February 5, 2013
Last week I ran into a participant in the hall of one our centers and he said something incredibly self-revealing and very powerful. With emotion catching in his throat, he said, “I am alive because of CVAB.” I’ve heard similar statements on a number of occasions but it really struck me when he stated that because of his sincerity and that we are at a point where I’ve been questioning CVAB’s role; and more specifically, my role within the organization. That brief, yet significant encounter reminded me that we have been working hard over the past few years to support as many peers as possible through Extending Our REACH—a theme we adopted in 2008. Our REACH is our Recovery, Empowerment, Advocacy, Community and Hope; it is also the title of a project where we are trying to develop Regionally Empowered and Accessible Communities of Hope.
As I have pondered the hallway revelation and other things, I have thought about the events of the past few years and about what’s next. Beginning this week and over the course of the next two months, CVAB will achieve major milestones; and if all goes as planned, I will too. CVAB milestones in February, March and April 2013 include:
• CVAB will celebrate the Skagit Valley REACH Center being opened one year on February 6, 2013
• CVAB will commemorate taking over the Val Ogden Center three years ago on April 1, 2013
• CVAB will be owners of two parcels of property—the VOC and neighboring house—that are being given to us by Clark County and were originally purchased for $1.1 million.
• CVAB will host the first of four Washington State Certified Peer Counselor Trainings beginning February 11, 2013.
• CVAB will reapply by March 8, 2013 for a SAMHSA Statewide Consumer Network grant to continue Extending Our REACH through developing REACH Centers in other regions.
• CVAB will be launching the REACH Toolkit over the coming months.
• The Executive Director will reach a seven year anniversary on March 20, 2013.
These are incredible accomplishments for a small organization that just seven years ago and in its tenth year of operation had a small center in a storage area serving 20-30 people a day; and no one outside of the area really knew anything about CVAB and people in the area that did hesitated referring anyone to our “dungeon.” In the past seven years, CVAB has served over 8500 individuals, accounting for more than 110,000 total visits, and had in the neighborhood of 200 volunteers, and CVAB presently employs 27 people.
The last milestone mentioned above is personally significant as it represents the longest I’ve been in any one role and that I’ve had the opportunity to accomplish some important work. These seven years have led to some of my most satisfying and frustrating experiences in life; the last year has had the toughest moments.
I often say, “If you ain’t learning, you ain’t living.” I don’t think it would be fair to go into the details here but the educational experience continues to be invaluable. I am always willing to share what I know, I am learning and needing to learn, just contact me.
As an able communicator and instructor, I advise others that you never apologize unnecessarily...but, sometimes you need to.
I apologize to you that expected more from me as the leader of CVAB, to you that I have failed. I will work smarter and harder to make it right as long as I have the opportunity to do so.
One of the valuable lessons I have been learning is the need of partnerships and collaboration. I have discovered that this is very difficult for me and others. Over the years I have found myself and CVAB to be the victim of some pretty harsh and undeserving criticisms for just doing our job; we have also tried to engage others but did not find what we were hoping. (Some have hinted at collaboration or put out a non-specific ask but nothing has developed.) On the other hand, I am rather prideful and think I can do it all (my way). The work we do is too important for any one person or organization to tackle it alone.
Work projects are the driving factor in our collaboration; this is true within our organization and extends beyond to other partnerships so that we can broaden the impact of peer services. Some examples include more of a partnership within our Board of Directors; we are developing specific work plans and this helps the Board know their role for a year and how the ED office can support them in accomplishing their objectives and goals. CVAB has a few Memorandums of Agreement to accomplish specific projects regarding more peer-run centers that act as “base camps” in differing regions of the state—we have a strong belief in the value of peer-run centers as base camps (we are presently engaged with a peer organization on the eastside in establishing a base camp center there).
We are looking to be supportive and work together with others. We tend to go only where invited and we are attempting to not force ourselves on anyone; also, we’re not looking for unsolicited advice but we enjoy hearing your wisdom. We have some REACH Toolkit ideas and we have learned a lot that we can share. If there are peer organizations that want to engage with CVAB in collaboration, please contact us.
Ha, Ha, Ha….Hope
Sometimes, this role drives me serious, too serious. I have forgotten how to enjoy what we are doing. The work we do isn’t rocket science, it is more important, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. I have laughed with many of our peers in our centers and across WA. But there have been times when I get so wound up that I forget what we are doing and why….I lose hope. The work we are engaged in—personal and professional—emerges from hope and that should be enjoyable, even when it’s tough.
So there you have it. Hopefully this hasn’t been an overreach. The intent of this letter is to highlight CVAB’s successes and to be somewhat confessional regarding my shortcomings and desire to do better. I appreciate you reading it and hope you can celebrate with us our successes and lessons learned from our missteps. We also hope that you will choose to join us in our passion for peer services and people enjoying greater self-awareness, self-determination and self-sufficiency.