written by Merlyn Karst
Thank you. I sincerely appreciate the award and thanks to all the recovery beacons that shine on the way to health and happiness in recovery. My name is Merlyn Karst and I’m a person in long-term recovery and that means I haven’t had a drink in two decades. Alcohol was my drug of choice and I believe it is still the number one enemy drug in U.S. My recovery has given me enormous benefits. It’s allowed me to extend my life on this planet for 85 years. I have done a lot, been a lot, and seen a lot. As I stand here, I can look across to the park where Advocates for Recovery, an organization I helped start, will be holding it’s 16th annual recovery rally. I treasure the many friends I have in recovery. As I look out, it is a pleasure to see so many familiar faces and even better to be one. I believe in the power of story. My story may or may not have power but it certainly powers me. The ritual and fellowship of my personal program sustains me.
I have a story that fits with the music and words we will enjoy today. In 2001, we gathered in St Paul Minnesota, to begin what has become Faces and Voices of Recovery, a National and International organization. The group wrote a mission statement and made plans to go make some history. As a group we decided we would form a choir and sing some traditional songs. We sounded pretty awful but learned a valuable lesson. The twenty some millions in our recovery choir need to sing the same words, the same melody, and achieve harmony with our voices. We found new recovery language. The lesson defined our message and our identities. No longer would our silence let others define us. Labels produce stigma and discrimination. We would no longer be defined as alcoholics and addicts but as persons in long term recovery. We determined that clean is not about drug use but about hygiene. Substance abuse seemed an inappropriate term.
In 2001, we did not have the scientific knowledge to support our claim that addiction was a disease. Now we know that addiction is a mental health issue and is identified as a substance use disorder that can be treated with sustainable solutions. The science of addiction allows us to get our head in the game for that is where the brain resides. We have overcome the moralistic stigma and learned the value of medically assisted recovery. Expanded access to and use of naloxone to overcome opiate overdose is a life saving example. Drugs that suppress craving can provide a resource to reduce relapse. There is hope, health, and happiness in recovery. We can do much for the greater good if we face it together in our lives and our communities. We all need to be beacons for recovery. For those of us who have long-term recovery we should stand up, stand out, speak out and be proud about it. Enjoy the words and music of the day and celebrate from the capitol to a walk in the park. Thank you.