LGBT and Recovery Advocacy Movements (Tom Hill and Bill White)

Original Blog Date:  September 4, 2015

There is much that the recovery advocacy movement can learn from the LGBT rights movement of recent decades.  The latter movement is one of the most successful social movements in history as judged by the speed at which it has elicited broad changes in cultural attitudes and policies of import to the LGBT community.  We have just completed a draft of a paper on lessons drawn from the LGBT rights movement that we feel have great relevance to the recovery advocacy in the U.S. and internationally.  We invite you to read and provide us with your comments and suggestions on this paper.  The paper can be accessed by clicking HERE.

If the recovery advocacy movement continues to culturally and politically mobilize people in recovery and their families and allies and to draw upon the experience of other social movements, we are likely to see the following in the coming years:

A more conscious effort on the part of recovery advocates to extract lessons from the civil rights, women’s liberation, disability rights, LGBT rights, and other successful social reform movements.

The expansion of symbolic firsts in recovery beyond the arenas of music, entertainment, and sports to such arenas as government, business, science, medicine, and religion.

The mass mobilization of families affected by addiction/recovery, including families who have lost a family member to addiction (e.g., public story elicitation).

The increased portrayal of recovery as a family achievement that produces profound effects on family relationships and family health.

Continued growth in local and national recovery celebration and recovery advocacy events.

Legislative milestones that mark a shift from punitive to public health responses to alcohol and other drug problems, including the dismantling of legal barriers to full community participation of people in recovery, e.g., in such arenas as housing, employment, education, health care, voting, and other areas of civic participation.

The continued growth of local recovery support institutions (beyond addiction treatment and recovery mutual aid fellowships) and growth of recovery advocacy organizations addressing specialty issues related to housing, education, employment, leisure, and social networking.

The growth of recovery social clubs (beyond 12-step clubhouses) and the emergence of “recovery neighborhoods” within large urban communities.

Growing regional networks of recovery community centers as social, service, and organizing hubs.

The proliferation of micro-businesses created by and for recovering people that will afford marginalized people in recovery opportunities to acquire new skills and participate in the licit economy.

More fully developed portrayals of people in recovery within the popular media (film, television, theatre, and literature), including the portrayal of the diversity of people living in long-term recovery and the varieties and styles of long-term recovery.

Growing interest in the history of the recovery advocacy movement via new historical treatises, memoirs, and documentary films.

Growing sophistication in advocacy/activism, issue articulation, and mobilization strategies.

Tensions within the recovery advocacy movement on the boundaries of movement inclusion (e.g., range of inclusion of people recovering from other compulsive behaviors) and definitions of recovery.

The abandonment of professionally stigmatizing language within healthcare and specialty sector addiction treatment (e.g., abuse/abuser, alcoholic/addict, and clean/dirty) as a result of successful recovery advocacy efforts.

The establishment of recovery as a legitimate research and clinical specialty within the alcohol and other drug problems arena.

Development of sophisticated strategies to fund recovery advocacy efforts, including expanded donor base (large and small gifts) from recovery community members, corporations, and foundations.

Advanced awareness of factors that impact recovery organizing and outreach, such as gender, sexuality, culture, race, class, and histories of trauma and incarceration.

Continued capacity-building and infrastructure development in recovery community organizations, institutions, cultures, and the networks that connect them.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions on this latest paper. A final version of this paper will be posted that incorporates this feedback.

Appreciatively, Tom and Bill

William L. White

Emeritus Senior Research Consultant

Chestnut Health Systems

Punta Gorda, Florida

William (“Bill”) White
Emeritus Senior Research Consultant at Chestnut Health System
Recovery Historian

Read all of Bill White’s Blog Posts on his website here