Empowering Recovery Advocates: Lessons Learned from the Recovery Leadership Summit and Hill Day

Considering Diverse Experiences and Recovery Capital

The Recovery Leadership Summit and Hill Day served as a powerful reinforcement of our collective belief that addiction is not a distant problem—it directly affects our own communities and demands urgent attention. “This is something that occurs in our backyard constantly, and alternate solutions are needed to adequately address this,” stated Keegan Wicks, Faces & Voices of Recovery National Advocacy and Outreach Manager. The power of personal narratives became strikingly evident as all in attendance witnessed the transformative impact they had on shifting perspectives. It served as a poignant reminder of the importance of storytelling in our advocacy efforts. Wicks also emphasized the importance of having strong and relevant asks on Hill Day, which can be a challenging combination to achieve. He highlighted the ongoing discussions around the Support Act reauthorization and the appropriation of funds through various agencies. “The alignment of our two bills with the Support Act, along with explicit requests for funding – especially in the context of recent conversations around the debt ceiling –created a powerful and meaningful platform for our advocacy efforts.”

“Hill Day provided us with a unique opportunity to take the knowledge and passion we had gained from the conference sessions and directly engage with our representatives and their staff members. One meeting that stands out in my mind was with Senator Cain’s office from Virginia. We delved into the pressing issues faced by local organizations in Virginia and explored ways to support recovery through legislative action,” Wicks reflected.

Personal Narratives Introduce the Ask

Amanda Cassidy-Trejo, Faces & Voices of Recovery, Advocacy & Outreach Program Assistant, recounted the personal story shared by a colleague during a particularly impactful meeting. “We were moved by their journey of transforming grief into advocacy after losing their brother to addiction. Their story resonated deeply with everyone in the room, and it was evident that our personal narratives were making a profound impact on the staff members present, igniting a spark of understanding and empathy. It reinforced our collective belief that addiction is not a distant problem—it affects our own communities and demands urgent attention,” Cassidy-Trejo emphasized. “The power of personal stories became crystal clear as we witnessed the transformative effect they had on shifting perspectives. Our stories have the ability to humanize the issue, challenge preconceptions, and rally support for recovery initiatives.”

Connecting on a Human Level

“I had the privilege of experiencing the Hill Day from a different perspective, as I had previously been on the other side of the desk as a staffer for similar visits,” Lindsay Dively, Faces & Voices of Recovery Director of Public Affairs, shared. Reflecting on her own experience, she continued, “Each person in the room gave a brief introduction and had the opportunity to share their personal stories. As I listened, I couldn’t help but see a reflection of myself in each of them. It was heartwarming to witness. I already knew, intellectually, that the stigma surrounding substance use disorder was unjust, but experiencing it firsthand and realizing the shared humanity in that room was a transformative moment for me.” She continued, “Faces & Voices… it truly encompasses the multitude of faces and voices present. Instead of focusing on our differences, I was struck by how much we all had in common. The stories shared could have easily been my own or those of my loved ones. It was a turning point for me, a realization that we are not separate or disconnected but deeply interconnected.”

Dively explained that this realization also resonated with the staffer they met during the visit. “It was very clear to the staffer that our stories had a profound impact on them,” she noted. The power of personal narratives and the ability to connect on a human level were evident in that moment. “It was a powerful realization that these were not just faces and voices, but everyday people with diverse experiences. They did an exceptional job of presenting a well-rounded ask, encompassing the collective efforts of Faces & Voices, while also highlighting specific issues relevant to their districts.” She continued, “In particular, they addressed the lack of housing opportunities and the need for more recovery community organizations (RCOs) in their communities. By intertwining the broader ask with these localized concerns, they showcased the direct impact of these issues on their constituents. It was truly remarkable to witness.”

Dively’s main takeaway from the visit was clear. “This experience highlighted that individuals with substance use disorder and in recovery are not a separate and segmented group, but everyday people with diverse backgrounds. It became evident that when crafting recovery-focused policies, it’s crucial to consider the concept of recovery capital and how it affects individuals in unique ways. The staffer we met with truly understood this perspective.”

Recovery Work in Action

Faces & Voices of Recovery COO, Philip Rutherford, shared that his experience on Hill Day wasn’t limited to legislative interactions. He recounted a unique and impactful moment during a meeting with a member of Congress. He explained, “During our session, this member stopped to take a phone call. The call was from a friend whose child was experiencing a substance use disorder crisis in Kensington, an open-air drug market in Philadelphia. The Congressperson asked me if I was willing to talk to this person because they had them on the phone. That became my Hill visit, doing recovery work with someone on the phone in that person’s office, just a couple of blocks away from where they were standing.”

Rutherford emphasized the serendipitous nature of the situation, sharing, “I previously didn’t know about Savage Sisters, a street-level harm reduction group, but I had a conversation with Ed from their organization just the day before. It was really good timing.” He recognized the Congressperson’s support for substance use disorder (SUD) issues, saying, “That Congressperson is very supportive of SUD stuff, on the task force as well, and an ally. They happened to be engaged in this work during our meeting.”

Reflecting on the overall impact of the event, Rutherford expressed his admiration for Faces & Voices of Recovery’s efforts. “This was the NUMBER Faces & Voices Hill Day I was a part of, and it was definitely the largest, best attended, and without question, the best organized and most impactful,” he stated. Rutherford’s takeaway from the experience centered around equitable access to resources. He shared an encounter where the Congressperson assured someone in crisis that if they called an emergency room, they would be treated differently. Philip reflected, “My takeaway is that, well, first of all, people should be treated better in emergency rooms, but in general, this person had access to whatever resources were humanly available to any person that day. Everyone should have access to that.” He underscored the importance of equal access to recovery resources, stating, “Every person should be able, with a phone call, to get access to recovery resources. The fact that this person had a relationship, or their parents had a relationship, with the Congressperson made it very easy for them. There are a million people that day that probably had a very different result than this individual. Every person that needed help that day should have gotten the same treatment.”

Let’s Seize the Momentum

The Annual Recovery Leadership Conference and Hill Day served as powerful reminders of the strength of our collective voice and the potential we have to make a lasting impact. Moving forward, we must continue to share our stories, raise our voices, and champion the cause of recovery. Together, we can build a future where hope, healing, and resilience flourish. “I am immensely proud to be a part of an organization that not only values the power of personal stories but also empowers individuals to become advocates for change,” Keegan shared. “Our Annual Recovery Leadership Conference and Hill Day reminded me of the strength of our collective voice and the potential we have to make a lasting impact.” Let us seize this momentum and work towards a brighter future for all affected by addiction.

Making a Positive Impact

By advocating for policies and practices that support recovery, and by providing resources for those in recovery and their families, we support sustainable recovery. And through advocacy, education and demonstrating the power and proof of long-term recovery we continue to promote a message of hope and healing. With the support of families, friends and allies, recovery community organizations and networks, Faces & Voices of Recovery is helping to make a positive impact on the lives of countless individuals and families affected by addiction. Today, over 23 million Americans are living proof of recovery.

Faces & Voices of Recovery was founded by a group of recovery advocacy pioneers who believed in a world where the shame and stigma of addiction no longer exists. They believed in a world where a lifetime of recovery was within everyone’s reach. This vision is the cornerstone of the work we do every day.

Join your friends, neighbors, and business associates in supporting our mission to make long-term recovery possible for millions of Americans. Please consider a generous gift to help sustain our work in the coming years.

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