Sunday, May 6, 2007

The origins of Empowerment Day

by Gerald Butler

One day in October of 05, Darryl Cornwell and I had just left the recently opened Highland Park Clubhouse where upon he commented on how enthusiastic I get whenever I am around other consumers. After a few minutes, he asked ‘If you could do one thing for consumers, what would it be? My answer, “My dream is for consumers to have one day a year where they are honored for their struggles in recovery. No politics, no bosses, no fear of being debased, simply a day in their honor”. Over the next few weeks Darryl continued to ask me for more details, even though I kept assuring him it would never happen. The next thing I know I am sitting in front of Marilyn Snowden (Director-Detroit East) telling her my dream in detail. I was pleasantly surprised when she said she would make my dream come true, luckily, I didn’t tell her that it would never happen.

Even though the Peer Support Movement teaches us the value of having hope and self-confidence, I found myself ready to call it off when ever even minor issue arose. I went many times to Ms. Snowden with these concerns, fully expecting her to say it could not be done. It turned out that either she has anticipated the problem and handled it, or she would make a phone call and solve what I deemed a disaster. What she mostly did was gave me HOPE, and like the child with a new toy, I wanted to show my newfound hope to other consumers. So ‘Visions’ began visiting clubhouses during which time we found it better to go not to take something, but just going to listen to consumers. The more I listened, the more I realized our only difference was that I was lucky enough to have gotten some good support.

Folks from all over Wayne County and the Sate came out to support ‘Empowerment Day’. I now know that had I not had a sense of self-esteem and hope, it simply would not have occurred. That sense of self worth is a direct result of the Peer Support Movement, through which our experiences become valuable as we utilize them to help others. When we help others, we feel better about ourselves. The better we fell about ourselves the more positive we become about our recovery.

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