Toward a Global Recovery Advocacy Movement

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In 1976, 52 prominent Americans publicly proclaimed their recovery from alcoholism as part of the National Council of Alcoholism’s Operation Understanding–a public education initiative designed to address the stereotypes and stigma attached to alcoholism.  It was a watershed moment in the history of addiction recovery in the United States., but an event that would not have been possible but for some very brave souls–Lillian Roth, Mercedes McCambridge, Marty Mann and others–who had earlier tested the waters of such public disclosure.  And First Lady Betty Ford’s disclosure of her own recovery from alcoholism and drug dependence a few years later would have been unlikely without these precursor events.  What Dr. Michelle McClellan has called the “genealogy of disclosure” of addiction recovery set the stage for the rise of a new recovery advocacy movement.

In 1976, it would have been unthinkable that some of those 52 American who were part of Operation Understanding would live to see a day when more than 100,000 people in recovery would march with their families and friends in recovery celebration events across the United States.  But that unthinkable day has arrived.  A flourishing  recovery advocacy movement continues to spread across the United States that is spawning new recovery support structures and transforming addiction treatment in its wake.  Even more unimaginable would have been a prediction that a recovery advocacy movement in the U.S. would spread beyond its borders to spark the cultural mobilization of people in recovery around the world.  And yet, that is precisely what seems to be happening, with each national movement takes on its own unique forms and its own distinct advocacy and recovery support service agendas.  What they share in common is recovering people standing collectively to affirm the hope of long-term recovery, to celebrate the varieties of recovery experience and to forge the physical, psychological and social space within which recovery can flourish in communities around the globe.

The story of this global recovery advocacy movement has yet to be fully told, but documents and images are accumulating to affirm its existence.  Here are just of a few of the images that have been sent to me in recent months. 

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 PRO-ACT Rally for Recovery, Philadelphia 2013  

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 Canadian Rally for Recovery 2013 

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Recovery Parade in Tokyo, Japan 2013 

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Recovery Rally in Zanzibar, Africa 

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Recovery Rally in Australia 2013 

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Training for Recovery Support Specialists in Iran

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UK Recovery Walk in Birmingham 2013

Something quite profound is happening within recovery communities around the world.  Are you ready to be part of it?  Let’s go make some history.