Seeding possibility

People in recovery—and maybe all of us—need a healthy community to thrive

By KATHLEEN A. CHRISTIE, LCSW
Posted 9/28/21

REGION — Recovery from addiction is a community opportunity.

While addiction—a disease of isolation, hurt, and need—is often noted as being a “plague in our …

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Seeding possibility

People in recovery—and maybe all of us—need a healthy community to thrive

Posted

REGION — Recovery from addiction is a community opportunity.

While addiction—a disease of isolation, hurt, and need—is often noted as being a “plague in our community,” recovery is a process of growth, giving, and connection: an incredible opportunity for fortifying and enriching our community.  

An idea frequently used in addiction treatment is that “You don’t win the war on addiction by fighting addiction, you win the war by building a life that doesn’t have room for drugs or alcohol.” People in recovery are actively working to build lives in which day-to-day experiences are appreciated, relationships are rewarding and valued, and their network of support is woven throughout an expansive community. Sounds like everyone could have something to learn from recovery, right? What if we used the recovery process as a guide for community-building at large?

This notion got me thinking about using the words on these pages to celebrate the many that are building up our community, as they continue to strengthen their own recovery process. I am honored to support people professionally who build inspiring lives of regrowth after the devastating impact of active addiction, and believe that it is their voices to which we all must spend more time listening.

I appreciate the stories I know of in our community but wanted to know more, so I reached out and asked for help.  In reaching out to organizations like SALT and The Kingfisher Project and asking, “Who’s showing us what the beauty of recovery looks like?” I was connected to neighbors, friends, mothers, the amazing programs and people in agencies like Sullivan County Public Health, Dynamic Youth Community, and UNSHATTERED… and they connected me again, extending the branches of recovery connections throughout and beyond our proverbial backyards.

It is important to begin our look at prevention efforts with how community strength is being built. Prevention work has evolved dramatically over the last four decades, graduating from “Just say no” to open and engaged conversations with young people, a growth of programs that address the social and emotional bridges to substance use and addiction, and to increasingly expand the possibilities of what TO do, as opposed to what NOT to do.

Prevention programs are an important part of the equation and abound in our community.  Cultural icons like the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts offer creative expression programming for teenagers, including “Project Identity: Photography,” which invites youth to explore their own ideas, as well as those of their peers, and to share them through imagery.

Sullivan Allies Leading Together (SALT) bloomed years ago from the seed of an idea that when people, organizations, and agencies work more closely together to help people survive and then thrive, more thriving could occur.

SALT is now a stand-alone 501(c)3, and one of its four identified pillars of focus is prevention work, which is supported by a federal Drug-Free Communities Grant. That work is bringing engagement, creative exploration, and an amplified voice to those that might overwise feel defeated by not being seen and understood.  

Prevention seeds possibilities.  A community is responsible to nurture the growth of these seeds.  This happens within a culture of culture, where there are job opportunities with growth potential, in an environment in which one wants to build a family or grow roots, and with people that see the potential of the yet unheard idea.

A healthy community requires businesses that are staffed, needs openness to dynamic ways of thinking about new ways to do things, and a willingness to invest in what’s possible, perhaps more than what is known—an embrace of more “yes and” and less “but.” We all can check out some of the work being done in this arena… and seek out the opportunities to support by volunteering, attending a meeting, asking “how can I help?” and seeing how great it is to be part of the solution.

That solution grows to create more opportunities for those looking for hope, more opportunities for those that have been tripped up by the weight of addiction, and more ways for us all to let go of the stigma we associate with that experience of addiction and see the opportunities in the culture of recovery.  Parents who have lost children to the fall out of addiction have started a community information project that has launched a public radio show, presses for effective policy development, and shows up throughout the community.  A teenager who was “making all the wrong decisions” landed at a local, rural substance abuse treatment center years ago and was so responsive to their efforts to offer life skills and self-knowledge that he became a counselor himself and is now changing the trajectory of other young people’s lives at the place that “saved” him. A physicist and engineer shifted careers to build a handbag company which runs on the creativity and grit exclusively of women in recovery—with a 0% relapse rate for all employees.  Powerhouses in recovery are some of the most effective leaders in our community, from deputy commissioners to small business owners, from award-winning teachers to hospitality superstars.

People in recovery are our parents, siblings, best friends, and neighbors.  They are making our lives better, and they are powerful contributors to our community at large, because they are working every day to create a life that is filled with connection and opportunity.  In future articles, we’ll take a closer look at these individuals, and seek more ways to learn from them, support their journey, and work together to continue strengthening this great community.

Do you know a person in recovery who is showing us what the beauty of recovery looks like?  Let us know in the comments section online.

Kathleen A. Christie, LCSW, is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Liberty, NY; a clinical supervisor for Lionrock Recovery, an online Intensive Outpatient Substance Use Disorder treatment center; she is also a consultant.  She has worked in the field of addiction treatment for over 20 years.

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