New Initiative: The Withdrawal and Recovery Meeting (WARM) Network of Groups
By Jennifer Bryant and Laurie Oakley
This is a new initiative to give anyone who would like to start an in-person withdrawal group in their community a way to get started. We have created a free “toolkit” that contains a Guide for Facilitators, Suggested Group Format, Suggested Readings, List of Topics, and Sample Flyer. There are no hard and fast rules, just suggestions that we are confident people will find useful.
From the WARM Website:
“The WARM Network of groups exists through the volunteer efforts of a growing number of laypeople within the withdrawal community who recognize that change is up to us. We seek the healing power that only connections can provide, knowing that face-to-face meetings promote wellness in ways that surpass our valuable, yet limited, internet connections. As we exit the dark corners of the web and venture into our local communities, we find strength in solidarity, with the presence of our groups conveying an undeniable message: Withdrawal syndromes are real and must be addressed. We are confident that this positive action benefits us as much as it benefits others. It allows our vulnerability and invisibility to disappear as our strength in unity grows, because in unity, there is strength.”
Founding members of the WARM Network are Jennifer Bryant and Laurie Oakley. Both are survivors who have had withdrawal experience.
“There are multiple online taper support groups for people worldwide, yet I believe in the value of having a face-to-face support group with those in the same situation. So, in 2013, I created a group in Durango, Colorado that I chaired for a year, until I relocated to a smaller town. There were several members in the group, however, no one was able to sustain it. A few years later, Laurie Oakley, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who had started her own support group, contacted me with the same vision. We combined our group literature and painstakingly edited over the next several months into what is now the ‘WARM Network’ website, which includes a ‘toolkit’ that can be printed out for use in a group with a guide for facilitators and a list of possible meeting topics.
We understand that not everyone is able to leave home to attend meetings, but for those who can, it is a marvelous way to overcome isolation. Countless survivors in our communities are undergoing the same experience in a world where they are not heard by loved ones nor by the medical community. Meetings are also a place to share withdrawal resources that other survivors might be interested in and benefit from. For those in withdrawal who are not well enough to attend meetings, we hope that a group member or two might be willing to visit the home to break the isolation there.
Nothing is more satisfying than to use one’s own experience to benefit others. We hope those on the road to recovery from medication withdrawal find the WARM Network a valuable way to share experiences, resources, and hope within their communities who might not otherwise discover this kind of help.”
“The WARM initiative is meant to be a grassroots effort to bring face-to-face support to all who need it. We want to provide a solution to the lack of support we find with prescribers and doctors, a way to take positive action, and something that will bring unity to the various aspects of our movement. We hope that through the creation of support groups, we will fill the enormous void in withdrawal services within the medical and mental health systems, as well as address our powerlessness, while reducing our isolation.
While searching online for others who were doing this, I discovered a heartening meeting format on the blog of Chaya Grossberg, a survivor who coaches others on creative alternatives to psych meds. I immediately contacted her about who had written it, and she put me in touch with the author, Jennifer Bryant. Jennifer brought great energy and a similar passion to this project, and together, we were able to bring it to completion.
Another friend, Valentine Bickett, and I started a group last year after receiving a handful of requests by attendees of Cincinnati’s Holistic Mental Health Network, a monthly meeting, which focuses on alternatives to the current mental health system. In fact, a few people had asked specifically for support with medication and withdrawal issues. Currently, we have a Psychiatric Medication Withdrawal and Recovery group in Cincinnati, and a Prescribed Medication Withdrawal group in Wales in the UK led by Shane Cooke and Mary Hennessey. Both groups offer support to people withdrawing from any type of medication. This idea for support groups was tossed around in the comments sections of DavidHealy.org and RxISK, as we discussed the possibilities over the past year or so. David and the RxISK team have given our groups great encouragement from the start.”
Fred Rogers, host of the children’s program, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, advised parents who were concerned about the well-being of children after exposure to reports of a disaster, to “look for the helpers,” consisting of the response teams and others who unselfishly volunteer to aid in a time of crisis.
The crisis we are attempting to address is not yet visible, but through creating our own “disaster response teams,” we can educate others in becoming aware. When a meeting is advertised in a local community, people will want to know more and learn why it is necessary.
In an age of lashing out on twitter, quietly and skillfully organizing these groups will be our whisper. A whisper will most assuredly, without a doubt, be effective, because there is true power in loving and looking out for one’s neighbor.
If the idea of starting a withdrawal support group in your community interests you, please visit the website at warmnetwork.net. Here, you can learn more and request a toolkit for setting up a meeting in your local area. To follow us on twitter: @warm_network1, and facebook: @warmnetwork.