Before Recovery Force moves on to its next stage of developing new leaders, building capacity for long-term sustainability, strengthening partnerships, creating awareness that worlds as different as Oz and Kansas exist for people dealing with substance use, it would be impossible not to pause and appreciate our gifts and heros.
Our admiration and appreciation for support from the likes of Joe Lupo, Sheriff Sheffler, Steve Callendar, Judge Sandson, Samantha Kiley, Father Jon Thomas and Joe Jingoli have been an ongoing public expression for some time and continues. We have perhaps reached a point in the learning curve that necessitates celebrating what has been made possible and how we need to respond to a spectacular gift from Isabel
Imagine our state not knowing of the existence of air bags, seat belts and child safety seats and continuing to live with high rates of tragedy and death in car accidents while across the Walt Whitman Bridge people rarely die in car accidents because they know about and practice these three things. An equivalent scenario is a reality in addressing our addiction issues.
It is a story that we feel must be told. We found Isabel's birthday (May 17) a perfect time to further celebrate her.
We want to share the woman behind the curtain.
Is what we asked, as she shined brighter than the sun and dispensed kindness to everyone around her. We dared to get a little bit closer and could feel the warmth first hand. She was like an angel, radiating goodness and love, under full wings packed with many gifts. A dedicated mother, daughter, sister, friend and a true Ambassador of Good Will for her community. That Girl was really like no other. Her blood, sweat, tears and dollars served causes that included cancer, diabetes, women in higher education, the arts, community yoga, women in sobriety, fransican nuns, and the Catholic Church AT THE SAME TIME. All this, in addition to her public role in the casino industry and the sponsorship of several young women new to recovery. It is incredible to believe that That Girl is also the hero that came along and gave us the strength to carry on, literally. She lifted us up - not from the outside - but from the inside. She picked up our hopes and made them her own. That Girl made recovery coaching a reality in Atlantic City and the surrounding areas. She led the Recovery Force Board, went to Connecticut and brought home a CCAR Recovery Coach Academy, trained the first 25 coaches and secured scholarships for them. That Girl's labor of love will bring the fruits of a global movement to a place she loves: Atlantic City. She somehow knew that what she did was something that had to be done - and she did it. That Girl is amazing and we continue to work hard to earn the blessings she gave.
She created the first CCAR Recovery Coach Academy in South Jersey and trained its first 25 coaches
She speaks with Recovery Court participants and staff about the birth of recovery coaching in Atlantic County.
She Was Involved in Every Single Part of Making it Happen
Click on a Photo to See How
She revs up the crowd and introduces Tara Conner on the AC Boardwalk
Recovering Out Loud with Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006 to create hope in the power of recovery.
In short order when she saw what needed to be done, she drove to Connecticut and spent a week learning how to train CCAR Recovery Coaches, the gold standard in 40 states.
She recruited students and opened the first CCAR Recovery Coach Academy south of Williamstown, NJ creating opportunities for Atlantic and Cape May Counties
She dedicated another full week to personally train the first Academy in Atlantic County.
She presided over the graduation of 30 Recovery Force Recovery Coaches and sent them off with a call to action to serve.
She led meetings with Family Court in Atlantic City and Recovery Court in Mays Landing to target recovery coach services to special populations.
The reunification of mother and daughter in Family Court through the work of a great recovery coach did not take long. This mom recorded a special message for Isabel in the next frame.
Because of Isabel...
Most have no idea of the depth and breath of Isabel's contribution to Atlantic City. History will undoubtedly prove an impact equating to immensely improved quality of life for people and a community at once. An infusion of love where it is needed. In actuality, an entire population hiding in shame, after surviving the most horrifying experience of their lives, is on the road to liberation and their day in the sun. Because of Isabel, more people will live and less families will suffer. More Atlantic City children will grow to be healthy adults, spared of the trauma that many kids endure as collateral damage of an unforgiving disease. Pride will replace shame among people and families who find a pathway to recovery - in turn - leading to a wave of hope among those suffering as they finally see evidence, not just of recovery - but of redemption.
With a gap the size of the grand canyon standing between the science of their condition and public perception about who they are, a force of visible recovery coaches in the community is how that gap is closed. It evaporates a little more each time someone attends a CCAR Recovery Coach Academy(c). Isabel created this opportunity in Atlantic City and without her there would be no mechanism for reducing a stigma that is more lethal than addiction itself. There would also be no way to give people the care they need to recover after treatment. Isabel made it possible to fix the acute care model that still painfully attempts to treat a chronic condition in spite of repeated failed episodes of the same approach. Sadly, society still holds in contempt those for whom this system does not work. The stigma ensures the silence of shamed patients and their families and the injustices just continue to mount. Recovery Coaches are much more than the follow-up care following treatment that other chronic conditions rely on to prevent a reoccurence of symptoms that would otherwise worsen unnoticed. Recovery Coaches are there for early detection and have the tools to avoid another treatment episode. Recovery Coaches are vehicles to long-term recovery and they will change every sector of the community by their existence in them.
Recovery Coaches learn the science of the addiction condition and the process of change and recovery. They learn the extrordinary opportunity they will have at both individual and societal levels. Their belief systems about addiction and recovery evolve during the Academy and they become agents of change. They begin to adopt a new vocabulary less stigmatizing. They embrace putting a face and voice on recovery from an addiction. They come to understand, on an even deeper level, that people with substance use disorders are the products of decisions made by underdeveloped brains often decades before being capable of making them. Yes, addiction is a progressive disease that starts in children almost always and the realization that ends all stigmas is eventually achieved: people with substance use disorders did not choose to self-destruct and hurt the people they love. Because of the stigma it is hidden for years, preventing treatement of mild symptoms. All cases of addiction progress to stage IV before any attempt to treat them is made. Coaches change this too. Thank you again Isabel.
Coaches develop the art of advocating and providing peer support, each demonstrating the love and unconditional positive regard that those afflicted deserve. Without Isabel's insight into the life, family and community changing impact that recovery coaches can have, Atlantic City would not have the ability to train and deploy this marvelous intervention that has changed over 100 other communities nationwide. What she did to make this happen was heroic, single-handed and incredibly generous. Time will show a growth in humanity beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
Creating a Recovery Force of coaches to advocate and provide support for people and their families, while simultaneously improving the community conditions to give them equal footing on their journeys, was a challenge much bigger than ever imagined. The road was longer and full of more obstacles than expected and we were well short of the finish line. Isabel took the team on her shoulders and blessed us with a capacity to win. It is still a work in progress with challenges ahead. Yet, new worlds exist because of these thriving forces of recovery coaches across the country. Lucky for us, the dreams of change for Atlantic City were heard and may now come true because of one special hero.
THANK YOU ISABEL
Your Remarkable Contributions Have Been Shared With the:
Mayor and City Council of Atlantic City
County Executive and Freeholders of Atlantic County
State Senator and Assemblymen Representing Atlantic County
US Congressman Representing Atlantic City
US Senators Representing New Jersey
To understand more about what has been going on to improve addiction outcomes and why we can now be a
part of it, check this out.