By Sheilah Powell

The landscape of recovery advocacy is forever changing. Advocates have made great strides in the past two decades in reducing stigma and altering perception and public policy towards addiction and recovery – but there is still so much more to do!

We asked advocates across the country what they wanted to see in the future of recovery advocacy. What are the hopes and dreams for addiction recovery – in their own words?

Here is what they said.

Joseph LMS Green (he/him/his), Spoken Word Artist and Motivational Speaker, Washington, D.C.

“My hope for the future is simply seeing it grow to include more people and advocate for more issues that are affecting the health of millions of Americans. The power of people with lived experience is unstoppable.”

C.R. Foster (he/they), Recovery Advocate, Portland, Oregon

“In the future, I hope recovery advocacy truly reflects the identities and needs of the people it serves. Lower barriers and better funding are crucial to saving lives—but we need to continue the conversation around cultural competency, too. When recovery stays white, middle class, and institutionalized, it remains inaccessible to 95% of the folks who need it, including trans people, BIPOC communities, unhoused people, and people whose first language is not English. Sustaining connections of trust is harder than throwing billions of dollars at policing. However, I believe that’s where the magic happens—one person helping another, so we all recover together.”

Nicole Criss (she/her), Executive Director at FAVOR Grand Stand, South Carolina

“I want recovery to be separate from prevention and treatment and more funding to support evidence-based practices and that funding go directly to Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs). I want people to stop exploiting this vulnerable population just to get power and money. I want decision-makers to consult those of us who are in recovery and practicing ethical recovery support. Start normalizing recovery and harm reduction in our society. I want to see people practicing ALL pathways of recovery start coming together to create a voice instead of going against each other diluting our voice.”

Pattie Vargas (she/her), Author, Speaker and Recovery Advocate, California

“Here’s the reality: a person who uses drugs enters treatment – possibly on orders from the court – but whatever the reason, they’re there. They detox, get some therapy if they’re lucky, and at the end of 30, 60, 90, whatever the payor will allow, they’re done. The fortunate ones spend some time in transitional living before being thrust back into the same world they were in before. Only now they may have no car. No home. They might be legally mandated to attend certain classes or present for a drug screening. Seems reasonable until you consider they have no way to make these appointments and keep the minimum wage job they just got, and sometimes the demand to appear is random and arbitrary. To someone who is trying to “live clean and sober,” it’s often just one stumbling block in front of another, almost like the system wants them to fail. In reality, it’s that the “system” is so deeply entrenched in years of bias and cynicism, and change is going to take time. But if we want to break the cycle – if we really want to set the captives free – nothing less than building recovery-ready communities will increase the odds of individuals enjoying long-term recovery and full restoration. What we’re doing isn’t working. The war on drugs is a failure. Locking them away isn’t the answer. Listen to those who know – Nothing About Us Without Us!”

Meredith Booth (she/her), Community Liaison and Recovery Advocate, Kentucky

“I hope that we can continue to recover out loud and change the way America sees recovery as a whole. I dream about a time when fatal overdoses are no longer the leading cause of death in America. Where funding is used for treatment, prevention, and harm reduction, rather than fueling the war on drugs. Where people can access quality treatment, regardless of their age, gender, race, or economic status. And I aspire to be a voice for those who have lost their battle with substance use disorder, and help be rid of the stigma surrounding my people.”

Jimmy McGill (he/him), Recovery Manager and Advocate at the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas

“Recovery produces champions that come with a passion to help people that cannot be bought, taught or replicated. No one else on the earth has a desire to go back into the same fires that once consumed us, carrying buckets of water for those still burning in the flames of addiction. Everywhere you see mental health challenges and addiction issues, you should see recovery. Recovery needs to be the guiding voice helping to shape policies and procedures on a global level. We recover out loud, so others don’t die in the silence.”

Carleah Phillips Summers (she/her), Founder and Executive Director of Andrea’s House – Transitional Living For Women and Children, Maryland

“My hopes, dreams, and aspirations for advocacy and recovery are for every level of care and treatment, peer-led or clinical, to receive the necessary funding and resources needed to sustain and provide the best quality of care possible for those in recovery to not just survive, but thrive.”

Angela Mallette (she/her), Director of Outreach at End It For Good, Mississippi

“I would love to see recovery advocacy continue the unprecedented growth we have seen over the last 5 years. I believe the solutions to our country’s drug crisis, our treatment inequalities, our criminal justice system crisis – the solutions in all of these areas lie within the people who’ve lived it and survived it. We ARE the solution. Compassion, dignity and equality ARE the solutions. My dream for our community is that one day the world will follow the path of radical authenticity that people in recovery have chosen. People in recovery wake up and choose courage every day. Courage to face the world in spite of their past. It’s the stuff heroes are made of. It’s the stuff legends are made of, and I am in awe of all this community every day.”

Donald McDonald (he/him), Recovery Advocate and Technical Lead, North Carolina

“It is my fervent hope that we will one day set aside our biases against each other and embrace the beauty in our differences. There is power in the great diversity of our pathways to freedom and wellness from chaotic alcohol and drug use. Movements like Mobilize Recovery make me optimistic that we might just have a chance to realize the dream of a unified culture of recovery – of rallying an advocacy juggernaut over 20 million strong to dismantle and rebuild broken systems to benefit us all.”

The recovery ecosystem is continually influx, and it needs change agents to ensure that every person has equitable access to recovery support and diverse, inclusive communities dedicated to healing. If even a tenth of the hopes and dreams of these advocates here comes to fruition, our systems would be able to serve, foster and support so many more individuals who need it!

To see how you can get involved Mobilize Recovery 2022, follow us on Twitter @MobilizeRecover, apply here, or email us at info@mobilizerecovery.org.