Sobriety and addiction recovery are “experiments of one” and slightly different for each of us endeavoring to get–and stay well. All paths and approaches have more similarities than differences as pointed out by Bill Dinker of The Discovery Place in this very informative post surveying top recovery blogs including RHC.
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. Weget 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.
Lisa Frederiksen of BreakingTheCycles.com
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
What can you bring to the conversation?
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.”
Wednesday, June 11 2014 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at the Downtown Redwood City Library Community Room. Friends and family from teens to adults are welcome. Free to all.
The Anonymous People
Recovery is out. Let’s be our own best advocates and talk about it while we usher in 21st Century, evidence based, brain science informed integrated approaches to recovery. Come out to join us in a collective effort to save some lives and give addiction recovery the chance and treatment it requires and deserves.
Bill White joins Sober Conversations to discuss The New Recovery Advocacy Movement
Today’s episode # 36 is about The New Recovery Advocacy Movement via a conversation with author, educator and father of the movement, William L. White. Bill has worked full time in the addictions field since 1969 as a street worker, counselor, clinical director, researcher and well-traveled trainer and consultant. He has authored or co-authored more than 400 articles and 17 books on the subject of addiction. His book, Slaying the Dragon – The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America has featured him on such celebrated programs as Bill Moyer’s PBS special, Close to Home: Addiction in America and the Showtime documentary, Smoking, Drinking and Drugging in the 20th Century. Bill is also featured on Greg William’s critically acclaimed, feature documentary, The Anonymous People. Bill White’s sustained contributions are an ongoing treasure for Recovery Advocacy.
“We are reaching a critical milestone in the history of recovery in America. We are approaching a crossroads that will dictate the fate of hundreds of thousands of individuals and families and thousands of communities. Recovering people know the deep truth in the adage that it is darkest just before the dawn. That darkened horizon is clearly evident across America today, but there IS a dawn arising. Emerging from that dawn are not government agencies or treatment professionals but a new generation of wounded healers. Recovering people and their families and friends are once again on the move–once again coming together not just for mutual support, but to widen the doors of entry into recovery through education and advocacy. A New Recovery Advocacy Movement is being born in this country. From Wall Street to Bourbon Street, from South Carolina to South Central, from Indian Country to the barrio to the wealthiest suburb, people are coming together to challenge the restigmatization, demedicalization and recriminalization of addiction in America. They are coming together to publicly reaffirm the hope for recovery from addiction…When a vanguard of recovering people and their families step forward to pay this debt and accept this mantle of service, that new day will have arrived.” – William White, M.A.
The light at the end of a long, dark tunnel
As the burgeoning Recovery Advocacy movement continues to gain momentum much in the same way the HIV/AIDS epidemic, (thank you, Dr. Chris Harrison) harnessed the resources necessary to turn its tide, we see some light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.
Something happened to me on the way to my own recovery advocacy. The something that happened was the insidious realization that I can–I must–take responsibility for my own well being. Addiction happened, but not altogether apart from my activities initiating and promoting it. Just the same way, wellness happens–in large part because of my activities initiating and promoting it. As a result, I have become my own best health advocate and what addiction recovery is all about.
The Recovery Advocacy movement is coming into full articulation and practice all around our nation. Legions of people led by folks like the above quoted, William White, (listen to his interview with me here) and his film producing and talented protégé, Greg Williams who released the critically acclaimed, The Anonymous People are showing up and telling the truth about recovery in increasingly more effective ways.
The light at the end of the tunnel is revealing the connection between just how important it is to align addiction recovery with a wellness lifestyle. The days of the old-timer at AA admonishing the newcomer to just, “Don’t drink and go to meetings” as he chews on a glazed doughnut between cigarette breaks and has nearly gnawed through the arm of his chair in repressed anger, are somewhere back in that dark tunnel. Addiction treatment is slowly but surely becoming a crystal clear mirror for health advocacy and an exemplary model for what healthcare is becoming.
Recovery Advocacy | Health Advocacy
Recovery advocacy comes into its fullness when people learn how to be their own best health advocate.
Here is another quote before its time from the father of the New Recovery Advocacy Movement, William White, written 10 years ago in 2004:
“Recovery management will shift the focus of treatment from acute stabilization to support for long-term recovery maintenance. Professionally-directed recovery management, like management of other chronic health disorders, shifts the focus of care from one of admit, treat, and discharge to a sustained health management partnership. This means that the traditional discharge process will be replaced with post-stabilization monitoring (recovery check-ups), stage appropriate recovery education, recovery coaching, active linkage to communities of recovery, recovery community resource development, and, when needed, early re-intervention. Rather than cycling individuals through multiple self-contained episodes of acute treatment, recovery management provides an expanded array of recovery support services for a much greater length of time but at a much lower level of intensity and cost per service episode.”
An Idea Whose Time Has Arrived
Long-term recovery equals long-term wellness. Teaching people how…is how
Just substitute the word “health” for the word “recovery” in the above paragraph and it’s pretty clear we in the recovery community are blazing a much needed trail for the direction of healthcare’s bright future.
To me, there is no difference between people getting recycled back and forth, admitted and discharged, in and out of this nation’s current sick care system and the old guard way we approached addiction treatment. In a culture that is just now learning and teaching people how to become their own, best health advocates, addiction treatment is poised to champion the leadership as each of us give the nod to be the change we want to see in the world.
Now, when focusing on recovery/robust health and not just symptom suppression, we’ve learned what’s necessary to sustain it. And truly, just one day at a time.
People will ask me, “Herby, do I need to stop drinking for the rest of my life?” My answer is always the same, “I have no idea, because we cannot possibly have the rest of our lives…today. What we can have is today.” The same holds true for getting and staying well. Will I need to take care of myself for the rest of my life? Again, I’ll just focus on today.
Here’s to that, “sustained health management partnership” and enjoying sustained sobriety and good health through sustained, “wellbriety.”