from Gerald Butler:
As a young father running behind my daughter while teaching her to ride her bike, I took extreme care to not let her fall. Some of my fondest memories are of my coming in from work and my ‘Baby Doll’ would be waiting for me to take her out bike riding. One day I came home and she was nowhere in sight and when I asked my wife where she was she said ‘A bunch of kids on the block were riding together and she came in, got her bike and has been riding with them for hours’. I was hurt because the whole bike riding issue was supposed to be my job and I felt I should have decided when she was ready to ride solo. In fact had it been left up to me, even at the age of 31, she would still be totally dependent on me.
Under the old system of ‘maintenance’ consumers were supported just as I treated my three-year-old daughter. Intentions were correct in that everyone, including us, assumed that our illness meant we would be ill forever and would no longer prosper. The more we all work towards transforming the system, the clearer it becomes that we not only can recover, but often move on to do great things when we are supported correctly. When my ‘Baby Doll’ would come home crying because she had taken a fall, I wanted to tell her to never ride that old bike again. All I could do was to kiss her little ‘boo boo’ and watch her run out the door and get back on her bike. Leaders of a transformed system allow us to fly solo and when we make mistakes, they help us make things right.
This cuts to the importance of ‘Empowerment Day’. Out of the many events staged each year this is one when consumers do the planning, organization, and most other aspects of the event. The cool thing is like the proud parents watching their child getting his/her diploma, the leaders of this new system get to watch us strut our stuff at this event. The parents do not walk on stage as the child acquires his/her degree but instead sit proudly in the audience, knowing they have done a good job.
We would like to sincerely thank Detroit Wayne County CMH for acting as the proud parent by granting ‘Visions of Recovery’ freedom and support in our efforts to one day be a model of consumer directed recovery. As a result of their partnership we have not only held three conferences but also formed the consumer band whose sole purpose is to spread the message of recovery through our music. We have even given back to the community including playing such events as the Corrections to Work Conference at the Charles Wright Museum and the Neighborhood Block Party sponsored by Arise Detroit.
After a few months of working with band and meeting many consumers, Barry Broden, guitar player and the only non-consumer in the group said: “I don’t see any difference”. I feel that when future generations look back on these historic times attempting to pinpoint how such monumental changes were made the general consensus will be: “We concluded that progressive programs such as Peer Support, Wrap, Pathways, ETC. were not quite enough. What was needed was a fundamental, individual, change in attitude by both us as the leaders of the system, and consumers. 1) We began to see Our MODEL programs became those whose consumers had freedom to grow, and the support needed to help spread the messages of hope, trust, and recovery. We began to see consumers as capable of doing great things in recovery, 2) Consumers began to believe in themselves.
Peer Support Specialist