September is Recovery Month

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“There are two ways of spreading the light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton

Four years ago this month, my sweetie and I walked hand-in-hand with 10,000 other folks in recovery across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.  There were lots of friends, family, and in our case, colleagues, walking shoulder-to-shoulder in support.

That warm September day is forever etched in my memory.   That day was filled with hope for a time when recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs is celebrated by all of society just as cancer and heart disease recovery are celebrated.

We are well on our way

I suspect this year’s Rally for Recovery, set for the 21st in Providence, RI, will reflect the hums and rumbles of the national conversation around recovery beginning to occur in towns and cities across the nation.

The dialogue is shifting from the increasingly archaic notion that addiction is a moral failing to one of addiction being an illness, just as diabetes or HIV/AIDS are diseases.

We’re not bad people intentionally wrecking our lives and the lives of our loved ones.  We are sick people trying to get well.  We deserve the same availability of supportive care as someone suffering from other illnesses.

The voices of recovery are rising, amplified by their collective nature.  Many of the voices are coming from the thousands who have seen or will see The Anonymous People this month and next. (For screening information, go to http://theanonymouspeople.com/movie/).

People from all walks of life are committing their voices to speak publicly about their own recovery and about how addiction costs the United States more than $350 billion dollars annually.  That’s billion with a B.

They’re telling the story of how addiction affects 20 million people in this country but only one person in 10 gets the treatment he or she needs.

The New Addiction Recovery Advocacy Movement

Smoking.  Breast cancer.  HIV/AIDS.  All three social/medical issues were once considered taboo subjects.  Addiction continues to receive similar treatment.  Too many addicted people are still ostracized from their jobs, their places of worship and their community functions when their “dirty little secret” is discovered.

Why?  Because with a few exceptions, the culture of American mass media feeds upon and glorifies the problems caused by addiction.  Think Celebrity Rehab.  Think about the damning of one celebrity after another following relapses.  Think about the nightly news and the way addiction is reported as bad behavior.

The recovery advocacy movement is on track to change the public’s perception.  Much of our work begins with the media’s portrayal of addiction and that’s where our grassroots effort of forcing members of the media to see us differently comes in.

The Anonymous People is a huge leap in the right direction.  Faces & Voices of Recovery, an organization that’s been around for more than a decade, specializes in rallying the recovery community.  Later this week, a web site giving viewers of The Anonymous People specific next steps, will launch.

We have the tools and we’re ready for change.  Recovery advocates are a growing constituency.  We’re no longer hiding behind masks or veils.  We will not stop until unprecedented change occurs that eliminates the shame and stigma of the disease.

Help us speak out.  Greg Williams, the director of The Anonymous People, says that one-third of Americans are impacted directly with the disease of addiction and two-thirds are impacted indirectly.

Don’t you think it’s time we elevated this conversation?

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11 Comments

  1. Yes I think the conversation is changing slowly but surely – and I think The Anonymous People will have a big impact. Thanks for all you do to help spread the good word!

  2. ABSOLUTELY!!!!! Here’s to the modern recovery movement and treating people with addiction for what they are – PEOPLE WITH A DISEASE that deserve the care and respect we extend to people with the diseases of cancer, diabetes, asthma…. How thrilling for you and your sweetie – 10,000 strong – woot! I hope this year’s even better.

  3. Beautiful post, Beth! I so agree that we need to bring recovery to the level of smoking, breast cancer and HIV/AIDS. I also feel the whispers of the change in the wind. Hopefully the whispers are getting louder with each day passing. The Anonymous People is an amazing headlight leading the way and I was very excited to receive my copy in the mail today!! Thanks for all that you are doing to promote this amazing documentary.

    • Beth says:

      I love what you wrote, Cathy–“the whispers of change in the wind.” Do you remember the Dr. Seuss story, Horton Hears a Who? When I did prevention at the community level, I used that story to illustrate how one or two or a dozen voices can’t possibly be heard but when all the Whos in Whoville ralled their voices together, oh what a clamor. But Horton sure heard them!

      I am blessed and grateful to walk this recovery journey with you, my friend. Apologies for taking a bit to respond . . .

  4. This addict thanks you for this post – and your work – Beth. Yes, an elevation of the conversation would come in quite handy. You know, many times throughout my almost 29 years of sobriety, I’ve wondered if I’d have become ill had the family history of addiction been openly discussed. Hmmm, stigma. All I know is I dialed my children in as soon as I perceived they could understand what I had to say. Thank you for your perspective and care, Beth…
    Bill

    • Beth says:

      Bill, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. The discussion of my disease in my own family was fairly taboo. In fact, when I told my mom I was getting sober, she became very upset that I was “making” her choose between her non-drinking daughter and her probably-alcoholic husband (my dad). Then, of course, Dad thought my addiction was all his fault. Oh, the webs of family dynamics, which I don’t have to tell you about!

      So glad to hear that your kids are in the know . . . the difference between a healthy family and mine.

      I do need to add, however, that in the last year of her life, my mom and I came to a great place of understanding and she let me know how proud she was.

      Blessings to you!

  5. Herby Bell says:

    Beth,

    The sense and momentum of this great post and these awesome times feels like the human rights issues we’ve lived and are living through that just keep getting crossed off the list as we find our ways back to balance and health.

    You are the candle AND the mirror and I am very grateful for your ongoing, heart filled, heartfelt and resourceful posts reflecting this renaissance and peaceful revolution in addiction recovery.

    Here’s to you and others like Greg Williams for this visionary and grounded leadership!

  6. Jody Lamb says:

    Oh, it just gives me goosebumps! Yes, let’s elevate the conversation! I’m so, so excited about The Anonymous People and to have learned of people like you, Beth, who are educating people and changing the world for the better! Thank you, Beth – just, thank you.

    • Beth says:

      Hi Jody!

      Somehow I missed seeing your comment until now; so sorry! Been running a bit of a fast track and am now in NYC for Tuesday’s premiere of The Anonymous People which could be seen by upwards of 500 people!

      I am humbled by your words. You know, ever since I was in college, I have wanted to use my voice–which for me is through words–to be of use. My drinking years got in the way but the desire never left. I’m convinced that meeting Greg Williams and connecting with his spirit via The Anonymous People was a rare gift from God, so I’m going to evangelize ’til the cows come home!

      Thank YOU for reading and for your enthusiasm for TAP.

      Big hugs,
      Beth

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