FACES AND VOICES OF RECOVERY
Recovery coaching, recovery community organisations, and programmes providing peer-recovery support services are beginning to take shape here in the UK. We chat with pioneer Tom Hill to pick the best ideas and campaigns.
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The Addiction Recovery Foundation’s ambassador at large, Laura Graham, recently attended the first International Recovery Coaching Conference, organised by Anthony Eldridge-Rogers’ Foundation for Recovery Coaching in London in October. There she met Washington-based Tom Hill (see photo), a much-appreciated keynote speaker at the event, who spoke about his work as the director of programmes at the US-based Faces and Voices of Recovery. She caught up with him during his stay in London to find out more.
Favor was officially founded in 2001, but its foundations began in the 1990s when recovery advocates and their allies gather to strategise ways to engage with medical, criminal-justice and other communities about addiction recovery. From these discussions, the Alliance Project was formed, with responsibility for organising the first national gathering of recovery advocates.
The St Paul Summit, a culmination of two years’ work had three goals:
1 to celebrate and honour recovery in all its diversity
2 to foster advocacy skills
3 to produce principles, language, strategy and leadership to carry the recovery civil-rights movement forward.
At this summit, a 22-member Campaign Advisory Committee was elected to provide leadership to the campaign. Today, Favor is a national not-for-profit organisation committed to organising and mobilising the millions of americans in long-term recovery from addiction, their families, friends and allies to speak with one voice.
Favor works to change public perceptions of recovery, to promote effective public policy across the US, and to demonstrate what recovery is. Its mission is to bring “bring the power and proof of recovery” to everyone in the country, and has a network of over 20,000 individuals and organisations.
Favor has achieved a great deal. This includes the first ever Recovery Bill of Rights used in campaigns to empower people seeking recovery and their family members to get the help they need, the launch of an “online advocacy action centre” to inform recovery advocates about current issues to make activism easier, and the launch of an Addiction Recovery Insurance Equity Campaign to end health insurance discrimination against people with addiction.
In 2006, Favor waged a successful campaign to restore government funding for the Recovery Community Services Programme. It also secured a partial repeal of a ban on federal financial aid to students with drug convictions in coalition with allied organisations.
At grassroots level, Favor had about 30,000 people attend its Rally for Recovery at 60 locations across the US (which acted to end insurance discrimination), organised and distributed tens of thousands of “Another Voice for Recovery!” badges and car stickers and organised Stand Up for Recovery events with the Congressional Caucus on Addiction, Treatment and Recovery.
It has also trained over 1,000 recovery advocates through Our Stories Have Power media training and conducted and published the first general-public survey which found broad support for changes in attitude and policies affecting recovery.
Hill explained and qualified-researcher Graham agreed that there must be a much greater focus on recovery research. There is an abundance of research about addiction regarding biology, pharmacology, animal studies, neuroscience and about the strengths and weaknesses of particular treatments and interventions, but there remains a paucity of research about the experience of recovery, how people initiate recovery and how they sustain recovery.
We know that, here in the UK, a lack of funding in this research area and vested interests in maintaining the current status quo have prevented this. We can only look to our cousins over the pond in admiration for what Favor has achieved, hoping that one day in the not-too-distant future, we too will such an organisation. It seems that we are a long way off but, as we know, in recovery, anything is possible!
We must first have a vision, before it becomes reality.