The Recovery Bill of Rights
is a statement of the principle that all Americans have a right to recover from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Learn more…
Birth of a Movement: The Founding of Faces & Voices of Recovery 10 Years Ago
Let's Go Make Some History! For the last ten years recovery advocates across the country have responded to the Call to Action issued at Faces & Voices of Recovery's launch just ten years ago. We've been gathering reflections from the people who gathered in St. Paul, to appreciate our accomplishments and inspire us as we move forward. Join us for the next decade of organizing and mobilizing the over 20 million Americans in recovery, our families, friends and allies to promote the right and resources to recover through advocacy, education and demonstrating the power and proof of long-term recovery. We remember the advocacy of our founding board chair Lisa Mojer-Torres who inspired us all.
2005 - 2008
2008 - 2010
2010 - 2011
If you attended the St. Paul Summit in 2001 and would like to submit your reflections on the movement or submit your photos from the summit, please email us here.
To see additional pictures from the St. Paul Summit, please click here.
By our silence we let others define us. I heard these words at our St. Paul Summit. They have been foundational in establishing and strengthening our movement's purpose. After St. Paul our Denver delegation founded Advocates for Recovery-Colorado. Our first big event was the Recovery Ambassador's Workshop. It gave us a face, voice, and presence. Under the banner of Faces and Voices of Recovery, we held our tenth recovery rally this year, along with rallies across the country. In all rallies we had allies and sponsors participating. Every day, the reality of recovery is evident and recognized nationally. Faces website calls attention to our accomplishments. We have always done more with less.
In a recent article, Ken Pomerance, one of the co-founders of In The Rooms said, "Faces & Voices, a Washington, D.C., based advocacy group, has recently suggested that we no longer describe ourselves as addicts or alcoholics, but simply state that we are people in long-term recovery" and further, "we must take a risk and break our own anonymity and need to do so responsibly, using similar guidelines presented by Faces & Voices." Social media offers opportunity to openly share stories and support.
Carl Sagan said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." In the universe of addiction, stating that recovery is real and happening for millions is considered an extraordinary claim. In the court of public opinion, we must show that the millions in recovery are the extraordinary evidence. This evidence gives hope to the millions who seek desperately to join us.
Since the Saint Paul summit in 2001, Faces and Voices of Recovery has emerged as the leading voice of individuals and families in or seeking recovery in the US. Sought after for advice and counsel by recovering people from around the world, Faces and Voices has become a constituency of consequence; something that was dreamed of by Faces' advocates since the early days we gathered in St. Paul.
Today, we truly are able to say "Nothing about us without us" and know that Faces' influence in Washington and states across the country has helped individuals get their voting rights restored, access federal financial aid to attend college, and obtain health insurance that helps millions of Americans get care for addiction on par with other medical conditions. Faces and Voices truly makes a difference in the lives of those it serves. We are accomplishing the dreams we had for ourselves in St. Paul.
Faces has also become the champion for recovery community organizations (RCO) across the country and fights for their funding, training, and skill building. This RCO movement has grown in ways we never envisioned in St. Paul and will explode once the Faces accreditation of these organizations is implemented.
The last evening of the St. Paul Summit, we all held torches in our hands that symbolized our hope that recovery would continue to burn brightly in the lives of millions of Americans. I made a wish that night that with the collective voices in that room, we could get parity passed. Since 2001, we have passed parity, included addiction treatment and recovery services as mandatory benefits for all Americans. It shows me that we should dream big because these successes are just a drop in the bucket of what we can accomplish when we organize and mobilize the recovery community.
Join us in the journey.
It cannot have been 10 years! As I recall, I was a relatively young man when we met in St. Paul in 2001. I was the guy standing in front of the PowerPoint slides presenting the results of the first truly random opinion survey of people in recovery. We had needed to place over 10,000 calls in order to get 250 people in recovery, and 250 family members of people in recovery to take the survey. I still count this among the research projects I am most proud to have successfully completed.
But what I most remember was the wonderful people I met at the St. Paul Summit meeting and the feeling that a very important movement was just coming together and realizing its strength and potential. In the years since, I have had the honor to stay involved with additional projects for Faces & Voices of Recovery, The Rush Recovery Institute, Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (NCASA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).
The organizations have grown in sophistication over the years; the messages are more refined; the groups are more coordinated, and all the websites are more useful. But the commitment of the people involved in the movement has not wavered and this is what continues to amaze and inspire me.
When the Summit was announced in St. Paul, I asked to attend, to be the staff person who would represent Join Together, where I worked at the time. In 2001, Join Together promoted treatment - but not recovery. Back then, we didn't have a good understanding of recovery - and we weren't alone in that. I wanted to be there as a family member - proud of my relative in long term recovery and mourning someone who died of her addiction. I brought one of my young sons with me, not knowing that he and I both would be watching history being made.
At the Summit, I began to perceive folks in long term recovery in the ways that I would experience over and over during the next decade as I served on the board of Faces and Voices of Recovery and as I helped present media trainings to recovery advocates around the country. I learned that people in long term recovery are funny! They usually laugh at themselves first, others second, but never with a mean undertone. They are people who have experienced an epic journey, although most would never describe themselves as the heroes of their own stories: they are far too humble. And they are legion in number, throughout society in every town and every circumstance.
I am honored to have been a small part of the recovery movement, and I have enjoyed every moment!
After attending the St Paul Summit in 2001 a group of us in recovery from across the state of Alabama got together and organized a group we called Alabama Voices for Recovery in 2003-04. I was honored to be the first President of this group. It was a small group but because we represented several cities we were able to expand quickly with Chapters in our respective cities and the membership soon grew to several thousand. We were able to stand as one voice and in 2007, with the assistance and guidance of Faces and Voices of Recovery, we had a letter writing campaign that helped our state Department of Substance Abuse receive the largest increase in funding they had ever received.
Each year in September, again with the help of Faces & Voices of Recovery, the local chapters of Alabama Voices for Recovery has held rallies, runs, dinners, and marches across the state to celebrate National Recovery Month. The first year we had one march in the Capitol Montgomery, this past year there were over a dozen of these events across our state. We have been recognized with proclamations by our Governor and local Mayors and City & County Commissioners recognizing our efforts to educate the public about addiction and recovery and to fight the stigma that is still exist today.
In 2005 I was asked to serve on the Board of Faces & Voices of Recovery and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my thirty plus years in recovery. The work of the staff and the board, during my tenure, 2005 to 2009, laid the groundwork for the many accomplishments that I have witnessed since the organizations was founded. We, Faces & Voices of Recovery, have led the nation in educating the people about recovery and bringing to the forefront that addiction is not something that should be swept under the rug and ignored but a reality that all of us should and must be concerned with and that help is available and recovery is real. Faces & Voices of Recovery has shown us that together with one voice anything and everything is possible.
Journalists tend to be cynics by disposition as well as by profession; we sometimes take a perverse pride in not getting swept up in events as they unfold around us. For me, the exception to this rule during my 20 years of covering the addiction field was the launch of Faces and Voices of Recovery in 2001.
The trip to St. Paul that October was bound to be memorable, being my first time flying since 9-11. Armed soldiers in the airport were a new and troubling sight back then, so maybe that's part of the reason the conference itself seemed so inclusive and energized. There was much more to it than that, however. After writing for years about Sen. Harold Hughes' frustrated attempts to get a national addiction-recovery advocacy movement going, I really got the sense in St. Paul that it was finally going to happen.
The passion in the room, the leadership of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, the examples set by Rep. Jim Ramstad and William Cope Moyers, the groundbreaking research of William White and so many others -- it all seemed to come together over those couple of days. I remember leaving Minnesota that October thinking, wow, this is really going to finally happen... and that it was a shame that Sen. Hughes didn't live to see it.
History was made, I was proud to have been a part of it in a small way, and I'm especially thrilled that Faces and Voices of Recovery is still going strong a decade later -- and has helped redefine the way that Americans look at addiction, recovery, and most of all, people in recovery themselves.
Ten years. Amazing! I think back often to St. Paul - the stories I heard, the people I met. I didn't have a clear sense when I arrived about what would happen at the Summit, but I sure did when I left. The experience had a profound effect on my personal and professional life and, I believe, has helped to shape the character, direction and spirit of our organization in Ohio.
The leadership that Faces & Voices of Recovery - its board, staff, and supporters - has given the recovery movement in just ten short years is nothing short of extraordinary. We are now organized! We have an Association of Recovery Community Organizations! We have a voice at federal, state, and local tables! We have a common platform that is acknowledged and respected!
It has been a privilege to be a part of this movement for the last ten years and I so look forward to the next. Thank you Faces & Voices of Recovery for your leadership in this journey.
David Njabulo Whiters, Ph.D.
I remember well the St. Paul Summit and those unseasonably warm October days. I was new to the "recovery advocacy movement," and Recovery Consultants of Atlanta, Inc. had just become one of eleven CSAT funded Recovery Community Support Programs (RCSP). The Summit's goal to organize people across multiple recovery pathways was a scary concept for me. I had been active in my 12-step program and wasn't sure how I would interact or "get along" with others who sought recovery through methods other than AA or NA.
In St. Paul, I met a number of recovery advocates who were also "12-steppers." This helped ease my fear and keep me safe within my close-minded belief that people found recovery through AA or NA only. Today, because of the Summit, I know there are many pathways to recovery. At the Summit, a woman on medication-assisted recovery spoke. I was surprised to learn the words methadone and recovery could be used in the same sentence. There was also a speaker who identified as a Reverend and doctor. I could not tell if he was in recovery (he didn't look like anyone I used drugs with), but he delivered a powerful recovery message; speaking of God in a manner that made me want to shout "halleluiah".
During the Summit, Faces & Voices of Recovery was born, RCSPs became vanguards of the recovery movement, and attendees left motivated and committed. I can still hear the sound of that sweet phrase, "Nothing about us without us!" Long live the spirit of recovery!
What I am proud of today, ten years after that first summit, is to see how Faces & Voices of Recovery adjusted one of our strategies. We changed from using our Inside Recovery Voice, the one we use with counselors, therapists, 12-step meetings and other support groups, to our Outside Recovery Voice, the one we use with the press, politicians and public in general. The national poll told us the public thought "being in recovery" meant we were still drinking alcohol and using drugs. This gave us the impetus to change our language to an Outside Recovery Voice that said we were in long-term recovery and that we have not used alcohol or any other mood altering substance during that time. We also realized we needed to talk about our life in recovery, not about our addicted days. This strategy has proven to be very successful. Many people in recovery have participated in trainings to make that adjustment and the 'Advocacy with Anonymity' pamphlets have also helped. The grass roots movement has grown all around the country. We have rallies, we speak at city halls, to State and Federal legislators, have impacted legislation and people's attitudes and lives.
In 1999, organizations like Recovery Advocates for Treatment (RAFT) a grassroots recovery advocacy group in Vallejo, CA were just beginning to emerge around the country. The idea of a national umbrella to organize and bring together these like minded collectives was just a concept in 2001. So it was my honor to have been selected as one of 200 delegates to participate in the St. Paul Summit.
It was at this summit that a 22 member campaign advisory committee was elected. As a member of this advisory team, our charge was to bring the concept of a national recovery organization to fruition and Faces and Voices was born.
Under the leadership of Pat Taylor and the staff, Faces and Voices is a leading national organization that shapes policy, brings awareness to recovery issues and protects the rights of individuals in recovery. Today, they are the voice of the recovery community across the country.
I am honored to have served on the founding Board of Directors of Faces and Voices. My experiences there made me a better advocate and a better person.
I was so excited to be invited to attend the St. Paul Summit ten years ago and that excitement has not diminished. As a person in long term recovery and also a director of a drug and alcohol prevention and treatment provider organization, I felt there was a huge missing element in our advocacy to reduce stigma, support recovery and advance prevention and treatment of the disease of addiction. We needed the face and voice of the recovering person, their families and allies!
Our provider association tried a few things early on to involve the recovery community, but the recovery movement needed to be organic and have a heart and soul of its own. The summit in St. Paul provided a necessary focal point and the energy to begin. I have seen remarkable progress since Faces and Voices of Recovery came to life.
In Texas, we struggled for awhile to find our footing. But we now have a group, Texas Recovers, who provides the heartbeat for recovery advocacy in the Lone Star state.
On October first of this year, on a beautiful 85 degree Texas day, hundreds of recovering persons hit the Texas Capitol for the first Big Texas Rally for Recovery. It was a great start that will only grow! It provides the anchor of a dream I had back in October of 2001, to see a wall of recovering persons marching up Congress Ave to the Texas Capitol to celebrate recovery, change public perceptions and impact effective public policies.
In 1996, when I started on the job at Hazelden, the CEO ordered me to "Go out and change public policy" about addiction, treatment and recovery.
"No problem," I said. "Where's the money?"
He said there really wasn't any money. "No problem," I said. "Where are the constituents?"
He said there weren't any of those, either, at least not any that we could see or hear.
And so began my small effort to change public policy by changing public perception, without any real financial resource and no faces and voices of people like me - people in recovery.
Winston Churchill once said that the scariest part of being a leader "is looking over your shoulder to discover that nobody is following." At first my task seemed daunting. But soon I discovered I wasn't alone. There were people and there were organizations that shared Hazelden's advocacy mission. In fact, some at been at it for so long they were far ahead of Hazelden. And others were willingly quick to follow too, into the trenches of grassroots advocacy.
I never imagined that four years later wizened veterans and enthusiastic newcomers from across the nation would find common ground in St. Paul, Minnesota to come together to talk about the challenges and opportunities of a disparate recovery advocacy movement. From that first summit to a second with a lot of hard work in-between was birthed what is today Faces and Voices of Recovery.
Together we make a difference. Together we change the terms of the debate for the sake of those who still suffer.
Considering it was less than a month from 9/11 I was surprised how many people attended. That fact alone tells us how badly the summit was needed. The St Paul Summit was the first meeting of any kind I attended. I look up on my wall and see almost 100 name badges from recovery meetings, CSAT Expert Panels, conferences, etc. All starting with the Summit.
I am caught between how fast the time went and how much has been accomplished.
Prior to St Paul there was no such thing as Medication-Assisted Recovery. It wasn't like methadone was joyously welcomed in St Paul but we were there. Even though almost 1/3 of the attendees were from methadone not one of the regional delegates or alternatives were from methadone. But things were changing. The late Lisa Mojer-Torres a nationally renowned methadone advocate was elected first chair of Faces & Voices of Recovery. NAMA Recovery received RCSP funding in 2006 and again in 2010 to create Medication Assisted Recovery Support (MARS) services. Bill White came out firmly supporting Medication Assisted Recovery, which led to the 2009 document, Recovery Oriented Methadone Maintenance. Today, most recovery conferences and meetings have a workshop on medication-assisted recovery.
But not all! Betty Ford defined recovery and later accepted medication as a valid pathway with no one from Medication Assisted Recovery at the meeting. Faces & Voices of Recovery has always been a strong advocate for all pathways including medication but hasn't had someone from the medication-assisted community sit on their board for three years.
So while many things have changed there is still much work to do.
I remember the summit in St. Paul as if it was yesterday. This should come as no surprise given the historical significance of the gathering. I had high hopes that we would form a national coalition to advocate for addiction/recovery, but I tempered my expectations knowing how difficult it would be to get 236 people to reach agreement. I thought if we could just leave St Paul with a plan to meet again we would be striking new ground. Well, I think we were all astonished to leave St Paul with the formation of a steering committee to develop an addiction/recovery advocacy organization. To my further surprise, I was elected to represent the Great Lakes region on the steering committee.
I couldn't believe my good fortune, but I must say that developing an organization that can sustain itself and provide direction, while simultaneously considering the innumerable needs of the addiction/recovering community was complex and exhausting work. In those early days the road was pretty rocky. I learned that sitting at a table of talented people committed to a common vision doesn't always translate into a smooth process. At one point I thought the steering committee was going to fold. It was the desire to keep the vision alive that galvanized the members of the steering committee and therefore, complete the foundation for the Faces & Voices of Recovery. And for that I am eternally grateful.
I have had the good fortune to have a dual career in both the addictions field and in radio broadcasting since the mid 70's, privileged to work with many of the greats in the movement, including Marty Mann, Fr. Martin, and former Senator Harold Hughes, who all shared a powerful vision for a strong, effective grassroots movement. They are gone, passing the mantle to us. That transfer began in St. Paul, starting as a non-threatening campaign with an inclusive nationwide buy-in.
The feeling in the rooms of St. Paul was different from SOAR and NCADD. There were new, fresh, energetic faces and powerful, articulate voices, gathered together by Johnny Allum, former president of SOAR. He and the late Sen. Wellstone, along with personal encouragement from Congressman Ramstad, built the bridge from what was, to what is. Seeds were planted and soon the harvest began.
I hosted a local radio show on recovery in the 80's. Being in St. Paul, inspired by creative synergizing energy, provided the impetus for me to create a new radio show, national in reach and scope, that would carry the message of hope and the promise of recovery to millions. Some three years later RECOVERY Coast to Coast took to the airwaves, inspired by the strength and vitality of this newly revitalized American movement. RC2C is now in it's 7th year of nightly broadcasting!
The idea that a small group of concerned people would meet in a place like Minnesota to discuss the "big ideas" of the day is no great surprise! With organizations like; Hazelden, the Johnson Institute, St. Mary's/Fairview, and the StepUP Program at Augsburg College; and pioneering ideas like recovery schools, drug courts, early interventions and the Minnesota Model of treatment; and people with passion and purpose like Vernon Johnson, Wheelock Whitney, Sen. Paul Wellstone and Rep. Jim Ramstad. Minnesota probably seemed the fertile ground to convene.
What does strike me as odd was how centered, focused and confident this next generation of recovery leaders were. These true advocates lead us on the next wave of our evolution in the advancement and understanding of addition and recovery. How salient their message was that silence was killing us, stigma holding us back, and that the simple expression of putting a public face on our recovery could and would change these perceptions!
Now we stand at the turning point. A time in which all options must be investigated. New technologies are changing the way we learn, what we know about our brains and bodies, how medications can sometimes play a role in our recoveries. How genetics may unlock new opportunities that cure disease. Our focus as advocates must be to innovate! Innovate the way we treat addiction, the way we research the disease, the way we educate the public and how we integrate the new solutions of the future.
For us to be effective in the coming decades, we must continue to practice the principles of doing things "one step at a time", while we keep an open mind to the power and possibilities that science can accelerate us to a cure! Yes, I said a cure! I believe we can cure addiction in my lifetime, and I'm committed to making that a reality!
I hope you will join me and the other advocates for addiction, treatment and recovery, and a cure. Until we reach the Promised Land, look for me on the path of recovery just taking it one day at a time.
I am honored to have participated in the recovery movement and initiation of Faces & Voices of Recovery. I am a person in long term recovery with purpose and capacity only due to my fellow friends and colleagues of the last 10 years. Faces & Voices of Recovery has fought for the rights, prevention, treatment and recovery on all battlefields of this nation, from local to federal advocacy and from small purpose to community building capacity. I've learned that people in recovery will have to give back recovery for communities to be healthy. Faces & Voices of Recovery is providing the recovery capacity for our communities to live in long term recovery. From the beginning, Faces & Voices of Recovery has provided powerful voices and faces of recovery, fighting for addiction recovery and to eliminate discrimination and stigma associated with recovery. I hope my purpose to help others achieve recovery continues to align and be part of Faces & Voices of Recovery. Congratulations Faces & Voices of Recovery on your Tenth year anniversary.
The promise that was evident at the St. Paul Summit has been realized and then some. We have collectively continued the mobilization of the recovery community and seen the effects in recovery advocacy, public policy and the increasing visibility for our community. The next ten years hold promise to accelerate and deepen the penetration of recovery thinking into all aspects of American life.
"It's a great time to be in recovery!" I tell people this whenever I teach the Science of Addiction and Recovery Training of Trainers workshop around the country. I say it because even though I had many years of recovery it took the coming together of a group of us in the recovery community to agree we needed a voice. This voice needed to be heard at the local, state and national level. We had to start speaking out as a united front if we wanted to make a difference in the horrible stigma that continued to plague how addiction and recovery was viewed by the general public, policy makers, even the health care field.
Through the vision of many courageous people the birth of Faces & Voices came to life in St. Paul, MN in 200l. I'm proud and humbled to have been among that group.
In the last 10 years we have changed the discussion at all levels of policy and treatment. No longer are we "those" people who need to "get it together". We are people in recovery from a potentially life threatening illness who found, in William-Cope Moyers wonderfully creative and powerful words, "had the baffling ability to Just Say No." Faces & Voices gives hope to those still suffering by changing the dialogue. And it gives the power of numbers - tens of thousands of voices - to those who make policy.
Yes, it's a great time to be in recovery - and to know we're making a difference!
I have had the extreme pleasure of involvement with the recovery advocacy movement since 1999. Early on, those of us that worked in the movement had a dream of a national organization that was by and for people in recovery but it always seemed we would go round and round about how that structure would happen. I remember sitting in those early RCSP grantee meetings brainstorming in the evenings to discuss our ideas for a national organization. Needless to say, we also had some misgivings.
The St. Paul Summit was the opportunity to lay groundwork for this national organization. It was also an opportunity to see others (especially those without funding) that were developing their own local and state recovery advocacy movements! The Summit opened my eyes beyond the early RCSP work. We were blessed to hear Paul Wellstone's enthusiasm about recovery; Bill White sharing his wealth of knowledge and seeing recovering individuals from all walks of life gathering in St. Paul to move forward with this movement. And oh, What a movement!!!!
Faces and Voices of Recovery was born out of that Summit and has grown into a well-respected organization that has a defined purpose and which those of us in recovery believe in! I am so honored to be part of the organization and to be part of this ride, the successes and challenges along with the fact that it was born out of the early recovery movement and the likes of us that came together on those days in early October ten years ago.
Ten years ago this month recovery advocates came together in St. Paul, Minnesota to launch what has since been christened the new addiction recovery advocacy movement. In the years since, 'recovery summits" have become something of a fad, but that was not the case in 2001. The St. Paul meeting was the first time people in personal and family recovery from addiction and their allies came together to talk not about the nature of the problem or methods of problem resolution, but to talk about how to culturally convey the reality of recovery in the lives of millions of individuals and families. That focus was the spark that ignited us and that has since sustained us.
My memories of this event include: struggles to get the meeting planned, excitement to finally meet so many of my peers face-to-face, the passion that permeated the rooms, the inspirational speeches, pervasive fear about who might hijack this event and the fledgling movement for their own purposes, lots of laughter, Susan Rook interviewing everyone with her recorder, Gabrielle Antolovich constantly snapping photos, many people saying to me "Isn't Don Coyhis amazing," Lisa Mojer-Torres and I in deep discussion about medication and recovery, breakfasts with Bob Savage and Alex Brumbaugh in which we solved all the world's problems, my own nervousness about giving the closing keynote, and a sense as I left that what we started really could end up in the history books.
At the 2001 St. Paul Recovery Summit, everyone present witnessed the cracking open of the collective closet door. Through our public visibility and vocal presence, we asserted that we would no longer let others define us. Many who said that people in recovery from addiction could not be organized were proved wrong. Although isolated rumblings had occurred before, the Summit was a defining moment of creating recovery communities that were out, loud, and proud. Emerging from the Summit was the organization that would spearhead and shepherd the recovery movement, Faces & Voices of Recovery.
Ten years later, I am amazed at what has been accomplished by people in recovery, their family members, and allies, all working together in community. We are everywhere, undertaking recovery rallies and celebrations, conducting public education and policy campaigns, and pioneering peer services that support recovery. We have seats at tables where important decisions are made. We are confident that many can benefit from our valuable experience of recovery from addiction. And while we have a long way to go, we can stop for a moment and celebrate the many milestones and gains we have made in a very short time.
A ten-year anniversary, where has the time gone! Faces & Voices of Recovery is still a winner, Yeah. I remember the beginnings and the Minnesota Summit in 2001 with the wonderful William Moyers Jr. and Congressman Ramstad. At that meeting, we were putting together the mission statement as well as networking with others who would be part of the original states and remain friends and colleagues from there forward. I remember so well the lights-out ending to the night with the lights of hope burning all over the room.
Personally, my recovery continues and has since 1979 and I guess I am an old timer now. That seems impossible when I think back to my early years and how old the old timers seemed to me and how difficult to see that many years of happy sobriety ahead. During my working life, I was fortunate enough to work in the field, being my agency's representative with Faces & Voices among other initiatives and statewide conferences. In my retirement, I've reaped the benefits of a life rich in recovery and lasting friendships with others on the same path. Thank you for the memory and many more years of service.
Historic. Awe-inspiring. Pivotal. Exciting. Extraordinary. Visionary. Left a lasting legacy.
It is not often that anything earns even one of those descriptions. The St. Paul Summit in the fall of 2001 deserves every one of them, and more. For me, it was the first time that the possibility that people in recovery from addiction and their families, friends and allies could mobilize and advocate for recovery moved from a hopeful notion to a reality. The highlights of the meeting were their very presence - and that of Senator Paul Wellstone and Congressman Jim Ramstad, two of the greatest champions the field of recovery has ever had.
It was truly an honor to be in the midst of recovery advocates who were from all over the country, who came from all backgrounds, and who had achieved recovery in a variety of different ways. Yet they were all united in the common purpose of planning a future in which addiction is seen as the disease it is, and those who are in recovery or still suffering from addiction are treated with dignity and respect as the family, friends and neighbors they are. A future in which the millions of Americans still suffering from addiction and their families receive the care they need. A future in which people in recovery are not subject to discrimination based on their past, be that alcohol and drug use or criminal justice involvement, but instead can enjoy all the opportunities to live full and productive lives that all Americans deserve. Ten years later, we are much closer to that reality, thanks to the St. Paul summit.
Congratulations and thank you to Faces & Voices of Recovery for 10 years of continuous work on behalf of those affected by addiction. I am reminded of the pre-summit planning work I was honored to be a part of while working with the dedicated Johnson Institute Foundation board, George Bloom, William Moyers, William White, Don Coyhis, Jeff Blodgett and many other dedicated and passionate individuals from around the country. I fondly remember the 'faces and voices', Ronnie Uss' flame-shaped flash lights we each held high to light the way for the future 'faces and voices' of recovery. It was an exciting and hopeful time, filled with the anticipation of what might happen after the St. Paul Summit!
Today my hope is that those most affected by addiction, their family and friends, addiction professionals, and others in the community who know the impact of addiction as well as the reality of addiction recovery, SPEAK UP loudly and SPEAK UP often. I hope that individuals who choose to SPEAK UP do it for honorable reasons, not for personal or professional gain, and clearly convey the reality that long-term recovery can happen for anyone who suffers from addiction.
Recovery is a journey - sometimes uphill, sometimes downhill, occasionally flat - but always a blessing. I went to the Summit in St. Paul 10 years ago as a brand new employee of the University of Nevada Reno's Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies which is home to the Mountain West Addiction Technology Transfer Center. I was enthralled and encouraged by the speakers, attendees, and guests.
In my new position as the director of a Recovery Community Services Program (RCSP), the Frontier Recovery Network (FRN), in Reno, Nevada, I felt a responsibility to absorb as much knowledge and support as I could. The FRN was in existence for the next five years and I believe, offered disenfranchised folks in recovery the opportunity to bond with one another and create a sense of community. Many of these people are still friends today.
As for me, when the funding for the FRN stopped, I went on to become the Executive Director of an outpatient counseling agency focusing primarily on adolescents. As a person in recovery myself, I want to give back and what better way than to work with young people on making healthier choices for themselves? Our newest project involves (hopefully) creating the first sober high school in the State of Nevada where adolescents in recovery can have a safe, secure environment in which to learn.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to share my story!
At the 10-year mark of Faces & Voices of Recovery, I would like to offer my congratulations to all of those who helped to make this organization the vibrant force for change that it is today. As a program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in the early formative years of Faces & Voices, our group clearly saw the need for better organization of advocates for recovery and more reasonable public policy. Yet, the field had a reputation for having many internal wrangles and ideological rifts. So, it was with some trepidation that we recommended an RWJF grant to help start the new organization. None of those fears were realized and I have continued to be impressed with the inclusiveness of Faces & Voices, its intelligent approach to advocacy for policy change, and its true talent in forging productive partnerships regionally, nationally, and beyond.
Faces & Voices has made recovery visible and celebrated, changed public policy for the better, and improved the health of individuals, families and, communities. In short, Faces & Voices of Recovery has played a major role in making the world more humane and supportive for people in recovery and those who love them. The next ten years will be even better.
I have not been involved with the Missouri Recovery Network's Faces and Voices Project since the end of 2003. Due to some disagreements within the organization where the "Recovery Network" was housed and differing philosophies, I left the project. We were in the process of building coalitions in 10 Missouri Cities, with several State Wide Conferences and Media Events, increasing our membership by tremendous numbers. However, some members of the Board and outsiders felt we should be doing less coalition building and community activity, focusing more on Legislative Advocacy only. My contention was: We needed to build a more powerful, assertive advocacy (voice) through numbers of voices unafraid to tell their stories, writing letters and testifying before legislative bodies about recovery issues and needs.
There have been two or three Directors since I left and the current Director, who has been involved since the beginning of the Project is Judie Didriksen in Jefferson City, Missouri. Judie and I discussed the request for an essay about the 10 years of activity and she agreed to send the report as requested. She did inform me the Missouri Recovery Network was in the process of separating from the original organization under which MRN was contracted, which had primarily a Statewide Substance Abuse Prevention Mission. MRN will become more focused on Recovery issues after the reorganization.
After an early career as a school teacher and athletic coach, I spent 35 years working as a professional in the recovery field and care very much about this project. I look back to the energy and early development within the organization and feel very good about our accomplishments. We made a difference, in several communities, bringing together recovering and non-recovering community leaders to "care" about addiction and it's impact on business, the economy, families and especially children. By empowering recovering individuals to tell their stories and giving permission to speak up and feel good about recovery from addiction, many individual prejudices were turned to opportunities and more doors opened. Thank you for the great opportunity to be involved in this important project.
As I look back at the St. Paul Summit, I am awed by what transpired when 200 individuals gathered for one brief weekend. The right blend of inspired leadership; a diverse, national mix of passionate, dedicated participants; and a focused vision and mission resulted in what can only be described as an explosion.
I returned to New York state and shared my heightened passion with others in our rural, upstate area; we became Friends of Recovery of Delaware and Otsego Counties. FOR-DO now has a recovery community center in each county, where recovery peers offer vital recovery support services. Equally important, we have a strong advocacy movement that has hosted September Rallies for Recovery with recovery walks for the past 10 years. Similar groups have developed across the state, and more local communities are "catching the fever."
In 2007, with support from Faces and Voices of Recovery, Friends of Recovery New York incorporated to be our statewide recovery community leadership and advocacy organization. FOR-NY coordinates an annual Recovery Advocacy Day at the state capital, collaborates with other state organizations in national recovery month activities, particularly the Rally for Recovery and, more recently has assumed leadership of the New York State Recovery Coach Academy, overseeing the implementation and delivery of the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy and Training of Trainers.
Individually and collectively, individuals in recovery, their families, friends and allies in New York State are an excited, joyous and dedicated part of an amazing recovery tidal wave.
I attended the Summit ten years ago in St. Paul and we in recovery continue to carry the message. When we stand tall in our recovery, we convey a powerful message of truth and provide a true vision of the possibilities of a better tomorrow. In our darkest hours we reached out for help and in our recovery we reach out to those who still suffer. In our recovery we also lead by example. Today, many persons in both the public and private sectors, who ware their recovery openly, show the world and those who still suffer the possibilities of a truly meaningful life.
I have been in recovery for 43 years and it has truly been the most important event of my life. My recovery and the face you see is who I am. Like the many of use in Recovery, I committed my life's work to those who still suffer and we are making a difference. I have always been open about my recovery and have never viewed it as a barrier in my personal or professional life. What you see is who I am.
We in Recovery must continue reaching out to those who still suffer. For example, one in ten persons who are involved in the criminal justice system is in need of intervention and treatment. Those of us in recovery can reach out a helping hand. We must continue to carry the message by our examples and be open to the world about whom we are and what we do.
It was an honor to be able to attend the St. Paul Summit. Under the leadership of Faces and Voices of Recovery much has been accomplished over the ten year period since the Summit. Members of the Recovery Community who participated should be very proud of their efforts. I am a family member of an alcoholic father and experienced the dysfunctional aspects caused by growing up within such an environment. I wish that my father could have been able to take advantage of all the Recovery Services available today as a result of efforts by the Recovery Community and Faces & Voices.
Much has been done to support the person in recovery. What I would like to see now is for Faces & Voices to take on as a primary goal to help organize family members to come together to work together as a group to put a positive face on family issues related to addiction and to organize an effort to assist family members suffering as a result of having family members who are addicted to Alcohol and/or other drugs. I feel that the Recovery Community will not be complete until more emphasis is given to including families in the overall process. Perhaps a summit should be organized for this effort.
Please refer to Bill White's web site for a paper I co-authored with Bill White for more information related to family issues entitled "All in the family: Alcohol and other drugs problems, recovery, advocacy".
I remember the day the word "recovery" continuously came out of the mouth of John Walters, the National Drug Czar. As we sat in the audience of the National Press Club, announcing the official beginning of National Recovery Month, we knew we had come to an important milestone. The significance was the attention our efforts were getting. We were no longer silent. No longer would we allow ourselves to be ignored. If recovery is about taking responsibility for your life then the efforts of these past ten years have been about the recovery community taking responsibility for our part in larger society. We have insinuated our voices into every conversation that affects us: nothing about us, without us.
This movement has had some amazing accomplishments in the past ten years. We have been finding our voice and realizing we are as responsible for the way society and policymakers view us as anyone else. One of the greatest lessons: if you believe you have value and something important to say and contribute, then other people come to believe the same. I hope in the next ten years we continue to break free from the chains of victimhood that have held us down for so many years. I hope that we constantly challenge ourselves to always be of substance - and not fall for the cheap allure of sound and fury (signifying nothing.) Most importantly I hope we always remember that these efforts have little to do with us - they are to help those still suffering.
It has been remarked that self-esteem is built upon esteemable actions.
The actions of more than two hundred self-declared survivors of addiction disease in St Paul in October of 2001 were profoundly esteemable - more so in reflection as the years pass and the actions multiply.
As a scribe, I wrote the history of those moments as they appear on the Faces and Voices of Recovery website. I correctly said we developed three goals:
1) To celebrate and honor recovery in all its diversity.
2) To foster advocacy skills in the tradition of American advocacy movements.
3) To produce principles, language, strategy and leadership to carry the movement forward.
In citing these literal and logical products of our Summit, however, I grossly shorted the deeper action that occurred.
Those that witness volcano eruptions can describe the above surface power, outpouring of lava, and dislocation of old earthly features. They cannot, however, discern - let alone describe - the transformation occurring below the surface. Things never return to the way they were.
So it has been with launching a movement for rights, voice, and self-esteem on behalf of millions who practice recovery journeys from chemical addiction. We honor the powerful, though sporadic voices of the modern era - like Sen. Harold Hughes, Dr. Vernon Johnson, Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and many others.
But one day in St. Paul, the voices of everyday citizens found footing in each other and our awakened activism to cast off victimhood and claim citizenship like never before. We launched more than an association. We joined more than fellowship. We found more than common cause.
We found our inner strength. We joined each other's passion. And we launched a movement.
From that moment, we walked the path of human development as old as civilization - the journey toward justice, intrinsic value, and common dignity for all.
The results are awesome: more than 200 local organizations, new definitions of recovery, firm footsteps for advocacy, the new discipline of Recovery Coaching, and a fresh understanding in the public of chronic disease versus faulty behavior. Because of our movement, understanding has greatly improved, social policies grown in justice and service delivery, and individual healing begun much earlier in the incidence of illness.
Our work has just begun. Discrimination yet abounds. But we now stand on the shoulders of those who overcame our collective shame, ignored internal squabbles over pathways of recovery, and dared to claim citizenship as the reward and right of recovery.
It is interesting that the St. Paul Summit occurred within days of the most famous attack on our nation's values - including tolerance and justice. In our nation's lowest moment, we found our highest calling.
To me the main feeling of the summit was one of empowerment - people in recovery, coming together in numbers and in diversity, feeling the power to speak for themselves, stepping forward in a public way, telling their stories, and courageously proclaiming that we are the face of recovery. We spent a lot of time talking about language: taking on stigmatizing language (substance abusers!), and developing our own narrative about the power and possibilities of recovery as a way of creating hope for people with active addiction. The summit was all about taking recovery storytelling public, to reach people and their families that still need help and to influence public policy.
I am so proud to see how Faces and Voices of Recovery has grown into an important, powerful grassroots organization. I am honored that I was able to be at the start of this movement.
My recollection of the St. Paul conference has two sad bookends: September 11 and the death of Senator Paul Wellstone just one year later.
That morning in early October, when we arrived at the Philadelphia airport to fly to Minneapolis/St. Paul, the terminal was lined with soldiers carrying rifles. I cried to think that the events of September 11 had brought us to this.
Those of us from Southeast Pennsylvania had already had one event of healing. We had decided to go forward our STAR Brunch on September 16, an event which honored the writer of the film "Traffic" and others who were public advocates for recovery. Amidst grief and fear we had been inspired by the performance of an immensely talented recovery choir from Harlem, the inspirational words of the award winners, and the sense that recovery and the recovery community would help us heal.
The St. Paul event underscored that belief. We shared our dreams and developed plans, elected leaders and looked to others to help us find the way. One of them was Senator Paul Wellstone. He cautioned us that we had much work to do, that the mental health community had worked diligently for years to craft a mental health parity bill that he was sponsoring and that he believed was poised for passage. He told us the truth: he couldn't add addiction without jeopardizing the bill. He didn't discourage us, however; he urged us to organize and work toward the goal of recognition and inclusion.
When he died in a plane crash a year later, the bill was still pending and then it languished. I believe he would have been proud and happy to learn that the bill did eventually pass, it did include addiction, and the recovery community played a large part in its passage.
We still have a long way to go, but the creation of Faces and Voices of Recovery and its successes are a credit to the committed folks who gathered in St. Paul to organize our community and promote healing, community, dignity, and equality.