May the Force Be With Us… Local Edition

carrie pic

Crisis Can Lead to Recovery

May the Force Be With Us


We see familiar names and stories of celebrities and are fascinated with their lives and their roles. Though it may be related to a tabloid mentality, we are touched in personal ways.  The deaths of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher touched close to home. Debbie was Denver’s own Unsinkable Molly Brown and starred in How The West was Won. Their deaths occurred in late December 2016, but findings about Carrie’s death were only recently released. Our Princess Leia could conquer the evil forces from other worlds, but apparently Carrie could not conquer the evil force that was apparently with her. Her mother died of a severe stroke the following day. Double tragedy.  Yoda said, “The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.” Obi Wan Kenobi most surely shed a tear. Carrie’s autopsy revealed drugs in her system that related to the cause of death. To show her openness about her mental illness, a picture was shown of a person carrying her ashes in an urn shaped in a design like a Prozac pill.  With Yoda’s help, I give attention on the most dangerous drug: Alcohol. Yoda might say: Kill you, alcohol will, but first alone will get you it shall.


The Substance Use Disorder (SUD) that is addiction, can affect absolutely anyone—including the rich and famous. In Hollywood, temptation abounds.  Drug use permeates celebrity culture and is clouded by the glitz and glitter. The majority of it is hidden from the adoring public’s eye. Fortunately lots of celebrities have battled alcohol and/or other addictions, but many have succeeded in overcoming it and maintaining their careers. Their stories can inspire the rest of us.  There are many faces and voices of celebrities doing just that.


Here is a reminder from history.  It is taken from the documentary, The Anonymous People. In May, 1976, in Washington, a group of celebrities from Hollywood along with congressmen, athletes, doctors, lawyers, and maybe an Indian chief, gathered in Washington D.C. There were famous Hollywood names like, Dick Van Dyke, Gary Moore, Dana Andrews, Astronaut Buzz Aldren, and others. The assembly was named Operation Understanding—Recovered Alcoholics Challenge to Stigma. In published pictures and the printed word, the event garnered publicity and astonished the public.  It could have been the beginning of a movement that saved so many lives, so many families, and improved the health and wealth of the nation—instead we got the war on drugs.


The Chinese symbol for crisis and opportunity is the same. We can again note that Colorado is amplifying its efforts to combat the opioid epidemic with the creation of a research center housed at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center in Aurora. The center will focus on expanding prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts.   Attention and funding will serve great purpose if data can guide evidence-based approaches, methods, and models. It is important to note that it is essential that clinical services be followed by recovery support services. Unfortunately, Washington is still struggling to make real, meaningful progress to develop a unified approach to deal with the addiction crisis—and the cost is lives lost. Though addiction policy is lagging, families, communities, grassroots organizers, and nonprofits are on the cutting edge in giving attention to prevention, treatment, and recovery. They are providing information and support services to our local communities. Those communities can localize the focus of people power by working together to deal with crisis.


There are many elements involved in the current recovery movement. Faces and Voices of Recovery is the parent of the Association for Recovery Community Organizations—ARCO.  It can be a leader, guide, and instrument of collaboration among the recovery communities.  Whatever the source, from young and old, the stories of recovery can also inform and encourage the need for attention to prevention. At this time of crisis we need the voice and power of our collective constituency of consequence.  All voices will important to bring focus and funding to fight the opioid epidemic and all issues facing those with the mental health issue of substance use disorders.


Merlyn Karst


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