WRAP for the Holidays

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WRAP - Wellness Recovery Action Plan® is a non-medical program, used round the world, which we can use to play a bigger role in our own wellness.

It's now five years since we started WRAP groups at MDAO. I’d like to give my personal thanks to two people: Michael Koo - who so enthusiastically suggested it would be a good fit and connected me with the other, Kim Umbach, former Manager of Programs and Volunteer Coordinator, who saw straight away the potential that WRAP might have. WRAP is now firmly established as a keystone of recovery programs at MDAO in Toronto and we are now embarking on a project to help build capacity to offer WRAP [and other programs] in communities throughout Ontario.

It coincides that I have now been a WRAP facilitator for six years, and facilitating WRAP groups almost continuously since - well over twenty groups and almost three hundred people. It is something of an aside but also an important part of both my story and my approach to group work that I've also been a facilitator for almost thirty years, and have worked with hundreds of groups and thousands of people in many different situations. To facilitate simple means to "make easy-er", so as a WRAP facilitator, while I may be the No.1 expert in my own wellness, so far as anyone else is concerned my role is simply that of make easier-er to support them in learning how they might use WRAP their way in their life to become their own No.1 expert.

I was called to Toronto over ten years ago, at first it was great: I had a new family, was a new father, in a new city, on a new continent: embarking on a whole new life. What I didn't notice creeping up on me was a tsunami of new stresses, new social pressures and expectations and the difficulties and sense of isolation that can accompany that - and all this having left on the other side of an ocean all those things I used to do that made hard times bearable and good times enjoyable. Inevitably the tough days ran into tough weeks and tough months and good days became scarcer and scarcer. I was becoming ill – as in not well - in the broadest of senses and in many, many ways. I was exhausted, increasingly alone in my struggle becoming more and more isolated and finding it harder and harder to ask for help. The only “tool” I had left in my "toolkit" was to push harder, work harder - then harder - in hope that I’d be able to push through these tough times before I broke.

Inevitably, I broke first - before I had pushed through. I found myself in hospital, then a respite centre with my life rapidly disintegrating and with nowhere to go, nowhere to turn to. I was exhausted, in a state of sheer panic and terrified by the scale of my own failings and the depth of the whole I now found myself in.

I saw a bright green poster on a wall advertising a group called "WRAP –Wellness Recovery Action Plan" that offered a simple approach to learning “life skills”. I thought, “I could do with some of that” so I signed up and started a couple of weeks later.

Had I know about WRAP earlier I might have been able to navigate my way through this difficult time more easily. I don't expect for a minute that it would have been even nearly perfect, nor even easy, but a little easy-er. Certainly, a couple of years later, when I found myself homeless it came in very useful. I’d gone from having words run through my head like: "you're useless"; "you need to die", to: "I want to live", "I can do this". It was Jan 5th and -22 C, the coldest night of that winter. I'd somehow managed to hang on in no great shape through the holidays but my life was now shredded. The thing I'd most dreaded happening had happened - and I was homeless in an alien land with $12 in my pocket.

WRAP helped me think through what I could do, my options and figure out what steps I could take one at a time to put enough in place that I could not only survive but find a way live my life, trying to be who I am rather than trying to be who others might want me to be.

I often hear people talk of how "WRAP saved my life" and remember how hard it was to begin to take credit not only for my failings but for the changes I've made - WRAP didn't save my live but using it helped me do that. Like anything else, WRAP does nothing for us if we don’t use it.

I've learned that whatever it means to you or whatever it might be for you, "recovery" is not within my gift to offer – I cannot recover for you and can not tell you what you need do but it is yours to find and create and build. I don’t know what "recovery" but I do know it's the opposite of telling folks they are afflicted with being broken, and must settle with a limited life dependent on others whatever it is or might turn out to be for you you're your "recovery" might just be the hardest thing you ever did, but likely also be the best. WRAP and the hundreds of people are part of my story.

What I like about WRAP is very clear to me and very simple, things like:

My WRAP is my stuff - my stuff that works for me - and is as unique and weird as I am. If mine doesn't work for you that's fine, because only your WRAP will.

It's a learning process - one in which no one is "the expert", each person in a group shares their own experiences, what works for them [and doesn't] and we each take out of and learn from that pool of shared information.

It helps me focus and stay focused on being as well as I can, on how I can have more days when I am well. It's very simple – simple enough for even me to use and simple enough I can remember the bare bones of it when I can't remember much or think straight.

It's very flexible - I can use it any way I like, I don't even need call it "WRAP".

In the end WRAP is about me figuring out what works for me; then doing more of what works and less of what doesn't.

WRAP for the Holidays is borne out of my own experiences of finding that time of year we call "the holidays" wearying but also out of my experiences working with hundreds of people, as a "make easier-er" with people learning about WRAP and how they might take from WRAP what works for them and how they, might use it their way.

During that time, one of the patterns I've noticed is how the period at the end of the year - "the holidays" - is one of those periods that, each year, many people, including people who enjoy the celebrations, find their energy and resilience taxed the most.

WRAP for the holidays is a short workshop designed to suit two needs:

For those who have not "done" WRAP before it offers a brief – and it is really brief - introduction to what WRAP includes and how it works. You might decide that's all you need, but you might also decide you want to know more and choose to attend a full program in future.

For those who have "done WRAP" before it offers a refresher, a reminder and an opportunity to try a way of using WRAP that you may not have seen before.

Either way, it's a single, half-day workshop in a small group – about a dozen people – and, we hope, one you will find worthwhile and fun. Who knows, it may just help you get through the holidays not just in one piece but better placed to enjoy and make the most of the year ahead. Find out more.

Kevin Healey
WRAP make easier-er at MDAO