person to share without fear, or judgment, or ridicule. Please do not be shy to ask a question.
In all of my years doing this, I have never been asked a question that I have been uncomfortable answering and I strive to be straightforward and honest in all of my answers. And we're all gonna agree to have an enthusiastic hope that we will all complete this session wiser and more accepting than we started. So again, my name is Kelly Quinn. I am a CRPA-F Certified Recovery Peer Advocate and I also have a special designation that allows me to do family work, and I am a recovery coach professional, which is a national designation.
I am the executive director of Recovery collaborative and I am the community outreach specialist at the University of Rochester. So a little bit about me just so everybody knows where I'm speaking from. So I am a person in recovery. I've been in recovery since May 19th, 2014.
My recovery has been anything but linear, but it is still a recovery all the same. I come here sharing these topics and speaking on these things because people's lives hang in the balance, and we must be able to face these topics and address these matters head on and with honesty and open-mindedness in order to make a change. We've often seen within the recovery movement doing the same things expecting different results, which I think many of us know is the actual definition of insanity. So what this presentation is going to do is challenge the root of some of those ideologies that is causing the cyclical thinking.
Some of the things that I may say today are gonna be a little controversial. I promise you that everything I'm saying comes from my own lived experience, as well as lived experiences of my fellow community members. And I do have some of their stories that I have been allowed to share with you today. So we have some presentation objectives, 'cause any good formal presentation should, right?
So you guys as participants will be able to better identify various types of stigma and its impact, not just the overt explicit stigma, but also the more implicit and insidious stigma. Participants will be able to understand where they may fit within the recovery movement and roles associated to that position. The recovery movement has always been very open to anybody who has a willingness to be of service and help push our purpose forward. This includes family members, professionals, allies.
You are a member of our community when you say you are, and that is the only requirement. Participants will gain new language that promotes an empowering and pro recovery narrative. And that is the goal of this entire conversation is to shift the ideology and thinking from an anti-addiction or anti-stigma to a pro recovery one. So some terminology that's gonna come up and is important to this presentation.
So we're gonna talk about stigma, and what is stigma? It is the mark of disgrace. That is how the Webster Dictionary defines it. An ally, a person that co-operates with somebody to achieve a purpose.
That word cooperates is very important, and we're gonna find out exactly why the emphasis needs to be on that word, later on in this presentation. As you can see, the definition for recovery is left blank. So what I would like each of you to do that's here in person, and even virtually on Zoom, my in person folks, you were supplied with an index card and a pen, people on Zoom, if you can grab a pen and a piece of paper, and I would like you to write down what your definition of recovery is, what you understand recovery to be? And then we will save those definitions until the end.
The other thing we're gonna talk about is advocates and advocacy. And advocate is a person who publicly supports a cause, publicly being the keyword in this definition. It is not just enough to be loud in safe spaces, we must be loud in all spaces. Connotation, this is a very important point in terminology that understanding it is vital in the topics that we're discussing today.
And connotation is a feeling or thought a word invokes. So sometimes when we're talking about stigma, it's not always enough to use a word based on its direct dictionary definition, we also need to be understanding of what feelings and thoughts that word invokes in the other person we're communicating it to. And then disease, a disorder of structure or function in a human. This is important.
We all know that substance use disorder is a disease, regardless of whether some people wanna claim that it's not. It's really not up for debate at this point, but understanding what we mean when we say disease, especially in the scope of substance use disorder, is important. So there are several roles in the recovery community, some categories of roles, and there are some nuances within each of those categories. But for a general definition, typically you'll see the recovery community made up of family, which is person related to or has a familial role in a person with an addiction's life.
So it's important we're emphasizing familial role, because sometimes family isn't always blood, DNA isn't always what makes a family and creates those bonds, and it's important that we recognize that. Ally, a community member that supports recovery equity and recovery related initiatives. And we have our professionals, these are our social workers, our therapists, our healthcare workers, sometimes English can be a little hard for me, and etcetera. So this is a person that works in a professional field and/or has a formal educational understanding of addiction.
So these are our psychology majors, our human services majors, sociology, etcetera, etcetera. And then we have the person with an addiction. So this is a person either diagnosed or fitting diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder. So there are all some really fancy definitions.
So here's where we get into the meat. One of the big things that we need to see in the recovery movement is those roles that we just defined, we need to see the family member staying in the lane of the family member. We need to see the ally staying in the lane of the ally. We need to see the professional staying in the lane of the professional.
And their job, as you can see, is solely to be a support to the person in recovery. And the jobs of the family members, the allies, and the professionals in this recovery movement is to center and amplify the voices of people in recovery. We've seen in the past the recovery movement is a social justice movement. We understand this, we know this.
However, the recovery movement is also one of the only social justice movements where we're allowing allies, family members, and professionals to be the voices that are leading these initiatives, leading this movement, where the actual affected community members are not the ones at the table. And the ones at the table are unwilling to give up their seat to the people in recovery or people seeking recovery. So it's important, one thing that I'm gonna challenge everybody who identifies as a family, an ally, or a professional to do is to remember this little quote right here, "The answers are in the room and I don't have them."
You can be a support, we need you, the recovery community needs everyone we can get to help push our initiatives forward. But understanding that to be a part of the recovery movement as an ally, a family member, a professional, is to be one of support, not one of leadership. And so we're gonna talk about some tools, the spectrum of attitudes. So these are some tools that will kind of allow individuals who are part of the recovery movement or who would like to become a part of recovery movement to gauge, am I acting in accordance with the the values that I've learned here today?
So there's three types of attitudes. We have treating people as objects. So people viewed as objects, the basis of this attitude is that one person or group of people knows what's best for another person or group of people. Or the first person or group may decide they have a right to determine the circumstances under which the second person or group will exist.
The person being viewed and treated as an object usually knows it. So when we, as people in recovery, have healthcare workers that are telling us, this is what you need to do, this is where you need to go, this is the medication you need to be on or you cannot be on, that's exactly what they are doing. They're treating that person in recovery as an object, as a recipient, and feel that they are entitled to determine the circumstances of that person's recovery, growth, healing, and so forth. Then we have people viewed as recipients, a little bit better than treating people as objects, but still not the goal.
People viewed as recipients, this is where the first person or group still believes that they know what is best for the other, but they give the other the opportunity to "participate" in decision making because it will be good for the other person or group. Thus, the other is supposed to receive the benefits of what the first person gives him or her. So what this looks like is as a recovering person, they're sitting down and they need help, they're in treatment, and the professional or a family member comes to them and says, well, you can either be discharged from treatment or go to this inpatient.
You can either stop using drugs or get kicked out of the house, stop doing this or I'll call the police on you. And it's giving the guise of a choice that the recovering person or the affected person has, but it really isn't a choice. There is an entire spectrum of possibilities that can lead to recovery, and by only isolating the options down to one or two that aren't very good, we're taking away that person's autonomy and agency over their own life and choices. The goal is to treat people as resources.
So people viewed as resources. Here there is an attitude of respect by the first person or group towards what the other person or group can do. This attitude and the behaviors that follow it can be closely associated with two matters of great concern, self-esteem and productivity. Creating a culture in which people are viewed as resources is a worthy goal.
That is always the goal of family members, allies, and professionals is to treat the affected community member as the best resource on themselves. So I want each of you either right now or when you leave here and you take a few minutes to sit down, I want each of you to think about a time you were treated as an object and how that made you feel. Think about a time that you were treated as a resource and the feelings that resulted from that. And then I want you to think about a time that you were treated as a resource.
I got that kind of right. A time you were treated as a resource and I want you to think about how that made you feel, and I want you to try to recognize the differences in your emotional response. So then recognizing, if this is how it makes me feel, how would it make somebody else feel? And that is just empathy.
So now we're going to attack, and yes, I use the word attack on purpose. We're gonna attack some of these well intended stereotypes and stigmas, things that we think are worthy, of value, and bring and enhance our community. But really, there's implicit harm. So the first one is stop the stigma.
We need to stop stop the stigma campaigns. There's many reasons for this. Many of them being like people think addiction is disgraceful, and confirming that there is a stigma around addiction, you are confirming that having a disease like substance use disorder is disgraceful, and it's not. Stop the stigma campaigns and initiatives are also very problem focused.
And as somebody in recovery and my fellow members of the community in recovery can all tell you, regardless of the pathway we've chosen, one of the big hallmarks of our recovery is solution focused thinking, that's what we need. It is also disempowering, it others the recovery community, and it's highlighting that otherness to the rest of the world outside looking in. And it is not person-centered. I can tell you one story that I have.
I was in a training and we were talking about stigmatizing language. I refer to myself as a recovering addict. That is the terminology that I use, that is a terminology that I like, it's what gives me my identity, it's what keeps it real to me. It is beneficial in many, many ways.
And I was told in this training by somebody who is not in recovery, that I am not allowed to use that word, I am not allowed to use the word addict, because it stigmatizes people in recovery. And to some people in recovery it does and they don't like that word, and they would prefer other terms, and that is okay. But what's important is myself as an individual, I choose as a person in recovery to refer to myself as a recovering addict, and I should have the freedom to do that. I should not be told by people who do not identify as a person in recovery or a person with a substance use disorder.
What I am allowed to call myself or not. And this is true for everybody, whether it's recovering addict, whether it's just person in recovery, whether it's person living with a substance use disorder, any variation of that. But each individual should have the right to choose that and should not be told that they were wrong. Sometimes these stop the stigma campaigns often will reinforce this message that you have to refer to yourself as a certain term or use certain terminology as you talk about yourself and identify yourself.
That's not okay. Here's another danger of these stop the stigma campaigns and this problem focused thinking. I had a friend of mine, we played soccer together. He was a very good friend.
He had a girlfriend, the girlfriend experienced a pretty significant overdose. She survived, but this was also a highly publicized overdose, and she was experiencing a lot of shame around this because the entire Rochester community, at the very least, knew about it. The articles were being shared on social media over and over again. People who didn't know her, people who didn't understand recovery were saying some of the most ugly things that you can say.
And that's what she was being bombarded with. So she didn't go back to meetings, she didn't go back to group, she didn't wanna show her face in treatment because she was scared. And people were perpetuating this narrative, sharing this article under the guise of spreading awareness. And what I say is, we are aware.
How many people sitting in this room or even tuning in online don't understand that substance use disorder can lead to death? That substance use disorder is dangerous? The substance use disorder destroys lives and families if not treated and left unchecked? I think we all know that.
Now what is the solution? Well, she didn't return to treatment, she didn't return to those things, those resources that helped her gain the recovery that she had before. And she ended up relapsing and she relapsed with my friend, she woke up, he didn't. And that is the danger of perpetuating these problem focused narratives.
It kills people, and that's just the truth, that's not for shock value, that is just the cold, hard truth. We need to understand that when we are setting these initiatives and we are advocating, we need to ask ourselves, how does this sound to the person still using? Because as a person still using, if all I'm hearing is all of the dangers and the shameful things about use, I'm not getting hope, I'm not getting empowerment, I'm not getting a solution or a way out, and that's what I needed. That's what people who are still using need, not to be told back what their life experiences are, they're living it.
The next one is the abstinence myth. So some of these myths behind abstinence are that abstinence is the most legitimate pathway of recovery. That abstinence isn't harmful. How could it be harmful?
If you're not putting drugs into your system, you're not putting yourself in danger, right? People believe that it is the most common pathway of recovery, which is also not true anymore. And then when it comes to harm reduction, a lot of people who are very abstinence only promote that the only purpose that harm reduction has is to lead ultimately to abstinence. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.
So I'm gonna tell you a story about another friend of mine. I have a lot of friends that are no longer here. So this friend, he was another member of AA Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I'm not gonna share his name because of the anonymity aspect of 12 step fellowships, but he was another member of Narcotics Anonymous, just like I am.
And as we all know, Narcotics Anonymous is abstinence based, which there is nothing wrong with having a resource that is abstinence based, it's a legitimate pathway. He came into Narcotics Anonymous because he had an opiate use disorder, and it was severe. And he was able to arrest that disorder, he was able to cope with those cravings, he was able to abstain from using opiates. But every so often he would smoke weed.
And every time he would do that, his sponsor would tell him, well, you need to go back into a meeting and share your clean date, that it's a new date, you gotta get a 24 hour key tag again, you have to do all this. And it was embarrassing. And so the ideology that my friend had was, well, if I'm gonna have to go through this process anyway, I might as well just use what I've always wanted to, why am I working so hard to not use heroin if I'm going through the same process as if I did anyway? And so that's what he did, and he also did not wake up.
This also ties in, and I want you guys to think about it and do some research, 'cause we could do a whole presentation on this thing alone. But this also speaks to the merits of legalization. We have proof in our own country that prohibition and the expectation of absolute abstinence is unrealistic. It doesn't work.
We have historical evidence of this when we go back into the 1920s and '30s in prohibition. When prohibition was passed, crime rates shot through the roof, murder rates shot through the roof. Within a year of ending prohibition, crime rates dropped back down to half of what it was, even before prohibition. And you can look this up.
If anybody's interested, check out, it's called LEAP, Law Enforcement Action Prohibition. And they have some really great resources that break it all down, and it's very eyeopening. So our next point, I don't know if any of you have seen this hashtag going around, but I have, and even if it's not these exact words, I've heard things like, the least of us, the forgotten ones, some variation of this. So, it's the most vulnerable among us.
And that is what people are labeling the recovery community and people in recovery. I'm sorry, but I don't feel vulnerable. I don't feel like a piece of broken glass. I don't feel like something that needs to be treated with kid gloves.
And by using this terminology and calling us vulnerable or least of us, things along that line, it is disempowering. It disregards the resilience that people in recovery had to have to survive. Substance use disorder sets out to kill us. So just the fact that we're still standing and breathing notes a level of resilience that deserves to be recognized.
It paints people in recovery as weak, and we are not weak. It infantilizes people in recovery or with an addiction. Last time I checked, I am biologically and chronologically a full grown adult. Thank you.
It continues to portray addiction as a moral and character failing. It is acting counter to what we are trying to put out there and impress upon people that substance use disorder is a disease. Yet we use terminology like this that connotates that it is a moral failing or character failing. Misconceptions in healthcare.
So I just very simply, as you can see, not a lot of bullet points, not a lot of information, because it can be summed up really quickly. Healthcare professionals, one of the misconceptions that I see is that my professional knowledge makes me an expert. No, your professional knowledge makes you able to be a support, it puts you in a position to know what resources are out there for the person sitting across the desk from you. It puts you in a position to be a cheerleader, to be a resource broker, to be a companion, to be a tour guide, to be a steward of recovery.
But at the end of the day, they're not the expert in that room, the person in recovery is. This also leads to a lack of adequate mental health care, which substance use disorder is a mental health diagnosis. Let's just call a spade a spade. So why is it when I went into treatment I had to be completely abstinent for six months before a mental health professional would even touch me.
Yet, addiction and mental illness is kind of a chicken and the egg dynamic. Was my mental illness exacerbated because of my substance use disorder, or was my substance use disorder my way of coping with the symptoms of my mental illness that was being left untreated. And feeling like we're the experts, like we can tell you what's right and what's wrong, that's where that ideology came from, is I believe there's no way I can help you until your mental illness is stabilized. I believe there's no way I can help you until your substance use disorder is stabilized.
But the person in front of you is begging for both, the person in front of you needs both to survive, and we need to change the process in which we provide services to these individuals. It leads to things like, well, because you have a substance use disorder, I'm not prescribing you this medication that you may need for your mental illness. I got very lucky, I am on gabapentin as part of my mental health medication that I take, told you I'm super transparent. A lot of doctors are very leery about prescribing that type of medication to somebody with a substance use disorder.
And being on that medication gave me a quality of life that I did not have before. Being on that medication is what allows me to be able to sit here and speak coherently with you guys. Not shaking from anxiety, not fumbling over words, being able to be a professional. And if I would've had a healthcare professional going, well, you know, I'm not comfortable with that, even though that's what you're saying you need, I'm not comfortable with that, I don't know if I would be here right now.
Talk about enabling, is it a thing? The simple answer is no. Enabling is not a thing, we need to do away with that term and just stop using it. It puts family members in a position to be punitive.
'Cause oftentimes we hear this term used in relation to family members, I don't wanna enable my son or daughter, I don't wanna give them $20, I don't wanna give them a ride, I don't wanna do that because it's enabling them. It places others, especially family, in the driver's seat of what is best for that person and disempowers them further. It's void of person-centeredness. Again, we're sitting in this dynamic where we're talking about this term, but it puts somebody other than the person in recovery, in the driver's seat, why do we continue to do that?
It has a very negative connotation. We can't treat someone that isn't alive, and not giving them money, not giving somebody a ride, not letting somebody crash on your couch for a night where you know they're gonna be safe is not going to stop them from participating in risky behavior, because the disease is still there, whether you give them $20 or not. And now I'm not saying go ahead and just hand out money and do a, the point is there is a solution to this, there's a middle ground and there's a balance that needs to be found, as opposed to looking at it at enabling. And I will give you that solution coming right up.
And here's all the problems, right, I attacked all these ingrained beliefs, and terminology, and stuff that we use within the recovery movement. And before this I talked about solution focused thinking, right? So it wouldn't be fair of me if I didn't also present you guys with some solutions. So stop the stigma, remembering language matters.
Let the individual decide what language they are comfortable with using in regard to their disease. If that's what they're comfortable using, allow them to use it. Be solution oriented. The goal is empowerment, scare tactics never work.
We see this in so many other dynamics, in so many other regards, yet that's what we resort to. We need to focus on sending a pro recovery message instead. And what I'd like to bring out, I saw it at another training, I like going to trainings apparently. I was at another training and this man, Phil Valentine, he's the executive director of CCAR, who created all of the curriculum that CRPA's participate in to get certified.
And he pointed out this quote by Mother Teresa, "I will not attend your anti-war rally but I will attend your pro-peace march." And in that quote, like lies all the difference. Participate and uplift pro recovery messages, empowering messages, messages that send hope into the community. Not anti-stigma, not anti-anything.
This also means that we need to be aware of political buzzwords. I'm about to say something that might be really controversial. I am kind of sick of hearing the term, the opiate epidemic. We know that it is, however, that also disenfranchises people with a marijuana use disorder, people with a cocaine use disorder, people with an alcohol use disorder.
And that's not right, that's not equity. And if we're talking about healthcare equity, why are we using terms that disenfranchise a whole section of our population? And the resources we are putting in place for people with an opioid use disorder are vital and they're needed. We also need to make it a point to expand those resources to include any substance use disorder.
Because they're out there too, they're dying too, they're desperate for a solution too. So we need to be desperate for that solution also, just as desperate as we've been for a solution for the opiate epidemic. So I'm gonna challenge you guys, when talking to other people, when having these conversations, even throughout the summit today, try to change your language a little bit. Try using substance use epidemic instead, and just see how it feels, see the reaction you get, you might be surprised.
And then the abstinence myth, open minds matter. All pathways of recovery are valid and healthy, no matter what. Abstinence can be harmful for those it is not the best choice for, as I illustrated in my friend's story earlier. Harm reduction is actually the most common pathway.
And people can practice harm reduction indefinitely. I have another friend of mine, this one has a happy ending. I have another friend of mine, she practices conditional abstinence. And even myself, when she told me about this, I was leery, because I also have experienced the indoctrination, I've also experienced the same political buzzwords, I've also experienced all of those well intended stereotypes.
And I had my reservations, it didn't make sense to me. And then she sat down and explained it and I said, oh, wow, that actually does make sense. And what it is, is her problem was using heroin. And that using heroin was what was putting her in dangerous positions, what was making her life unmanageable.
So she stopped using heroin. But when she's at Christmas dinner with her grandparents, she might have a glass of wine because she's in a safe environment, she's with family, and that's what works for her. And that allows her to feel like she, you know, have that fulfilling, productive life. Also understanding you are in recovery when you say you are not, when you become abstinent, not when you prescribe to the ideology that others are telling you recovery looks like, you are in recovery when you say you are.
And recovery can be as unique as fingerprints. No one size fits all. So those index cards, and for the people on Zoom, the piece of paper that you wrote your definitions of recovery on, I want you to hold them up now, now I want you to rip them in half. Your personal definition for recovery is yours and yours alone.
The person next to you may practice their recovery different, they might have a different recovery program, that doesn't mean they're any more or less in recovery than you are, and we need to remember that. The most vulnerable among us, perception matters. Reframe to strength based language, the most resilient among us. Let's change that and put the word resilient in there, put the word empowered in there, put the word heal, hope, anything positive, we need positive connotation.
Promote the identification and utilization of recovery capital. So what is recovery capital, you might be wondering? So recovery capital is all of those protective factors, all of those assets that somebody already naturally has. So I might be a year in recovery and relapse, and then I come back into recovery.
I didn't forget everything that I learned that year I was in recovery, my mind didn't get erased. And everything I learned that year, the ability to get that year is recovery capital that I have in the bank. It is something that I can draw on to continue to strengthen my recovery. Recovery capital can be jobs, family members, housing, clothing, food, things that are tangible.
They can also be things that are intangible. They can be the fact that I am very stubborn, personally, there's multiple people in this room you could actually ask and they would verify that for you. But that stubbornness, that tenacity that I had to get one more, that was recovery capital, because I just redirected it to recovery. That stubbornness, like I'm not going out this way.
That stubbornness of, you're gonna accept me into your treatment program. That stubbornness of, I'm gonna stand here, and I'm gonna lie on the floor, and I'm gonna throw a fit. And either you're gonna put me in your inpatient or you're gonna call 911 and have me mental health transported, but one way or another I'm getting a bed. And we need to recognize that ability that people in recovery have, and celebrate it, and point it out.
Because when somebody pointed that out to me, I went, wow, I really can do this, I do have good things about me, I do have strengths. And acknowledging already existing protective factors, which is part of that recovery capital also. The misconceptions in healthcare, humanity matters. And that is the thing that gets lost in the conversation when we're talking about recovery in the recovery community, is the humanity of the movement.
The fact that we're talking about living, breathing individuals that all come together under a common banner. But we're all still individuals. The person with an addiction is the best expert on themselves. Partner with the patient or client to build a treatment plan.
Use the patient and client's own words. So when you're setting those goals, and those treatment plans, and those wellness plans, and those progress notes, use the patient or client's own words, 'cause that's what's gonna most accurately depict what's going on with them. They know what will help them best, they are the best resource on themselves, they live in their skin every day. And strive to be a cheerleader first.
I'm gonna challenge all of my healthcare professionals listening to this, that the next time you sit down with a patient, listen for what they accomplished, listen for that progress, and celebrate it, cheer them on, let them know that you have their back and that you're not punitive, you're not some big brother coming to squash everything they wanna do and tell them how it's supposed to be. Strive to be a cheerleader first, and see what kind of reaction you might get from your clients or patients, I think you might be surprised. And then finally, the enabling, action matters. Create boundaries based on your needs and not what you think they need.
So that's the balance that I was referring to earlier. Let me share my own experience, my parents needed to remove me from their home because I was stealing from them. And I took some things that were pretty serious, like a laptop that had all their tax information on it. That's just unacceptable for them, and they had to set a boundary.
And that is different than saying, well, I'm not gonna let you live here because I'm making it too easy for you. That's the balance. We're able to set boundaries as family members, as allies, professionals. We're able to set boundaries to keep ourselves safe.
But our job is not to be punitive and set boundaries for what we believe the other person needs, or what's going to drive one person in the direction we want them to go in. Remember that if someone wants to use, we will. Like, I can tell you from personal, there was nothing stopping me, that was just the truth. So by saying, I'm not gonna do this action or that action because it's enabling, you're not actually really benefiting anybody, including yourself.
And you are not their authority, nor are you a superior to them. It is not your job to dictate their entire life to decide what consequences they are. And never pass up the opportunity to celebrate progress, no matter how small. 'Cause this is one thing we see, especially with family members.
Well, this person was terrible for two years, drove me nuts, made my life a living hell, I don't feel like that's a bad word, so I'm gonna believe it when I see it. Well, I need to see more. I need to see more, that's not enough. I'll believe it when you complete that program.
Or, I'll believe it when you actually show up to your next program. We need to stop doing that. Like, it's effort, it is hard, it is one of the hardest things that a person in recovery will ever do in their entire life is making that first step into that meeting, that group, that treatment facility, that inpatient, that detox. And we need to recognize the accomplishment that that is, instead of withholding any praise or reinforcement until they meet our criteria for what's successful.
So I'm not sure what time it is.
You did a good job.
- But we can do questions and answers. Again, please don't be shy, ask questions.
Yes, we'll take questions from both in person as well as virtual. For those who are virtually, please go ahead and share your questions in the chat. We'll start off here in the room. Has anybody got a question for Kelly?
Don't be shy. I actually have a couple questions. Oh Ken.
- So you had mentioned that.
Hang on. We gotta have our virtual people listen too.
Sorry. So you had mentioned that your parents had to put you out of the house because they had legitimate sort of reasons. Where did you go when you were put out of the house and how soon did it get hard enough for you to say, hey, I don't need this, I need to make a change?
- So I found myself, this was kind of a little bit of a revolving door, so it's a little bit of like, which time are we referring to? But this would end up putting me out on the street most of the time. I mean in my active use, I slept in abandoned buildings, I slept in alleyways, in abandoned garages, and things like that, and that's typically where I ended up. If not, I was at a shelter, if I was lucky, and then because of my behaviors and being in active use, most of the time, within 24 to 48 hours, I was then not so nicely asked to leave those shelters.
So that's where I would end up. I remember, I had been incarcerated numerous times, and the time, it was just kind of a perfect storm of events, the last time I was incarcerated, I remember, I was about three or four months pregnant, laying on a concrete floor in booking that smelled like urine, and just kind of went, why am I here? This is ridiculous. And the reason why, and I think this is important to highlight, the reason why I finally was able to get to that point, why it became so hard, was because I finally had something to lose.
I had positive things in my life, I had relationships in my life, people that were actually being supportive, and I didn't wanna destroy those relationships, because they saw value in me. So then I was finally able to see some value in me. But yeah, I remember it was like, I had other options, you know, like I could actually be in a house in a bed right now, but my disease led me to a concrete floor that smells like urine where the deputies are saying not nice things to me, and I'm eating soggy baloney sandwiches. Like, I had finally realized, this didn't have to be my life.
Because up until that point I was honestly, I was resigned, I wasn't gonna make it past 22, somebody was gonna find me in a dumpster somewhere. And I had resigned myself to that fate, and that was the first time where the possibility of a different fate started to resonate, and that seed was planted. Thank you.
What do you recommend as the best sources for up to date information on the recovery movement?
- So I would say the best sources for information, the peer professional field, I would say, would probably be one of the best places to look. And there's many Facebook groups, there's the New York Certification Board that you can look into. Because a lot of times the peers are the ones that are like boots on the ground, in many agencies, that's what we get hired to do for the most part. So they're also the people in recovery, they're the people interacting with members of the recovery community, where they're at.
So they're seeing a lot of this stuff firsthand, they're seeing evidence of this. So when they're saying, hey, this is not working, they're saying it because they see with their own eyes that this is not working. So there's multiple Facebook groups, social media, and like I said, you can go to the New York Certification Board website. And then there's also CCAR, Connecticut Center for Addiction Recovery, which they're kind of like the parents of the peer professional movement within the recovery movement.
So I would say those would be the two best sources.
Any other questions in the audience?
- [Audience Member #1]
Thank you. Oh, Kelly, thank you, first off. And I'm just curious on your recovery journey, your presentation today was very compassionate, strong, matter of fact, and I'm just wondering, did this what I'm seeing today, was this come along as part of your recovery journey or when did it happen, how did it happen?
- So like I said, I strive to live transparently when it comes to my recovery. And the real turning point, I think, was I'm sitting around, I'm in recovery, I have this nice job, I have this nice house, I have this great family, you know, all of those things that we strive for. And I'm sitting here enjoying this and seeing the possibilities of recovery, and then I'm watching my friends around me die. And I'm watching things that contribute to those deaths that were unnecessary and needless, and it really happened when I told you my friend's story, with him and his girlfriend, that was really a big turning point.
Because the people that were spreading these news article were also an organization that put themselves out there as being advocates for the recovery community. And so I addressed this and I said, hey, what you're doing, this is what it's causing, this is not okay, this is dangerous. And I was met with, well, what do you know? I talked to CEOs and they said it was okay.
I talked to counselors, and therapists, and social workers. And I'm like, that's great, but they're not us, they're not the ones being affected by this, so why are you listening to them? I was also told by somebody who calls themselves a leader in the recovery community, that I have no idea what sacrifice is. And I have no idea of the adversity that they had to go through to get to where they are.
Me sitting there, and they knew I'm a recovering heroin addict, are you serious? And this person was not in recovery, but it was kinda like, are you serious? So being somebody that I've always kind of stuck up for the underdog, always was the one that I'll attack the bully, I'll stay toe to toe with them, regardless of what the consequences are, because it needs to happen. So I went like, you know what, could this create some feelings?
Sure. Does it still need to be said? Definitely. Because saying it is the difference between life and death for a lot of us.
And that's really a big part of my recovery and what enhances my recovery is knowing that it's not just me, I have a responsibility to my community members. Like I am my brother's keeper, just like they are mine, and I can't expect somebody to step out and have my back if I'm not willing to do the same.
And we have a virtual question here. Are there resources available to family members to help navigate through that kind of boundary setting? So getting away from that enabling, but more of that boundary setting in a healthy way that's gonna be able to assist their family members and their loved ones?
- Yeah, there's so many great resources for family, and I wish that family component got a little bit more attention overall. Because it is vital, that's the first place that people in recovery get their supports from is their immediate familial circle. There's places like Rochester Regional, the University of Rochester are good examples of like really strong dynamic family programs. And then we also are starting to develop things like what I am, a CRPA-F, that F stands for family.
So I get to sit down as a person in recovery with family members and kind of speak to them and help them navigate those things, while also being able to give them the perspective from a person in recovery. I know like locally I could give you very specific resources, but I know not everybody is from Rochester or Monroe County that's listening and here today. But from my experience, a lot of those substance use disorder treatment clinics also have a family component to it. So when your affected family member goes in and they're willing to get treatment, like ask about do you have a family program?
There's a lot of places that you can go and get family therapy, and your affected loved one doesn't have to be a patient or client there either. Honestly, the big thing that I tell people, 'cause people always ask me, you know, about resources? How do you know about all these resources? And I really simply tell them, Google is free.
Like, that's what I do. When I'm trying to look for resources, I Google it, I see here's a couple of resources, call the phone number, hey, and start asking questions. And if it fits my needs and it sounds like something that's gonna be helpful and comfortable, then I then refer patients or clients to it, or refer family members to it, and it can really be that simple. I think sometimes we overcomplicate things a little bit, and we don't need to.
How do you approach conversations with people who are stereotyping in a well-intended way?
- So there's multiple ways, and it kind of depends on what the stereo. As far as, like my personal reaction, it depends a little bit on like the stereotype. So like with the stop the stigma stuff and like the most vulnerable among us, I'm super loud and very direct. And I'll just, when I see somebody use that hashtag, we're not vulnerable, we're resilient.
We're not vulnerable, I'm not vulnerable, I don't feel vulnerable, and I just keep reinforcing, just the same words and just counter it, you know, the most vulnerable among us, you mean resilient, right? And then kinda like watch them stop. 'Cause then they think about it and they're like, oh, that actually fits. But it's like we use these terminologies and words because we just keep hearing them over, and over, and over, and over again.
So the best way to combat them is to use the solutions that were presented today over, and over, and over, and over again, until we change the narrative until that becomes the thing that people are comfortable using and saying. So when somebody comes up and says the opiate epidemic, you mean, like it's more like a substance use epidemic that we're seeing? Oh yeah, I guess you're right, you could say that. And then you know, oh, the most vulnerable among us, you mean resilient, right?
Oh yeah, we need to stop the stigma. Well, what about pro recovery, what would the solution be? So one good thing is like you just come back with that terminology, the other thing is like put it on them. Well, what would a pro-recovery stance look like though?
Well, why are they vulnerable? And like make them start questioning their own ideology, and a lot of times they like talk themselves right into your point on their own. And it's a good way to kind of facilitate that change without being super combative, 'cause we don't have to scream, and yell, and fight, and everything to get our point across. Just like we want compassion, it's important to give everybody compassion, right?
- [Audience Member #2]
So you had mentioned the table, the leaders of the recovery movement not being people in recovery. What do you think needs to happen in order to change that?
- I think they need to give up their seat. I find it baffling that there's individuals who consider themselves or are called leaders of the recovery community or leaders of the recovery movement, and how we need more people in recovery's voices heard, we need to get a seat at the table, why don't you give up yours then? Instead of fighting to have an additional seat, you have one that you have control over, give it up. And that's kind of the problem that we're seeing, is a lot of times the recovery movement and the people who are in leadership, it's become ego driven.
They get attention for doing that, it's nice, it becomes like their entire identity, which is great, that's fine, but do it in the right way, do it in a way that's actually gonna be helpful for us, not beneficial for you. And that's why I tell people, like, ask the question, I really don't wanna swear, but this term requires swearing. So we're all adults, right? Always ask yourself the question, what does this matter to the person standing at the corner of holy shit and what the fuck, wondering how they got there?
And if you can't answer that, don't do it. What you're doing is not actually gonna be helpful then, you know, so that's one of the things, asking that question or just give up your seat entirely. If you can't answer that question, get up from the table. 'Cause we're getting to the point now where people in recovery are starting to see these things, they're getting frustrated, and eventually we're just gonna build our own table.
We want you to be a part of it, but if you're not going to actually be helpful then, and we don't want that, we don't want that separation, we need everybody together under one unified voice and banner to really push this forward. Numbers matter. So that was a good question.
Any other questions here in the room?
- [Audience Member #3]
Great. Oh my goodness, thank you. Hello. So I come from a very, very small community, and it has a wonderful recovery basis, but it's abstinence based.
Then they are, for lack of better terms, not willing, they will actually shun people that are on MAT. How do you start that conversation? How do you get the wheels turning, because it's harmful whenever you're shunning people because they are choosing that different pathway.
- Right, and that's definitely difficult, and I remember I was a group service representative for my home group at Narcotics Anonymous, and we had this whole discussion about literature that we were gonna put out about, you know, MAT, MSR, they're interchangeable and they were having this whole discussion about what terminology to use, which direction we wanna go on, we don't wanna discourage people, but we are abstinence pro, and so I was like, guys, we have a whole tradition that says we hold no opinion on outside issues. This is an outside issue. So what are we gonna do, put out a pamphlet that says we have no opinion on this?
Sounds like a waste of paper to me. Let's just all shut up a little bit and let people live. But I will typically start the conversation by asking, like, would you tell a diabetic that they shouldn't be on insulin? Well, and then the responses go, well, that's a real disease that they need that medication.
People choose to use substances and it's not fair that they get on that medication. So a lot of times we see the comparisons between like cancer, or diabetes, or things like this. But I actually like to use the comparison of sexually transmitted diseases. I think it's way more appropriate, right?
So somebody engaged in a risky behavior and they contracted a STI. Nobody shuns them, tells them they can't get medication. Nobody tells them that they shouldn't be treated. So why is it different over here?
And again, putting it back on them, like, make it make sense. Make them do the mental gymnastics instead of us like beating our heads against the wall. So I like to use the the STI comparison, like I said, putting it on them, why is it different? You tell me why it's different.
And they're really not gonna have a good reason most of the time, you know? And then a lot of it is doing it anyway. Like they shun people on MAT, well, if there's one resource, if we can put one resource, and that can be a person, that could be you, you could be that one person in that town that's like, I'm not gonna push you away if you're on MAT, I'm gonna accept you, I see the value, and I guarantee you, bring that space, like it's kinda like the field of dreams, if you build it, they will come. More people are gonna feel safe going on to MAT, more people are gonna feel like they have a place to go if they're on MAT where they're still gonna be accepted, and appreciated, and their recovery is still gonna be seen as valid.
And sometimes that's all it takes, like, that's how Alcoholics Anonymous was started. If you were drinking, you were thrown in an insane asylum or you were shunned from the community. And Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob just created one safe space, that was Bill W's living room.
Look at what Alcoholics Anonymous has become. It just starts with that one safe space. So those are a couple things that you can do to kind of combat that ideology. 'Cause eventually they're gonna end up being in the intellectual minority, and you can just go, the numbers don't agree with you, bye.
And disengage, let them be ignorant over there.
- [Audience Member #3]
Well the thing is, is that the recovery gets so big, and they go as far as they actually have shirts that they wear that says suboxone, diet heroin. Like they actually wear those in the community, and they're huge, like it's almost a hierarchy. It's scary, I mean, because they're causing harm.
- It is, it definitely causes harm. And it's especially disheartening when we see people in recovery who also have that ideology. But again, we have to ask ourselves, where are they getting that ideology? And it's usually from outside of the community.
And so sometimes, like understanding what the source is, you pull the weed out at the root, you know, it's not gonna regrow there. If you just kind of clip around the edges, well, you're still gonna have a weed there. It's not easy, it takes bravery, and that's one of the reasons why, like, I have used the hashtag, anonymous no more, because it's important, like I walk into a room, and other people like in your community can do this. I walk into a room, without knowing anything about me, like what would your perception be?
And you don't have to say it, but just kind of think, what would your perception be? And then I say, oh yeah, I used to sleep in abandoned houses, eat outta dumpsters, I was on methadone and suboxone, and I was a like hope to die a dope fiend, which is the terminology that I use. And people are like, what? We have to see examples of recovery, but somebody's gotta be brave enough to like make that first step.
And others have to be brave enough to support them in that first step. And that's where the allies, and the family members, and the professionals come in. Because if you have a therapist that goes, there's nothing wrong with being on MAT, and they have a good rapport with that client, that might be all the encouragement that that person needs to take that step and continue on MAT or get MAT, because it does save lives. And there's gotta be a starting point somewhere.
And like I said, that community will start to grow, and grow, and grow more, and eventually the voices of people that go, hey, harm reduction and MAT, super valid, is gonna completely drown out the people that go, it's just trading one for another, it's just legal heroin if you're on methadone, things like that, you'll drown 'em out. It's a difficult dynamic to be in. I just know like here in Rochester, that was what was the most effective is we just had to be louder. And because we were screaming for our lives, we were louder, because we see it as like, our life is on the line, you just wanna push some controlling ideology, but I live and die by this, so I'm going to make sure that I am louder, I'm going to make sure that I'm transparent, I'm going to make sure that I put myself out there.
And it's worked thus far. You know what I mean? I work at the University of Rochester, which is a methadone clinic, tons of patients, tons of success stories, all because MAT is accessible and easy to get to, so. But it just takes that one step.
Everything about recovery all is about that first step.
Any other questions here? No, well, we are at the end of our time, so Kelly, thank you so, so much for your presentation today. (audience applauding) If anybody has any other questions that come about, please shoot us an email at the UR Medicine Recovery Center of Excellence and we'll be happy to connect you with Kelly. I have her email address too, so.
Kelly Quinn, CRPA-F, RCP
Community Outreach Specialist, Strong Recovery, University of Rochester Medical Center