Sunday, November 18, 2012
Runway for Recovery, Avalon Recovery Society, Nov 18, 20112
The Renaissance Vancouver Harbourside Hotel hosted a premier Vancouver Gala event. Avalon Recovery Society, (www.avaloncentres.org) begun over 22 years ago now has three sites in operation, North Vancouver, Kerrisdale and as of February this year, Avalon by the Sea, in White Rock. Avalon supports houses where women can drop in, attend recovery meetings, such as AA and Al Anon, have day care during meetings, and be greeted by women who welcome them with open hearts and non judgemental minds. Women who have known the shame of addiction can find the dignity of recovery with fellowship that goes on for a life time. I've been honoured to be asked by Avalon on occasion to share the medical and psychiatric perspective on women with alcoholism and addiction. To this end I have at times provided the information that underscores this 'brain disease' with the latest in genetic and MRI findings. sharing as well the great success rate women can find early with the support of organizations like Avalon where women a little ahead in recovery help those a few steps behind. The sad part for women is that they physically experience the effects of alcoholism at an accelerated rate compared with men. Further they are at greater risk for developing addiction with underlying depressions and anxiety that contribute to what has come to be known as dual diagnosis and concurrent disorders. Breast cancer is increased with alcoholism as is hypertension, heart disease and gastrointestinal ulcers and illness. Harm reduction programs are only recommended by the latest in World Health Organization Research if they are oriented to achieving abstinence. Women with alcoholism often speak to their doctor who will quite rightly advise them routinely as a first line treatment to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, still the foremost abstinence success based therapeutic approach. But AA meetings can be anywhere and often women new to recovery find safety in women's meetings. A Princeton College study of women there found 60% of those who had acquired a sexually transmitted disease had done so while intoxicated. The majority of binge drinking women regretted even this behaviour but alone couldn't seem to follow through on promises to themselves to change. This is where Avalon comes in famously, providing a safe and caring environment with ensured privacy and confidentiality in a holding environment where women can come, meet other women who once shared their same problems, experience meetings. Avalon is where women take back their lives. I have referred many women patients to Avalon only to hear repeatedly that their experience is all that they could have hoped for. Today Celeste, a beautiful university educated young woman and mother shared her tale of taking a wrong turn in life till one day she didn't know how to get back. Thanks to Avalon nearly a decade ago she broke free of the bondage of addiction and today is helping other women through the Avalon Society. Today's Fashion Show was 97% fun and only a very little touch of 'facts' about the organization, a very brief overview about addiction, and the story of hope found in Avalon. Otherwise it was fashion, fashion, fashion! Marilyn's, Christine's Lingerie, Charley and Lee, and Studio Farita provided a spectacular array of cutting edge creations I didn't know graced the likes of Vancouver, known more often for it's knapsacks than purses. This was a Paris, Milan and New York moment with even a touch of Bombay! The hundred or more women in the audience had come out dressed to the nines themselves so it really was a truly eye pleasing event. Great music, and a catwalk sensation with cameras flashing wildly. The models were a delightful mix of haute cputure professionals with a few, Avalon Society amateurs, having way too much fun. As one of only three men present I noticed there were no 'power tools' at the Silent Auction. The gifts instead were heavily weighted towards luxury and decadence with great weekend getaways, fine restaurant dinners, theatre and musical extravaganza and a whole lot of lotions, creams and spa experiences. My professional colleague, Dr. Barbara Harris was awed by the splendour of the event with all its offerings. This really was thanks to all the incredible staff at the Avalon Societies. Nancy Panchuck is executive director. Helen Burnham, cofounder with Virginia Giles was a glowing presence. Michelle, Heidi and Cindy all did their special parts but it really was a high light to be present and enjoy the joy and light that filled the room and think of the darkness that all these ladies have outshone together.