How to Be a Voice for Recovery in Your CommunityAnna Ciulla
In our celebration of this year’s National Recovery Month and its 2017 theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities,” I’m reflecting on what it means to be a voice for recovery. My last post focused on what that might look like within families—whether or not we ourselves are in recovery for a substance use disorder. Now we’ll turn our attention to our community, with a view to exploring what it might mean to be a voice for recovery there.
What is Your Community?
But first, a definition of community and what “community” is and is not: community is best defined as your network of relationships that extend beyond your family (and do not include your family). In this sense, the community is not strictly the people living near you in your neighborhood—(although if you know your neighbors, it can be said that these relationships belong to your community).
When I talk about community, then, I really mean the relationships that comprise your daily life. You may find these relationships in one or more (and often a combination) of the following settings:
- A peer support group (if you have one)
- Neighborhood/neighborhood association
- Social gathering places (café, community center, soccer field, etc.)
- A local cause/campaign
- Service/volunteer setting, such as a parent-teacher association, local homeless shelter, etc.
- Gym or country club
- Sports teams (either your kids’ or your own, such as a Master’s/recreational club)
- Social networking groups
Tips for Using Your Voice to Support Recovery in Your Community
If the first step to being a voice for recovery in your community is to identify that community, the second step is to get actively involved in these spheres of influence (and what follow are just some of the many ways to do this):
- Talk about the stigma of addiction and ways to combat it. That might mean speaking in schools and to educators about the disease and its prevention, or sharing your story of recovery as you feel led—whether that’s with your local congressional representative, a church youth group or senior citizens in a health and wellness seminar.
- Be a regular contributor in 12-step meetings … and get a sponsor and sponsor others. (Give back in your recovery, in other words, by helping those in similar shoes.)
- Encourage good healthy fun. Promote, host and/or organize sober leisure activities in your church, neighborhood, workplace or another community setting.
- Promote a recovery-friendly work environment. Be proactive — whether you’re an employer or employee — is working to ensure your workplace has drug-free policies and programs, including support for those in recovery, such as an on-site 12-step group.
- If you’re a creative, with a gift in writing, music or art, create something that you can then share with your community. If you’re an artist, draw or paint something that you can hang at the local coffee shop. If you like to write poetry—like someone I know who has been sober for more than 20 years, and is now publishing a book of poems he wrote when he was in the grip of active addiction—share your poems with others, in public readings or as you feel inspired.
- Organize a National Recovery Month event in your area, with the help of this free toolkit from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Events might include a fundraiser walk; the public dedication of a piece of artwork; or a cookout or dinner for friends to come and learn more about issues related to addiction and recovery. The toolkit offers many other ideas for events, as well as helpful, event-planning tips.
How are you being a voice for recovery in your community? We’d love to hear from you!