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Community & Behavioral Health | Recovery | Social Change


Changing the Conversation

Steven Samra

Steven Samra
Steven is an Associate at the Center for Social Innovation. After entering recovery from homelessness, substance use, and mental health challenges in 1999, Steven has dedicated his career to assisting and advocating for marginalized, disenfranchised populations. He serves as Deputy Director and Consumer Advisor on SAMHSA's Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS) and has served in leadership capacities for SAMHSA on HHRN, PATH, and SSH consumer involvement roles. He lives in Nashville, TN where he co-founded a street newspaper, The Contributor, and serves on the Nashville Metropolitan Homelessness Commission.
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Recent Posts

Closing the Chapter: A Man’s Recovery Journey with his Dog

Dog Recovery Journey.jpeg

Hello old friend. We're here in this most beautiful and familiar place, you and I, sharing a quiet moment together in the yard. For 15 years, we've been sitting with each other, side by side. I've stroked your now fully-greyed head every day, and still it rises in anticipation of each new soft caress of my hand. You're close to leaving, I know. You're preparing me—in the most loving and compassionate ways—and as usual, putting to rest for me any argument about the intelligence of your species. I know you know, and I know you understand all the things I must now do for you to keep you safe, comfortable, and happy until you tell me it's time.

As I sit here with you, I'm taken back to our first meeting. You were a tiny thing, terrified of the noise and bizarre surroundings of the animal shelter. I know this terror, I have spent time in similar places, and our shared lived experience of this trauma bound us instantly. I saw you, your eyes met mine, and instantly, we knew…kindred spirits. Remember when the lady asked us if we needed time to "bond" before you went home with me? Oh, how we silently laughed as I told her, "We've already taken care of that."

Who Knew the Mailman Triggered My Trauma?

More than two years ago I detoxed out of a medication assisted treatment program after 15 years on methadone. Methadone helped me stabilize my life after a 20 year run with street opioids and just about every other “recreational” drug that was available. Over the time I was in the program, I enjoyed a very robust recovery.

When I withdrew from methadone, I experienced--and continue to experience--a recovery within a recovery. The last two years have provided me with some insight into trauma, recovery, and ways of learning to cope with the events in my past that would have triggered me back into substance use. (Read more about Steven's experiences with trauma and recovery.)

Children are Mirrors: Viewpoints from a Parent in Recovery

"It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself."  ~Joyce Maynard

As I enter my seventeenth year in recovery, the “buzzards” I set loose during the time I was in the grip of addiction, trauma, mental health challenges, poverty, and homelessness continue to come home to roost. One of my greatest accomplishments in spite of myself during this period was fathering four children. Just about any man can produce a child with a willing partner, but being a father requires far more, and it may take years to learn how to be the best parent possible.

Walking the Walk with Trauma

After almost 15 years as a model client in a Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, I performed a medically supervised withdrawal from methadone maintenance therapy nine months ago. Although the “acute” phase of detoxifying from the drug was relatively easy and took a couple of weeks to accomplish, I was completely unprepared for what came next and has lasted through today. I was tormented by numerous challenges after completing MAT: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), resurgence of long dormant Bipolar 2 symptoms, and a new and profound psychological and physical response to repetitive traumatic events that I had experienced.