Why Be a Recovery Advocate?
I am a recovery advocate…so what does that mean and why do I do it? It means that I am part of a movement to help raise awareness about mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) as well as the recovery there from. I speak out and share my personal recovery journey to reduce stigma and discrimination. I’ve visited Capital Hill, advocated for the rights of alcoholics and drug dependent people and their families- for the right to fair and equitable treatment in housing, employment, insurance coverage, and rights to benefits from federal programs. I believe in and push for appropriate, timely, and affordable treatment to be available to all who seek it. I am an advocate because I believe that our voice and our stories are powerful tools and vital to making these things come to fruition.
For me, becoming an advocate is an important ingredient in maintaining and honoring my recovery. Having the privilege to share my story and speak out in my community in support of recovery programs, funding and research for education, prevention, and treatment is an important responsibility for me. I was lucky to have access to the resources necessary to receive treatment and seek recovery. Because of that, I am obliged to ensure resources and access are available for all.
Everywhere in our society we are surrounded by images and messages telling us substance use is fun, sexy, and harmless. Alcohol is glorified in ads and media. High-end designer Moschino introduced their “Capsule” line inspired by prescription drugs of pill bottle shoulder bags ($950), pill bottle print wool knit sweater ($795) and capsule blister pack silver clutches ($840) at New York’s 2016 Fashion Week. And the “Mommy’s Sippy Cup” suggesting drinking is a part of motherhood is tongue-in-cheek until Mommy’s drinking isn’t funny anymore.
As a teenager I fancied myself a rebel but recovery enabled me to be a rebel with a cause. In a society that chooses to make light of an issue affecting over 23 million Americans I choose to have the audacity to challenge that mindset. I don’t feel it is okay to make light of something that affects roughly 1 out of every 10 Americans. So, I openly display my recovery. I wear clothing that promotes and supports recovery, like the hoodie I wear that say “Keep Calm and Sober Mom”. Why should I feel embarrassed or ashamed about being proud that I am a mother in recovery? I rebel against a society that says parenting, college, sporting events and alcohol go hand in hand. I challenge the belief that life, parties, music, and adventures are less enjoyable without alcohol and other drugs. In my active addiction I believed I couldn’t participate in life without alcohol, an idea that I felt society confirmed, but my recovery has proven otherwise. And it is a life better than I could have imagined.
In active addiction I hid behind masks and secrets. Being an advocate, choosing to not be anonymous about my recovery allows me to be my authentic self without shame or secrecy. I spent many years avoiding recovery because I did not want to be “one of those people”. Today I get to break stigmas and be one of many who are showing who “those people” truly are. By putting visible faces and voices of recovery out in the world maybe a future sufferer of this disease won’t be so reluctant to seek recovery. I pray my son will never fall victim to this heartbreaking disease but if he does my hope is that the disease will not be the only thing passed down but that recovery will too. I hope that he or anyone who is feeling shame and embarrassment for having this disease will find hope and strength through those of us who do not and will choose to join us in recovering out loud.
In a world where stigma is still prevalent I realize I am at an advantage to be open about my recovery. I have a strong, loving support system. And, working within the field of social work my recovery can be viewed as an asset whereas other arenas it may be viewed as a liability. Therefor each individual must choose for themselves to what degree they wish to be open about their recovery. But my hope is that with increased education and stigma reduction people will feel empowered to be open about one of the 23million living in recovery.
Heroes in Recovery is seeking to Break The Stigma of addiction. You can help!! Join the movement by:
1 Sharing your story of hope to inspire others. You can do this directly on the Heroes website Share Your Story. Click the ‘share yours’ link. Tell them Abby sent you!
2 Contact Abby directly (email@example.com) and I can help you get your story out there to show the world that recovery is possible.
3 Sign up for a Heroes 6K run/walk or event near you and join thousands of others supporting the movement.
4 Share this blog, or others of interest to you, on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+)