Casseroles (and cookies) for Recovery

A friend recently tore his ACL and immediately a meal train was set up -- his refrigerator and freezer are overflowing with food.  Another friend was diagnosed with breast cancer -- I set up a meal train that lasted for two months.  But when my 19-year-old son, Ben, went into treatment 13 years ago (he is now 10+ years in recovery) -- no casseroles, no home-baked chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies, no meal trains, no jam-packed refrigerator or freezer. 

This article by Phillip Valentine, executive director of the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), is wonderful.  Let's all try to follow his advice:  "Are you aware of a family suffering in the throes of an active addiction?  Maybe it’s time for a casserole."  Or just-out-of-the-oven cookies to warm the heart and soul.


JUNE 9, 2018 BY CCAR

By Phil Valentine

When it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of the recovery advocacy movement maybe it’s time to use The Casserole Measure.

In 2010, cancer assailed me.  Compare my experience with cancer treatment to addiction treatment.  I endured two inpatient chemo stays, a feeding tube installation that led to two other hospital stays, thirty-nine radiation treatments and more chemotherapy. The aggressive treatment left me emaciated, hairless and shaken.  But cured.

I started this treatment with a lot of recovery capital. Here are some of the components. I had intentionally developed my faith for the last 20+ years. I had Sandy’s love and support.  She organized the Valentine Battalion on Facebook and soon had hundreds of people praying for me. Sandy also served as my advocate within the healthcare system. My children surrounded me. My work supported me and didn’t fire me. My community did not shun me. For example, I was able to continue coaching soccer through the treatment.  Finally, my recovery program provided tools for me to cope mentally and emotionally.

I was blessed. Consider treatment today. The supports I had are simply not accessible or available for most people when they seek help. Faith may have taken a back seat to fear, guilt, anger and shame.  Spouses and loved ones may be fed up. Friends may have given up. Rarely does anyone advocate for them. The community may have turned a cold shoulder.

The supply of recovery capital, both external and internal, may be nearly depleted.

This brings me to casseroles. I first heard Dr. Tom Kirk, former Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner and former CCAR Board President speak about the casserole measure.

“We will know we have come a long way, when after a loved one goes off to treatment, neighbors bring the family a casserole.”

Borrowing Dr. Kirk’s concept, I ask audiences.

“How many of you received a casserole when you or a family member went away for addiction treatment?”

I have never seen anyone acknowledge that they had.

When I was in the hospital for chemotherapy and radiation, my family, friends and neighbors rallied around me. They helped with yard work. They helped with rides for my children. They stuffed our refrigerator with food with mostly, you guessed it, casseroles (and the occasional lasagna).

Think about it.  What if…

A family receives a casserole when their loved one is either sick with addiction or away at treatment. The blue monkey (stigma) gets shoved aside. Judgment gets suspended.  Care, compassion and love assume prominence.

Are you aware of a family suffering in the throes of an active addiction?  Maybe it’s time for a casserole.

Addiction is isolation. Connection is recovery. Casseroles indicate a connection.  The more casseroles we create, the more recovery thrives. If we begin to track the number of casseroles crafted for the sake of recovery, The Casserole Measure, I think we can evaluate how well a community is dealing with addiction and promoting recovery. I know that’s a stretch. It’s not exactly scientific, but we might as well…

Start cooking.

cas·se·role: noun 1. A kind of stew or side dish that is cooked slowly in an oven (“a chicken casserole”).