Recovery: Going Public

September 25, 2013

Cindy Christy
Program Manager, ATTC Network Coordinating Office 

Imagine walking amidst 10,000 people celebrating having their lives back. It happened at the Rally4Recovery in Rhode Island last week, and it’s happening across the country this month. September is National Recovery Month, conceived over 20 years ago to celebrate that recovery in all its forms is possible. Celebrate is the key word here; recovery walks, live concerts, picnics, races, rallies, bike rides, and major league baseball games are just a few ways people are celebrating their recovery. 

This year’s theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness,” emphasizes that there are many unique ways people can prevent behavioral health issues, seek treatment, and sustain recovery.  People in recovery have a lot to celebrate: they’ve regained their lives, their families and friends, their health, and their self-worth. They’ve become productive members of society, good citizens, and they give back to their community…that IS something to celebrate.

Recovery is everywhere. Social Media is a key feature of Recovery Month; twitter chats, online rallies, live streaming events and Facebook campaigns like the one for Americans in Recovery. Peter Gaumond, Chief of the Recovery Branch of the White House Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP) talks about the Americans in Recovery campaign as being one of the most significant steps ONDCP has taken recently. In an article featured in the September ATTC Messenger, Gaumond states that “the ONDCP is going to new lengths to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around addiction and recovery and to elevate the voice of the recovery community”.

While NRM is a huge success in spreading the message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover, there is still a long road ahead. Stigma is one the most significant barriers to recovery and recovery supports. Stephen Gumbley, Director of the New England ATTC,  presented September's Third Thursday iTraining webinar, “The Public Face of the Personal Journey of Recovery.” In the webinar, Gumbley challenged the audience to change the enduring perceptions about substance use disorders and recovery and to “bear witness” to the realities of personal transformation and long-term recovery.  He also shared his own story of recovery and his belief in citizenship as a dimension of recovery.  As he pointed out, 25 million Americans in long-term recovery have the potential to become a powerful force for social and political change. To watch Gumbley’s presentation, visit the ATTC Network vimeo site.

One way the recovery community and the general public can exercise their citizenship and help shape national recovery policy is by emailing the ONDCP at:, as Peter Gaumond suggests in the article mentioned above.

Another way to show the public face of recovery is through a community event. If you visit the National Recovery Month homepage, you’ll see that more than 700 community events are happening across the country--and the number is growing daily.

One event that’s coming up is Healthy Families, Healthy Communities: It’s All About Recovery! sponsored by the Great Lakes ATTC and taking place on September 30 in Chicago.

“There are many pathways to recovery,” says Lonnetta Albright, Director of the Great Lakes ATTC. “Some people go through treatment, some use medication, some achieve recovery through their faith community or other support groups. But no matter the pathway, people sustain and maintain recovery in their communities and their homes.”

The event will focus on the ROSC framework that the Great Lakes ATTC has been a leader in developing and in helping systems and communities to implement, emphasizing that healthy families and healthy communities are necessary for recovery and wellness to flourish. 

What if one day we turn on the evening news, and instead of seeing a celebrity's struggle to maintain sobriety in lurid detail, we would see 20,000 recovering people and their loved ones celebrating the gift of recovery? That would be a good news story.

Is your organization helping show the public face of recovery through an event or other National Recovery Month activity? E-mail a photo (iPhone photos will be fine—professional quality not required) of your event to, and we’ll include it in an upcoming blog post!  

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