When it comes to alcohol and drug addiction, American society is of two minds: On the one hand, we recognize addiction as a chronic brain disorder and primary medical disease; on the other, we perpetuate the notion that addiction is a moral failing — a weakness to be shamed and punished.
We know you are sick… but why have you made such a bad moral choice?
Such is the “logic” by which addicts are branded with the red hot “A” of stigma, and by which our response to addiction is as dysfunctional and damaging as the disease itself.
For 23 million Americans now living in long-term recovery from addiction, a sense of second-class citizenship still prevails. The culture and language of addiction recovery remains tied to the concepts of “failure,” “suspicious” and “loser.” Time and time again, we see a judicial system punishing addicts in the name of a failed “war on drugs,” and continuing to punish them by restricting their access to the fundamental needs that constitute a recovery environment. For example, food stamps are withheld from mothers with previous drug convictions, the right to vote can be uncertain in the case of a drug conviction, medical insurance can be cut off or denied, children of parents with drug convictions can be placed in foster care, and employment opportunities are greatly diminished
For each one of the millions now in long-term recovery, it is estimated that there is one actively addicted person who is not seeking treatment. Two-thirds of U.S. families are personally affected by addiction.
However, there is a light shining through all this darkness – a light that is growing stronger and brighter. The stigma of addiction is being challenged by those with the most intimate understanding of its price: people in long term recovery. And it’s catching fire nationwide, thanks in large measure to the documentary film, “The Anonymous People,” which focuses on the new recovery advocacy movement.
“The Anonymous People,” produced by manyfaces1voice.org, is the clarion call of a nationwide grass-roots, social justice movement dedicated to helping “transform public attitudes and policies affecting people seeking or in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.”
The film is a shared narrative by people in long-term recovery. Its power lies in the courage of those individuals who stepped out of the shadow of stigma into the public discourse in order to offer hope for the untreated. Often, the screenings – which are taking place all over the U.S. — are followed by a short talk given by a member of the community who describes his or her experience in long term recovery from addiction. Here on the Eastern Shore, the film was screened in late February at The Avalon Theatre in Easton, to a near-capacity and extremely appreciative, enthusiastic audience. More screenings around the region are scheuled, including one to be announced in Chestertown. Caroline County will be screening the movie 6:30PM on Friday, May 9 at the Denton Public Library, 100 Market Street.
The local screenings have been organized by Recovery for Shore, a new, regional advocacy group that includes individuals and organizations involved in the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol addiction and in providing support services for individuals and families dealing with related issues. Following their lead, The Community Newspaper Project (Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy) believes that the recovery advocacy movement should be a fundamental community health project. To that end, and with the support of Recovery for Shore, we have created a Recovery section that will now appear on the front pages of the Talbot Spy and Chestertown Spy.
The section banner will read “Recovery for Shore — Ending the Stigma” to acknowledge the umbrella organization of medical, mental health, social and family services professionals involved in addiction recovery, and also to promote the group’s mission to end the stigma of addiction. Articles, interviews, first person accounts and essays, and regional recovery resource information (including specific initiatives, programs, services and schedules) will be ongoing themes in the Recovery section.
Our goal is to help end the mythologies and prejudices regarding alcohol and drug addiction, as well as the ongoing marginalization of people in long-term recovery. We encourage you, our readers, to follow this important social issue as it evolves in our local communities by checking in on this new page, Recovery for Shore, and we also invite your feedback.
Again, there are 23 million Americans living productive, meaningful lives in long-term recovery – our hope is to provide information that will support the strategies that have made their success possible and enable many more to join them.