As I write my first letter as Acting Executive Director of Friends of Recovery – New York (FOR-NY), I am both humbled and in awe of the journey that lies ahead. When the FOR-NY Board of Directors asked me to assume this role, images of the men and women who conceived, built and nurtured this organization, and upon whose shoulders upon I might stand came to mind. While it was somewhat daunting, I quickly remembered a) we are rarely given more than we can handle, and b) say yes to service.
It was that realization that inspired me to accept the Board’s request – and to commit to each of you – to continue the work and further the vision of our past leaders Laura Elliott-Engel and Charlie Devlin, and our current Board President Joseph Turner, Laurie Lieberman, Susan LaPorte, Richard Buckman, Jackson Davis, Debra Rhoades, Chacku Mathai, and Dona Pagon. And, here I am. Honored and privileged to serve. And on behalf of the staff, please know, it is your faces and voices that motivate us to do the work we do – to actively seek to advance public policies and practices that promote and support Recovery.
And so, still glowing from our incredible day together at Stand Up for Recovery Day 2017, I’m filled with gratitude for the many hundreds of you who came together with a common mission and vision, from all over the state, to give voice to individuals in Recovery, families impacted by addiction, and families who have lost loved ones to addiction. On that day, we successfully humanized, organized and mobilized hundreds of loud and proud individuals in Recovery and their family members and allies, to effectively address the greatest public health crisis this nation has seen in more than a century. We did it together, arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart. We met with our legislators and shared our recommendations with them. We spoke the language of Recovery and shared our experience, strength and hope. Our shared courage and stories are changing the way society views those who have been historically shunned, shammed and criminalized because of the chronic disease of addiction.
In the weeks since Stand Up for Advocacy Day 2017, one new Recovery Community Organization (RCO) came together for its first meeting, and two others are currently being formed. New Recovery Community Outreach Centers (RCOCs), like THRIVE in Long Island, are opening and Youth Clubhouses are providing a safe and welcoming place for young people across New York State. Family Support Navigators and On-Call Peers are being utilized at an accelerated rate. And while more needs to be done, the times they are a-changing.
At FOR-NY, we’re working hard to get the word out about what you are doing in your communities. Our newly launched website can be used as a Recovery resource and a portal to share important Recovery related information and events happening in your own communities. This is also where you can find new and emerging trainings helpful in providing critical tools to members of your local recovery community organizations. Know that we are here to support your efforts to build recovery capital in your communities.
By coming out of the shadows we are standing tall, we are standing together, and we are instilling hope and healing among those devastated by the ferociousness of this epidemic.
Someday the addiction crisis will be over. And when that day has come and gone, there will be stories about the horrific public health crisis that rocked this country, and the brave people who stood up and spoke out so that others might not just live, but live with dignity and respect. You are those brave people. What a gift it is to experience the power of your stories that are shattering the shame and stigma that surrounds this epidemic. Let’s keep our eye on the prize and continue our momentum forward!