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Participants of the SRPMIC Faces of Recovery Project hold their masks up over their face, these faces represent their past and each entails a unique story towards recovery.
Addiction Masks: “That was the demon who consumed my addiction”
By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

“The mask represents the darkness of their life and [now] they’ve come into the light and they’ve learned to balance. These are men and women. Their stories are different, but there is that parallel of addiction. They themselves know what they need to do for the greater wellness of their Community,” said SRPMIC Behavioral Health Services Manager Jordanna Saunders.

Recently, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) Health and Human Services department started a project known as the SRPMIC Faces of Recovery Project that is funded by Indian Health Service Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative Grant.

This project started in late April and has a total of seven Community members who have been pairing up with each other’s to make a mask from scratch and according to SRPMIC Behavioral Health Services Manager Carol Colmenero, “It’s symbolic in the sense that it’s supposed to represent that darkness and breaking free of that darkness. Individuals will be telling their story about their recovery or their journey from addiction from healing.”

“The idea came from when we were at Journey to Recovery, we had this idea to highlight people in recovery because many times we hear about just the negative stuff, so we wanted to have a storytelling kick-off of people in recovery,” said Colmenero. “All the people who are participating are or have been participants in our services and are now contributing to the Community; either they work in the Community or they are in school, some are working on their master’s degrees, some have their own businesses [and etc..].”

According the Behavioral Health Services staff, making these masks will be a production line of Community members telling their story of when they started using, what it felt like, what it looked it, what it smelt like, their addition story and then telling about how they got to where they are today, contributing members of the Community.

“The purpose of this is to encourage people in the Community to get sober and to see that’s it’s possible for them to heal. This story telling is going to be the kick-off to the September National Recovery Month; we’re working with the Behavioral Health Services Department, with having a kick-off to recovery. Recovery is possible, especially in Indian Country we don’t hear that a lot,” said Colmemero.

“It’s really designed to bring public awareness to mental health recovery. We want to highlight all aspects of treatment and recovery and most often what we hear about are about people in active addiction. [For example, people only talk about individuals] getting their children removed or so and so is using again. We don’t often hear about the other side of it, which is “treatment works,” said Saunders. “Treatment is very effective, all kinds of treatment (there’s not one particular thing). We want people to be mindful that recovery is a long term process.”

“[We also want the Community to know that] these participants are engaged in some way in [this] Community. Doing acts of volunteerism, running Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings, sponsoring others, they’re being sponsored, or even as far as cultural beliefs,” said Saunders.

“We really want to give these participants an opportunity to speak about their turning point using this mask and also to speak about their recovery [allowing] them to be advocates of wellness [here in the Community.] There’s a really large stigma for mental health issues, behavioral health issues, substance abuse disorders, and the reality of it is that there are people who are in recovery who are doing well. They could be your neighbor, your cousin and most of the time we don’t necessarily highlight those [positive stepping stones.] So we want to bring some light to that,” added Saunders.

Within the next couple of week, participants will be in the drying process and decorating process of their masks. All participants will also be working with the SRPMIC TV/WEB as a team to roll out a video, with hopes of getting these impactful stories out to the Community, letting everyone know that recovery is possible.

Stay tuned for upcoming articles in Au-Authm Action News of Community members are brave enough to share their personal addiction and journey to recovery process.

For questions about the SRPMIC Faces of Recovery Project, call the Salt River SRPMIC Behavioral Health Services at (480) 362-5700.

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