Sunday, September 6, 2009

Together We Can~ 2009 Oxford World Convention

Let me just begin by saying that I my body is tattered, damaged and withered. I am so sore again, but this time from dancing until 3am.... but it was SUCH A BLAST. So the day started bright and early, I had session's and breakouts to attend starting at 8:15 all the way up until 5. throughout the whole conference there were 5 general sessions, and in them there were either awards given, speeches made, elections and resolution voting. Breakouts were panels we went to, to learn more about different area's of Oxford. The were 4-5 breakout's to choose from in 3 different time slots. I went to Chapter's and State Association's, Discrimination and Legal issues under the FHA, and Data Recording in Oxford. The most interesting one I attended was the discrimination and legal one. A lot of the world is not educated about people in recovery, and think we are all bad people and threat's to community safety. There are a lot of "Not in my Backyard" issues that Oxford has had to fight through since their national expansion 20 years ago. I listened to lawyer's speak about experience's they've had with trial's etc. and it was unreal to hear what lengths cities have gone to to keep Oxford out of their neighborhood's. A lot of the time, when they actually had litigations over these matters they were able to make city council understand that Oxford House's have many upstanding citizen's living in them. They are quiet, pay their rent on time, keep everything clean, they don't drink or use, and (hopefully) are honest and striving for integrity. Oxford has never been sued for disrupting the peace or anything like that. Usually the issue's have been cities creating ordinances with guidelines about the number of occupants in homes, and if the landlord's don't correct this they receive a criminal summons. At this point, Oxford House, Inc. steps in to support the landlord's who have been supporting us for years. They represent them, and have always settled before trial-- with the landlord's even receiving attorney fees in their favor, and not having to change the occupancy. I think if Oxford keeps growing the way it has been, more people will understand the good it does for the community rather than the threat. People can't go back to living in house's on dirty drug ridden streets when they are fighting this disease. They deserve a chance to live comfortably too, it's one of the many reason's a lot of Oxford House resident's are so successful.After all the breakouts was another general session. This was the session where Washington State got our awards for so many of our house's contributing monthly to World's Service's. It was a wonderful feeling with our state being recognized like this, as well as seeing the turnout that our state had in sending at least 100 people from different chapter's there. Also in this session, we voted for where next year's world convention would be.... and although alot of people from the Northwest were gunning for Portland, OR, Chicago came out the winner. One word-- OPRAH :) This session was also the time to vote for resolution's, or new guideline's to be added to the Oxford Manual. We had a quick break, and then our Formal Banquet started. All of us ladies were looking chic in our dresses and the men looking fly in their suits. When I walked into the banquet room I was shocked at how fancy everything was. It was a high class dinner and it felt like it was a convention for established business people or important celebrities. Our waiter's were dressed to the nine's and the tables were set with so many fork's and knives we were all laughing about the fact that apparently we were even supposed to slice our salad greens. At our table were Brian, Mariah, Melissa, Rick, Ricky, Thea, Chris and another couple from Texas who we didn't really get to know since they were out on smoke break's for most of the evening. Chris is the newly elected Vice President from World Council, and he is also the Texas State Chair. He was really nice and believed passionately in Oxford. During the dinner, Paul Molloy spoke, and other member's of the board gave out awards. There was also a couple of guest speaker's, including an old friend of Father Martin's and the author of the book "Courage to Change" by Dennis Wholey.After the Banquet ended, the dance began. We stuck around the dance until the raffle began and ended. No, I didn't win anything and a little miffed, I returned to my room to change into some comfier clothes than my dress and heels. And right about that time is when things got reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal interesting. Our friend Jon from Seattle lived in DC for a time, and was familiar with some certain area's. He informed us he was going to a gay club, alone--and asked if we wanted to come. I said I wouldn't go without Thea, Thea said she wouldn't go without Ricky, and I thought that was that. But somehow Thea convinced Ricky to give in, and it was on!! I was so excited, I have never been to one before. Thea had, but was excited to go there with Ricky (who also had never been) and I. We invited Chris and he surprisingly obliged as well. The plan was to go and dance the night away. So here we set off... with only one gay person in our group of 5. We took the metro to Dupont Circle and walked several blocks where we stopped at Cobalt. After stepping inside and upstairs, we realized that we had just paid for a club whose DJ was featuring some kind of crazy salsa-techno music--not really our thing. So we asked around about where we should go and then caught a cab to a different place-- Club Apex. As soon as we walked in we knew it was a better choice. The heat was stifling but the music was great and we all danced together until we had to leave at 2:30 so we could make the last metro. We left there with many funny stories and encounter's, and met a lot of sassy and hilarious people there. My favorite story I will share with you: Thea had warned me ahead of time that in clubs like these, the ladies room is everyone's room, just so I wouldn't get startled if I saw a man walk in. Sure enough, as soon as we walked in, there was a guy standing inside. Thea went into her stall and I waited for her by the sink. The stalls ended kind of low, so a tall person would be able to look over them if they really wanted to. I watched this dude go into the stall next her's and shut the door. He then gazed over Thea's wall and looked right down at her sitting on the toilet. It was hard for me to hold in the giggle's at this point. (For the stories sake I would like to point out that this man was most definitely not straight, so this wasn't some crazy rapist situation) He said "Sorry I'm not trying to like peek in at you on purpose" (which seemed highly unlikely to me considering his positioning) Thea being her naturally charming self responded "Oh it's ok" thinking that would be it and he would do his business and she would finish her's. But he remained staring for another good 10 seconds, until she scampered out the door and we both lost it. The only reason we weren't rolling on the floor was because it was too dirty for that. I snapped a picture of her face while she was washing her hands after the incident. It is below. That story will be a funny one to reflect on. These last picture's are of what I believe to be the longest escalator staircase EVER. It was at Dupont Circle Station and it looked like a moving metal mountain!!! We got home at like 3:30am, after stopping and getting huge slices of pizza from a pizza place with a woman who SCREAMED at every single person that walked by "DUPONT PIZZA HAS THE BEST PIZZA AROUND""DUPONT PIZZA HAS INSIDE SEATING""DUPONT PIZZA IS CHEAPER THAN THE PLACE NEXT DOOR" It didn't matter if she was ringing you up or dishing up your pizza... she dropped everything to scream at these passing pedestrian's. That was another good laugh. What a great end to a great convention! We sure do know how to go out in flashes of light!!
XOXO--- tomorrow will be a day of travel!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Now he belongs to the ages"~Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on Lincoln's Death

Hey there! It has been another super busy day, with the World Convention beginning, as well as a tour of some more of D.C.'s historic sites. Our convention was opened by Mr. Paul Molloy himself, which was really exciting to see the genius behind the foundation that is now in 43 states and a couple territories. Then Dr. Westley Clark was the keynote speaker, he is the Director of the Center on Substance Abuse Treatment. He had a lot of interesting statistic's and data on what helps sustain recovery in addicts/alcoholic's which was cool tolearn. A lot of what he had to say I had already learned myself from the treatment center's I have attended. This was the 9th time he spoke at the Convention.After the opening session, 12 of us hopped in a tour van to go check out the city some more. We started at The Lincoln/Vietnam/Korean memorial's (Which are all in the same HUGE park area) and even though we had been there already (minus the Vietnam memorial) it was an amazing sight again, this time in the daylight. Might I add-- the weather has been perfect here too-- low-mid 80's and very low humidity.Our next stop was the Washington monument--finally the landmark that i've been seeing from far away all over the city was right at my feet. Better yet--our tour included tickets to go to the top. It was the best view of the city from above, by far. There were glass lookouts on each side and below the windows were picture's of what the view looked like in the 1800's, around 60 years ago and map's of what we could see in the present. It's crazy that this mammoth city made of brick, marble and stone used to be vast swampland.Following the Monument we rolled on in to the Obama Family's driveway. We obviously weren't allowed on the other side of the gate. Like the Capitol Building, it is heavily guarded by police and I am sure special service. I knew ahead of time that we couldn't get as close as the lawn, but of course with my picture obsession here, I definitely wanted to get closer.Just down the pavement from the White House there were several tents with very calm citizen's sitting the shade. In front of them was a banner stating that they were all on a hunger strike-- and they were on day 38. I was shocked--I thought I learned in like grade school that the longest you could go without food was somewhere around 2 weeks. They were protesting a raid by Iraqi forces on an Iranian refugee camp that was supposed to be protected under the Geneva Act. Many people were killed, hundred's wounded and 36 abducted.
I signed their petition to the president and chatted with one of the protester's for a little bit. He seemed very exhausted and in general just had a calm nature, and he was very concerned about the mistreatment of the victim's involved. These people sure made me
understand the lengths to which you can speak out for something you believe.We then jetted on to the Ford Theater which was where Abraham Lincoln was assasinated. There was a little museum in the basement and after we checked out some of the facts and exhibit's about his life and his presidency, we went into the theater where the shot was fired. I took picture's of the presidential suite he was in, and it was quite an eerie feeling trying to imagine being in the exact same place in 1865. One of my favorite people is and has always been Mr. Lincoln. I don't think there has been anyone as virtuous, brave and wisdom-filled as him since way before his time. Can you imagine where our country would be had he not stood up for the cause of humanifying our economy and social system. To stand firm-when what you are fighting for-is causing the country that you are supposed to take care of to divide and kill-- is really something else. Of course abolition of slavery was the right thing to do and the best thing for his country, but to be the leader of war where your friend's, families and dependents are either mourning or dieing (and he had friend's and family that were in the confederacy) must have left some kind of guilt in his heart, but still he forged on.Across the street was the actual house where, after he was shot, he was brought into and later died in. It was a very quick walk through-- a very small house. And in the back room we got to take a picture of the room he passed on in. I took a picture of the bed on display-- which is exactly where he ended, but a sign said the actual bed was at a museum in Chicago. I once again got an eerie feeling standing in this room, but I felt lucky to be able to reflect right at the scene of the crime.The tour finally ended and we came back to the convention. Our next speaker was Dr. A. Thomas McLellan the Deputy Director of ONDCP. He is also known as America's Drug Czar. The new administration set up this department in an effort to end the "War on Drugs" and begin paving a new road which will be more focused on supporting treatment and sustaining recovery. He presented to us some of his background in research of the field which then supported his reasoning for what he plans on doing to better recovery and treatment programs in the Country. He said that we were the first group to which he was speaking since he has been appointed, and the only person who had received the information and his agenda for the U.S. was our Vice President, his boss, Joe Biden. Oxford House, Inc. is something he strongly believes in as a superior way to assist in recovery, especially in the early stage.

The business portion of the day closed with an Awards ceremony for all the Oxford Houses who donated $50 dollars or more to Oxford World Services every month of the year. Washington State leads the nation in the amount of houses we have-- a growing 208 total. And almost all of the chapter's in the state require the world donation (which it was clear at the ceremony that the same is not true in all of the other states) On top of that, Washington State has by far the most people here. So at the end of the ceremony it was explained that since
Washington has so outstanding in the area of World Service's, we will get our award tomorrow in the morning general session, where more people will be attending. GO WASHINGTON STATE :) I also go my picture taken with Paul Molloy, which was an honor for me!
And finally, our evening commenced with a dinner cruised on the Potomac River. It was a high energy cruise on a 4 floor yacht which held at least 500 of us. The dinner was delicious, but even cooler was the entertainment. The worker's on the boat were singing and dancing and involving the audience. The sun was setting and that view,and the view of the city were unbelievable!! I couldn't stop snapping picture's as the sky changed from orange to pink to
red to maroon and then black. The moon was huge and bright and could've passed for the sun, had it not been setting. Then Thea and I joined the dance floor (one of the 2 dance floors) and "Got Jiggy With It". It was such a blast and we didn't stop until the heat was suffocating us and had to go outside for fresh air. All in all, once again this day has given me some wonderful memories and plenty of reason to be grateful and in love with my life. I hope this post finds you in good health and heaps of happiness. Internet is still a tricky/spendy situation, but somehow I am living through it.:) XOXO