FAVOR Canada

FAVOR Canada Header

By AnnMarie McCullough

On July 24th 2012, 29-year-old filmmaker Greg Williams,  a person in long term recovery since the age of 17, created a page on “Kickstarter,” a website that facilitates fundraising through online donations. The page contained a video less than 9 minutes long. Though short, this video carried a message with the potential to change the lives of many millions of people.

Williams’ film, The Anonymous People, aims to publicize the “New Recovery Advocacy Movement” in order to move beyond stigma and shift the focus from the problem of addiction to the solution: recovery.  In just one month, The Anonymous People surpassed its fundraising goal – in fact, 272 backers from the recovery community gave over $80,000. The project was on its way.

Meanwhile in Vancouver, while researching films for the Orchard Recovery Centre’s upcoming film festival which focuses on the hope in recovery, Lorinda Strang and I were sent a link to Williams’ Kickstarter page on July 30th.  Struck immediately by the filmmaker’s vision and eager to become involved with a movement so dear to our hearts, the Orchard pledged $3000 to the project. Williams was invited to speak at the 2nd Annual REEL Recovery Film Festival, held in October, where he showed the trailer and answered questions from a captivated audience.

Through Greg Williams, Lorinda and I were reacquainted with Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR), an American organization that is dedicated to organizing and mobilizing the recovery community. Much like the gay community spread awareness and education about AIDS with an advocacy group formed in 1987 with the motto “Silence = Death,” FAVOR believes there is a need to recognize the millions of people living happy and productive lives in recovery. Faces and Voices of Recovery and the film The Anonymous People  are part of the growing recovery advocacy movement which has now found its way into Canada.

We were aware that the US Government, through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) had been recognizing September as Recovery Month in the United States for almost 25 years. However, we found that Canada had no equivalent, and decided to immediately start planning the first ever public celebration of recovery in Canada.

We obtained a permit for the event and a proclamation was issued by Mayor Gregor Robertson recognizing September 30th, 2012 as Recovery Day in Vancouver. There was an afternoon celebration which included a rally and march with 1500 participants on the lawns of the Vancouver Art Gallery.  The same day, Victoria, BC also held an event, while Ottawa received a proclamation from the City’s Mayor.

The 2012 Recovery Day event in Vancouver and the Orchard’s REEL Recovery Film Festival were documented by Williams for his film which was then still in production. In May of 2013, Greg returned to Vancouver and screened the completed film to a full house at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

That same night, Lorinda and I  announced the co-founding of our new nonprofit Faces and Voices of Recovery Canada, modeled after the organization that has been helping organize the recovery movement in the USA since 2001.

Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) Canada is dedicated to organizing and mobilizing the 5 million Canadians in recovery from addiction, along with our families, friends and allies. Our goals: to build networks and foster recovery community organizations; to reduce stigma; to raise awareness and bring people together in celebration of recovery. Together, we will demonstrate the power and proof of recovery from addiction and its value to individuals, families and communities across Canada. We support all pathways to recovery and we STRONGLY support initiatives such as Recovery Day.

AnnMarie at Recovery Day 2013

On September 8th, 2013 twelve cities across Canada – Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Victoria, Regina, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Kelowna, Ottawa, Fredericton, Toronto and Vancouver hosted Recovery Day events. Just prior, Lorinda and I were in Washington, DC to receive the Rally of the Year award from SAMHSA for Vancouver’s Recovery Day in 2012.

FAVOR Canada is now working with government officials to have a “National Recovery Day” recognized. The cross-Canada celebration will be held annually on the third Saturday of September – For 2014, it will be held on September 20th.

The FAVOR steering committee is comprised of co-founders  Lorinda Strang and I from BC, as well Ann Dowsett Johnston in Toronto, Lisa Simone in Calgary and Sherri Skeans in Newfoundland.

Upcoming projects for FAVOR Canada include:

  • Obtaining charitable status – early 2014
  • First ever survey of the recovery community “Life in Recovery” – early 2014
  • Website with training materials – Spring 2014
  • Survey of general public – perceptions of recovery – Summer 2014
  • Recovery Messaging Training – Summer 2014
  • Offices set up in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver- Fall 2014
  • Recovery Summit – first in Canada – early 2015

Activities of FAVOR Canada include:

  • Fostering recovery community organizations
  • Supporting recovery initiatives such as Recovery Day-an annual event in September where cities across Canada host walks and rallies in celebration of recovery
  • Working with government to have the third Saturday in September declared National Recovery Day and September as National Recovery Month
  • Conducting public education and awareness campaigns for recovery
  • Hosting educational and informational trainings such as recovery messaging
  • Facilitating relationships among local and regional organizations operating within the realm of recovery
  • Maintaining a website containing information for individuals in recovery as well as their friends, families and allies on how get involved in their communities.
Click on the image to view the trailer. Screening places and dates are also available for the U.S.

Click on the image to view the trailer.
Screening places and dates are also available for the U.S.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the initiation of Recovery Day as well as the founding of Faces and Voices of Recovery Canada were both inspired by Lorinda and I watching the trailer to The Anonymous People, a film about the 23.5 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction.

Stigma and discrimination have kept recovery voices silent and faces hidden for decades, however courageous addiction recovery advocates are starting to come out of the shadows to tell their true stories.

The Anonymous People is told through the faces and voices of the leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, and celebrities such as Kristen Johnston who are telling their stories in the hope that they may save the lives of others. This passionate new public recovery movement is transforming public opinion, and shifting the conversation toward recovery solutions. We hope that Canadians in recovery and those who support them will be inspired by the film and join the movement here in Canada.

Please visit Faces and Voices of Recovery.

Faces and Voices of Recovery developed guidelines for how to speak publicly while honouring the 12 Traditions. To view these guidelines, please see the PDF, Advocacy with Anonymity.

4 Responses

  1. Glenna R. says:

    Thanks for forwarding this wonderful news, Roger. If alcoholism is a disease and if we show by our actions and not by our words that we believe this why would we be ashamed to come out of the so-called closet? Today, a friend talking to me about her alcoholic son said she will not talk to people about him as she doesn’t want anyone to look down on him. Enough said. I went to our Meeting at Widening Our Gateway listening to debates on the CBC about the disease model and it appears it’s been going on over a hundred years as one person said, who had written about it fifty years ago. Although I appreciate the fervor of Ann Marie and Lorinda and the film maker, I realize that our critics will say it’s in the interest of certain groups, maybe addiction counsellors, doctors, nurses and even addicts to call it a disease, in order to get funding for rehab. Interesting, that that’s exactly how they are prosletyzing. Oh dear and we are told to, Keep It Simple!!

  2. Thomas B. says:

    Thanks for an excellent article, AnnMarie — it is so important for us to understand that attesting to our recovery in public, even at the national level, is NOT a violation of our traditions on anonymity — only if we refer to a specific 12-step program . . .

    It was especially gratifying for me to read in the Anonymity pdf that not only Bill, but also Dr. Bob were on the original Board of Directors for Marty Mann’s NCA, the precursor of today’s NCADD. I wasn’t aware of this fact. This is especially important, in my opinion, because members of the “Akron-style” brand of fundamentalist AA, elevate Dr. Bob as saintly and consider Bill and those New Yorkers satanic. Perhaps this historical reality will cool just a tad some of their judgmental jets . . . 😉

  3. Gord says:

    I am so glad to see this article here. I watched that original 9 minute trailer last year and wondered when and where this would appear in Canada. Looks like it is well on its way.

    So we’ve got two challenges in our small town in the BC Kootenays: when and how to start an agnostic AA group, and now, how to work with FAVOR Canada. The .pdf pamphlet linked to in the article is very useful and allayed any fears I had about a personal conflict. I know I can work with FAVOR by applying AA’s Traditions 6, 10 and 11. This is really an extension of Public Information / Co-operation with the Professional Community (PI/CPC) work done from inside AA.

    Now its time for me to meditate on when and how this valuable work should be started.

  4. John M. says:

    Many thanks to AnneMarie, Lorinda Strang, and people like Greg Williams for their dedication to the cause of destigmatizing addiction and bringing the good news of recovery to a wider audience.

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