A few months ago I wrote about how a State leader gave me hope and encouragement
by simply giving me a hug. I also wrote about a leader Detroit Wayne
County CMH spreading optimism by showing sincere concern
for our treatment and recovery. Subtle as they may seem, these small
acts are just as vital to the recovering community as any new program.
If these new leaders can treat us with respect and dignity,
then others in the system have no reason not to do the same.
Often, the spirit in which care is give is just as important as the
My first experience with a ‘New Leader’ was 6 years ago; that day
I was picked up from the treatment center by Dr. Michelle Reid (Medical Director/ Detroit Wayne County
CMH) At that point I had
been in the system for over 20 years and this was the first time an
administrator had treated me humanely, like I had feelings. Naturally
I was skeptical: it took me a long time to accept that Dr. Reid just
simply cared about us. My second experience came during the first Peer
Support training in Michigan. The training was the greatest thing to
happen for consumers in years. Pam Werner and Irene Kazieczko (Michigan Department of Community Health) ate with us, laughed and cried with
us, listened to what we had to say. They showed us Peer Support was
not merely a new program; it is a way of living.
My next experience with a new type leader came when I told my friend
Darryl about my hopes and dreams of one day a year dedicated solely
to consumers. Darryl introduced me to his boss, Marilyn Snowden (CEO/ Detroit East)
who pushed, pulled, and walked by my side until my dream became a reality.
This year will be the 4th annual event/celebration and Ms
Snowden shall always be known as the Mother of Empowerment Day. Two
years ago at the ‘Second Annual Empowerment Day’ Veda Sharp (Director/D-WCCMH)
began giving the ‘Recovery Band’ her support and encouragement.
As we travel the State sharing that same hope, Ms sharp is often there
to introduce us. The more self-esteem she gives us, the more we have
to pass on to others.
The reasons I am talking about these leaders are not to praise them,
but to hold them up as symbols of how system transformation is taking
hold in Michigan. Because no one can direct a person’s recovery, these
leaders are instead encouraging it. They realize how vital self-esteem
is in the recovery process. They know that people in recovery are very
capable, provided they are in a healthy environment. As opposed to owning
or directing recovery, they have chosen to share our hopes and dreams
with us. Instead of fretting over such mundane issues as ‘our behavior’
they are busy opening new doors and providing us with choices as to
how we wish to proceed in our recovery. It’s very encouraging to have
these types of leaders at the highest levels of the system.
The Recovery Band may just as well be called the Peer Support Band,
as that is we are on We noticed that all of the consumers who worked
with us gained a higher sense of self-esteem almost immediately. I think
the one who has had the greatest effect on the band is Charlotta. We
did not have to guide her, show her, or tutor her in any way. All we
did was provide a safe, welcoming environment and watched her blossom.
The band realized we had something valuable we needed to share with
the recovering community: The importance of a clean, safe, environment.
Out of late night meetings at the Mexican Town restaurant, arose CHARGE:
(Center of Healing Arts,
Recovery, Growth & Empowerment). This
is an outgrowth of the leaders in Michigan who’ve found a way of blending
leadership with caring and compassion.
Although the arts can play a major role in the recovery process, the
operative word in CHARGE is healing. One major road- block to recovery
is low self-esteem. Few things contribute more to low self-esteem than
the feeling of not being listened to. CHARGE will be a place where consumers
feel they are not only being heard, but also safe and comfortable enough
to simply be who they are. The more a person knows about his/her self,
the easier it becomes for Doctors and therapists to diagnosis and treat.
There are many arts & recovery programs that show people how to
express them selves artistically. The Recovery Band wanted CHARGE to
be more of a Recovery program.
We designed CHARGE to be more of a place, than an arts program. Our
hope is for consumers to be in a place where everyone is saying “It’s
okay that you erred, let us work together
and make things right”. Every person is born with certain gifts
and/or talents, but no one can force creativity. The dream of the Recovery
Band through CHARGE is to have a spot where folks feel safe and free.
This place will also just happen to have tools of expression on hand
for those who wish to use them. Considering how blessed the band has
been, we would be remiss if we did not do all we could to ‘Pay it