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March 22, 2012 Volume 3, Issue 11
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All of RTP's quarterly Webinars are available online. Archived recordings and PowerPoint slides can be downloaded from the RTP Resources page, including "Assessing for and Addressing Trauma in Recovery-Oriented Practice," a session devoted to trauma-informed care.

One Word at a Time
A Writer's Spiritual Journey to Recovery
by Kevin Coyle
Ten years ago, back when I was 18, I planned to go to college and live a normal life as a deaf man. But the following year, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. The psychotic world in my mind that seemed so real at times threatened to imprison me in a realm of delusions. My passion for words kept me motivated in class, but once I graduated from college I sank into a pit of despair. I wrote and slept, but struggled to produce anything. It was my boyhood dream to be a writer, but a writer cannot live on words alone.

I looked for God, but he could not be found. Psalm 13 captured my yearnings: "How long, O Lord, will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me?"

My enemy was my mental illness and like a prisoner in a cell, I saw no way out and nowhere to go. I was scared of the world. Medications and therapy helped some, but the best medicine was love. Even as I lost faith in myself, my family and friends never lost faith in me.

Ironically, it was a tragic event that lifted me out of my sadness. In 2007, my college advisor of 4 years unexpectedly died. His passing deeply grieved me. For a long time I wanted to write something in honor of him, but the words would not come. Then one morning, beautiful, graceful lines came to me without much struggle. In words, God had answered my silent prayer.

I sent the article to Mount Magazine, my alma mater's alumni publication, and they published it a few months later. The article not only commemorated my advisor, it turned my sorrow into joy. Since his burial I have kept the funeral pamphlet on my desk. Every time I look at it I am inspired and comforted. His spirit is with me and gives me strength.

Living at home after college was difficult, so I moved into a group home for deaf individuals. That too was a challenge, but eventually I found new companions who gave me strength not only to endure my illness, but to think positively. The monthly Social Security checks didn't provide us much, but what we lacked in wealth, we made up for in good spirits and humor. Not a day goes by when my roommates or fellow members don't crack a goodhearted joke or two. Just being with them is a joy—they are the reason I get up each morning and live each day.

I became involved with On Our Own, a wellness and recovery center created for and organized by people with mental illnesses. Soon after, I joined their informal writing group and literary publication, The Fellow Traveler. The group made me feel accepted and comforted. Looking back, I believe God sent these special earthly angels to lift me up and give me hope.

Now I feel blessed with what I have. Not only did God send me friends during my darkest hours, He gave me the capacity to reach out and touch others through the written word. I continue to write articles and short biographical sketches of people I know and love. Recently, I have found solace in contributing prayers and essays to my local church's newsletters and services. In my life, writing has opened doors to friendship and given me spiritual strength to rise above the anguish of my illness. For me, the real reward is making a difference in the lives of others I care about. Like anyone, I have my down days, but I feel I'm winning the battle one word at a time.

Kevin Coyle is a consumer representative for the Maryland Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Behavioral Health Advisory Subcommittee. He has also served on the board of On Our Own, a nonprofit organization in Frederick, Maryland. In his free time, Kevin volunteers for the Historical Society of Frederick as an assistant researcher. He can be reached at

Register Now

Two Weeks to Register for
"Understanding and Building on Culture and Spirituality in Recovery-Oriented Practice"
The next RTP Webinar will describe three components of culture and spirituality in recovery-oriented care: cultural and spiritual assessments, culturally appropriate interventions, and ways in which spirituality and culture can shape an individual's recovery journey. Our presenters will introduce a range of strategies that ensure care is responsive to a person's cultural identity and discuss approaches for fostering cultural strengths and spirituality in care planning and recovery practices. An important facet of culture and spirituality in recovery-oriented care addresses the aging process—how can practitioners be cognizant of person- and family-centered culturally specific needs?

April 4, 2012

3–4:30 p.m. EST

Three multidisciplinary specialists will share their perspectives. Reverend Laura Mancuso, M.S., CRC/CPRP, will describe practical tools for making assessment culturally and spiritually oriented. Dee Bigfoot, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, will discuss recovery-oriented interventions that have spiritual and cultural components. Finally, National Association of Peer Specialists President Gladys Christian will address how spirituality and culture have affected her recovery journey.

Click here to register for the free Webinar.

*RTP does not offer CEUs for Webinar participation. Certificates of attendance are available upon request.

Register Now Recovery Resource
Treating people with chronic pain who have also battled or recovered from a substance use disorder requires a special understanding of pain therapy, addiction, and relapse—all with a goal of improved functioning. Managing Chronic Pain in Adults With or in Recovery From Substance Use Disorders provides clinicians with practical guidance and tools for treating chronic pain. The Treatment Improvement Protocol—SAMHSA's best-practice guidelines for prevention and treatment of substance use and mental disorders—encourages cooperation and communication between health care professionals who specialize in pain management and those who focus on addiction.

Download the manual.

March Is Brain Injury Awareness Month
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is dedicated to raising awareness about brain injury and ensuring those who live with traumatic or acquired brain injury have access to proper care, rehabilitation services, and ongoing support. With a nationwide network of State affiliates, local chapters, and support groups, BIAA provides help and hope for people with brain injury.

Learn more about BIAA.

Nominate a Recovery Leader for SAMHSA's Voice Award
Join SAMHSA in recognizing consumers and peer specialists in recovery and the media professionals whose coverage of people with behavioral health challenges has educated the public. Through their work, these leaders have demonstrated that people can and do recover from such conditions, and go on to enjoy full and meaningful lives.

If you know a consumer or peer leader whose efforts to promote social inclusion for people with behavioral health issues have shown that recovery is real and possible, please nominate him or her for a 2012 Voice Award.

The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From
Recovery-Oriented Practitioners!
We invite practitioners to submit personal stories that describe how they became involved in
recovery-oriented work and how it has changed the way they practice.
The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From You, Too!
We invite you to submit personal stories that describe recovery experiences. To submit stories or
other recovery resources, please contact Cheryl Tutt, MSW, at 877.584.8535,
or email

We welcome your views, comments, suggestions, and inquiries.
For more information on this topic or any other recovery topic,
please contact the RTP Resource Center at
877.584.8535, or email

The views, opinions, and content of this Weekly Highlight are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect
the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.