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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Meet Greg Williams

Shining a Light on Recovery
From Addict to Advocate

In just a few weeks, Saturday, September 17 to be exact —The Art of Recovery welcomes Greg Williams to Arizona for the 11th annual Expo. Greg is clean and sober since age 17; a powerful voice for recovery advocacy, and filmmaker of The Anonymous People and Generation Found. 
It is my hope we join together as a community to welcome him and celebrate Recovery Month. 
—Barbara Nicholson-Brown

www.artofrecoveryexpo.com


Describe your journey from addict to recovery advocate and background on your addiction and what took you to your bottom? 

Greg Williams: I got into recovery at 17 years old. I was heavily addicted in my adolescence and, following a near-death car accident, entered an addiction treatment program in July of 2001. It was there I was introduced to the idea of long-term recovery. Following treatment, I spent 90 days in a recovery house where I met a lot of people in long-term recovery and got involved in 12 step fellowships and other peer recovery support activities.

Once back home, I became very active in my community in Connecticut. I worked with young people in recovery and tried to do a lot of recovery-related service work. That continued while I was in college and working regular jobs. It was through that experience I ran into a lot of system-level barriers trying to help others get into recovery.

I had friends who didn’t have the opportunities I did to get treatment because of health insurance discrimination. I had friends who couldn’t find recovery housing, and friends I wrote letters to in jail who were getting even sicker behind bars, and then there were the friends who died of addiction. I attended a lot of wakes in my first five or six years of recovery.
As all of that was happening, my life is getting a lot — lot better, and I’m seeing thousands of other young people at conferences whose lives are also getting better and we often talked about the disconnect between the thousands of young people supporting each other in recovery and the system barriers we and our families had experienced on our way to recovery.

It was then I began to get angry with how we as a country deal with addiction. During that time, I met a special woman who became my mentor, Donna Aligata. Donna was very active in the formation of Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) and was working on a grant project through The Department of Children and Families about family advocacy. We ultimately decided to create a non-profit organization called Connecticut Turning to Youth and Families (CTYF).

I did many short videos of young people in recovery for it and to get started, she introduced me to your work, and she introduced me to Faces and Voices of Recovery. She asked me to speak at the Connecticut Legislative Building. I went there with my father and we told our recovery story to legislators in this very public venue.

A Hartford Current reporter, the big newspaper there, came over and asked, “Can I write an article about you?” I said, “Yeah, you just can’t use my last name.”
I was 23, about six years in recovery and he looked at me confused and said, “You just testified in a public setting on the local cable access, but you can’t use your name in the article.” And I said, “Yeah, I’m not allowed to.”

He respected that and wrote a nice article about this young guy who got into recovery at 17. It was one of the nicest recovery articles that has ever been written about me.

The first line of the article refers to me as Greg W., and then it goes on to tell my recovery story. Donna called me when the article came out, and said, “If I didn’t understand anything about addiction or recovery or anonymity, what do I read in that first sentence of this article?” And I said, “I guess that I’m ashamed” and then she said, “Is that why you’re speaking out?” and I said, “No, of course not.” My friends in recovery understood why I didn’t use my last name, but that was not the reason in the eyes of the public.

After that, I ended up at one of the Recovery Message Trainings held by Faces and Voices of Recovery, and it was there I really began to understand the distinction between 12-Step Anonymity and being public about my recovery status. That unlocked the door, giving me a whole new language to become comfortable as a public advocate and helped me understand why putting a face and a voice on recovery is so important.

There has been a change in the perception of addiction as a disease, is it more widely accepted? 

GW: This debate about whether addiction is a disease or a matter of choice continues to garner headlines and direct our collective discussion away from the only thing that really matters: “How do people enter recovery from addiction and stay well?”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death, more than motor vehicle accidents. Bluntly put, each day a plane crashes in America full of young people and here we sit in 2016 rehashing the same circular argument about the nature of the problem?

We have debated whether addiction is a disease or choice since the signing of the Declaration of Independence when Dr. Benjamin Rush was the first published American to call chronic drunkenness “a distinct progressive disease” in 1784.

Regardless of whether any one of us thinks, knows or believes that addiction is a disease, people are dying. If any one of us thinks, knows or believes that addiction is a choice, people are still dying. I’d say it’s time for a new debate, wouldn’t you?

Why does addiction still carry so much shame and secrecy, even with well-known people speaking openly about their personal battles and recovery?

GW: The illness of addiction causes a great deal of isolation and the behaviors connected to the problem often appear in ways that don’t present like other illnesses. People suffering from addiction cause public safety issues and often times garner headlines for sensational things they’ve done under the influence. Overcoming the perception that people don’t get well is a challenge.
Families have suffered great pain as a result of addiction and celebrities often don’t connect their personal stories of triumph to something than their individual journeys. We have system problems and solutions must be systemic as well—the stories from prominent individuals are important, but when they are connected to a distinguishable movement then we will be making real progress.

What is the most important message we can offer families about alcoholism and addiction? 

GW: Some 23.5 million Americans are living in recovery — 10 percent of all American adults 18 and older, according to New York State’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
Regardless of how you want to categorize the nature of the problem, there is a solution. People get well. More than 23 million people have gotten well, and I am one of them.

Your movie The Anonymous People made a great impact on bringing stories of recovery to light, what are your hopes for the new film Generation Found?

GW: The number one issue discussed in our post-screening conversations around THE ANONYMOUS PEOPLE was how addiction impacts young people, and the needs for youth recovery support. Jeff Reilly and I decided this topic was so important we began working with an incredible community in Houston, Texas where we had the opportunity to spend the last two years capturing something most have never seen or even heard about!

Devastated by an epidemic of addiction, Houston faced the reality of burying and locking up its young people at an alarming rate. And so in one of the largest cities in America, visionary counselors, law school dropouts, aspiring rock musicians, retired football players, oil industry executives, and church leaders came together to build the world’s most comprehensive peer-driven youth and family recovery community.

You were very involved in the creation of Facingaddiction.org and the rally held last October in D.C. —a tremendous success; do you see the movement growing?

GW: History was made in Washington, D.C., on October 4th, 2015. Despite hurricane and flooding threats, tens of thousands of people from around the world joined to UNITE to Face Addiction in dramatic fashion for the first time in the “public eye.”

Oct. 4, 2015 was the first time that major musicians, politicians, actresses, athletes, models, journalists, authors, and advocates joined their voices together on the National Mall to push for addiction solutions for the health crisis impacting 85 million Americans.
Together we must continue to face addiction because no one should ever have to overcome addiction alone. No longer can we sit on the sidelines and let others worry about changing the system. While system and cultural change is harder for the press to write about than focusing on the problem, it is the only path forward if we are going to save lives.

When someone is diagnosed with a disease like cancer for instance, help and treatment is sought out immediately, why do you think addiction or behavioral health problems aren’t as readily addressed?

GW: Lack of understanding of the benefits. Today, I pay taxes, vote and have been contributing my share for more than 15 years, since I entered recovery when I was 17 years old, after nearly losing my life to addiction. You can refer to me as a drug-addicted junkie who made bad choices or as a good kid who got caught up with a bad illness.

Either way, my recovery from addiction is worth anywhere from $250,000 to $2.3 million dollars to you, the taxpayer. I no longer crash cars, have run-ins with the legal system or end up in emergency rooms.

I am not alone. In 2013, Faces & Voices of Recovery, a nonprofit organization, published “Life in Recovery,” the first-ever national survey documenting the dramatic improvement in the lives of those who are addicted and enter recovery. Of people who leave active addiction, findings include:

  • Steady employment increases by more than 50 percent
  • Planning for the future (e.g., saving for retirement) increases nearly threefold
  • Twice as many people further their education or training
  • Twice as many people start their own businesses
  • Participation in family activities increases by 50 percent
  • Volunteerism in the community increases nearly threefold
  • Involvement in illegal acts and involvement with the criminal justice system (e.g., arrests, incarceration, DWIs) decreases about tenfold


But sadly for you the taxpayer, we have not invested in finding out how people get into or sustain long-term recovery the way we have done with remission from HIV/AIDS or cancer. If we only knew more about how these 23 million Americans got and stay well, then we would be making real progress. Pathology or behavior would then be the least of our concerns.

How can all of us get more involved with your efforts here in Arizona?

GW: The Facing Addiction Action Network will engage with individuals and organizations across the nation to tackle the addiction crisis facing our communities.
The first thing to do is to review the Facing Addiction Action Agenda. All Action Network member organizations agree to operate with respect to these goals and to share them as a part of any mobilizing and organizing efforts on behalf of Facing Addiction.
Join the action network here: https://www.facingaddiction.org/partner-update.

Meet Greg Williams on Saturday, September 17th at the Art of Recovery Expo, Phoenix Convention Center, South Building Hall G.
Greg takes the stage at 1:15 P.M.

Admission is FREE to the public. Please join us as we celebrate NATIONAL RECOVERY MONTH.

artofrecoveryexpo.com







Which Rehabs are Legit?


By Jim Kreitler, CEO, Calvary Addiction Recovery Center

There are many factors to consider when choosing or referring to an addiction treatment program. Is it safe? Are their business practices fair and legitimate? Do they follow sound clinical guidelines in regards to therapy, documentation and confidentiality? Does the program have a track record of success?

These considerations take on added legal and ethical consideration when a licensed professional or program is referring a patient who has been under their care. If it ends tragically due to unsafe conditions or finances become problematic what is the liability for the referral source?

Buyer Beware

Many individuals look for treatment options on the internet, unfortunately this has drawbacks. Treatment program websites can make the cheesiest facility look like paradise. There are examples of programs paying unscrupulous online marketing companies to redirect searches. So I Google “Integrity Rehab” and it directs me to a page that provides some basic information about that program but the phone number is to a call center for a completely different company.
There are two criteria I propose should always be considered. Is it properly licensed? Is it accredited? While this may not be an iron clad guarantee — it speaks strongly to the professionalism and integrity of a program.

Licensing

In Arizona there are several levels of licensure. 

Acute behavioral health hospitals handle the most serious cases and may offer detox and IOP but rarely residential rehab. Operated as hospitals they can handle higher medical and psychiatric acuity, i.e., Aurora, St. Luke’s, Banner, Valley Hospital, Quail Run.

Inpatient Behavioral Health Facility. For primary inpatient rehab and also detox. They are staffed 24/7 with RNs, offer physician and psychiatric visits usually onsite, facilities meet stringent safety and anti-ligature requirements. These are appropriate placement for those requiring 30 day inpatient due to risk of relapse, post-acute withdrawal, med-management, co-occurring disorders and an intensive program of treatment. They tend to be the most established programs such as The Meadows, Cottonwood, Sierra Tucson, Calvary, Valley Hope and River Source.

Recently several levels of residential have been combined into one for licensure. It may or may not include counseling. The licensure requirements while not onerous reflect a level of safety, client’s rights, record keeping, rules for medication management and reporting requirements. Examples in the valley include; A Better Today, Crossroads, Maverick House, Soba Mesa, Sundance, Unhooked and recently opened Blue Sky.

Outpatient. Very basic safety and proper storage of records. The easiest licensure but seems to be overused by programs really providing residential.

Laboratory License is mainly used in addiction treatment for urine drug testing. CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) is regulated by the federal government through the state agency, regional office and central office. This is not required for simple point of care test cups. If programs are CLIA licensed they are almost always billing insurance for this testing and this practice has been ripe with reported abuse.

It is very important folks use and refer to properly licensed programs. The recent phenomenon of “Florida Model” programs that license as outpatient but market and provide residential is troubling. ADHS is aware but lacks jurisdiction unless the facility helps manage medications or does counseling on site. 

Referring to programs that do not license their homes carries liability. A former state BH license regulator reports an instance where a family sent their son for Florida model treatment to AZ from Michigan. The young man relapsed, overdosed and died at the house. When the mother called the state for the detailed report she was told the facility was not licensed, had never been inspected and there was nothing the state could do. Check licensure at http://azdhs.gov/licensing/index.php#azcarecheck.

Accreditation

I am a big fan. It confirms you are operating at a high standard and always working to improve. If your program is not accredited, why not? Are you referring to non-accredited programs? Why? There are plenty of properly licensed and accredited options available. 
The two most widely held national and international accreditations for rehabilitation treatment centers and other behavioral health organizations are The Joint Commission (JCAHO) and CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities). 
The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers NAATP recently said: "Accreditation matters. While no single factor is dispositive of high quality care, accreditation is strong indicia of such. When considered in conjunction with other factors a center might include in its prospectus, such as quality of staff, comprehensive programming, and years in operation, accreditation gives a consumer valuable information with which to assess options. Our consumer base needs and deserves that. We all do.”
Rebecca Flood, Executive Director/CEO of New Directions for Women writes in an article for Addiction Professional magazine “As an accreditation advocate, I advise all of our patients, inquiring families and friends, and referral sources such as therapists, hospitals and physicians who are looking for care to not only check licenses and state certifications, but also national and international accreditations, and to confirm that the facility is accredited for the level of care needed and wanted for the patient. Accreditation is the determinant for whether or not I would utilize its services, or send a family member there, and it should be for any family looking to place their loved one or any organization looking to refer a patient.”

For those programs concerned accreditation is expensive and onerous JCAHO reports cost as: “a small organization would pay about $1,689 in annual fees every year, plus a survey fee of around $2,835 in the year we do the on-site survey.” It doesn’t have to take forever. Foundations Recovery Network FRN recently opened Skywood Recovery a 100-bed inpatient facility in Michigan this past spring. They achieved Joint Commission Accreditation in less than 90 days. It would have been sooner but you have to have closed charts from discharged patients for JCAHO to review.
Accreditation can be checked at http://www.carf.org/providerSearch.aspx for CARF and https://www.qualitycheck.org/ for JCAHO.

Conclusion

If you are referring a loved one or client carefully consider the quality of a program by using the best tools at your disposal. Proper licensure gives you assurance the program meets appropriate regulations for safety, confidentiality and clinical standards. Remember if you are referring to residential to be sure that is the level of licensure. Accreditation is another tool to determine the quality of a program and gauge their commitment to professionalism. Insurance will not contract with any unaccredited program.
If you work, run or own a program, do it right! Get in the game! Get licensed and accredited properly. You can feel pride and your clients can feel confident, A winning combination!
http://calvarycenter.com/

Physical and Meta-Physical Checkups

By Coach Cary Bayer  www.carybayer.com


Most good health insurance policies recommend their policyholders see their doctors for a physical check-up on an annual basis. I’m recommending that you see your life coach or meditation teacher for a meta-physical check-up, as well. You probably have never heard of such a procedure before reading that sentence, so allow me to explain. When your medical professional gives you a physical he checks your blood pressure, weighs and examines you, perhaps tests your eyes to see how your vision is doing, and takes a blood sample to see what’s going on in your body to discover any possible hidden diseases like diabetes, for example.
When your spiritual professional gives you a metaphysical he can teach you meditation. This session, for example, will give you an experience of weightlessness, help you lower your blood pressure, possibly open your third eye, and give you the opportunity to examine on a face-to-face basis the Transcendent within your self at the deepest level of your mind.

Differences

There are many other differences between a physical and a metaphysical, as well. As a result of a physical your physician might give you some kind of protocol to follow that might include exercise. Your metaphysician, on the other hand, might give you some Hatha Yoga physical postures to practice on a daily basis. 

Your MD might give you a prescription that involves you taking daily medications. For his part, your metaphysician might recommend you do daily meditations. You might be invited to receive his meditation training so you can practice his method for the rest of your life.
Your medical man might also want you to increase your energy level. Your spiritual guide might want you to awaken your energy centers. These are known in the Yoga tradition as chakras. Your scientifically trained man might give you some nutritional advice to increase your energy levels, by perhaps changing your diet. Your esoterically trained person might give you a mantra to balance your energy centers.

If there are problems with your vision, your doctor might suggest you see an ophthalmologist and get a prescription for eyeglasses. If there’s any weakness in your inner vision, your life coach might teach you a visualization technique that can aid you in speeding up the manifestation of your intentions. Your doctor would be enriching the performance of your eyes, your coach would be enriching the experience of your I, your sense of self.
Your doctor might encourage you to take on a protocol of some kind that involves taking nutritional supplements like vitamins and minerals every day.  Your metaphysician might also teach you a vital affirmation practice every day. This can help you make use of the metaphysical laws of Nature, such as the Law of Attraction, to help you in your wish to manifest your desires.

If your doctor has a holistic bent, he might see some of your physical imbalances have mental and emotional counterparts. If you suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension, for example, it might have something to do with hostilities between you and those you’ve loved. He might ask you to find peace between you and such people. Your life coach would likely be better equipped to teach you exactly how to forgive and make such peace. These might include the Forgiveness Diet of Sondra Ray, the Radical Forgiveness of Colin Tipping, and the Forgiveness Letter that I teach.
To prepare for a physical, your doctor will most likely ask you to fast overnight, to refrain from taking any food or beverage. This prepares you for the blood testing that will follow on the day of your check-up. Your metaphysician will possibly recommend that you fast from time to time as a way of purifying your body, mind, and spirit to receive inspiration from your higher Self.  

Your metaphysician most likely will not be covered by insurance, but I assure you, if you see him and get a metaphysical check-up you will be on your way to a healthier, perhaps wealthier, and more spiritually awakened life than you ever lived before.

Dear Millennials



You are the future. You have opportunities to cure cancer, have a huge impact on poverty and income inequality, save our environment, reduce crime and incarceration and so many other issues.  

You have already won an enormous victory in human rights with marriage equality and you are rightfully proud of that accomplishment. No one was harmed in that enormous change you made to our society and way of life. Freedoms were gained.

However, you are working on another enormous change to society that may be very misguided. You support legalizing drugs, more substances of abuse, falling for the siren call of an industry marketing substances that can ruin lives and rob people of their freedoms of choice.

You are the future. Many of you are working to increase ability to choose to use recreational medicine as a personal choice, calling it Freedom of Choice.  However, it is anything but Freedom. Substances of abuse such as drugs (and that does include marijuana) are not tolerated well by a significant number of individuals. It ruins the lives of some and in the process takes families and friends down with them.

Individuals with substance use disorders LOSE their personal freedoms. They lose their freedom of choice, driven by their increasing need for their drug of choice. They often harm others by their choices.

Millennials - who have the opportunity to change the world for the best — could make an enormous difference by working to reverse the appetite for addictive substances and behaviors and promote getting high from natural behaviors. You would improve mental and physical health of all, decrease child abuse and neglect, decrease crime and incarceration, decrease the demand for black markets, decrease impaired driving and accidents, improve the environment, with likely many more positive outcomes.

Or Millennials can continue their mission of legalizing marijuana, increasing negative impacts on society, impairing your drug using population that will then require you to care for many in their brain disease of addiction or in their very difficult journey of recovery. Dear Millennials, does that mission fit with your ideal future having freedoms of choice?

Sally Schindel, Prescott, Arizona


Please vote NO on Arizona Proposition 205 to legalize recreational marijuana, on its way to the ballot in November 2016.
Educate yourself and your acquaintances about the risks and harms of marijuana use.
My personal story: MomsStrong.org
How to help Arizona defeat this industry - marketing another addictive product: ArizonansForResponsibleDrugPolicy.org #NoOn205

The Greatest Gift is Choice

By Dr. Dina Evan


Life is filled with choices. Every day we choose what we will wear, what and where to eat, with whom we will walk through life and from moment to moment who we want to be in any given situation. Unfortunately, very often we choose the same repetitive behaviors and responses without realizing we are missing the best class on the planet. The whole point of coming here is to find our who we are, at a core level. What is the nature of your character? What’s in the tapestry of your spirit?

Each day we have the opportunity to choose trust over fear,
love over apathy, intimacy over distance and healing over pain. So, how are we doing when making these, the most important choices of all?
I’d like to share some personal revelations with you about choice. I am 74...way past the speed limit.
For someone elderly, the issue of choice is front and center, especially as choices begin to diminish. Let me show you what I mean. Write on five little pieces of paper, your top five favorite things to do. Now write on five more pieces of paper your most valued friends. Next write on five pieces of paper your 5 most prized possessions. On five more write your five most important values and finally your five most important character traits. Imagine these 25 pieces of paper are sitting in front of you and with each passing year, you discover you have to give up some in each category. Let’s see how that looks.


As you begin to age there are things you may not be physically able to do. Maybe you love running, but at age 70, the risk of a trip and fall accident may require you to give that up. At 70 you will no doubt feel the sadness of some of your friends passing. You might be considering which prized possessions you would like to leave to whom. At 40, I loved a healthy vibrant dialog of two opposing opinions wrestling to find resolve. Today, I am much more apt to let a Trump advocate revel in their denial. I enter into only conversations in which I can learn and the other is also willing to learn.


When I was 50, I valued quiet alone time, at 74, not so much. As you might imagine my paper covered table is rapidly getting cleared and in the end, I am finding there are only a few things I hold precious, or for which I have any interest in holding on to tightly; honesty, presence and integrity.


The things that matter to me most are those that come with genuine, deeply connected moments which have meaning. Why not begin making those choices today? Why wait until we are old to honor what matters most?


How do we get there? We slow down. We take a moment to ask ourselves, is what I am about to say or do in alignment with who I know I am? Is it going to add value to my life and soul’s work? Those questions will immediately, providing you act on the answer, take you into a moment that matters, a place in which you will create greater consciousness. The questions will quickly blow away the small stuff and add meaning and deeper connections in your life. If you haven’t danced in the world of conscious, not to worry, you can always pop back down into unconscious if you really think you need to. If you are one of those people who thinks that conscious is going to put a damper on all your fun...BOY are you in for a surprise. This life is a gift. It’s time to go deep. That is our assignment right now. After all, what else matters? When you are 74 like me, I want you to be able to put your feet up and smile and just like me, have tears in your eyes because you have lived a life filled with great meaning and are blessed beyond words and 30 pieces of paper.

You're Invited






On behalf of The Art of Recovery Expo, our sponsors and exhibitors, we invite you to join us on Saturday, September 17th at the Phoenix Convention Center for a day of celebration. This year’s theme focuses on adolescent, young adult and family recovery.

Our goal is to provide any one and every one the valuable resources, education and expert information set within a positive atmosphere — free of charge.

We are honored to have Greg Williams, Keynote Speaker and Special Guest, Debbie Moak, Director of the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith & Families at the event. 

Terros Health will present on HIV/STI Prevention emphasizing how substance use and HIV are directly correlated, risk reduction information and practices will be discussed.

To the many, many people who assist in bringing this event to life each year, my heartfelt thanks and gratitude.

See you at the Expo - 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
www.artofrecoveryexpo.com

Let’s make some recovery noise Arizona! 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Trauma, Recovery, and Resilience

By Kathleen Parrish, MA, LPC, Clinical Director, Cottonwood Tucson  
It is difficult to watch the news today. There seems to be near daily reports of violence and unrest in our world. A friend recently told me she had made a conscious decision to eliminate television and other news sources from her life. She said it is too frightening and painful to watch the trauma happening around us. And do you know what? She is right. We are living in tumultuous times, with frequent reports of violence happening right in our own backyard. We are living in an atmosphere of increased tension, chaos, and unpredictability. We are living in an environment of trauma.
A recent CNN reports suggests there are more mass shootings in the U.S. than in any other country in the world, with 136 mass shootings occurring in the first 164 days of 2016. We are facing increasing tensions among ourselves, with frightening clashes and tragic deaths and we are trying to find a resolution. Many people suffer with long term effects stemming from these traumatic events. In fact, the National Institute of Health reports that approximately 7.7 million Americans are living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. 

PTSD is a trauma and stressor related disorder that results from experiencing, witnessing, or being confronted by an event that causes intense feelings of fear or horror and in which safety and well-being are threatened or compromised.  Many military veterans suffer from PTSD due to exposure to horrific events that are often imprinted on the mind and body, making it difficult for them to function in the day to day routines of life. Others suffer PTSD from events that occurred in their childhood, such as abuse, neglect, or violence. Some people suffer from PTSD from events that occur in our environment, such as the escalation in violence in our society.  

Whether trauma occurs in a war zone or in the lives of civilians, it seems to happen on a regular basis. In many respects, technological advancements have increased our exposure to the gory details of global trauma. We can view the bloodshed, suffering, and chaos on our high definition televisions.  
We are so saturated by trauma that we may underestimate our physiological and emotional response to it. Our brains and bodies are being forced to adapt to life in a world where events are unpredictable and our environment is remarkably unstable. 

The reverberations of trauma can not only be expected in our current generation, but in the generations to follow. Emerging new research indicates that we can inherit trauma from our ancestors. The epigenetic inheritance theory proposes that environmental stressors, such as trauma, can affect the genetics of sufferers and be passed down to future generations. This theory suggests that stressful and traumatic events can act as chemical markers which change the function but not the structure of our genes. The genetics of trauma are then passed down with these new chemical markers, allowing the stress responses of trauma to be inherited by those of future generations. 
In spite of the dire news and the fear we may feel about the events happening around us, there are many who seek to heal their wounds in powerful ways. Memorials are often held in the wake of shootings or violence, and marches are organized to allow for expressions of unity or peace. Many people who suffer profound traumatic losses create foundations to memorialize a loved one or to create community awareness. Some people may stay close to home, avoid going out, turn off the television, pray, and hope for peace. While none of these actions can guarantee healing or prevent further trauma, they do allow the sufferers to have a voice, to heal, and to search for meaning in what they survived.

The Power of Resilience 

There are so many examples of people who are suffering unspeakable heartbreak and sadness. In spite of all that is shattered, there are certain people who exemplify resilience in the face of what is broken.  These are the people who stand up in the midst of their pain and refuse to be hardened by it. In the throes of the chaos and darkness, they still believe in the tiny ray of light that emanates from within themselves and others. They search for understanding when confusion abounds and they look for ways to heal themselves and those around them.  They are living proof of an unwavering resilience and the capacity to heal a broken heart.

Just as the study of epigenetic inheritance points to inherited trauma, it also points to the potential for inherited resilience. We are born with traits that give us buoyancy and a bounce-back-ability that stem from our parent’s fierce and unyielding determination to move on. So, while we may inherit their trauma, we may also inherit the strength that enabled them to survive it.  In addition, resilience can be cultivated by practice and determination. Those who truly seek to recover from the crushing blow of trauma can employ resiliency as both a foundation and a goal. 

Resilience is defined as the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. The concept of resilience is a popular topic in our modern culture. Resilience theories suggest that the idea be applied to the following groups of people: 1) those that have experienced traumatic events but have recovered from them 2) those who are in high-risk groups but have had a more positive outcome that expected 3) those who adapt well to significant stressors in their environment. 

By definition, resilience is not just the capacity for positive thought and action, it is also the ability to return to who we were before; our original selves. Sadly, traumatic events often quell our ability to function in the same way. Following a trauma, we are often self-protective. We may feel intense sadness and fear. We may be more guarded and suspicious of others. We may struggle with negative beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. We may grapple with the neurological implications of PTSD, such as flashbacks and panic attacks. These factors may cause significant impairment in our life and leave us wondering how we can return to the trusting and carefree person that once walked in our shoes. It stands to reason why so many people who suffer a trauma feel lost. 

Trauma does changes us 

Recovering from trauma and embracing resilience requires an understanding that we may never completely return to who we were before the trauma occurred. Trauma does changes us—sometimes forever. In fact, research suggests that trauma causes identifiable changes to the function and structure of certain parts of the brain, setting the stage for other co-occurring disorders such as addiction, depression, and compulsive behaviors. Many people believe that they need to “get over” their trauma without fully recognizing the impact that traumatic events have had upon them. Others may become fully emerged in a trauma identity, living a life of hopelessness and powerlessness while engaging in rampant self-destruction. Considering these implications of trauma, the idea of resilience and recovery may require a new way of thinking. 

Perhaps we should consider that resilience is returning to a new self, endowed with a powerful capacity to survive, and thrive. Recovery may begin with the acknowledgement that we are strong, wise, and powerful because of and in spite of what happened to us. In spite of and because of our pain and anguish, we survived difficulties that were likely to destroy us. In spite of and because of what happened to us, we refused to stay down when we fell. Instead, we chose to stand back up, again and again. We did this because we have an innate determination to survive; we did this because we are resilient.

Trauma survivors often struggle to see themselves as resilient. Instead, they may only see themselves as marred by the painful events in their lives. It may be difficult for them to recognize the beauty in their survival or the sheer force of determination that allowed them to live. Many trauma survivors have experienced a lifetime of suffering, seeming to move through one traumatic event only to be faced with another. When trauma becomes a way of life, it is difficult to extract the evidence of their resilience from the rubble around them. 

Recognizing personal resilience starts with understanding survival. How did you survive? What were you able to accomplish in spite of what you went through in your life? What are you most proud of in your life? How were you able to accomplish those things?  The answers to those questions point toward resilience. Resilience is not always evidenced by great strength and ability on display for all to see. Rather, it is seen in the quiet ways that we embrace a life of recovery. Resilience is embodied in our capacity for compassion or our determination to live a life of integrity. Resilience can also be seen in our willingness to forgive others and ourselves. Resilience is often that quiet voice that whispers in the darkest of night “I won’t give up”.  

Resilient people are those who aren’t defined by their suffering but by their ability to shine brightly, in spite of their suffering. Trauma recovery must begin with an intention to harness and cultivate resilience in all of its forms. While we are required to examine our wounds, we are also invited to appreciate the strength of our character and the depth of our hearts, in spite of and because of those wounds. Conversely, we cannot appreciate our resilience until we understand the extent of our suffering.  True recovery allows us to hurt and to heal; to fall and to stand once again.  

We are powerless over the trauma that is swirling around us today. We can neither predict nor prevent the next tragedy that might bestow us. We may acquire more wounds in our life as we walk through tumultuous times. These are difficult and frightening things to consider. But, in spite of the air of uncertainty and unpredictability in our lives, our country, and the world around us, we can live lives of resilience and strength. We can recognize and embrace the indefatigable spirit that lives within us and refuse to give in to hate, violence, or fear. While trauma becomes a part of the landscape of our culture and our lives, we can hold on the anchor of our resilience.



Kathleen Parrish is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Arizona and the Clinical Director of Cottonwood Tucson, an internationally renowned, residential treatment program for co-occurring disorders in Tucson, Arizona.  She earned a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Master of Arts Degree in Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1999.  Kathleen has worked in private practice, outpatient treatment, and residential treatment settings. Kathleen has worked with trauma survivors for over 20 years, focusing on story, mindfulness, and self-compassion. She has written articles for Counselor, Addiction Professional, Addiction Today and Together AZ magazines. She has presented seminars on trauma and eating disorder in the U.S. and Europe. For information on Cottonwood and their treatment programs visit www.cottonwooddetucson.com or call 844.802.9535. 

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