The World is Upside Down

December 31, 2021 By Aaron Young

Merlyn KarstBy Merlyn Karst
President, The Purpose of Recovery


In order to write a worthwhile little, I have to watch, listen and read a lot. I look for other’s words to capture, contemplate, and pass along. I saw a quote from Oprah that said. “The world is upside down” The context related to a tragic incident of lawlessness but had broad application. Perception is in the eye of the beholder. Drugs drive crime in multiple ways. I thought of a familiar statement and changed it to fit the moment. Ask not what drugs will do for you, but what you will do for drugs. For the addict, the answer is “almost anything.” I remember the corner drug store. It had comics, ice cream sodas, and a variety of interesting items. Oh yes, and drugs. All secure, and the unmentionable items were in the unmentionable cabinets. No “corner drug stores” today but now there are drug corners with young entrepreneurs. There are many jobs available but just as many barriers to access and an easy and perhaps only path is selling drugs. It brings cash and survival. The cartels are also busy recruiting. Illegal activity may grow but the threat of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration has diminished. Making the risks worth those taken.

“We have many more tools in our tool bag” There is medically assisted recovery, there are many paths to recovery, peer services, methadone take-home, community awareness and support, and harm reduction.

I write during the holiday season. Incidentally, I was reminded that the three Kings journey to Jesus’s birthplace used the first GPS—God Provided Star. In this season it’s hard to find a reason to be jolly when the halls are decked with melancholy. The public is fearful and fatigued. But there are positives. We are so much better off than a year ago. I like the statement “we have many more tools in our tool bag.” The virus is going through predictable cycles with variants perhaps more contagious but much less threatening. Delta is hanging in there, but Omicron fits the cycle. Vaccines are affective and progress for more and better ones are coming, along with better therapeutics. For the needle adverse there may be pills. There is confusion and chaos in communication. Mark Twain said, “It ain’t so much the things that people don’t know that makes trouble in this world, as it is the things that people know that ain’t so.” During the knowing and unknowing, the task is finding balance between living the life we wish it to be and what it is.

There is also an alcohol and other drugs epidemic. Much attention and funding has been given to opioids in recognition of the thousands reported deaths and widespread use of Narcan to save thousands of more lives. I repeat another quote. “We have many more tools in our tool bag” There is medically assisted recovery, there are many paths to recovery, peer services, methadone take-home, community awareness and support, and harm reduction. Reading William White’s paper, Random Recovery Reflections is a must read. He writes on recovery advocacy and harm reduction as follows:” Our involvement in harm reduction is a way of saying to those still in the life, We will do all we can to protect your life. We will do all we can to prevent irreversible damage to yourself and others. We will reduce the obstacles and burdens that could slow your future recovery. We do these things in hope for the day you will join us in our journey of healing and service.”

In another William White paper, titled Recovery Representation Revisited, are these words: “What are the most important national, state, and local decision-making venues related to alcohol and other drug problems? What institutional bodies address the intersection of AOD problems and policy/legislation. Are the voices of recovery representatives present at these decision-making tables? A long-term goal of the RCO is to expand the range of recovery representation across spheres of community influencers and to expand the menu of representation activities.” Other White words, “Effective recovery community organizations seek meaningful representation of people in personal/family recovery within decision-making venues that effect their lives. RCOs also try to prevent cultural appropriation/exploitation of the recovery experience. It is the responsibility of the RCO to prepare people in recovery for a public role. This involves briefing each candidate on potential benefits and risks of recovery representation and preparing them via messaging/leadership training and coaching.” My experience with and about RCOs in California, Colorado, and Kentucky, indicates attention to legislative activity, policy making, and advocacy matters knowledge.

The Recovery Movement has come a long way. I mentioned having many tools in the tool bag. Along the way, we have had many tool makers and they crafted programs based on science, stories, and the accumulating knowledge. At the virtual Leadership Summit, William Moyers led a panel reflecting the origins, happenings, and experience at the historic Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2001. It had three goals: (a) to celebrate and honor recovery in all its diversity, (b) to foster advocacy skills in the tradition of American advocacy movements, and (c) to produce principals, language, strategy, and leadership to carry the movement forward. Those goals have been more than met through the times and challenges. I leave you with the words of an old song. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and don’t mess with mister in-between. Let the politicians work diligently at finding the in-between. For this Christmas, the government’s big stocking has been sewn shut at the top. Enjoy better times ahead with a Well and Happy New Year!!



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The Purpose of RecoveryThe Purpose of Recovery is a nonprofit, grassroots, peer-led recovery community in Orange County, CA. They connect with local, state, and national recovery communities to support long term recovery.​

The Purpose of Recovery offers peer-to-peer support. Whether you are an individual in recovery from substance use disorder, a parent, partner, or concerned friend you will find peers who understand the unique challenges you face.​

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Merlyn Karst


Merlyn Karst is a person in long-term recovery and a recovery advocate and Recovery Ambassador. He is a founder of Advocates for Recovery—Colorado and The Purpose of Recovery, California. Also, one of the founders of Faces and Voices of recovery. He is a writer and speaker about social issues surrounding the inappropriate use of alcohol and other drugs leading to substance use disorders, a mental health issue. He is particularly attentive to Peer driven support and services and their societal and economic benefits. They also provide reason and resources to reduce recidivism.



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