It’s clear recovery advocates across the country are committed to the cause of improving outcomes as our communities grapple with the substance use crisis in America. Rallies are organized, town halls are attended by officials from the highest levels of government, recovery support is becoming more available in our communities, and lives are being impacted for the better.
The recovery advocacy movement has made huge strides, but why aren’t we growing to become the constituency of consequence we know is necessary to implement lasting change?
Simply put, recovery advocates have a hard time getting along with each other.
Competing groups, NPOs, agencies, treatment providers, media personalities, and pathways to recovery are often too busy fighting among themselves to build cohesive and inclusive collaborative coalitions. Our movement is without any clearly defined goals, or benchmarks to measure our progress as a whole. Political differences fester as we try to undercut those we view as “opponents,” resulting from real or imagined hostility. We continue to bash routes that differ from our own to happier, healthier lives; or at the very least, ignore advocates from those pathways and try to invalidate their voice. Our representatives are largely white and male, despite our richly diverse communities affected by substance use. Perhaps most disturbingly, we often refuse to accept scientific evidence relating the prevention, treatment and recovery support for those experiencing or may experience substance use-related problems.
I am guilty of perpetrating most of what I just described. I’ve been the guy who discounts other’s experiences because they haven’t matched my own. I’ve doubted the commitment of those in recovery who use medication, harm reduction or moderation as a solution. I’ve defined “true recovery” as abstinence and abstinence alone. I’ve told people they hadn’t wanted it bad enough because they coudn’t follow my pathway’s prescribed steps to recovery. I’ve bad-mouthed organizations because I thought they were doing it wrong. I’ve even swung to the opposite direction at times to criticize the abstinence-based recovery community. The reality is, I was doing it wrong.
This is a bleak picture, but there is hope. Young people are really good at a lot of things: open-mindedness, challenging the establishment, being innovative, and leading with their hearts. What if, as a movement, we could come together to agree on a few fundamental principles? What if we could decide on overarching, clear and attainable goals? What if we could all get to the common ground of understanding that people becoming healthier and living more self-directed lives is a foundation of a structure we could build together to make a lasting impact? What if we could learn to work together?
I’m looking to the young people and pleading with them to be the change we need we need in this movement. We’re at a turning point. I truly believe your courage and commitment will mean the difference between failure and success – and ultimately the difference of life or death for millions to come.
-Michael Miller, Communications & Chapter Director, YPR
To learn more about the national players in this movement and how you can get involved with any or all of them, please visit their websites below.
To start a join a chapter of YPR, please click the links below. Chapters are vehicles for community organizing, leadership development and recovery support.