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Overcoming Stigma and Labels on the Road to Recovery

by RO_Meredith Health, Mental Health

RecoveryThe path to recovery isn't always easy, but it is possible. In today's blog, forum member Ray shares the lessons learned on his own journey from addict to father. 

My name is Ray and, like many others in the world, I suffered from substance abuse. Substance abuse kills about 200,000 people per YEAR and the numbers are just rising! The issue isn't helped by the fact that drugs are sometimes idolized by our favorite singers, music videos, friends, family and what have you. We're made to believe it's cool or it'll make us fit in with no consequences, but  the truth is drugs can also take your life off course. Believe me, I've experienced it firsthand – and also found my way back through recovery! It wasn't easy with the label and stigma attached to addicts, but I've found that through self-compassion and new ambitions, I've been able to come through this struggle even stronger than I was before.

When I was younger, my family would verbally abuse me and tell me how worthless I was and how I wouldn't grow up to be anything. Coming from my own parents, this created deep-seated insecurity and depression. Then one day, my brother's friend came a long and made it seem like drugs were my pathway to happiness. Plus, I'd seen rappers and actors I idolized use drugs, so I thought, "Hey, if people like that can do it, why can't I?" It doesn't mean I'm a bum on the street, or that I'd do anything to get high. And at first I was right but the stronger my addiction got, the more I knew I was becoming what I was most afraid of and that was "the addict." It took hitting rock bottom before I could seek and accept help, but I'm now three years clean. I have a sponsor, attend meetings and have also sought help for my depression. I've come a long way from where I was, but I could still be described as a recovering addict.

Many people have their own idea of what an addict is. In some people's minds, an addict is a thief, heartless, dirty, crazy, or bad person and in so many cases that is not true. We are people like everyone else and just because we made a bad choice doesn't meant we're bad people. We're only human and doesn't every human make mistakes? While hooked on a drug, we may become someone we're not and our identity may slowly begin to vanish, but that doesn't mean we can't find our way back after recovery. We all are much stronger then what any of us gives ourselves credit for!

If you've been through recovery, it may feel like the label "addict" will follow you, but you don't have to follow that label By that I mean: follow the label you believe you are! For example, if you believe you're a singer then sing away! Let the world hear that voice! Don't ever let anyone hold you back, especially your past!  For me that means embracing the role of father to my daughter.

The strongest people  in my eyes are the ones who have been to the deepest parts of hell in their life, climbed out and became everything everyone told them they wouldn't be! And sometimes it's easier said then done but nothing is impossible! And the only label that matters is the one you give yourself! Never forget that!

Tackling Sexist and Homophobic Slang On The Field

by RO_Meredith College

Have you ever heard a word that made you cringe? ReachOut Peer Supporter and college student Nick had that feeling again and again after he joined the school rugby team and repeatedly heard offensive terms casually tossed around by his teammates. This is how he dealt with it.

Before joining my school’s rugby team, I was unaware of some things that happened on and off the field.  The sport of rugby is stereotypically considered a hyper masculine arena where any form of weakness is looked down on, but I didn’t think about this when joining up because I love the sport and wanted to be more involved on a team.

Then, I began to notice a lot of stigma around being different, being gay, and for one person who came to practice, being a woman. Many of the guys on the team were using language that is really offensive, but as straight, white males, they seemed to have no idea of the damage they were causing.

For instance, every time they would use a gay slur or a demeaning term for women to demonstrate weakness in someone, they didn’t seem to realize how terribly hurtful and inappropriate their words were. Even the coach would use similar terms until I gave him a disapproving look and he said he was sorry immediately. But I know that if someone like myself was not there, this would never be challenged. It seemed that this type of shorthand was normal in the world of men’s sports.

Instead of giving up because I knew I would never really fit in, I began to let them know why what they were saying was problematic. Every time they would call a woman a “bitch,” I would say, “Gee, do you call your girlfriend a bitch?” in the hopes it would make them think how disrespectful it was. Every time they would say something was gay, I would say “that is so breeder (slang for straight)” in hopes it would make them realize the ridiculousness of what they were saying. The guys would respond to this with faces that expressed discomfort and I think it’s because deep down they knew that they were saying the wrong thing. I truly think I was one of the first people to let them know how damaging their careless way of speaking with one another was to people different from them.

Knowing that they will most likely never have to experience discrimination firsthand, I hope that by being on the team with a gay man, who directly addresses their ignorant actions, they will at least start to evolve, especially as the world of sports becomes more accepting of diversity.

What I would pose to the reader of this blog is this: Think about how you interact with others in your peer group. Are you respectful of difference, and if you don’t think so, think about how you speak to one another. Even if the language you’re using is normal in your circle, would you say it to your mother or a stranger?  Hopefully, that self-check will help out a lot!

Lastly, to those out there of all ages, sexualities, cultures, and genders, know that you have every right to be included in sports, under the law and most likely by your school or  organization. Be who you are on the field and never hide yourself from your teammates. Have confidence in yourself and your teammates will see it as well.

About Nick
Nick is a San Francisco State University Psychology Major with a Counseling Minor who plans to pursue a Master's in Counseling Pyschology at SFSU. He loves ReachOut as a Peer Supporter and user of the many resources we provide. In the future he hopes to work with the LGBT young adult population while still playing rugby for an adult team.  

 

ReachOut TXT: Kicking Stigma and Keeping Names Confidential

by RO_Meredith Mental Health

 “I love this service. It's helped me in so many times. Thank you, again!" 

After providing over a year of service, with over 936 California participants and 4,078 national participants, the ReachOut TXT* one-way and two-way programs are coming to a close. Although we are sad to see the program halted, as we know many of you are, we feel very fortunate to have been one of the first programs to provide mental health peer support via text.

Since launching ReachOut TXT in October 2013, ReachOut trained a total of 34 enthusiastic text supporters to provide empathetic support and targeted resources to users needing encouragement. The program was met with lots of praise from volunteers and users alike, with comments from participants such as, “You have made my night. I am gonna go eat dinner now yay! You have helped me so much!” and “I just want to Say thank you for the support and an open ear.”

We are grateful for the initial investment of funds for ReachOut TXT distributed by the California Mental Health Services Authority from funding provided by counties. Unfortunately, the grant will come to a close as of December 31, 2014, and as a result ReachOut TXT will end service at that time.  If you find this disappointing – we hear you! Our plan is to find alternative grant funding to re-launch the program in the next year and are hopeful that the success seen by the program thus far will be compelling.

In the meantime, if you're going through a tough time, you can always check out the ReachOutHere Forums where peer supporters are available to provide kind words and useful information. Also, you can connect with counselors over text through the Your Life Your Voice crisis line everyday from 4 p.m.-10 p.m. (PT) by texting "VOICE" to 20121."

We know from our users that text has been a really powerful medium of expression and support seeking, and will keep their words on the value of this service in mind as we look to the future of our programming: “If I don't get a chance to talk to you again, please remember me even just a little. You made an impact on my life."


 

*This program is funded by counties through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63). It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of California counties working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA encourages the use of materials contained herein, as they are explained in our licensing agreements. To view the agreements, please visit: calmhsa.org

 

Spotlight on ‘100 Reasons to Recover’

by RO_Meredith Mental Health

At ReachOut , we are all about communities that keep it positive while also keeping it real. 100 Reasons to Recover, a tumblr dedicated to "bringing hope to those in recovery," does just that by posting daily reasons (there are now way more than 100!) to stick with recovery that come from the people who know best -- because they've been there.

Like the ReachOutHere Forums, the contributors to 100 Reasons to Recover deal with a wide range of issues, including eating disorders, self harm and anxiety. The common thread between them is their willingness to get through tough times and encourage others to do the same.

We spoke to Elisabeth, the 23 year-old creator of the blog, to find out more about how she got started and what she's learned form running a tumblr dedicated to recovery. Give it a read and feel free to post your reasons to recover in the ReachOut Forums!

ReachOut: What inspired you to start your tumblr?

100 Reasons To Recover: I had a few friends who were struggling, and they were on Tumblr reblogging things. The things they were reblogging were not the most positive items, but instead promoted reasons to continue engaging in harmful behaviors. This frustrated me. What my friends needed was positivity, but instead they were surrounded by these negative blogs. I conducted a search to see if there were, in fact, any sites promoting reasons for recovery, and there weren't any active sites. My frustration turned into anger. There were all of these people struggling, in need of encouragement, and yet nothing existed. Pro-ana and pro self-harm blogs were everywhere, but the opposite was so difficult to find. That's when I thought, 'Hey, I can create this. My friends do have reasons for their recovery, I have photoshop, I have the internet. I have the means to do this.' I started the blog that afternoon, with input from my friends, not thinking it would go anywhere. Clearly the message resonated though. A month later, we had 1,000 followers and three years later, we now have a community of over 13,000 followers. All of our reasons to recover are submitted by those who are in recovery, and it is the greatest honor for people to trust us with their stories.

ReachOut: Do you have any tips for someone who is struggling with recovery? 

100 Reasons to Recover: Every Sunday, a member of our staff posts an encouraging message. Those can be found by visiting the Staff Says section of our page.  We also collect recovery advice from our followers, through our Surveys. The most popular advice is that relapse will happen and is a part of recovery, that slipping up does not mean you are a failure. Take things a day at a time. Talk to people about what you are feeling - don't keep it inside. It has to be something you want to do for you. We encourage people to not go it alone, and to seek professional help if things are not getting better. Self love and self care is so important. Treat yourself kindly and do things for yourself. Recovery takes time and it is a process. It won't happen all at once, but it will be worth it in the end.

ReachOut: Can you describe your happy place (real or fictional)?

100 Resons to Recover: My happy place is the beach on a bright, sunny day. The sky is clear blue, the waves are rolling in nice and gentle. There is a slight breeze. There aren't a lot of people on the beach with me. The sea gulls are flying around. I've got my favorite book with me. My best friends are there too, a few yards away. We've got lots of food to eat and many things to do. Boogie boards, fishing poles; we are ready for a good time.

Thanks for reading and remember to post your reasons to recover in the forums!

Community Corner: Building a Practice of Gratitude

by Liz_ReachOut Community, Family, Friends, Health

Friends laughingPracticing Gratitude

Positive Pyschology speaks to the importance of gratitude and how crucial it is to happiness. It's something our ReachOutHere forum community practices in this thread and we thought we'd share some of the amazing things they are grateful for:

I am thankful for the person who invented ice cream and cake. I am thankful for uplifting music. I am thankful for my older sister. I am thankful for an amazing God that is a really good listener and a great advice giver. And I am thankful for my friends Erin who is AMAZING!! I wouldnt be the same without her. - Zibzib

I'm thankful that I have a sweet kitty curled up beside me right now, purring and ready for pets! - Lyn Mod

i am thankful for my amazing girlfriend, she is so amazing. i finally found something positive to love. she makes me feel happy. i am also thankful that after 6 months of treatment, im finally out, and not doing that bad. - LJS

I am thankful for family, friends, and all the support receive on this website and elsewhere. - unknownwriter101

I'm thankful of class ending early so that I get to view the wonderful sky (: - AmiableRose

I am thankful for friends, family, access to education, modern day plumbing, scientific inventions, gas efficient cars, night lights, the internet, stuffed animals, WATER (even though I hate drinking it), kindness of strangers, and frozen yogurt. - potatoproblems

Try it out. Every night before you go to bed, think of 3 things you are grateful for from that day and write them down. It's something I've done for years, and even on the crappy days, you can find a surprising amount to be grateful for.

Tell the ReachOut community what you're grateful for here, or register here to get started on your journey in the forums!

 

 

This program is funded by counties through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63).  It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of California counties working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities.  CalMHSA encourages the use of materials contained herein, as they are explained in our licensing agreements. To view the agreements, please visit: calmhsa.org

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