By Sheilah Powell
In July 2019, advocates from all 50 states convened for the first-ever Mobilize Recovery experience in Las Vegas. Little did organizers know, the connection and passion manifested during those three hot summer days was the beginning of a nationwide movement.
As part of its commitment to address the addiction epidemic, Mobilize Recovery 2019 kicked off a massive national effort to organize and train hundreds of passionate individuals and advocacy groups from around the country to work together and maximize impact to end America’s addiction crisis. No one anticipated how powerful that first convening would be and how it impacted so many folks across the country. Since that time, Mobilize Recovery has become a social justice movement, a community organizing powerhouse, and a place where people feel at home.
“I finally met my people at Mobilize Recovery – others who were super passionate about being a voice for those who have no voice.” said South Carolina advocate Mike Todd, the Founder and Executive Director of Freedom Recovery Center of Greenville.
Mobilize Recovery’s mission is to expand policy to support recovery, create connections to supportive services that are vital and life-saving, and to engage affected individuals in meaningful civic action. Each year, hundreds of recovery advocates apply and are selected to attend Mobilize Recovery to learn innovative strategies and tactics for grassroots organizing. Individuals connect with other recovery leaders and gain access to new tools to streamline their own organizing and advocacy work in their corners of the country.
For so many, Mobilize is so much more than an event. It is a safe space, a mission, a community, a mindset, a vehicle for healing.
“Healing comes with those who mobilize and we all need healing,” said Kensington resident and harm reduction advocate Roz Pichardo, who is the founder of Operation Save Our City and star of Hello Sunshine – a short film that shines a respectful and loving light on folks living in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.
For the 2020 Mobilize, organizers faced extraordinary barriers in planning such a large and anticipated event. The world was in the midst of a global pandemic, and folks with lived experience with addiction (directly affected and allies/loved ones) saw a historic shift from in-person recovery support to online. Zoom became a necessity, love it or hate it. The recovery community mobilized like no other time in history to make sure that people got the support they needed. And Mobilize Recovery was no different!
“The recovery community responded, with over 1200 people attending Mobilize 2020 virtually,” said Garrett Hade, co-founder of The Voices Project. “It not only showed us that technology will allow us to stay connected even when far apart, but that our community can be adaptive and resilient in hard situations.”
“The response from organizers across the country was nothing less than extraordinary.”
Mobilize 2020 showed, once again, that the recovery advocacy community is diverse, dedicated, and resilient. Advocates from across America attended digitally to network, learn new skills, and share tactics to improve recovery outcomes overall. Even online, it was an amazing experience and was so much more than just a conference.
“Mobilizing is a way of life for me. I live my recovery out loud and share with every individual I come into contact with. By taking my past and incorporating it into my present, I hope to help break stigma in the future,” said Arkansas Mobilizer Ashley Costa. “Mobilize recovery is more than just a conference. It’s a way of life, a mission, and integrates different communities who have one common passion and goal.”
Recovery ally Jaclyn Brown lost her brother Marc to a heroin overdose in 2018 and, at first, said she struggled with feeling like she fit in at the event as she, personally, was not in recovery.
“A woman said to me, You are in recovery. You are recovering from the loss of your brother. You aren’t ‘just’ a family member. You absolutely belong here. After that, I knew I had finally found my people who truly get it. Mobilize is my second family. They have helped me through some of my toughest times and celebrated my biggest victories with me. I am so lucky to have found a community that is so supportive.”
In 2021, Mobilize Recovery was BACK in person and in Las Vegas, as well as online and virtually. After almost two years of quarantine, hundreds of advocates made their way to Las Vegas to connect, learn, create and mobilize – safely and socially distanced, of course.
“You can’t think about Mobilize without thinking about movement which is exactly where creativity and action take place,” said Wisconsin advocate Anthony Alvarado, who is the founder of Rise Together and who also photographed the 2021 conference from beginning to end.
“It’s in those moments that we see others mobilizing or moving forward together for the greater good. This is exactly what I captured at Mobilize last year – people coming together and sharing ideas that are changing and saving lives through action and creativity.”
Mobilize Recovery 2021 was the most elaborate and jam-packed experience to date – until NOW.
Mobilize Recovery Across America 2022 is launching from Las Vegas during Labor Day weekend 2022 and will depart on a west to east cross-country bus tour highlighting the recovery experience in individual communities the entire way. Mobilize Recovery Across America is meeting people where they’re at–in THEIR communities and THEIR neighborhoods.
Now in its fourth year, Mobilize Recovery has become a nationwide phenomenon.
In a short amount of time, Mobilize Recovery has gone from a single event in the desert to a community of advocates and a way of living. Mobilize represents connection and engagement, and it provides the energetic and physical space for those to be truly authentic–while helping folks sustain their passion for recovery advocacy.
Mobilize Recovery is so many things, and we welcome you to come experience Mobilize Recovery Across America 2022! Apply here and also submit your city, organization or project to be highlighted during the bus tour TODAY!