Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Origin of CHARGE

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Center of Healing Arts, Recovery, Growth & Empowerment

        I started drinking when I was 11 and it was not because I liked it, it was because it was a way to deal with my mental illness. By the age of 13 I was an alcoholic and drank and lived on the streets until 12 years ago when I went into treatment. A living Hell on earth is a tepid description of my life as an alcoholic. Today I have been working in the mental health field for 7 years, (5 at Detroit Wayne County CMH). I have found that folks hoping to get well must actively participate in their recovery process. However, a person does not participate in the process when there is little or no self-esteem. With no sense of value there is no incentive to participate in the healing process of treatment and recovery.

         Four years ago I initiated "Empowerment Day": a day devoted to increasing the self-esteem of folks recovering from mental illness and/or substance abuse. I still felt something more was needed as I was still being treated as ‘lesser than’. I figured there had to be something I was capable of doing that people in the system could not tell me I was wrong about.  Before I became really sick I used to play a pretty good flute, so my recovery involved my picking up my flute again. I started the "Recovery Band" which is dedicated to demonstrating to the world that folks with disabilities are capable of becoming contributing members of society as long as we have the proper support. When consumers would come and make music with us, we would see their self-esteem increase. The level of self-esteem is directly related to ones participation in the healing process.

CHARGE/ A New Approach to Recovery

       Realizing the positive role the arts play in the healing process the Recovery Band started the Center of Healing Arts, Recovery, Growth, and Empowerment. The G used to be guidance, but no one can guide a persons recovery journey, thus we provide a positively charge environment where growth can occur naturally. As long as we are kept in clinical environments separate from society, the more dependent on the system we become. Soon we grow to accept our selves as incapable because that is how we are treated.  CHARGE is more an environment than a place. It’s an atmosphere where folks can be who they are, and hone their God given talents. This increases self-esteem and encourages us to work harder on our recovery.

       I moved the CHARGE program into an artistic community called the Russell Street Center & Bazaar: an artistic community of 250 professional artists and musicians. The band plays at some of the artists’ events and in exchange they are willing to help our consumers hone their talents. We also formed the ‘Visions of Recovery Gospel Choir”. The Rackham Symphony Choir has invited CHARGE to entertain at the afterglow for their “Concert for the Homeless” in March. In keeping with President Obama’s declaration  ‘Year of Community Living’ for people with disabilities, CHARGE has been working with many different community based organizations, block clubs, and Churches to join us in the fight against stigma. Authentic consumer/peer run programs are vital because: leaders of such programs are models of recovery as other consumers see them actually managing recovery-centered programs.

     According to the SAMHSA the Consumer Movement is not unlike any other civil rights movement. Despite enormous successes over the past decades including a re-orientation around the concept of recovery, negative perceptions and attitudes are still prevalent. SAMHSA Nov. 19th 2009. My hopes and dreams are simple: I hope to one day be appreciated for my accomplishments, and to be defined according to my accomplishments, and not by my illness. My dreams are that there will be a system of treatment in the U. S. that truly gives the consumer what we need, recovery.

Gerald Butler

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