In the movie “The Anonymous People,” recovery researcher and advocacy leader Bill White shares a chilling metaphor from The White Bison Wellbriety Movement to describe how we have been treating addiction for decades in this country. Imagine a sick and dying tree. We remove the tree from its unhealthy soil and take it to a nursery, a nurturing environment with rich soil and perfect conditions for healing. We take care of the tree until it is robust and thriving. Then we dig it back up only to return it to its original hostile soil. When the tree inevitably begins to wither and die, we are surprised that our efforts didn’t provide lasting results.
One of the objectives of the national recovery movement is to heal the soil – to help foster recovery supportive communities, so people have a better chance to sustain recovery. The soil is us – the community – the employers – the landlords – the schools – the families – the neighbors. We are forming grassroots recovery community organizations to engage in education, advocacy, and support. We are opening recovery community centers to provide safe space with recovery coaches. We are creating collegiate recovery programs to promote wellness in potentially recovery hostile environments. We are building recovery residences to furnish abstinent living environments with structure and accountability. We are recovering out loud to reduce the stigma of addiction and raise the profile of recovery.
We have organized a national rally called UNITE to Face Addiction. Over 85 million Americans are affected by this public health crisis and civil rights issue, so we are gathering on The National Mall in Washington D.C. on October 4, 2015. I’m going to D.C. because I have to. Recovery advocacy will always be a part of my life. Addiction is a chronic, progressive and fatal brain disease with no known cure, yet here I thrive in sustained remission for nearly 11 years. My wife trusts me. My children are proud of me. My employer values me. I’m graduating soon from a top-ranked social work graduate school, and I have committed my life to helping others. We get well. We get better than well. Why would I want to keep that to myself? The nation needs to know what recovery looks like.