We would like to acknowledge that Broken No More and the Drug Policy Alliance are sponsoring our GRASP Bi-Annual Conference and Retreat. This is the third Bi-Annual GRASP Conference and Retreat for which we have received their support.
What the heck goes on at a GRASP Retreat anyway? What can you expect if you attend the upcoming Retreat in October? Here are some of my experiences. The first GRASP Retreat in Tampa, Florida was a "trial run" of sorts - none of us had ever put on a retreat and the vast (vast, vast, vast) majority of the planning/scheduling/orchestrating work was done by Gary & Denise Cullen. Drug Policy Alliance helped with underwriting & providing excellent speakers. Margaret Alexander, Terri Dudar, Liz & Marty Perkins helped & many other GRASP members volunteered their time & talents. We learned a lot. The retreat was relaxing, informative, warm, sometimes provocative, and so rewarding. Oh, and there was crying. Perhaps the most precious things I came away with were the friends I made during those 2 days that I've kept all these years. I can't help naming a few names: Denise Towery Cullen. Elizabeth Perkins. Terri Lynn. Darleen Synnøve Berg. Margaret Alexander. Tamara Olt. Gary Cullen...... and so many more.
The next retreat was even better. Julie Siri spoke to us about the journey that is grief - assuring, comforting and educating us about the arc of grief and the impact of disenfranchised grief that often accompanies a loss due to substance abuse. Her years of practice in this area is evidenced in her special brand of understanding. Oh, and there was some crying. Julie will be back for our third Retreat in October.
Eliza Wheeler from the Harm Reduction Coalition shared the story of her long involvement in this movement, explaining what the heck "harm reduction" (a term a lot of people weren't familiar with) is & how this special group of advocates help to save lives & improve the health of those struggling with drug dependency each & every day. Her special warmth, grounded as it is in a seemingly endless compassion, touched everyone in the room that day. Pass the Kleenex, please.
So yes, there was crying. But you know what surprised some of the people who attended? How much laughter there was. Who expected to ever be able to laugh again? We had many varied sessions at the 2nd retreat - one which I found so very heartening the panel discussion about creating our journeys from deepest loss into advocacy for change. With ideas from our fellow travelers on how they integrated the pain of loss with the accomplishments of advocacy with help from Broken No More, Drug Policy Alliance & (maybe most importantly) from each other. There was splashing in the swimming pool. There was a beautiful dinner. There were quiet moments sharing stories and memories with people we'd only "met" on-line here on the GRASP page. Some people shared their memories on film - you've no doubt seen some of the videos that have been posted lately. I remember standing behind the (wonderful) cameraman, Sam Sabzehzar, as he filmed those stories with tears streaming down my face as Tamara Olt, Julie Wendorf, Jim Laura Cash and others spoke of their children. It was a jammed packed couple of days of meeting old friends and making new ones. But most of all it was a meeting of our "Tribe" - it felt at times like coming home to a place where everyone "gets it".
This year's Retreat is going to be even better. We have some STELLAR speakers lined up one of whom is one of the most eloquent, powerful and moving women I've ever heard speak anywhere. I'm not sure I'm supposed to announce her name so I'll just say she's a Drug Policy Alliance rock star!!! Can you tell I'm rather excited about her? Yup! So I do hope that you'll be able to attend this year and that I get to meet each of you. You'll know me when you see me - I'll be the one crying... and laughing... and crying....and laughing.
This was written by Marilee Murphy, a long-time GRASP Member who has held a number of different positions for GRASP/Broken No More and is currently an Advisory Board Member and serves as a Retreat Planning Committee Member.
Thank you Marilee.
The Retreat will be held October 13th through the 16th at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta Perimeter at Villa Christina. Registration for the GRASP Conference and Retreat can be accessed at http://grasphelp.org/grasp-retreat-2016/. The registration fee for the conference is $300. We are limited as to the number of participants we can accommodate at the conference. We have only a few slots left and we will accept registrations only until these slots are filled. Thus, the stated closing date for registration of Sept 13th is contingent upon their being open slots at that date. If the slots are filled prior to this date, registration will close at that time. If you are considering coming to this retreat we, thus, advise that you register as soon as you can. Refunds will be 75% until September 20th after which refunds will no longer be available. The registration fee will include participation at all Conference events: The opening reception Thursday night, breakfast and lunch Friday and Saturday, and the Farewell Dinner Saturday night. There will be a special “Thank You” Dinner for Chapter Leaders Friday night. Travel and lodging are the responsibility of the participants.
Registration for the conference will be held from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm Thursday, Oct. 13th.
The opening Reception will then be held from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
For more information regarding the presentation topics click here
Denise Cullen, LCSW, Executive Director of Broken No More/Grasp.
Gary Cullen, V.P. of Development and CFO of Broken No More/GRASP.
Julie Siri, LCSW, Grief Specialist, Board Member Broken No More
Tony Newman, Director of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.
Julia Negron, C.A.S., Advisory Board Member Broken No More
Sam Snodgrass, PhD, Board Member Broken No More
asha bandele, Senior Director of Grants, Partnerships and Special Projects for the Drug Policy Alliance.
Grief to Advocacy Panel Participants:
Denise Cullen, LCSW
Julia Negron, C. A. S.
Kim Brown, RN
Tami Olt, MD.
Laura Cash, MA
There will be opportunities to gather and to share our experiences with others who have traveled this same road. This road made of our grief. Through our sharing, we bond. We link hands, we link hearts, and no longer are we alone. We are brothers, we are sisters, we are GRASP. And we are family.