As I stared through watery eyes at pictures of a rainbow-splattered White House recently, I was moved like never before by the magnificent power contained in a critical mass courageously stepping out of the shadows.
I thought of all the small acts of bravery that many individuals performed and considered the immense personal risks that many individuals took. I thought about the ridicule some faced and about others who lost their jobs, found themselves shunned by their families, misunderstood by their friends or judged by their communities. I marveled at how despite these significant challenges, many still stepped out of the shadows and boldly stood for their truth. The results of this boldness and authenticity are as clear as the red, yellow, green, purple and blue lights that illuminated the walls of the White House. Change happened, and quite literally, the light of the movement shined upon the heart of America’s democracy.
I then thought to myself, “What if?”
What if another social issue near and dear to my heart were to be met with the same critical mass courageously stepping out of the shadows? What if this other group of individuals who have been stigmatized, discriminated against, and treated with far less than the equality they are promised in our Constitution were to so boldly step out of the shadows and into their truth?
What if the over 23 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction were to come out of the shadows and let the world know of their stories and their solutions?
What if over 23 million Americans and their families, friends, communities and allies stood as one and demanded equality?
But before I could answer, another gnawing question that has lingered with me came to mind:
How exactly has the LBGTQ+ equality movement been able to muster such momentum and achieve such significant gains, including widespread support from allies, businesses, legislators, religious leaders, higher education institutions and more? How did this happen and what do we, as the addiction recovery advocacy movement, have to learn here?
While the answer to this question is certainly complex, multi-faceted and systemic in nature, there is one thing that continues to jump out at me. Money—yes, it’s the M word. The LGBTQ+ equality movement has been able to secure financial support in a rather impressive fashion not only from members of the LBGTQ communities themselves but from their allies and supporters as well. This financial support serves as a catalyst for obtaining and sustaining access to the resources needed to carry out the cause.
With 350 people dying across America every single day from the treatable illness of substance use disorder, we cannot afford to roll along as slowly as we have. It is imperative that we put money into funding services and campaigns with the same ferocity and dedication that the LGBTQ+ equality movement has shown us. The time is NOW for the addiction recovery advocacy movement to finds ways to secure financial support from its own vast network of recovery communities, along with its allies and supporters.
One way you can act immediately is by registering to attend the PRO-ACT Recovery Walk (www.recoverywalks.org) on September 19th at Penn’s Landing and begin fundraising. Whether as a sponsor; an individual, team member or team captain; or donor if you cannot attend; every dollar you contribute will help PRO-ACT (www.proact.org) to erase stigma, fight discrimination, increase awareness of the benefits of recovery, and provide support and resources to individuals and families working to achieve long-term recovery.
Step out of the shadows on September 19 with 23,000 other supporters of recovery and participate in the largest walk ever assembled in support of addiction recovery—PRO-ACT’s 14th annual Recovery Walk. Put a face and voice on recovery; show that recovery is possible; and honor those who have lost their lives.
Stepping out of the shadows takes courage. Recovery takes courage. But the LGBTQ+ equality movement has shown us just how much power we have to initiate change if we show courage by stepping out and speaking up.
Please join us on September 19th at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia by registering at www.recoverywalks.org.
Project Coordinator, Supporting Youth Recovery
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.