We stood at the turning point…
Addiction is inarguably America’s number 1 public health challenge, here and now. We’re living in a day-and-age when combined addiction and brain sciences continue to dot every “i” and cross every “t” in answering the former perennial questions about addiction’s causes, its development and risk factors. We know what works in treatment and that addiction is a chronic illness requiring lifetime care. We get it in a critical mass way. As a result we’re posing new questions about such things as advocacy with anonymity and how to bust a long overdue and effective move with advocacy, while honoring the time tested practice of anonymity.
Recently, in an effort to evoke some much needed community and kitchen table conversation about addiction, my colleague, Lisa Frederiksen of BreakingTheCycles.com and I co-presented a public screening and discussion of The Anonymous People. The director of the feature documentary, Greg Williams, has done a masterful job of engaging viewers to understand the history of addiction and the reasons it has mirrored the controversy and trajectories of other human rights issues in the U.S., including the charged and opinion provoking, HIV/AIDS movement. Greg used the HIV/AIDS issue as an example of a well learned lesson how advocacy can be a powerful change agent. In fact, advocacy is the only thing that has delivered any sustainable social and cultural change in our society.
Our well attended gathering was held in the community room of a downtown library and had a kind of “town hall meeting” feel to it. A wide cross section of the community was there including millennials to octogenarians, and addiction professionals/specialists to everyday folks from all corners of life. The common denominator in the room may have been articulated like this, “I deeply care about this issue personally, professionally, for my family and for my community and I want to know more about how I can help.” People spoke to the issue of anonymity vs. advocacy from every perspective and concern imaginable.
Advocacy with Anonymity
First things first…anonymity is defined as:
“Having no outstanding, individual, or unusual features; unremarkable or impersonal.”
In the context of addiction recovery and in the literature of AA–here’s how it maps:
“The principle of anonymity was established to assure a safe place for people to recover and keep focused on their primary purpose of helping [others] to recover.”
And advocacy’s definition:
“Public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.”
While the two terms or “energies” seem to be at odds with one another, our recent gathering allowed a clearer understanding of both/and, rather than either/or to emerge. Advocacy with anonymity requires an informed approach that upholds the sanctity of both domains.
There are many good reasons to practice anonymity in addiction recovery at the personal and institutional levels. From maintaining personal/family privacy to keeping organizations apolitical and free from any cultural ideology, anonymity can be a very good idea. Personal advocacy honors anonymity in this way; I may be inspired to advocate for recovery–to communicate openly and transparently about my own recovery or even Recovery at large, while honoring the privacy of other individuals and organizations associated with that recovery.
The most important thing to consider is to be mindful of the intention and languaging of the communication in an effort to change minds and hearts for the purpose of helping other people. Recovery advocacy is not to be confused with personal gain, economic or egocentric pursuits and it should not interfere in any way with personal recovery or that of another. To learn more about effective communication skills for recovery advocacy visit, FacesAndVoicesOfRecovery.org and ManyFaces1Voice.org where you’ll find this very good brochure.
The Challenge of the Century
There are also many good reasons to advocate publicly for addiction recovery. Things are lining up in mutually beneficial ways in an effort to heighten awareness about the good news of addiction recovery in the 21st Century. Individuals from every station of life, IE, those in the 3 out of 4 of our suffering families are beginning to stand up in dignified ways to speak to the urgency of the issue. As Kristen Johnston puts it in The Anonymous People, “Whether we want to admit this or not, this is our black plague.” And as Faces and Voices of Recovery says, “By our silence we let others define us.”
Here are just a few things to consider regarding the practical benefits of effective recovery advocacy:
- The combined costs of addiction is estimated at 600 billion dollars per year, (loss of productivity, treatment, incarceration, associated illnesses, etc.) much of which due to misinformation, stigma and shame
- Consider our children and grandchildren and the future multigenerational social and psychological implications
- Harness the untapped creative resources and skills of an estimated 25 million Americans and their families who have addiction
- Incorporate mind, body, spirit wellness into all of health care delivery systems, IE, recovery advocacy is health advocacy
- Heighten awareness about the interrelatedness of all things for more peace, productivity and joy in the world
Advocacy and Where the Rubber Meets the Road
As addiction recovery advocacy “sinks in” in an entrepreneurially and socially conscious way to be, it can lead to things like building an infrastructure for sustained wellness–wellness being the goal of addiction recovery.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area’s, Silicon Valley. It’s no secret that we have 34-and-counting billionaires worth over an estimated 300 billion dollars right here, right now. These people and families experience just as much incidence of addiction as any other of the, “3 out of 4 families affected” statistic stated above.
It seems like everyday I’m reading another headline or article like this one: In Silicon Valley, Some Entrepreneurs Seek Social Change. It reflects a move toward conscious capitalism and while people are interested in building individual wealth, more and more are realizing what their wealth can do to leave a legacy of goodness for generations to come.
Clearly then, 21st Century recovery advocacy is an important part of informing and inspiring people who possess some of the most powerful ways and means of affecting change in this increasingly more conscious capitalistic system. Money and the business/entrepreneurial acumen to create economic engines for the well-being for millions of others requires incentive and a plan. Energy grows where our intention and attention goes.
Business as Usual is Over
Finally, we did not come all of this way to sit by idly. Do what you’re moved to do in the way of advocacy–and in the way only you can do it–and let’s leave a healthier legacy for which we can all be proud. As social and business entrepreneur, recovery advocate and CEO of WeFaceItTogether.org, Kevin Kirby reminds us, “When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, business as usual is over.”
Bottom line, all of it is a call to wellness. Yes, advocacy with anonymity. Let’s Roll.Dr. Herby Bell is a Recovery and Wellness Coach and owner of Recovery Health Care, an integrated approach to wellness and addiction recovery in Saratoga, California. For more information please call 650 474 9411 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with me online too: Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin