Faces & Voices of Recovery
By Patricia Taylor
Faces & Voices of Recovery is the national American voice of the organized addiction recovery community.
With over 30,000 members, we work to improve the lives of the millions of Americans affected by alcohol and other drugs. We believe that our nation’s response to the crisis of addiction should be based on sound public health science and the grassroots engagement and involvement of the recovery community – men and women in recovery, their families, friends and allies.
Long-term recovery is a reality for over 23 million Americans: living proof that people can and do recover.
Founded in 2001 at a Call to Action forum held in St. Paul, Minnesota, Faces & Voices of Recovery encourages people in recovery and our allies to be active in the growing recovery movement so that individuals and their families receive respectful, nondiscriminatory care and support on the same basis as people with other health conditions. The “faces and voices of recovery” from all walks of life serve powerfully to educate the public, policy makers and the media about the reality of addiction recovery, creating widespread public understanding of the many pathways to recovery.
We are all about taking action to end the discrimination and stigma facing people in recovery from addiction.
Earlier this year, we released the first-ever survey of people in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, the Life in Recovery Survey. The survey documents the heavy costs of addiction to the individual and the nation and for the first time, measures and quantifies the effects of recovery over time.
Not surprising to the recovery community, but virtually unknown to our friends, neighbors and policymakers, the dramatic improvements associated with recovery affect all areas of life. For those in recovery, for example, there is a ten-fold decrease in involvement with the criminal justice system and the use of emergency room departments at hospitals and a fifty per cent increase in participation in family activities and in paying taxes compared with active addiction.
And life keeps getting better as recovery progresses. Yet, discriminatory practices in housing, employment, health insurance coverage and elsewhere remain tremendous barriers to recovery.
Over 23 million Americans aren’t getting the help they need to recover. As Life in Recovery documents, investing in recovery makes sense. When people get the help and support that they need, they are employed, pay bills and taxes, vote, volunteer in our communities and take care of our health and families.
To secure public and private policies to help individuals and families get the help they need to recover and reverse policies that discriminate against people in or seeking recovery, the recovery community is getting organized and speaking out.
As recovery historian Bill White puts it:
Many of us have carried a message of hope on a one-to-one basis; this new recovery movement calls upon us to carry that message of hope to whole communities and the whole culture. It is time we stepped forward to shape this history with our stories, our time and our talents.
For too long those most affected by alcohol and other drug problems have been absent from the public policy debate.
Faces & Voices of Recovery’s Board of Directors developed a statement of the principle that all Americans have a right to recover from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, the Recovery Bill of Rights.
In 2011, Faces & Voices launched the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO) to unite and support the growing network of local, regional and statewide recovery community organizations. ARCO links recovery community organizations and their leaders with local and national allies, and provides training and technical assistance to groups.
The Recovery Community Organization Toolkit is chock full of detailed information on starting a recovery community organization.
Recovery community centers are one of the innovative services that have been developed by ARCO members – they’re like a seniors’ center or a Gilda’s Club for women with breast cancer – offering a public and visible space for recovery to flourish in the community: Recovery on Main Street. They serve as a “community organizing engine,” providing opportunities for civic engagement, leadership development, and advocacy.
Recovery community centers are taking off all across the country. There should be one in every community, just like there’s a seniors’ center in every community.
As we’ve developed our advocacy agenda, we realized that many people didn’t have the language to talk about addiction recovery in a way that the public and policy makers could hear our message and understand the reality of recovery. We found a way to describe and talk about recovery so that people who are NOT part of the recovery community understand what we mean when we use the word “recovery.”
Our Stories Have Power is a way to clearly and passionately convey the living reality of long-term recovery from addiction and talk about recovery…not addiction. And as recovery advocates, we’re telling our stories with a purpose – to help our friends and neighbors understand that there’s more to recovery than not using alcohol or other drugs, and that part of recovery is creating a better life.
Faces & Voices has organized other successful trainings and campaigns.
As part of the National Recovery Month, observed every September, Faces & Voices developed Rally for Recovery! to bring together individuals and organizations for an annual national day of advocacy and recognition.
In 2012, over 100,000 people participated in walks, town hall meetings and rallies all across the nation, demonstrating publicly the reality of recovery and calling on public officials to support recovery. This year, the national hub event, Rally4Recovery, will be in Providence, RI, and will be streamed live and available on demand.
With the release of the inspiring documentary film The Anonymous People, Faces & Voices of Recovery and our partners have collaborated to launch a new campaign to engage and mobilize the newly emerging constituency as we work to transform public attitudes and policies.
With the enactment of national health reform, recognition of innovative peer recovery support services, state and national policy makers’ attention to recovery, health and wellness and a maturing network of recovery community organizations, we are at a very exciting time to bring the message of recovery to the nation and build recovery-oriented communities.
Faces & Voices of Recovery is a call to action to build communities of recovery and accord dignity to people seeking or in recovery from addiction, recognizing that there are many pathways to recovery.
Whether behind the scenes or on the front line, every recovery voice is needed. Join us!
Faces & Voices of Recovery is going international. There is now a Canadian contingent (the website is currently under construction). In fact, today (September 8, 2013) is Recovery Day in Canada with activities in major cities across the country.