The Rock Bottom Myth

by Maximilian Eyle

Everyone is familiar with the concept. We see it in movies, books, and on stage. Someone’s life spirals downward until they are struck with a lightning bolt of clarity and begin to make amends and change their ways. The message is clear: What do people who use drugs need to do? Hit rock bottom. How do we help them? Tough love or they’ll never learn. In many cases, we are afraid to show support or compassion for fear of becoming an “enabler”. There is an assumption that the person needs to be “torn down” before they can decide to change their behavior. The problem is that this concept is patently false. Not only that, but it has led to disastrous public policy results.

But what about all of the stories from people who described “hitting rock bottom” before changing their behavior? The key here is precisely defining what we mean by Rock Bottom. Many people do decide to make a change in their lives once they recognize the damage that their behavior is causing. However, this does not mean that they have to be coerced or “lose everything” to reach this point. What it does mean is that they experienced a shift in perspective. To quote Dr. Peggilee Wupperman, a professor at both John Jay and Yale University, it means that “they reached a point when they realized their life was extremely (and distressingly) different from the life they wanted or a life that fit their values.” Yet it is extremely important to recognize that this can be achieved without being torn down in therapy or experiencing severe material or emotional loss.

This idea that fostering shame and suffering is somehow the right thing to do is the natural conclusion of the Rock Bottom Myth. As a result, we turn our backs on our instincts for compassion and support. Tragically, this only makes things worse. Dr. Wupperman is a vocal critic of this philosophy. She points out that: “Despite widespread (and erroneous!) beliefs, shaming does not stop dysregulated behavior. In fact, the reality is the opposite. Shame actually increases the chance a person will continue to engage in dysregulated behavior.” This should not come as much of a surprise. We know that many people use mind altering substances to self-medicate their trauma and to ease their suffering. Consequently, when we increase the trauma and suffering in their lives – they will often consume more, not less.

It is imperative that we disengage ourselves from the punishment approach to substance use. The failed War on Drugs, the AIDS crisis, and the overdose epidemic are just some of the examples of how our determination to shame and marginalize people for their substance use has only served to worsen the problem. We have the opportunity to rethink our approach using evidence-based strategies that emphasize compassion over stigma, and empowerment over persecution.

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at

New Music Director at SU

VPA Names Pianist, Scholar Milton Laufer New Setnor School of Music Director
by Erica Blust

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) has announced that Milton Rubén Laufer, a pianist and scholar and current director of Western Carolina University’s School of Music, has been named director of the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music, effective July 1.

Laufer will be responsible for the Setnor School of Music’s creative, academic and strategic leadership, and he will provide public advocacy for the school at the University, regional and national levels. He will also serve as an associate professor of music.
Laufer succeeds Martha Sutter, who will return to the faculty following a one-year research leave.

“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Laufer to Syracuse University, the college and the Setnor School,” says VPA Dean Michael S. Tick. “Our hard-working search committee, led by Ralph Zito, chair and professor of our Department of Drama, commended him for being a skilled and dedicated musician as well as an accomplished entrepreneurial leader in music education, arts consulting and arts advocacy. I look forward to collaborating with him on his vision for the Setnor School.”

“I am so honored to have been chosen to serve this remarkable institution,” says Laufer. “Music has been woven into the fabric of Syracuse University for 142 years. I endeavor to honor this great legacy while working alongside the extraordinary faculty, staff and talented students of the Setnor School of Music toward a bright and prosperous future.”
A Chicago native of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, Laufer began playing the piano at three years of age, and his training includes studies at the Music Institute of Chicago, the Gnessin Institute, the Eastman School of Music, the University of Michigan (B.M.) and Rice University (M.M., D.M.A.).

Laufer has delighted audiences on four continents in prestigious venues from Lincoln Center to Tchaikowsky Hall. A versatile artist, he has shared the stage with artists ranging from Natalie Cole to Guerassim Voronkov. His appearances on Spanish-speaking television and radio have been aired throughout Europe, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Laufer is recognized internationally as a leading interpreter and scholar of Spanish piano music. His editions of Isaac Albéniz’s Three Improvisations for Piano and “La Vega” are published by G. Henle Verlag of Munich and available worldwide. Currently he is writing the book “The Pianist’s Guide to the Repertoire of Spain.”

In addition, he has two recording projects planned: an album featuring piano and vocal works by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona and recording of Latin works for cello and piano with Canadian cellist Nigel Boehm. His recording credits include albums on the Naxos, Zenph Sound Innovations, Bis Records and Beauport Classics record labels.

As an educator, Laufer is guided by the principle that students must be adaptable to the changing vocational landscape that awaits them. They must not only be skilled, expressive technicians, but also entrepreneurs and convincing communicators who understand the value of their art as a commodity in the marketplace and its power as a force for change within their community.

Laufer is a charter trustee and lifetime member of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame and an active voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammys) and Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Latin Grammys)

Everson Museum exhibits the art of Juan Cruz

by Ricardo Loubriel

Juan Cruz is a Puerto Rican artist who at the early age of five was forced to leave the island and move to New York City, where his journey as an artist took form. Life situations and setbacks sparked the flame of creativity.

Cruz is 77 years old and a resident of Syracuse NY since 1975. He has been invited by the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse to present a retrospective exhibit that includes works from 1960 to the present. The show titled Juan Cruz: A Retrospective, opens on May 4 at 10am, at the Everson Museum, 401 Harrison St. Syracuse, NY 13202. The show will remain on view through August 4th, 2019.

In recent days, we had a chance to interview the artist, who has contributed so much in the fields of painting, sculpture, and the education of our youth in the arts. This is an excerpt of our conversation.

RL: What was the reason for your family to move out from Puerto Rico?
JC: Necessity and lack of resources.

RL: At what age did you first hold a brush?
JC: I was around 20 years old, but even as a five year old, ever since I can remember I spent my time drawing with pencils. This exhibition at the Everson will include one of my first paintings, a portrait of a young girl. That was in the 1960s.

RL: Did your parents in any way influence your career as an artist?
JC: I think about that and a lot. We were a poor family. I met my father when I was 12-years-old. My mom was a seamstress and she had that creative vision for drawing and designing dresses.

RL: Do you feel that the island of Puerto Rico influence your work?
JC: I do not know. My first influences were when I decided that art was more than painting pretty things, like flowers. I felt there had to be something more profound. I used to paint what I saw, very realistic. At that time I was struggling to make money. But when I started to analyze what I was doing, I opened my eyes realizing that art is not painting everything that you see. My work evolved in an attempt to reflect my experiences and my moods.

RL: Do you have a memory or anecdote that continually comes back to mind in relation to your art?
JC: I always liked to draw; I never had an interest in baseball or other sports. The truth is that all children are creators. The first thing they do is draw on walls, on the floor or the stove. We are all artists, but there comes a time when we take other interests or shift directions. For me, art comes from another planet. I am centered on personal experiences and social problems such as abuse, in all its manifestations.

RL: What does your art express, or what is the primary focus in relation with your work?
JC: My experiences, what I have lived through. Art for me is like music. Sometimes it grabs you and it speaks to your spirit. It pulls something out of us that provokes a certain connection. It is different for each person. The same happens with painting.

RL: How do you feel about this upcoming exhibition at the Everson Museum?
JC: Last New Year’s Eve, I was wondering what would happen to me this year. I was sick, alone, far from my family, broke and very cold. I read in a horoscope, “This year, something will open up for you.” I thought to myself, “There’s no other way around it!” One week later I got an invitation from the Everson to organize a show.

RL: Is there anything else you would like to say?
JC: Yes, art is therapy. I would like to send a message to our youth and tell them to think about what they are doing. Life in street gangs hit me hard when I was 17 years old, and landed me in prison without even speaking English. I did not know to read or write. I learned
to read, write and paint in prison. Not knowing English was a problem and one of the reasons why I would not advocate in my own defense. I learned that it is important to think before taking any action, rather than act without thinking. Any decision made thoughtlessly can change your life in a second. I spent 16 and a half years in prison, for a moment’s action that I made without thinking. That can take you to jail or to your grave. I want to advise our youth and tell them that it is never too late; that education is super important and it is what will pull you out of many miseries. It is important to be patient, think about what you do and work hard to move ahead. I was able to overcome that crisis in my life. I held on to my art. It saved me. Many do not have that life support. I want to tell our young people to not waste time, to get an education, seek understanding and do not let anyone pressure you to act without thinking. Art is therapy

Ways fathers can empower their daughters

Go for it!
by Aixa G. López

You wake up one day, and you realize you are the father of a baby girl. All of a sudden it hits you and you start asking yourself, “what am I going to do? I need to learn about “girl stuff.” You start thinking about all the things women go through and what future your daughter may have. It seems challenging, right?

Well, as a father, you have more power of influence than you may think. Girls are usually drawn to their fathers, and sometimes parents don’t realize how much impact they can have on their children’s future.

These are some things that I experienced with my dad, and that allowed me not to be afraid to get into a male-dominated industry and stay in it for over twenty (20) years.

1. Try not to impose “girly” expectations: “girls wear pink and boys wear blue” paradigm is outdated. Allow your daughter to experience different aspects of life. If you also have boys, let her play with them. Teach them that they need each other. Women and men need each other to succeed. Show her how to ask men for help in a positive, noncompetitive way but also a confident and assertive manner.

2. Teach her not to wait for the “perfect prince” to come and take care of her: we are taught that one day we’ll meet the perfect guy that will take care of us. There’s nothing wrong with meeting that guy, but we should not look at him as our savior. Fathers are role models for their daughters. They should teach them how to think independently, to pursue a career, not to have someone to fall back on. Men and women should create a partnership in which they support, teach, and help one another so that both parties can grow and succeed.

3. Allow her to participate in the things you do: my father is very crafty. He was always doing things around the house. I loved observing him. He always allowed me to help. As a teenager, I was always changing the layout of my room. I never asked for any help. I moved things around and put things on the wall by myself.

4. Praise her confidence – give her feedback: Praise the fact that she dares to do or say something. Explain to her that she doesn’t have to succeed at everything, that failure is part of the process. Women tend to take defeat from the heart. We think that if we fail at something, then, we “are” a failure. Teach her that to grow and become a better person; you will have to experience failure. Let her know that occasional failure is okay and that she will have people around that will support her and help her move forward.

5. Be there for her and just enjoy seeing her grow: have fun being a father of a girl. It’s fantastic for a girl to know that a male figure will always be there for her and have her back. There will come a time in which your daughter will teach you and will take care of you.

Aixa G. López, P. E. is a Consultant, Leadership Development, Digital Marketing, Organizational Process Improvement living in the Elmira, New York Area. She is a strategically minded, analytical Industrial Engineer with 27+ years of experience providing operations management, organizational process improvement, leadership & team development, and digital marketing. She has been recognized for improving organizational effectiveness and efficiency through leadership, aligning business processes to realize cost savings and revenue growth. She’s an industrial engineer who entered the field because of her passion for fixing things. As a columnist for CNY Latino, Aixa shares with the readers this passion and the lessons she has learnt along the way.


For Immediate release
April 18, 2019
CONTACT: Nicole Aber, (914) 263-0013

Advocates Praise New USDA/Food Industry Pilot Project to Allow SNAP (Food Stamps) Purchases Online in NY City & State

Anti-hunger advocates praised today’s announcement of a joint pilot project of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and select food retailers to allow – for the first time ever – low-income families to use SNAP (formerly called Food Stamps) benefits to order groceries online and have them delivered to their doors. This pilot program just began in New York City, and will eventually be rolled out to other states.

“If the prices in this pilot project are affordable to SNAP recipients, then this project can completely revolutionize food access for low-income Americans by making it much easier for them to obtain healthy food,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide anti-hunger advocacy and direct service organization. “This effort is particularly important because so many low-income Americans are disabled, elderly, or living in neighborhoods without easy access to healthy food at prices they can afford. If this project works properly, and then is effectively rolled out to the rest of the nation, including rural areas, it has the potential to eventually wipe out food deserts in America, which would be a monumental achievement. We thank USDA and the food retailers for taking this historic step.”

Currently, 2.7 million people in New York State, including 1.6 million in New York City, rely on SNAP to aid their food purchases.

USDA announced that Amazon and Walmart will participate in the initial pilot launch starting today with ShopRite joining early next week. ShopRite and Amazon are providing service to the New York City area, and Walmart is providing online service in upstate New York locations. Additional retailers are slated to participate in the pilot in coming months. The pilot will eventually expand to other areas of New York as well as to Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

The pilot will test both online ordering and payment. SNAP participants will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items, but will not be able to use SNAP benefits to pay for service or delivery charges.

New York residents currently receiving SNAP can go to the below websites of the participating retailers to use their benefits for food purchases:

Amazon: for New York City
Walmart: for Upstate New York

Continued Berg, “We strongly urge families who are in New York and currently receiving SNAP to check the retailers’ websites and see if the prices and selection of food products, along with any delivery fees, work for them, and, if so, to test out these new avenues of food purchasing. We will be in close touch with low-income New Yorkers to obtain their feedback on how well this pilot is working for them.”

Hunger Free America assists people in New York who may be eligible for SNAP, but are not currently getting the benefits, to apply for them. People seeking such help can go here or call (212) 825-0028, ext. 207.

The diplomatic siege around Venezuela

by Juan Carlos “Pocho” Salcedo

We seek to understand the role of Colombia in the Venezuelan crisis. This is not a bi-national scenario, but rather a multilateral one. Colombia has inserted itself as the central axis of the diplomatic siege on the Maduro regime.

There are domestic reasons such as stopping the massive influx of Venezuelans to Colombia. However, Bogotá sees a far-reaching future role, possibly to be the leading partner of the United States to unseat powers such as China, Russia and their allies in Latin America.

Today we have a Colombian internationalist with excellent credentials to address this complex issue.

Juan Carlos “Pocho” Salcedo Internationalist @Pochosalcedo

See full interview here:

Brexit and chaos

by Juan Carlos Salcedo “Pocho”

The expression of the will of the people translated into referendums has its consequences. In Europe, for almost three years a country with an important democratic tradition is still looking for the formula to bring the popular vote of a referendum into an actionable retirement agreement of the European Community.

The United Kingdom, in one of its most important decisions since the Second World War, decides the future of many of its generations.
The new nationalist trend throughout the world shows us that we are entering a time of troubled waters, and a reflection if globalism was what everyone expected at its inception.

The British professor and analyst Han Dorussen explains the problem.

Juan Carlos Salcedo Twitter @Pochosalcedo

See the full interview here: