Monday, March 17, 2008

The Recovery Band

from Gerald Butler:


The Recovery Band is based on the practice of Peer Support. We employ these principles with each other, and lately we have been applying it to consumers wishing to perform on Empowerment Day. Lila Harrison has been coming to the Recovery band rehearsals for the past few weeks, and watching her grow has been like watching a beautiful flower blossom. The onset of her of illness occurred in the year 2000 during the breakup of her marriage, and like many of us, she blamed herself. She is now in recovery and wants to spread the message: ‘Recovery is Possible’.

Visions: When you first came to rehearsals you did not seem as self-assured as you are now.

Lila: Right from the start you guys made me feel very welcomed, I felt safe, like I was among friends. You guys helped me to bring out what I felt deep down I could do, but no one had ever given me the opportunity to do.

Visions: At first you kept saying you were not a singer, anyone hearing you would not agree.

Lila: I grew up singing in Church and feel relaxed there. You guys sound like professionals and I just felt I was not as good as you. Thanks to your help, I feel a whole lot better about myself now. Today I know I’m a good singer and can go as far as I want to go.

Visions: The Band has been practicing something called Peer Support with you: can you tell?

Lila: I knew about Peer Support because Joe Hodge of Detroit East does it, but this is the first time I have actually seen how good it works. What you guys did was listen to me and found out my good points and where I wanted to go in life. Then you made me comfortable enough to go after my dreams. I think I would like to be a Peer Supporter and help others like you helped me.

Visions: What are your plans for Empowerment Day?

Lila: I’ve been working on two spirituals; Order my Steps and Tribute, with the ‘Recovery’ band. I realize there will be others in the audience who are going through what I have been through. I plan to let the spirit of God flow through my songs and me to help pass his love and hope to those who feel they have none.

Scott Davis has been attending the ‘Story Tellers’ group I set up at Go-Getters for those wishing to tell their recovery stories at the ‘Empowerment Day’ celebration. Scott became ill some 30 years ago when he was in collage, and lost hope of ever becoming whole again. He told me that a long time ago he had written a few songs. I asked him if he would be interested in letting the band support his dreams of singing his music in public at the Empowerment Day recovery celebration. Scott has a smooth bass voice and his music is like that of some of the great jazz singers of the past. The band members were literally blown away! Look forward to seeing and hearing Scott at our celebration.

I recall how six years ago when I first came to the Agency, how Edith Killins, the Interim Director at the time, and Dr. Michelle Reid (Detroit Wayne County CMH Medical Director) kept telling me “I’m on your side”. Having never had an administrator say that to me, I had no idea how to take their sincerity and I regret not having utilized their offers of help. However, I am glad they stuck to their ideals, thus laying the groundwork for consumer directed celebrations such as ‘Empowerment Day’. Even then they knew recovery cannot be mandated, nor directed by those who have not been there. Instead they offered their support in whatever decisions I chose to make in my recovery journey, and now, as a Peer Supporter, I offer that same support to others in their recovery journeys.

The ‘Peer Support Empowerment Committee’ would like to wholeheartedly thank Joe Tardella and the folks at Southwest Solutions for their undying support, allowing us to stage this consumer directed event. Also, much kudos to Patrick Wardle and the Samaritan Center for their efforts toward making this a success, ‘We are proud to have been host to this event over the last 2 years and are certainly looking forward to doing the same in years to come’. (Patrick W.) If you are planning on attending this celebration, I suggest you show up early. Otherwise you may miss the most exciting part, which will be the opening remarks by Veda Sharp (Director/DWCCMHA) Since taking over the reins of the Agency, Ms. Sharp has shown great compassion and enthusiasm for our cause. If she jump-starts the day like she did at the recent Peer training, we’re in for a great day.

I certainly hope folks are aware of the ‘International Self Determination Conference’ (www.self-determination) from May 27th through the 29th. People are coming to Detroit from all over the world, and the planning committee, led by Pat Carver, Tiffany Devon, and Kathleen Kovach, has decided on a ‘MOTOWN’ theme for the entire conference. Our own Councilwoman Martha Reeves has offered to come and sing some of her old Motown hits with the Recovery Band. Also, that same week will be the Gateway Consumer Awards Banquet, at which ‘Recovery’ will also appear. For more information contact Maryanne Bozenski at

Finally we would like to thank Kari Walker and the folks at the ‘Virtual Recovery Center’ whom we really can’t thank enough. They have put on a limited (200 hits) web site view of the band, that far exceeds our hopes and dreams. It gives us a glimpse of what they have in store for the future in regards to other consumer directed, recovery centered initiatives. If you get close to Veda Sharp, be sure to give her a hug for engineering the Wayne County Freedom train heading down the road to recovery for us all.

Gerald Butler


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