Image a jumbo jet full of passengers falling out of the sky every day, killing everyone.
That is how many people we are losing DAILY to the heroin and opioid addiction health crisis – 350 people are dying daily across our nation.
In 2013, Maryland alone lost 464 people to heroin-related overdose deaths .
That is why I am getting involved as an ambassador for UNITE to Face Addiction (UNITE) www.facingaddiction.org and decided to send an email to the Maryland (MD) Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force (TF)http://governor.maryland.gov/ltgovernor/home/heroin-and-opioid-emergency-task-force/ to tell them about the big recovery movement led by UNITE that will rally in DC on Sunday, October 4, 2015. As a wonderful surprise, I got a call from Richard Tabuteau from the MD Lt. Governor’s (Boyd K. Rutherford’s) office inviting me to testify at the PG and Montgomery County Heroin and Opioid TF Summit on July 2, 2015.
This is the first time I have told my story outside of 12 step rooms. I have always felt protected by our anonymity principle, but at the same time felt a lot of shame about addiction and never celebrated my long term recovery in public. Because of this crisis and my calling/passion to teach others to use art for healing and recovery, I asked for the courage to put down my shame. Here is my –
TESTIMONY AT THE MD HEROIN AND OPIOID TASK FORCE SUMMIT JULY 2, 2015
Thank you for the opportunity to join you today. My name is Robin Gilliam, a native Marylander. I have been recovering from drug addiction since February 6, 1991.
Today, because of 12 step recovery, I am the author of the novel, Gift of Desperation, a recovery story of hope and inspiration; art and healing. Today, I am, also a CPA, a project management professional (PMP), and I develop and write accounting standards for the United States government.
But my recovery goes beyond the 12 steps, as I also used art to heal from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) associated with domestic violence that ended in rape by my ex-husband.
Creating abstract collages helped me to process my trauma and get out the related anger, fear, depression, and anxiety.
I then used my two decades of art work and 12 step experiences to write and self-publish, Gift of Desperation. A gift of desperation is when an addict is so desperate that it is a springboard to make positive changes and recover. My novel explores this through my main character, Claire Sebastian, and what it takes to hit such a deep dark place and what she is willing to do to recover.
My goal and vision is for Claire to become a role model for recovery. If Claire can survive the traumas that she has experienced and recover, then so can I, and so can you.
I believe that trauma is at the root of a lot of addictions. I believe that as addicts we do not know how to express ourselves and instead we use substances from the outside to deal with life, and numb out. When in actuality we are self-destructing, and now, dying at an alarming rate.
I believe that we need to cultivate creative expressive programs, like art, dance, and music, from elementary school through high school, college, and in our recovery organizations as a preventative tool to provide our youth and those in recovery with positive outlets for emotions.
We are only as sick as our secrets. I should know, for the secret of rape kept me locked into my addiction for years.
During my recovery journey, I also got caught up in the opioid crisis, when my husband had an accident and was prescribed Percocet and was NOT told how to get off of them. As a result, he suffered for many years from rebound pain, severe withdrawal symptoms which landed us in the emergency room a number of times , and almost died. Today he is living a recovery lifestyle.
I believe that doctors should be educated in the addictive qualities of opioids and understand how to properly prescribe them, how to educate their patients, and help wean them off safely.
Addiction is a chronic disease that is cunning, baffling, and powerful. Did you know that as we recover our disease is marching along keeping up at a steady pace? That temptations and thoughts can pop up daily.
For example, about 9 months ago, I found a bag of pot on the street that lit up my mind like a Christmas tree–after 24 years in recovery! It was scary, but because using is not an option anymore, I was prepared and picked up the many tools of recovery that I have learned over the years – the Big Book, the first three steps, the telephone, the pen and paper, my sponsor…
Therefore, to manage my thoughts on a daily basis, I need to make recovery my number one priority and be very vigilant and continue to develop my spiritual condition to keep a quiet and calm mind in order to prevent me from taking that first hit.
Because one is too many and a thousand are never enough.
Since recovery is my first priority and helping others is essential, I signed up to be an ambassador for UNITE to Face Addiction. This is so I can spread the word in Maryland that we will come together and UNITE on Sunday, Oct 4th, 2015, in DC to let our nation know that addiction is a disease that is preventable and treatable, that far too many of those affected are incarcerated or die, and that people can and do get better and can become productive members of society.
Thank you for this opportunity. Again, my name is Robin Gilliam, and I am proud to say that I am a person in long term recovery and I look forward to joining this effort by providing communication support as a writer and developing art for healing as a tool for recovery.