‘State of the New Recovery Advocacy Movement: Achievements, Part 2′ by Bill White

Unknown-1If you missed the the first part of my blogs focused on Bill White’s exciting new writing on the new recovery advocacy movemnet in the US, you can find it here. Here, I continue to look at the list of achievements of this movement:

‘Kinetic Ideas. As early as 2000, five simple ideas emerged from the very heart of the movement – ideas that were foundational and kinetic (capable of inspiring action).

Those five ideas were:

  • 1. addiction recovery is a living reality for individuals, families, and communities,
    2. there are many (religious, spiritual, secular) pathways to recovery, and all are cause for celebration,
    3. recovery flourishes in supportive communities,
    4. recovery is a voluntary process, and
    5. recovering and recovered people are part of the solution: recovery gives back what addiction has taken from individuals, families, and communities.

In retrospect, the selection of this particular set of ideas was critical to avoiding the schisms that have destroyed so many social movements. The first two of these ideas became the foundation for much of the consciousness raising and mobilization that went on in the early years and that continues today.

Core Strategies. The vision in the late 1990s was to change public attitudes and public policies to create recovery-friendly communities. We believed that such communities could shorten addiction careers, support individuals and families in long-term recovery, and ultimately break intergenerational cycles of addiction within our families, neighborhoods, and communities.

As early as 2000, eight core strategies were being pursued within newly formed recovery community organizations (RCOs). 

1. Building strong, grassroots recovery community organizations (RCOs) and linking these RCOs into a national movement that would develop recovery leaders, offer opportunities for the recovery community – people in recovery, family members, friends, and allies – to express their collective voice, respond to community-identified recovery support needs, and provide a forum for community service.

2. Advocating for meaningful representation and voice at local, state, and federal policy levels for for people in recovery and their family members on issues that affect their lives.

3. Assessing needs related to the adequacy and quality of local treatment and recovery support services.

4. Educating the public, policymakers, and service providers about the prevalence and pathways of addiction recovery.

5. Developing human and fiscal resources by expanding philanthropic and public support for addiction treatment, recovery support services, and recovery advocacy and by cultivating volunteerism within local communities of recovery.

6. Creating recovery community centers that make recovery visible on Main Street and provide a setting for non-clinical, peer-based recovery support services, supports, and activities.

7. Celebrating recovery from addiction through public events (recovery marches, rallies, concerts) that offer living proof of the transformative power of recovery.

8. Supporting research that illuminates the pathways, processes, stages, and styles of long-term personal/family recovery.

Several things made development and refinement of these strategies possible, but two were critical.

First was creation of a mutual learning community that brought RCO leaders together to expand their knowledge, develop expertise, and cultivate and refine best practices. The early development of this network was made possible by the networking that occurred in tandem with NCADD meetings and meetings of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment’s Recovery Community Support Program (RCSP) grantees.

These early RCO exchanges set the stage for the historic 2001 Recovery Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota, the founding of Faces and Voices of Recovery, and the subsequent development of the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO).

Faces and Voices of Recovery and ARCO have since provided the connecting tissue that links RCOs throughout the country. Collectively, these forums provided a mechanism for RCO leaders to share what was working and not working at local levels and to generate consensus on issues critical to the national movement.

A second influence on strategy development was the early decision to use formal data collection and analysis to formulate and refine movement strategy and tactics.

An early example of that was the Peter Hart Public Opinion Survey on recovery in which we discovered to our dismay that most Americans had little recognition of the larger number of Americans living in long-term stable recovery and instead saw recovery as a process of trying to stop alcohol and other drug use but not the achievement of this goal.’

I continue the list of achievements in my next blog.