What a humbling experience to be at NCADD amongst my colleagues new and old. Being given the Marty Mann award was transformative.
I wrote a speech and have updated it for the blog:
This talk was written on the steps on an ancient Inca Temple. As I looked around those ruins and the 700 staggering steps, which I could not begin to climb, I was truly at a loss for words of how to address my audience on that lovely fall evening. And I actually looked for inspiration from the ancient Inca gods. As I did, tears softy cascading down my eyes like a waterfall, I watched years fly by and came to grips with my own limitations of time.
First, I thought how would kid like me from Pittsburgh, an ACA who grew up on Faultline of creativity and trauma ever wind up be spending her 76th birthday at such an auspicious occasion that celebrates Marty Mann. If it wasn’t for Marty Mann, who has been described as an innovator, a woman of beauty, charisma, and a powerful will, I do not know where women would be today in the recovery field.
I ask that for a moment you pause and use your imagination… Think back, here’s a woman that was born in 1905, a well-educated socialite from Chicago, and then jump to 1936 and picture yourself as a socialite getting off the Queen Marty to throngs of cheering.
Such was the lot of Marty Mann, who when she spoke sounded like Audrey Hepburn, yet she was “drunk”, and while her mother and sister were craning her neck, she was uncomfortable, unconscious on a stretcher hardly the position for a woman of substance who had spent the last 6 years with the likes of Virginia Woolf.
A chronic relapser, she went from place to place till she was finally connected with Dr. Tiebout, Jelinek, Bill and Lois Wilson. Many of you know her story gets better from there, and I often marvel how she went from drunk to Trailblazer. In October of 1944 she pushed forward three powerful notions that still hold true today:
- That alcoholism is a disease.
- That the alcoholic is worth helping.
- Alcoholism is a public health problem and a public responsibility.
Given that was her mantra, I invite you all to follow in her footsteps to create your own public agenda and to be deliberate and act with intention in all of your affairs. To opt for expression over observation. Action over passivity and risk over safety. To chase the sublime and absurd and make each day one where you emerge, unlock, excite, and discover.
When I think of how our world is today with anxiety a, depression, and suicide at all-time highs. With people using mind-altering substances alcohol, opioids, marijuana (cannabis), as if they were brushing their teeth, I like you am alarmed.
What I want most for all of us is to expand as individuals and professionals. To carry the message that mental wellness is a possibility for all. And that substance abuse is no longer is a stigma.
To do so we must set intentions. That’s how I have come to learn we plan and direct our lives. Do an honest appraisal of our past embarrassments, failures, and successes. Without this we cannot self-correct or recover and will be forever mired in regret and guilt.
Acknowledge that anger about our past is a killer emotion that can take us out.
Energy and time are force multipliers as one can expand energy and time if one does get stuck in the past.
So, I invite you to continue to make a contract with your future as you radiate in the present glow of life. Acknowledge that you have choices that you can make on behalf of yourselves and others. Take care of your body and care for your soul.
Continue to innovate. Continue to create meaningful ways in which mental wellness can flourish.
Know that you well meet any obstacles along the way. You may start a project that doesn’t become the success you imagined. Be sure and go around them never under or through.
For I am learning that time is slippery. It’s like water: transforming from something solid as ice to something as fleeting as vapor. It can go from being invisible, impenetrable and the transition is imperceptible. Yet ideas can last!
As a woman, as a clinician and as an interventionist, I witness the fluidity of time as I work with my teammates and behavioral health collaborators. These are my most trusted people, the instructors who are our future who will in real time work diligently to help others live richer more fuller lives.
At the end of the day, my goal is to have done my best as a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend, a mentor, a teacher, a collaborator and a human who cares deeply about humankind. I have been fortunate to have a great mentor in my life, one that I choose to talk about was my professor Dr. Glen Haworth whom I met at age 20. He was a short chortle of a guy, an existentialist PhD from Berkley. He talked in such a way I hardly understood what he said yet he provided a warm glow, a safety net for me to grow.
Most of all he taught that one could have authenticity no matter who they were, what their stature was in life. It did not matter if they were a grocery store clerk, a CEO, a teacher, or a housekeeper. No matter who you were no matter what your hue was everyone was worthy of being listened to, heard and s encouraged and guided. For my Master’s thesis back in 1970, he let me string together the poetry of Ferlinghetti, TS Elliot, Dylan Thomas and explore authenticity, through images of men and of women. He was a master teacher, and I was his novice.
As I was once taught by a master, I realize that those whom I have taught and shared ideas with today far surpass me. This is ultimately how we continue to learn, by going from novice to master then recognizing when we have no more to teach the novice surpasses the teacher. Such is the way of a Zen master.
When a novice appears she apprentices himself, herself to a master. This benefits both parties because when the novice arrives with his, her genuine curiosity, just like a newcomer he, she brings a freshness to the master and the master while passing on his knowledge (hope, strength, wisdom) draws energy from the novice. This is not just a mentorship. It is a dance of collaboration.
Such is the way in our field, and such was the path that Marty Mann carved out along with her mentors. So, my friends, my colleagues thank you for being both novice and master. Thank you for making a difference. I invite you all to keep doing what you are doing as you do it so well, keep inspiring change, keep falling up!