The World Still Needs to Know: Recovery is Possible
By Jeremiah Gardner
HOPE. In the age of memes, this powerful but overused word has probably lost some potency. But when it comes to recovery and recovery advocacy, hope is no platitude. It literally propels everything.
Many of us with substance use disorders try our darnedest to make changes only to fall short initially, maybe repeatedly— blaming ourselves and losing HOPE. Eventually, we may even grow hopeless and resign ourselves to the struggle. In the absence of knowing more, who wouldn’t? The internal resources that normally help us — our brains , bodies and spirits — are compromised. Our lack of control baffles us.
And then … we meet somebody who has walked in our shoes. Someone who has struggled, too, but is now experiencing a life that’s attractive to us. Real HOPE emerges, and suddenly, change becomes possible.
Later, we may even get the chance to provide HOPE to others by sharing our recovery story. Not just in one-to-one meetings, or mutual aid groups, but in all sorts of forums — public and private. This beautiful circle is not just the foundation of recovery advocacy. It’s the very essence.
We have additional advocacy goals — to change various public policies and professional practices — but nothing should distract us from our essence. Many sources of stigma and pessimism — including the behaviors associated with active addiction and the tragic truth that many succumb to the disease — are relentless. We must be equally dogged in our advocacy. No matter how many stories of HOPE get told, we must continue to tell more.
Scott Adams — famous for writing the comic strip Dilbert —recently reminded us that the world still needs to hear the message: recovery is possible. Having lost his stepson to addiction a few years ago, Adams expressed an especially bleak take on the prospect of recovery — suggesting that loved ones of people with addiction have only two choices: watch them die, or kill them.
“There’s nothing you can do when your kid is on drugs. There’s no program, no therapist, no rehab, no government program. … There’s no help. None. Nothing you can do,” he said on his podcast, expounding on an earlier series of tweets, including one that said: “You have two options. Only two. No help is coming. Only death and suffering.”
It was hard to read and hear, knowing Adams’ hopelessness is borne out of deep pain and frustration — and that his commentary could dash others’ hope, too, and perpetuate the persistent myth that people can’t recover.
Filmmaker James Gunn was among the recovery advocates to offer another perspective.
“As someone who was himself a violent teenager addicted to drugs & entered recovery with the help & love of his family, as well as someone who has seen dozens of other young men stay sober & become fruitful members of society, these are not the only two options,” Gunn tweeted.
The exchange got me reflecting on how we can sometimes complicate our aims as advocates, and even lose sight of what is most essential: that is, sharing HOPE and making very clear: people can and do recover.
This September, during National Recovery Month, Hazelden Betty Ford looks forward to participating in two national events centered on that mission:
Mobilize Recovery Across America Bus Tour (throughout September) — check out the freshly announced tour stops (including Minneapolis/St. Paul, Atlanta, Denver, Sacramento, Washington, DC, and many more), and sign up to attend an event in your community
Faces & Voices of Recovery Leadership Summit & America Honors Recovery Gala in St. Paul, Minnesota (Oct. 2–5) —take a look at the keynote speakers announced thus far, and get tickets
More Recovery Advocacy News, Issues & Miscellaneous Musings
📕 READ: On Saturday, July 16, a national experiment in mental health care will begin when a new three-digit phone number, 988, activates, enabling people who are contemplating suicide or are otherwise in crisis to connect to a person trained to listen and help. Just as everyone can remember 911 for police or fire, it is hoped that 988 will be easy to remember in an emergency, and may even ease the stigma of seeking help. Here’s what to know.
📕 READ: Increasingly, U.S. Justice Department attorneys are leveraging the Americans with Disabilities Act to try to overcome some of the rampant discrimination that people with substance use disorders face.
⌨ ️TAKE ACTION: Congress is considering legislation that would empower the Department of Labor to levy financial penalties against insurance companies that fail to comply with the “parity” law that requires fair coverage for people with substance use disorders. Learn more and take action.
📕 READ: Our friend Ryan Hampton writes about a recent court decision that puts “parity” at risk.
📺 WATCH: Learn more about the future of the Betty Ford Center, where we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary in 2022 and held a ribbon-cutting for a new entrance and street address — both significant in their own ways. It’s the first big milestone in a multi-year campus transformation.
📕 READ: Depending on who you ask, Minnesota legislators accidentally, strategically or surreptitiously passed a law legalizing hemp-derived THC products, which became available July 1 — untaxed and under-regulated. Here are details on the new law and the new products that had some residents lined up out the doors of many shops, while others warned of negative public health impacts and the slippery slope toward broader marijuana legalization.
📕 READ: Meanwhile, other states are rolling back some of their permissive cannabis laws. Oregon, for example, banned all delta-8 THC products.
📕 READ: In a study highlighted by the Recovery Research Institute, youth that reported e-cigarette use were more likely to report past 30-day cannabis use 12 months later compared to youth that did not report using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days at baseline. Youth reporting e-cigarette use had odds of cannabis use 5.1 times that of youth that did not report past 30-day e-cigarette use.
📕 READ: Unfortunately, the tragic trend continues: state officials in Minnesota report that overdose deaths hit another record high in 2021.
📕 READ: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that doctors need to knowingly misprescribe opioids for it to be a crime. In another setback for victims of the opioid crisis, see Emily Piper’s Beltway and Opioid Litigation Briefs.
📕 READ: We are proud and very excited about Hazelden Publishing’s new crowdsourced meditation book, Leave No One Behind, which amplifies the voices of military veterans and active service members in recovery.
📕 READ: Reflecting on the loss of a friend named Andrew, our own Tori Utley writes beautifully about getting to see him “taste and see the goodness of grace, belonging and brotherly love.”
📕 READ: White House backs extension of telehealth addiction treatment.
🔊 LISTEN: On July 16, 1983, former New York Yankees reliever Ryne Duren was presented with the Yankee Family Award for his service as a recovery advocate. Fun facts: Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg was named in honor of Duren. And Duren was the inspiration for the character Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, played by Charlie Sheen, in the movie Major League. Listen to Duren speak at the Betty Ford Center’s Awareness Hour in 1994.
📕 READ: The New York City Health Department’s “Let’s Talk Fentanyl” campaign made headlines for placing posters that promoted illegal drug use: “Don’t be ashamed you are using, be empowered that you are using safely.”
📝 REGISTER: On July 20, we’ll host a special screening of Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, a powerful new two-part documentary by Ken Burns and PBS, at Hazelden Betty Ford in Plymouth. Register if you live in the Twin Cities or watch the documentary online (see Part 1 and Part 2).
📺 WATCH: Ken Burns says Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness will save lives.
📕 READ: Raye Z. Litten, Ph.D., is the new director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery at NIAAA.
📕 READ: NIAAA updates “Rethinking Drinking” booklet and website.
📕 READ: Our friend Frank Greenagel writes a tribute to collegiate recovery legend Lisa Laitman.
📕 READ: Ahmed Eid is Hazelden Betty Ford’s new Minnesota Region vice president. A clinician-leader and recovery advocate with considerable expertise in helping people recover from opioid and other substance use disorders, Eid will oversee treatment centers in St. Paul, Plymouth, Chaska and Maple Grove as well as our largest campus in Center City.
📕 READ: Our friend, recovery advocate and data maestro David Whitesock, reflects on independence.
📕 READ: Actor Bradley Cooper gets candid about his struggles with drug addiction in his 20s and how Will Arnett made him realize he needed to get sober.
📺 WATCH: Thanks to Golf Life for the wonderful video recap of the 2nd Annual Grant Fuhr Invitational benefiting Hazelden Betty Ford.
📕 READ: The First Lady’s season finale on Showtime featured the groundbreaking of the Betty Ford Center, as reported in What to Watch.
📕 READ: This month’s sign of the apocalypse: Disney World’s newest drink asks guests for an astounding $5,000 to enjoy “the Galaxy’s Rarest” cocktail.
📕 READ: The 2022 World Cup matches in Qatar will be almost completely alcohol-free.
📕 READ: Google will erase location history for addiction treatment and other health care visits.
📕 READ: Smart Approaches to Marijuana is urging the Motion Picture Association to maintain and re-enforce its rating guidelines under which motion pictures that depict marijuana use will receive “R” ratings. Additionally, its calling on studios to reject marijuana product endorsements and product placement deals, as they already do with tobacco products.
📕 READ: If you go to an event in Oregon where alcohol his served, you might spot an “Alcohol Monitor.”
📕 READ: Historian, advocate and deep thinker William White used his blog to highlight a “promising” effort to enhance career development pathways for recovery coaches.
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Jeremiah Gardner is director of communications and public affairs for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.