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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Peer to Peer Recovery, Sharing Your Story Works

"Peer to Peer is when one individual shares their stories about their recovery, drawing on their experiences to offer support through setting goals to wellness".  Stephen Puibello.

I recently participated in a Peer to Peer specialist training,  my website, and blog are about my road to recovery as a dual-diagnosed individual with bipolar disorder. In addition I'm HIV+ and in recovery from crystal meth.  Heed my advice and don't use crystal meth, you will thank me.

During my five_day training we learned about goals, hope and the five stages of recovery. We learned to listen, we learned problem solving and facing ones fears. Think about your recovery and how you can aide someone else and then look up one of the many organizations that offer Peer to Peer training.  Others call it mentoring, but bottom line it's about helping others through your own experiences and letting another individual know they are not alone and you are there to help them.

During the week we paired up to engage in role playing. I chose a real life experience, a traumatic experience that sent me running out of a Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA) 12-step meeting.  I had been new to the group, shared several times, listened, shared some more and finally got the courage to ask for a sponsor and was told, "Go deal with your bi polar and then come back." I never did.

During the role playing exercise I was talking to a Peer Specialist, and after telling my story, I was told that it was, "possible you were told this because the meeting was for people in recovery from meth, that the focus wasn't on being bipolar."  It hit me that is what I was doing, I was talking about my being bipolar each time I shared and although it was viable, the (CMA) meeting wasn't the place for me, I was in the wrong 12-step program and I didn't understand that.

Well as a group we reviewed each exercise and most of the people in the room said  that the person who sent me running, should have explained why they said go deal with your bipolar disorder and should have also referred me to what's known as double trouble.  Double trouble or  dual recovery , just as it sounds, is for someone who has a "chemical dependency as well as emotional or psychiatric illness." Dual Diagnoses (dot) org.  

I was so happy that I decided to go with a real life experience in the role playing session that day and I thanked everyone for helping me connect the dots. How did the Peer Specialist know to tell me this? He/she also dealt with being bipolar and having a chemical dependency.  He/she shared insights from their own experience to help me and educate everyone in the room about double trouble and dual recovery. I'm hoping my sharing this with you continues to educate you about double trouble as well. 

For More information about becoming a Peer to Peer Specialist:

Stories about Peer to Peer in Recovery:

Four friends, four stories....   You Rock !!!!, You Rock !!!

Information about Double Trouble or Dual Diagnoses 12 Step Meetings:

Sciacca Search Directory

Dual Recovery Anonymous, Find a Meeting

Dual Diagnoses Program

Information about Crystal Meth Anonymous:

Crystal Meth dot org. Directory

Monday, July 15, 2013

Gay Marriage, Gay Community, Gay Inc, HIV/AIDS, Let us not forget Mental Health Serices

I was attending the annual NAMI  Conference July 27 - July 1st, 2013 to present my poster session titled, "Dual Diagnosed, Bipolar and HIV+ My Road to Recovery, when I first read the June 28th Op-Ed, "Gay Marriage is Great, But How About Some Love for the AIDS fight?", written by long time AIDS and gay rights Activist Peter Staley.  Thank you Peter for a well written article. It was just the month before when I ever heard of Gay Inc.  I was in the audience attending, Is This My Beautiful Life,  Perspectives from Survivors of the AIDS Generation held May 9th, 2013.

                                           June 29, 2013  National Alliance on Mental Illness
                                       Board meeting advocating for the 1 in 5 HIV+ people
                                       struggling with major depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

For me it was a momentous night as the presentation addressed something so close to home for me, HIV, mental illness and substance abuse., the three pillars of  the website founded  2004 as consumer advocate for HIV and Mental Health.   The event was sponsored by the Medius Working Group formed  in memory of Spencer Cox (1968-2012). Mr Cox founded the Medius Institute for Gay Men's Health (2006-2007).  "It was founded to advocate for research into emotional, mental and physical issues facing gay men in midlife.  I never met Spencer Cox, but I like to think he would have appreciated my own Op-Ed Wearing Red and Green just a week before the event.

The article resurfaced twice since Mr. Staley's Op-Ed, one titled "Gay Community Won Battles on Marriage, But May Be Losing the War on HIV/AIDS " July 3rd and the other "Gay Inc. Winning on Marriage, Losing on HIV/AIDS", , July 9th.

After reading all three, I didn't see mention of what drew me to the, "Its My Beautiful Life" event I attended, that being mental illness.   I read "Living On the Edge Gay Men, Depression And Risk-Taking Behaviors", written by Spencer Cox. In it Mr. Cox wrote, page 10, paragraph two:

"In this sense, mental health care, should be a topic of concern as much as gay marriage or anti-trust laws. We need to demand that depression in gay men be studied and treated not just as an adjunct to other public health problems, but as an important health risk in it's own right.  We need to demand public health programs and insurance coverage to meet our mental health needs.  And we need to confront the institutions, both outside and within the gay community that fail to support gay men in building happy, healthy lives."

So let use honor Spencer Cox by making sure mental health stays in the equation as we move beyond marriage equality and monies are targeted back to AIDS funding.

Two white papers published by Spencer Cox
2006 and 2007

"Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act"

Affordable Care Act Expands Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits and Federal Parity Protections for 62 Million Americans"
February 20, 2013

"Mental Health and HIV, the Uncharted Territory"
March 14, 2013

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Continue To Be Kind To Others

                               Fourth of July, memories of our Weber Grill
and random acts of kindness

Another holiday, this one the fourth of July.  This one brings back memories of my family, especially my dad who I miss dearly.  It was just him and I and Peppy our last dog and the Weber grill, it was 2009 and I'd do the grilling, we had a garage over hang so we grilled almost all seasons, but there's nothing like a 4th of July with your family and dad is and was my family, dad passed December 2010, he was 85, his last words to me were, "you I don't worry about you are the most resourceful person I know," and "continue to be kind to others," which I did and continue to do and is the topic of today's post, random acts of kindness.

I don't know about you, but being kind to others makes me feel good and living with Bipolar and HIV, I welcome as much feeling good as I can get, and it's free, not from a pill, but from your heart.

I never know what or how I'm going to write about, or how to approach it, so this time I asked our friend "Google," "random acts of kindness and depression," and with in .41 seconds, got  321,000 results.  Guess what, it's proven that random acts of kindness helps combat depression.  Thanks dad as even in your passing you continued to teach me something I was doing, but never understood why.

So I leave you all with a few of the 321,000 links and like my dad, ask each of you to continue to be kind to others, especially all of you who like me struggle with depression, Bipolar disorder and possible HIV/AIDS.

Kindness doesn't cost a thing, one I do often is offer to brew a cup of tea or bring up some filtered water for co-workers, others in the morning is holding those heavy glass doors exiting the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, 10 seconds is all it takes during rush hour.  Offering your seat on bus or subway.

So feeling blue consider being kind to others, now that I know why I do it so often it makes sense and works for me, give it a try.

Random Acts of Kindness and a Smile

Kind of Matter

Five easy fixes to improve your mood

Random Acts of Kindness when feeling suicidal

Inspirational Quotes on Random Acts of Kindness

"Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty; your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices, and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others."

William J.H. Boetcker (1873-1962)

"When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace." 

The 14th Dalai Lama (1935)

"Those who make compassion an essential part of their lives find the joy of life. Kindness deepens the spirit and produces rewards that cannot be completely explained in words. It is an experience more powerful than words. To become acquainted with kindness one must be prepared to learn new things and feel new feelings. Kindness is more than a philosophy of the mind. It is a philosophy of the spirit." 

Robert J. Furey