January is a time of renewal and a call to action. It is a time in which we celebrate the life and legacy of one of the most powerful advocates of the 20th century – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. FOR-NY honors the values that Dr. King personified. The same values that so many of you exemplify in your day-to-day advocacy work: courage, compassion, justice, dignity, humility and service. Even though members of the recovery community experience discrimination, you inspire change in the hearts and minds of decision makers to see people impacted by addiction as more than their illness through your embodiment of unconditional love, forgiveness, and passion.
Ours is a strong and empowered voice – and we are providing hope and healing in a world that up until recently, viewed our community with ignorance and contempt. Over the last few years, we have filled the halls of the state Capitol and our legislators’ offices with the faces and voices of recovery. We have shared stories of freedom from the lash of active addiction, and the stories of courage of those who paid the highest price that discrimination surrounding addiction brings: the loss of their loved one.
Dr. King would have recognized our cause. He would have walked alongside the recovery advocates who know that that the recovery movement is a righteous movement – one that seeks equality and justice for our most vulnerable citizens – help for those who are dying at alarming rates, and support for those recovering from addiction a day at a time. Recovery is possible for every person – whether rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, male or female, republican or democrat, religious or not. The door to healing must be opened to all.
And so this January, as we honor one of the greatest champions of racial and social justice, we commemorate our own dream of a world in which recovery is a celebrated reality. We envision a world in which recovery is made available to anyone who wants it and needs it. As we welcome the New Year and the new legislative session, let us renew our pledge to stand up and speak out for recovery. Let us renew our promise to embrace all pathways to recovery. And let us walk together in solidarity for those who have not yet found their voice, the broken-hearted, the at-risk, those who are homeless, or in shelters and in prisons, and the families who are suffering without hope.
As 2018 unfolds, I invite you to join me in renewing our pledge to address the challenges laid out in FOR-NY’s mission statement, and “represent all sectors of the community, all regions of the state, and the numerous and diverse pathways to recovery.” I pray that together, we will continue to “actively organize and mobilize the recovery community so as to speak effectively with one voice.”
We know that recovery is not a theoretical concept – it is based on the reality of our shared understanding as individuals who have not only survived but thrive – and as family members who have been healed from the terror of active addiction. We believe in recovery based on our lived experience – and that experience provides the power and promise of healing for those who have not yet heard the message of hope.
Last year, thousands of advocates across the Empire State built recovery capital in their local communities. They educated local decision makers about what is needed to address this public health emergency. They wrote letters, made phone calls, send emails to local officials. They spoke at rallies, forums, organized marches, and letter writing campaigns. And this year, Governor Cuomo has made addressing the opioid epidemic a top priority.
But there is more to be done. Our dream has not yet been realized. People continue to die. And so, I ask you to please join FOR-NY in helping to make recovery a reality for the thousands who will search for it this year. We will be marching in Albany on March 6th for Stand Up for Recovery Day in order to educate lawmakers about the promise of recovery. Bring yourself and several friends, and Stand Up for Recovery on March 6.