Rodger McDaniel FILE

Rodger McDaniel

Dan was nonplussed when the white woman at the museum provided an anthropological explanation to a group of Indian kids about their ancestors’ diet. “The Plains Indians,” she said, “ate a diet of corn and berries and buffalo meat that was high in protein.”

“Why can’t they say we had really good stews and soups and wild berry pies,” Dan asked. “My grandma was one of the best cooks on the reservation.” That’s how Dan, the Lakota elder at the center of Kent Nerburn’s book “The Wolf at Twilight,” remembered her. Honored her.

When I read that passage, it occurred to me. My grandmothers never cooked a meal for us. Never. Not one. In fairness, my paternal grandmother died shortly after I was born. But my maternal grandmother lived into my 30s. Fairness also demands an acknowledgement of her mental illness.

Reading the pride with which Dan remembers the meals his grandmother cooked left me with a sense of loss, a loss eventually made good by meals my mother cooked, especially in the last decade of her life.

Things like that running through my mind tend to form a circle. Those circles usually begin with grandparents. Follow the circle far enough, you’ll find answers.

My maternal grandmother was abusive. Growing up with an abusive parent leaves wounds. Untreated wounds cause infections. My mother was infected with an addiction to alcohol, an all-too-common path on which abused children find themselves.

That circles back to the fact that addiction is not a character flaw, but a brain disease. Like all diseases, it can and must be treated. Once treated, the addict needs continued support in recovery. That circles back to Recover Wyoming.

It’s a local nonprofit organization that helps addicts and their families regain their lives and makes the community safer. Our community might not understand how fortunate it is to have Recovery Wyoming, how successful they have been, how many people are living better lives because of RW, and how many children are enjoying their mother’s home-cooked meals today because of Recover Wyoming.

Recover Wyoming is the only Recovery Community Organization in Wyoming. Its mission is to help addicts find, get and stay in long-term recovery from substance use disorder by providing peer-based recovery support services, including recovery coaches and telephone recovery support programs. RW also supports family members whose loved ones are struggling, as well as community members and recovery allies.

In addition to recovery support, Recover Wyoming provides services to persons experiencing homelessness, helping them find safe, permanent housing in Laramie County while providing case management and recovery support services, as needed. This is critical for participants working toward self-sufficiency and wellness.

In 2021, 1,812 people called or walked through the doors of the recovery center. Many enrolled in RW’s programs are parents and are looking to find recovery, not only for themselves, but for their children.

Recover Wyoming provides family and recovery friendly events for the community to help develop healthy natural supports. Helping individuals get into long-term recovery heals families and has a positive ripple effect on the communities in which they live.

Mother’s Day is celebrated today in many homes that were once torn asunder by addiction thanks to the efforts of Recover Wyoming. Therefore, Mother’s Day is a good time to celebrate their work.

Recover Wyoming was not around when my mother was struggling. But Alcoholics Anonymous was. If she’s had access to RW’s services, her life might have been easier, earlier. While it took several attempts at getting sober, she eventually found the will and, for her, long-term recovery meant spending the last 11 years of her life clean and sober.

That translated into 11 memorable Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthday dinners.

Her grandchildren remember her for those meals, among many other things. She died 30 years ago, but her turkey and gravy and cinnamon rolls and shrimp dip are still talked about whenever our family gathers and attempts in vain to recreate any of the dishes that made her a cooking legend.

Rodger McDaniel lives in Laramie and is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne.

Email: rmc81448@gmail.com.

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