The year was 1971. Richard Nixon was president. A gallon of gas was 40 cents. A new Dodge Charger cost just over $3,500. "The French Connection" and "A Clockwork Orange" were top grossing movies. "Imagine" was released by John Lennon following the breakup of the Beatles. The Charles Manson trial was big news. And the Viet Nam War was in full swing.
The conflict in Southeast Asia brought with it a new phenomenon; large numbers of soldiers returning with drug habits, primarily heroin. Addiction would no longer remain stereotyped as the scourge of low lifes, hippies and a "ghetto problem". It had touched "our boys" and mainstream America. The country scrambled to find a response, prompting Nixon to declare "war on drugs", and for the first, and only, time fully fund a treatment response. Local Veteran's Administration Hospitals scrambled to find an effective way to treat those addicted to narcotics, recognizing the 12 Step, 28 day response to be less effective with this new population.
At the same time in Minnneapolis three individuals saw the need for a different approach and began Eden House, a private non-profit modeled as a therapeutic community--a long-term program for those most seriously addicted to narcotics. With support from the Minneapolis VA and local VFW's, Eden House was designed not only to treat addiction, but to also address the multitude of often underlying problems contributing to, or resulting from addiction such as isolation, dispair, homelessness, mental illness and criminal behavior. The program was 12-18 months long, and, since the prevailing attitude toward drug addicts had always been, "nothing works", it was given a lot of latitude in it's approach to improving lives. Because it was new, and untested, the participants devleoped an "us against the world" attitude, and a camaraderie similar to that experienced in combat. Evolving into a living learning process that was a combination of traditional treatment, therapy, education and the regimented personal responsibility associated with the military, the program showed a great deal of promise and previously unachieved success.
In 1972, Eden House began to work closely with the criminal justice system to test how this model would work with a group of inmates who had histories of addiction. The Department of Corrections slowly began releasing a few inmates on early parole to Eden House. Based on the success achieved by these parolees, referrals began to come from a wide variety of correctional settings. And in 1973, in recognition that some offenders could be effectively served in the community, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Community Corrections Act.
In 1976, in the East Metro, another program, initially designed for those leaving prison with no supportive place to go began operations. Reentry Services was originally housed in the St. Paul YMCA, later evolving into 3 transitional half-way houses, serving both men and women releasees and probationers.
Over the years there were many milestones for both programs, some good, some not so good. But in 2000, at the beginning of the new Millenium, the two merged into RS EDEN. These newly merged programs saved precious resources by not duplicating administrative expenses, and each was able to build on the strengths of the other.
Today RS EDEN operates a network of substance abuse treatment progrrams, correctional half-way houses, a drug testing lab, en electronic home detention service that contracts wtih the Minnesota Department of Corrections to monitor the most serious offenders, a supervision program for community work crews, nearly 400 units of transitional and permanent sober, supportive housing, a commercial kitchen providing meals to other programs as well as our own, and Fresh Grounds, a community cafe that serves double duty as a jobs training program.
Last year, that small community program that started out with a capacity of 28 men, served just over 6700 men, women and children.
On September 9th, RS EDEN will celebrate 40 years of rebuilding communities one person at a time. A celebration and reunion will be held at the Hard Rock Cafe in Downtown Minneapolis. Everyone who has been involved with Eden House, Eden Programs, Reentry Services, Watchguard (r), RSI Labs, Fresh Grounds, Alliance Apartments, Portland Village, Jackson Street Village, Central Avenue Apartments, Seventh Landing or Dillon Apartments is invited and welcome to attend. Whether you were a clieint/tenant, a staff member, a Board member,a family member, a referral agent, a policy maker or a supporter and friend; you are invited, And in fact, since finding people who might have been a part of RS EDEN over the past 40 years is a chellenge if not impossible, please pass this invitation on as well. The party starts at 5:00 p.m. and goes until 9:00.
H. L. Mencken once opined, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”.
The truth in that statement often results in policy makers exaggerating the need for their existence, discounting objective data and at times solving problems that don’t exist.
Then Governor Pawlenty’s actions, redacting major portions of a legislatively commissioned report on treatment of Minnesota Sex Offenders, is the most recent example. The report, while compiled by people who actually work with sex offenders, and who most people would consider experts, did not gel with Pawlenty’s political ambitions, or his intuitive beliefs. And since he held the bully pulpit, he, or his minions, decided what the legislature, and by extension the public, should hear.
Now, at least one of our elected representatives has suggested castration as a punishment. Perhaps this amused his committee, or the people he represents, but anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the Constitution, and its’ protections against cruel and unusual punishment, knows better. And I would guess that Introductory State Representative Class 101 includes some reference to the Constitution. But then maybe he was just playing to the media. When the expert witness told him that there were many motivating factors in why people offended, and testosterone was rarely one of them, he opined, “well it works on the farm”. Unfortunately, his experience suggests he knows as little about farming as he does about sex offenders. Before being elected to the legislature, he sold insurance.
The same committee that was asked to consider castration for sex offenders has also endorsed a proposal to certify 10 year olds as adults in serious criminal cases. It has been brought up for at least the past 4 years, but never passed out of committee before now. No one can ever remember a case where a 10 year old was convicted of the types of crimes covered by the proposed certification provision. The law change is being sought by the parents of a young girl who was tragically murdered by her daycare providers’ 13 year old son. They are more than entitled to be passionate in their quest to make some sense of their daughters’ death, and take steps to assure others don’t suffer a loss like theirs. But putting a 3rd grader in the adult corrections system likely would not have prevented the death of their daughter. The truth is, we can never eliminate risk, we can only manage it. Groups that represent both law enforcement and County Attorneys, along with corrections professionals, behaviorists and experts on the development the adolescent brain have all testified against the proposed law change. The committee passed it nonetheless.
Coincidentally, the committee also endorsed a proposal to make the sale of handguns to adults, who do committ the kinds of crimes referenced above, less cumbersome.
Back in grade school social studies, we learned that we elect our policy makers to represent us, and make difficult, but informed, decisions. We also need them to be courageous, and not pander to the base fears and intuitive quest for simple solutions that we all lean toward. We need them to listen to the experts, not play to the media simply to create a platform from which to skewer their opponents for voting against a law they never intended to pass anyway. In short, we need them to act like adults.
Somebody should pass a law.
This last weekend's Super Bowl showcased two championship football teams as well as lots of commercials vying for that other championship - getting their business in front of the over 111 million people watching, and the real trophy-- the most post game buzz about their ad .
This year the ads were full of nods to nostalgia, some were sophomoric, and some were downright strange. And, like every other Sunday football afternoon, there were beer ads. This year even the camera on the field was brought to us by Budweiser. And it’s no surprise that the commercials for beer always seem to have women who are beautiful, a guy with a drink who is cool, or even just made cool by circumstance (and alcohol), and an air that everyone involved is living the high life having fun with other sexy, interesting people (and this year dogs!?%!). The message is clear - when you drink, you'll be more attractive, you'll have fun, and you'll probably get the pretty girl. But there is another side to the story Madison Avenue sells on Super Bowl Sunday.
Right now, Illusion Theater relates another side of the story with their production of the award-winning play BILL W. & DR. BOB is the story behind the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. This play recounts the fortuitous meeting, in Akron, Ohio, of a New York stockbroker and a country doctor whose only commonality was their alcoholism, the havoc it had wreaked on their lives and a desire, albeit fragile, to remain sober. By the time they found each other, they were neither attractive, nor fun-loving, nor cool.
Over the past 75 years, Alcoholics Anonymous, the term they assigned to their efforts, has grown into one of the most recognizable movements in the world. Variations on the theme have spawned Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous and countless other self-help groups. Treatment for addiction has emerged as a viable response, joining the list of other clinical maladies that require continuing self-care. Treatment also offers hope for recovery. Research has pointed to multiple paths to addiction, from biological, to psychological, social, behavioral, and even to spiritual. And strategies have emerged to address them all, with varying degrees of success.
But after more than seven decades of discovery and progress, one thing remains constant: no matter how you get sober, your community is what keeps you sober. In the case of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, the community they created for support involved each other, their spouses, and other alcoholics who shared a desire to stop drinking. Before there were 12 Steps, or 12 Traditions, or any other structured interventions, there was simply fellowship, support, and brutal honesty.
This is a play that is about much more than the two men who, through their own shared failures, found success. It is about community, fellowship, and the strength of the human spirit. Seeing this play should be a no-brainer for those in recovery, and those who share their lives.
But there is a lesson in the telling of this inspiring and heartwarming story that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt lonely and lost, or who believed they were alone with their unique set of problems. This is a story of hope.
And you can watch it commercial free.
BILL W. & DR. BOB runs through March 6.
Yesterday was "Give to the Max Day", a designation cooked up by an organization called either GiveMN, or Razoo, depending on where you look. Apparently the way it works is, your non-profit organization registers with them and then you solicit online contributions from your email list. Then at pre-designated times throughout the day, your non-profit can benefit from an additional $1000 gift based upon a drawing, and by how many donations you have received.
From noon on Monday, until midnight last night, I received 200 emails asking me to send money electronically. After the first 20 or so, I simply deleted anything that said GiveMN, or Give to the Max in the subject line.
I work for a non-profit corporation that, in 2011, will be 40 years old. We do not rely a great deal on donations because we are a fee for service agency. But on the rare occasions we have solicited personal donations for a special project, we do so with a personal contact and an explanation of what we do, why we do it, and what we intend to use the money for. We don't do it often. But I am sympathetic to those organizations who do regularly have to raise money.
I actually did give money to one particular organization that I feel is worthy, and that I am familiar with. So the designation of Give to the Max Day was not totally wasted on me. And I would have given to them anyway. However, I don't think I am unique in saying that, after a while, I became desensitized to the pleas. It's like when I receive an annoying phone call to give to some organization while I'm in the middle of dinner. As often as not, I will simply hang up, or if I'm in a particularly bad move, I may just set the phone down when I hear that annoying silence while whomever is on the other line determines if it is really me, and not an answering machine. Then I'll eventually hang up the phone after I finish eating. Apparently enough of us have caller ID, and have taken similar action, that some marketing whiz had to come up with a computer generated and supported system to try to re-capture our attention.
I am sure that those who thought this up mean well. At least I hope they do and aren't just gathering information they can compile into a list to sell to others who send broadcast emails. And I know many of the organizations that participated, and know that they do good work. But I would caution those that particpate. You may have a cause that is truly worthy of support, but seek it online, in the manner described. Then you risk simply getting lost in the clutter.
Today is the primary election; the day we whittle down the candidates to a manageable number. It's always entertaining to watch the campaign rhetoric and variety of campaign ads. Well paid, creative minds develop messages designed to make us think that whichever candidate is paying their salary is the best in the business. Others portray their opponent as the worst possible person in the world. Spin rules the day. They try to convince us that Matt Entenza was a poor Worthington schoolboy, despite his ability to loan his campaign over $3 million. Hard to believe, but at least rooted in the truth; he was that poor schoolboy, even after he went to college, and right up until he married a millionaire. Mark Dayton really did teach public shool children, and Margaret Kelliher was a dairy princess. But as a voter, I would prefer to know who they are, not who they were. Apparently connecting with their roots is philosophically designed to convince people who are still in the midst of those experiences that having gone through them makes them more credible.
But like I said, those ads are rooted in the truth, just not today's truth. One ad that clearly crosses that line is the one that utilizes the services of a mother whose son was killed by a drunk driver as a spokesperson. It is an attack ad aimed at the Republican candidate Tom Emmer. And lest anyone think this writing is designed to advance Emmer's campaign, let me assure you, I did not mark an X next to his name in the booth today. No, this is about truth. The ad says Tom Emmer has two alcohol related driving convictions. That is true. It also says he sponsored legislation to reduce penalties for those who drive under the influence of alcohol. The implication is, Emmer wanted to reduce sentences to less than the one he served. Not true. He sponsored legislation to reduce the time an alcohol related driving conviction would remain on a persons criminal record after they completed their sentence. Even so, that legislation could be interpreted as self-serving, except that Emmer, with a criminal record, had still passed the Minnesota Bar and been elected to the Minnesota House. So it's hard to see where he would benefit. But even if he did, so what? Does a law, that benefits thousands of Minnesotans, automatically become suspect because it also benefits the author? By all accounts Emmer overcame his demons and has had no problems over the past 20 years. Shouldn't people in similar circumstances be given the opportunity to return to a level playing field; even, or maybe especiallly, those that don't have friends in high places?
We have recently begun to focus on the needs ot those trying to reenter society with a criminal record. From a public safety standpoint, it is critical that we do not have large groups of people who cannot get jobs, cannot get housing, and who, as a result of experience, are not afraid of jail. My hats off to those politicians courageous enough to see and portray this as a public safety issue, and not "hug a thug".
There may be many reasons not to like Tom Emmer. This isn't one of them.