recoveryblog: a blog for recovery advocates!

Our recovery advocacy blog is produced by individuals in recovery!  Here you will find commentary and personal discussions on different aspects of addiction recovery and advocacy.

More Recent Posts

Knowing the Science of Addiction

November 16, 2018
I recently watched the PBS documentary, “Addiction” on the NOVA science series several times. I have seen book and movie reviews of Beautiful Boy. In an important and most informative part of the NOVA presentation, I was pleased to see the face and hear the voice of Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Volkow’s work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. She pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects and addictive properties of abusable drugs. Her studies have documented changes in the dopamine system as the brain strives to find balance between pleasure, pain, and motivation. Research has produced irrefutable evidence of the value of medicine in addiction treatment and recovery.  The documentary states  “addiction is a very treatable disease.” I took advantage of a Faces & Voices of Recovery’s training on The Science of Addiction, conducted by Flo Hilliard. I quickly forgot all the brain parts names and focused on the brain receptors and their role in producing overwhelming craving and pain of withdrawal. To allow the brain to function, both must be reduced or eliminated and that is the role of medications. The elements of the documentary prompted me to review the titles of previous blogs I have written for the Faces & Voices Blog site. I have outlined some titles, in italics below, that relate to the elements portrayed in “Addiction.” It Takes a Villain: We ignored known brain science that told us of the addictive nature of opiates.  We have an opiate crisis. The “Addiction” documentary describes the devastating effect on communities, families, and individuals.  It too briefly points out that there are other deadly and well-known villains—alcohol and nicotine.  Misuse of alcohol is deadly and addictive. It causes 80,000 deaths a year and untold negative economic impact because of health care costs.  My observation is that the introduction of vaping has eliminated some harmful effects of smoking tobacco. Vaping is a treacherous delivery system for nicotine and flavored nicotine is invading (invaping?) our youth culture. Unfortunately, vaping can include marijuana in the delivery system.  It threatens young brain development and may lead to addiction. We must focus on prevention through creative approaches. A Spoonful of Wisdom Helps the Medicine Go Down: Fortunately, we have a new depth of focus on the science of addiction. From this has come medication-assisted treatment recovery and prevention of death from overdose. To better occupy our space on earth with hope and health we can also find a path to MARS— Medically Assisted Recovery Services. (Thanks to Ben Bass of El Paso for this idea) “Addiction” spends a great deal of time discussing the drugs that can overcome craving and the pain of withdrawal. For many, craving may be more powerful than fear of death! Methadone (requires clinic visit), Suboxone, and a number of the newer drugs such as VIVITROL, can be effective.  All medications will have a prescribed purpose. This treatment must be accompanied by appropriate therapy and recovery services support—MARS. Addiction Recovery— A Family Affair: The process of a family’s recovery requires the hope of healing, healthy change, and regaining trust. “Addiction” told stories of families who had totally wiped out all financial assets in pursuit of solutions for their child or other family members. There were dramatic portrayals of family distress in “Beautiful Boy.” I read some words in another place that somehow defined the family’s fate. It was “chronic sorrow.” What a sad and apt descriptor of a paralyzing state of mind. There is little hope when the coper’s broke. Infrastructure—Building Recovery after Addiction. Just as roads and bridges transport us from one location to another, a strong public health infrastructure serves as the framework to bring those suffering from active addiction to a place of safety and recovery. Infrastructure must include effective recovery support programs and be open to innovative but controversial approaches to harm reduction. Addiction provides insight to a Canadian program of safe and supervised injection sites. There are clean needles, drug testing for Fentanyl, and care and concern. It appears to overcome, outta site, outta mind.  There are efforts in cities and states across the America to overcome legal issues and adopt similar programs. The Foundation of Fellowship and Friendship:  The reduction or elimination of craving and the pain of withdrawal allow the individual to absorb and think about healthy solutions to living daily life. In “Addiction,” a group of individuals was shown, sharing their stories of feeling better and telling of their achievements, big and small. The power of stories shared could lead to long-term recovery. Connections allow elimination of isolation and the seeking of fellowship and friendship. Peer support becomes invaluable and responsibility and accountability become realistic goals. The connections are made and kept between the heads and hearts of others with a positive common purpose and with mutual support. Recovery happens. The Communities’ Role in the Opiate Crisis: Congress has taken action in the passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.  It includes policies and resources that support people in recovery from addiction across the lifespan. The act provides for building communities of recovery. This provision reauthorizes and modifies the Building Communities of Recovery program to include peer support networks. This program provides funding for community organizations providing long-term recovery support services related to substance use disorder.  It is hoped that agencies and entities will pursue the available funding for their communities. Beyond medications, there must also be attention to prevention as well as treatment and recovery support.

How to Encourage Teenagers to Volunteer

November 12, 2018

Whether you’re young, old or somewhere in the middle, everyone has something they can bring to the table and improve the community. One age group in particular which can truly help and benefit from volunteering is teenagers. Teenagers are at a critical point in their development, so engaging them in volunteering is a great way to expose them to different areas of the community—and show them the impact they can have.

Not only can volunteering help the organizations teenagers work with, but it can actually help the students, as well. Volunteering can teach valuable life skills, communication techniques and even instill an innate motivation to serve. However, teenagers aren’t always eager to get out there and get involved. Sometimes, inspiring them to take action can be challenging. If you have a student in your life who you want to serve the community, here are some tips for how to encourage teenagers to volunteer with a cause they care about.

1. Show them the purpose.
First, show teenagers the purpose behind the action. Oftentimes, schools will offer extra credit or even require volunteer hours from students. While this is a great way to get students exposed to volunteering, it often does nothing to show them the genuine purpose behind serving. Instead, make sure teenagers understand the impact of volunteering by explaining how the work makes a difference. For instance, watch a documentary, introduce them to a staff member with the nonprofit or even walk through how the organization impacts the community. By showing them the purpose behind volunteering, teenagers will feel more encouraged and engaged.

2. Give them independence.
Nobody likes it when someone is constantly checking in on them. Teenagers are the exact same way. Make volunteering enjoyable for them by giving them their own independence and autonomy whenever possible. Let them make their own decisions and choices about what organization to work with, when or even how to get involved. Giving them independence during the volunteering process will show them you trust them, and they will naturally take on more responsibility in response.

3. Lead by example.
This one is simple: if you want teenagers to volunteer, then you should be the first to lead by example. Although teenagers might not always be the best listeners, they do watch and mimic the actions of the adults in their lives. Be sure you are consistently volunteering and giving back to a cause or organization you care about in the community, in order to show your teenager how it can tangibly fit into their daily lives.

4. Get social.
There’s no doubt about it: we live in a social world, and teenagers are at the forefront of this new, social technology. If you want to encourage teenagers to volunteer, then you have to meet them on their level—by getting social. Post pictures on your Instagram story, ask them to tweet about their experience or Snapchat friends while volunteering. Volunteering doesn’t have to be boring; instead, you can help teenagers have fun by encouraging them to get social and invite others in on the experience of volunteering.

5. Provide positive feedback.
Finally, no one wants to do work if they don’t feel appreciated in return. When teenagers do volunteer, be sure to provide plenty of positive feedback, affirmation and recognition. Thank them for the work they did and talk through how they made a tangible difference for someone else. By recognizing the teenager’s efforts, you can encourage them to keep coming back and continue volunteering.

Volunteering is a valuable part of anyone’s life, but it can play an incredibly impactful role for teenagers. Use these tips to encourage the teenagers in your life to get involved in the community and give back through volunteering. Not only can volunteering benefit their lives now, but it can also create positive habit which will influence them for years to come.

The Role of Recovery Communities in Cultural Healing

November 9, 2018

Ironically, it is at the margins of society that one discovers the moral center. –Van Jones

In a bleeding world, where are the sources of communal healing? When our connecting fabric is shredding under the assault of hateful rhetoric, where do we find common ground—settings where people speak with each other and not at and over each other? How can we escape the spell of political pimps of all persuasions creating and exploiting divisions for personal aggrandizement and ideological gain?

These are questions being asked by people of conscience from diverse political, economic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. As Van Jones suggests, the sources that could help us get re-centered could come from unexpected quarters. Is it possible that people in addiction recovery and diverse communities of recovery could serve as a force for cultural and cross-cultural healing?

A reasonable response might well be, “What could people whose past lives have been ravaged by addiction have to offer on issues of such great import?” It is not the lessons from addiction that might offer a balm for our cultural wounds, though addiction can be an astute if unforgiving teacher; it is rather what has been collectively learned within the recovery from addiction that holds solutions of potentially larger value to our country and beyond.

Individuals, communities, and whole cultures are always in a process of self-correction from extremes that threaten their existence. Addiction recovery is itself such a correction process. What is needed culturally when ideologically extremes prevail is a vanguard of people who purposefully infuse into the culture critically needed and missing ingredients. People in recovery and communities of recovery may be uniquely poised to provide such missing ingredients.

Narcissism, with all its ornaments of self-righteousness, arrogance, and self-aggrandizement, has become the new religion—a selfie culture gone mad. We now have leaders who champion these defects of character as a source of pride and purported strength. This worship of self when elevated to a cultural level fuels fervent nationalist movements that claim superiority, build walls of isolation, and deny the interconnectedness and interdependence of all people and nations. People who have been addicted know something of this religion, its sources, and its solutions. The addicted person’s world progressively shrinks in anguish to the person-drug relationship—a radical disordering of personal priorities and a progressive disconnection from others.

Many valuable lessons can be found in the process of escaping such self-entrapment. It takes a village to heal the wounded—and we have all been wounded; healing and wholeness require resources and relationships beyond the self and beyond closed social silos. Personal survival hinges on a greater social unity and common purpose; what we share in common is far more important than our superficial differences. We can achieve together what we have been unable to achieve alone. Distortions of reality, projection of blame, and scapegoating can be diminished by acceptance of our brokenness—our Not-Godness, acceptance of our common humanity, and the assertion of personal responsibility. Amends can be made for past sins of omission and commission. Personal and collective excesses can give way to greater balance and harmony—from competition and conflict to compassion and care. Self-absorption can be diminished through open acknowledgement of one’s imperfection. The masks of grandiosity can be shed and replaced by genuine humility. Bitterness and resentment can give way to forgiveness and gratitude. Preoccupations with power and control (and the resulting close-mindedness and aggression) can give way to tolerance, mutual identification, and service to others. Anguished self-absorption can give way to connection to community, shared joy, and laughter. Settings can be created where people actually listen to one another without interruption or condemnation. Those are among the lessons of recovery.

Excesses within our current cultural life suggest deep wounds—wounds crying for a collective and sustained healing process. As our culture seeks self-correction, communities of recovery can offer healing ingredients as we as a people seek a new moral center. For those in recovery who have concealed these gifts within the rooms, perhaps it is time to reach out and touch someone.


How to Embrace Your Recovery with Others

April 21, 2016

Just because you practice abstinence based recovery doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an active social life. In fact, you’ll be in good company, because 33 percent of the population does not drink, and 91 percent does not use drugs. Call it a new trend or just heightened awareness, but the movement toward abstinence is quickly gaining strength. For proof, just look around you.

Some people are health-conscious: they want to lose weight or avoid future medical problems. Some people are actually allergic to alcohol. Others abstain because they want to save money or be able to drive themselves home. Still others say they want to maintain mental clarity and not embarrass themselves by acting foolishly.

Now you’re a part of the trend. You fit right in. So join the party—on your own terms. You just have to know a few tricks to help yourself feel comfortable when you’re in recovery, so you can still have fun going out with friends. Remember, an active social life is part of what makes for a successful recovery.

Keep your hands engaged. Hold a drink, just like everyone else, but make it non-alcoholic. There are lots of options, including soda, coffee or flavored water. As long as you are comfortable and it’s not a trigger for you, ginger ale looks festive in a wine glass. If it makes you feel better, add a slice of lime, a cherry or a straw. Sipping on a drink gives you something to do with your hands at a party, and most people pay no attention to what’s actually in your glass.

Schedule something to do the next morning. Most parties are at night, and you’re less likely to overstay if you have something planned for early the next morning. Ask a friend to walk with you, join a yoga class, or simply show up at the gym. Better yet, seek out a Daybreaker party. This wholesome version of dance culture was launched in New York City in 2013 and is fast spreading across the globe. Daybreaker Sober Dance Parties run from 7-9 a.m., allowing people to let loose and dance before heading to work or school. Daybreaker co-founder Matthew Brimer wanted to reinvent the nightclub by emphasizing that you don’t need alcohol or drugs to enjoy dance culture and music.

Find different ways to enjoy the same activities. There’s no reason to stop going to events you have always enjoyed. Now that you’re clear-headed, take a look around. You’ll notice there’s usually a designated “family zone” at the racetrack, where drinking is not allowed. And if you’re a fan of live music, check to see if there are substance-free zones at your favorite band’s concerts. Increasingly, there are, and they are filled with people enjoying the vibe.

Find new friends and new activities. You may need to cultivate a new social network in order to surround yourself with friends who support your decision to embrace abstinence. Old behaviors can be difficult to shake, so shore up your willpower and search out friends who are either abstinent or in recovery themselves. You’ll have a lot in common already. And once you’ve found some buddies, you may want to take a class together. Study a foreign language. Pick up a new skill. Engage your brain. You’ll be so busy focusing on learning something new, you’ll find it easier to leave your old lifestyle behind.

In short, if you have a social strategy, you can have an active social life. Embracing your recovery with others is not only possible, it’s fun. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll see a positive change in your life. Better yet, you’ll not only be a part of the new trend toward abstinence, you’ll become a trend-setter in your own right.

Patricia L. Ryding, Psy.D is Executive Director of Beach House Center for Recovery, a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center in Juno Beach, Florida. She is a licensed clinical psychologist who brings over 30 years of experience as both a clinician and an administrator in the behavioral healthcare field to her writing.

Double Duty: How to Make Volunteering Count Twice

April 4, 2016

Not only can volunteering be good for the heart and soul, it can do double duty if you choose your volunteering options wisely.

I know what you’re thinking—But I’m already doing good. How can it be better than that? You could be killing two birds with one stone (figuratively, of course). Check out these ways to make sure your volunteering counts in more ways than one.

Work Out and Help Out
Use volunteering as a way to get in a workout. The great thing about volunteering for organizations is that a lot of them have some work that requires activity and movement. Although some nonprofits have heavy lifting and grunt work, it doesn’t have to be hard manual labor.

You could volunteer to be a greeter at a fundraising event where you’ll need to walk around all night and say hello to people. You could pick up fundraising materials and hand deliver them to different locations. Use your volunteering as a way to get active, no matter what level of engagement.

Take a Break
But wait, isn’t volunteering supposed to mean putting in work? Absolutely. But if you use volunteering in the right way, it can also help provide an escape from your day-to-day. Use your volunteer time to switch up from what you do at your daytime job so that your mind can be exercised in different ways. That means getting work done while simultaneously taking a break!

Perfect a Hobby
Talents can be applied in the most creative ways at nonprofit organizations. Offer up your hobbies for free so that you get to do something you love while helping a good cause.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Volunteering can be a time to try something that you’ve always wanted to try, but never had a reason to try. Do something that makes you a little uncomfortable. Maybe that means talking in front of people, or speaking up in front of a crowd. Being a little uncomfortable is ok, because pushing past comfort zones is how we continue to grow as a person.

Make Great Contacts
When you volunteer or take on a new task, you meet some pretty fantastic people. The best part is that you already have something in common; you both have a heart for the same type of organization. Use that as a starting block to make new friends and new contacts in the community.

How to Avoid Volunteer Burnout and Dominate Doing Good

March 28, 2016

Doing good in the world can be downright exhausting if you let it. But when you’re on top of your game and giving it all you’ve got in a productive way, you optimize the amount of awesome you’re putting out into the world.

Let’s make sure you’re getting the most out of your volunteer experience and avoiding the inevitable burnout that will happen if you don’t listen to the warning signs.

Set Goals and Reevaluate
First, determine what you want out of your volunteer experience. While “doing good in the world” is a great goal, that’s the same goal most people have. Be more specific! What do you hope to accomplish? What outcome would make you feel the best, and better the organization? Figure that out and consider writing it down somewhere.

Then, remember to reevaluate your goals after you’ve been volunteering for awhile. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge goals at the beginning of a venture, and reevaluating is always an important part of the process.

Be Vocal
Speaking up isn’t always easy, especially if you’re a newcomer to an organization. But if something isn’t working for you, there’s no shame in letting the organization know. It’ll work out better for you and for the organization to make sure you’re in a role where you’re contributing the most.

Be upfront about the types of tasks you like and are good at from the get-go. If you’re doing something that you love and that you excel at, you’ll be more likely to avoid burnout from helping an organization that you love in a task that you don’t.

Know Your Limits
Sometimes, plain and simple, you need a break. As much as you might be against it, saying ‘no’ to a task is not the end of the world. You can always volunteer to help find somebody who can help take on the task if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Plus, if you’re feeling bogged down in a certain volunteer position, switch it up and do something else for awhile. Make sure to listen to what your mind and body are telling you about your limits.

How the Addiction Lobby Got its Bill

March 24, 2016

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Ramp Up for National Volunteer Month

March 21, 2016

Let’s talk about how you can make sure you’re ready to celebrate and contribute to National Volunteer Month when it rolls around next week.

Take Charge of Volunteer Celebrations
Many organizations would love to provide perks for their volunteers. Unfortunately, many organizations are also short on staff and time. Help out by offering to organize an event in April to honor volunteers. Here are some low-cost options to suggest:

  • Organize a Potluck Volunteer Celebration
  • Create Volunteer Awards to Distribute
  • Call and Thank Volunteers with a Personal Message
  • Surprise an Outstanding Volunteer with Organization-Wide Recognition

These are just a few fun and low-cost ways you can participate. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your volunteer month celebrations.

Expose Yourself to a New Cause
There’s nothing like broadening your horizons. National Volunteer Month is a great reason to step outside of your comfort zone. Continuing to volunteer for the same organization or cause is great. However, there might be something that you’re missing.

Step outside of the box during National Volunteer Month. Think about the types of topics that inspire you and find a corresponding organization. Trust us—there are organizations out there for absolutely everything. You just need to do some searching to find them.

Try a New Role
There are always more ways to be involved at organizations than what meets the eye. Nonprofit staff might not know all of your skills. That’s why you should schedule a meeting with a nonprofit staff member to talk about other ways that you might be able to contribute. Skills that could be applicable to any organization include:

  • Design Skills
  • Writing Skills
  • Data Analyzation
  • Accounting/Legal Advice

What else could you be contributing to your favorite organization that would help them thrive?

10 Tips to a Positive, Purposeful Day

March 14, 2016

If you long for more meaning and purpose in your life, are a victim of your snooze alarm, or wish you felt greater fulfillment at the close of each day, pay careful attention to your mornings. Here are 10 simple ideas to consider from Dr. Christi Hegstad, a certified coach and contributor to

Give thanks. Nothing beats starting the day with gratitude. Have you experienced a work success recently? Did your child have a great day at school yesterday? Is the sun rising, meaning you’ve been given the gift of another day? We have much for which to be thankful, and beginning your day in a place of gratitude instantly raises your mood and emotional state.

Journal. Even if you don’t consider yourself a journaler, putting pen to paper for even a few minutes can clear your mind and support your wellbeing.

Read inspirational text.
Choose a devotional, poetry, or a few pages from an enlightening book – anything that inspires you.

Move. The options here are endless: go for a run, engage in a yoga practice, do a series of situps and pushups, or simply wake up your limbs with some gentle stretching.

Meditate. How amazing would it feel to clear your mind from constant chatter? Health experts, athletes, physicians, spiritual teachers and more boast the effects of meditation, and beginning your day with it can increase your likelihood of returning back to it throughout the day, too. Consider a class or a guided meditation app to get started.

Visualize. Create a mental picture for your ideal day, year, or life, then dwell on it for a few moments each morning.

Savor the silence. How often throughout your day do you get to experience true silence? No phones, no email notifications, no interruptions? Simply sitting in the silence, or combining it with prayer or admiring something of beauty, can be a rare gift these days.

Set your daily intention. As you think about the day ahead, with its various activities and interactions, how do you want to carry yourself? Choose a word that represents who and how you want to be throughout the day, then call it to mind frequently.

Review your “Best You.” Who are you at your very best? Capture it onto paper and take a moment to review this each morning. Create a one-page document that holds your vision statement, purpose statement, guiding principles, values and goals. A quick scan of this each morning provides a centering effect.

Step outside. Look up at the sky, and take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself of the vastness of the world, the beauty that surrounds us, and the good fortune of another day to make a difference in the world.

Making History

February 26, 2016

Patty McCarthy Metcalf, Face’s and Voices of Recovery’s Executive Director, invited me a few months ago to contribute a blog (I did) and from time to time to write about FaVoR’s history. There is a lot of it. I was privileged to serve as Chairman of the board for six of the early years, so there is a lot to write about but there are important episodes. I was prompted by something I read to write this blog.

James Fallows, wrote an article for the March Atlantic Monthly, titled Can America Put Itself Back Together? He said, “Many people are discouraged about America, but the closer they are to the action at home, the better they like what they see. … in scores of ways, Americans are figuring out how to take advantage of the opportunities of this era, often through bypassing or ignoring the dismal national conversation.” In face of this, the New Recovery Advocacy Movement (NRAM) provides a positive presence and unity at the national level. We can state that our action at home takes place through the Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs) with all of their supportive activities.

In 2001, in St Paul, Minnesota, our founding campaign group recognized the value of putting a face on recovery and the difficulty of getting beyond anonymity and the prevailing existence of systemic stigma and discrimination. In putting forth a voice of recovery, we needed attention to the language and the message. Bill White, our recovery movement mentor, led us in this consideration. One of the activities for the group was to form a choir. We weren’t very good until we determined that the answer lay in singing from the same songbook. That meant, singing the same words, the same melody, in harmony, and with the passion associated with an anthem. The positive messages to be received like music to the multitude of ears. The anthem could be titled, “Recovery is a Reality.”

It has been a dramatic evolution, aided by the growth of the movement at the grassroots. More of the 23.5 million in recovery are standing up, standing out, speaking out and being proud about it—using assemblies and social media to take the message to the nation and the world. The movement now has a critical element, Young People in Recovery (YPR), where peer-to-peer support is powerful.

We learned early on that our biggest asset would be the power of our stories
In Fallow’s article, Phillip Zelikow, a professor at the University of Virginia and a director of a recent Markle Foundation initiative called Rework America, said, “There are a lot more positive narratives out there—but they’re lonely and disconnected. It would make a difference to join them together, as a chorus that has a melody.” Sound familiar? Our stories of recovery are the positive narratives out there. Without our many fellowships and per support, we would remain, lonely and disconnected. “ I pointed out the importance of a chorus that has a melody.

Our challenge in St Paul was to go and make some history. We have and are continuing to make history. Let’s be proud when history notes that through the difficult process of overcoming addiction, we overcame.

Merlyn Karst
Founding member of Faces and Voices of Recovery
and Advocates for Recovery-Colorado.
America Honors Recovery Award recipient—2008
Recovery Ambassador

Posts from William White

Program Oversight Tip Sheet

October 1, 2021

Peer recovery support service (PRSS) programs should have an established, formal recovery community advisory council or community board, in addition to a Board of Directors.

Board of Directors Tip Sheet

October 1, 2021

Building a Strong Governing Board

A peer recovery support services (PRSS) program benefits from having a strong board that is dedicated to the mission of the organization, representative of the local recovery community, and effectively prepared for their governing role.

Marty Walsh US Secretary of labor video

September 30, 2021

What Does the Future Hold for the Recovery Community?

September 9, 2021

Featured Panelists: Christina Love, Dharma Mirza, and Meghan Hetfield


Christina Love, Advocacy Initiative Specialist, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (ANDVSA)





Dharma Mirza Equity & Justice Fellow at ARHE & Oregon Measure 110 Oversight & Accountability Council Member

Dharma Mirza (she/her) is an artist, activist, policy advocate, and scholar living in Corvallis, OR. Dharma is a Public Health and Gender Studies student at Oregon State University. Dharma focuses her work and research on harm reduction, sexual health, addiction, public health equity, and the intersections of behavioral health and marginalized health populations. Dharma informs her work through intersectional, feminist, and decolonial frameworks and draws on her own experiences in navigating health/harm reduction services as an HIV-positive, queer, biracial transgender woman, Khwaja Sira (Pakistani Third Gender), and former survival sex worker and IV drug user.

Meghan Hetfield, Certified Addiction Recovery Coach and Certified Recovery Peer Advocate


As a Nationally Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist and a NY State Certified Recovery Peer Advocate and Trainer, Meghan has found purpose in supporting people in their individual pathways of health and wellness. She is a dedicated advocate for Harm Reduction and ending the racist War on Drugs. She believes that radical compassion is needed to heal each other and meet our fellow humxns “where they’re at” without shame or judgement. Meghan is currently working from home in New York’s Catskill Mountains for WEconnect Health Management as a PRSS where she enjoys swimming holes, mushroom club hikes and cooking all her plant & fungi foraging finds.

Description: Recovery belongs to us all. Leading up to the second summit in St. Paul, MN this October 3-6, 2021 – 20 years after the original summit – what do we expect of our future? Three vibrant leaders discuss their perspectives and hopes for the next two decades of the Recovery Community. Through this moderated discussion, we will investigate the need to end gatekeeping and welcome everyone to recovery by lowering barriers to recovery support, creating inclusive spaces and programs, and broadening our understanding of what recovery means for people with different experiences. As we grow in empathy and understanding, we save lives by adding protective factors and building resiliency. Ever reminding us that Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.

Moderated by: Keegan Wicks, National Advocacy and Outreach Manager, Faces & Voices of Recovery

This webinar series is sponsored by Alkermes.

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

August 25, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs_FVR

Ethics Tip Sheet

April 6, 2021

Peer recovery support service (PRSS) programs require an ethical framework for service delivery. In most cases, simply “importing” a professional code of ethics is not effective. There is a difference between the professional-client relationship and the relationship of the peer leader and the peer being served that warrants an ethical framework specifically tailored to PRSS.

We Have Been (Addiction Lament & Recovery Celebration)

February 25, 2021

Understanding oneself is incomplete when divorced from the history of one’s people. Those with lived experience of addiction and recovery share such a larger history. Over the course of centuries and across the globe, we have been:

Abandoned  Arrested   Berated   Caned   Castigated   Coerced   Confronted   Condemned   Conned   Defamed  Defrocked   Divorced   Deported   Denied Probation   Denied Pardon   Denied Parenthood   Executed   Electrocuted   Electroshocked   Evicted   Expelled   Exploited   Exiled   Feared   Fired   Forsaken   Hated   Humiliated   Incarcerated   Incapacitated   Kidnapped   Kicked Out   Quarantined   Restrained  Ridiculed   Sedated  Seduced  Shunned   Shamed   Surveilled   Tough Loved   Criticized   Colonized   Commercialized   Criminalized   Delegitimized   Demonized   Depersonalized   Deprioritized   Disenfranchised   Eulogized   Euthanized   Glamorized   Homogenized   Hypnotized   Institutionalized   Lobotomized   Marginalized   Memorialized   Miscategorized   Mischaracterized   Monetized   Mythologized   Objectified  Ostracized   Patronized   Politicized   Proselytized   Publicized   Sensationalized   Stigmatized   Scandalized   Sensualized   Sterilized   Terrorized   Theologized   Traumatized   Tranquilized  Trivialized

More recently, through the efforts of recovery advocates and professional and public allies, we are being:

Applauded   Awakened   Celebrated   Defined   Educated   Elevated   Encouraged   Helped   Healed   Enfranchised   Hired   Informed   Inspired   Motivated  Profiled   Reconstructed   Recruited   Redeemed   Rekindled   Renewed   Restored   Represented   Reunited   Supported   Surveyed   Transformed   Uplifted  Utilized  Valued Vindicated   Actualized   Baptized   Decriminalized   Destigmatized   Diversified   Enfranchised   Hypothesized   Idealized   Legitimized  Medicalized   Mobilized   Organized   Prioritized   Professionalized   Radicalized   Randomized   Recognized   Reconceptualized   Revitalized   Secularized   Sympathized Theorized

Through our shared journeys, recovery is gifting us with:

Accountability   Acceptability   Adaptability   Authenticity   Clarity   Collegiality   Community   Dignity   Employability   Fidelity   Flexibility   Honesty   Humility   Integrity   Longevity   Maturity   Opportunity   Possibility   Predictability   Productivity   Prosperity   Respectability  Responsibility  Sanity   Serenity   Sobriety   Spirituality   Stability  Survivability   Tranquility   Visibility   Wellbriety

Is it any wonder given the complexity of these experiences that we struggle in recovery to answer, “Who am I?” We cannot fully understand the “me story” without the “we story.”  Our personal stories nest within the hands of this larger multigenerational and multinational story. Our present circumstances, our shared needs, our individual aspirations, and our future destinies are inextricably linked to this complex, collective past. We can draw upon that past for resolve and inspiration at the same time we rise above it. Personally and collectively, we have fallen, yet like Lazarus, we rise anew.  Personally and collectively, we are moving from pain to purpose.


National Standards of Best Practices for RCOs

February 24, 2021

To ensure fidelity to the recovery community organization model, Faces & Voices of Recovery, RCOs across the nation, and stakeholders have identified the following as national best practices for recovery community organizations.

Recovery Innovations: The Well-Fed Social Supermarket

February 18, 2021

I recently discovered a UK-based project that I found so exciting that I solicited the below blog to share with my readers. To me, the Well-Fed Social Supermarket signals a next stage in the evolution of recovery support services: programs that serve those seeking and in recovery while simultaneously benefiting the larger community. For generations, “service work” in the recovery community has reflected the support we provide each other, our mutual aid organizations, and individuals and families seeking recovery. Perhaps the day has arrived when that service ethic will be extended in new and dramatic ways to larger communities and cultures.

–Bill White


Recovery Innovations: The Well-Fed Social Supermarket

Dave Higham, Ged Pickersgill and David Best


Recovery is a process that is characterised through the acronym CHIME – standing for Connectedness (the importance of social engagement); Hope; Identity (the growth of positive personal and social identities); Meaning (engaging in activities that give value to each day) and Empowerment (often experienced as positive self-esteem and self-efficacy).

For recovery community organisations, supporting people to achieve sustainable recovery is often about finding ways to promote CHIME that are personalised to individual aspirations and goals, and the stage of a person’s recovery. This means creating access to positive social and community resources that can nurture recovery capital.

In the UK, there have been a glut of recovery cafes, some of which have succeeded and others failed, but an increasing quest for diverse programmes and social enterprises that can both bolster recovery experiences while also contributing to the growth and wellbeing of the local community. This article provides a brief overview of the Well and then will focus on its innovative contribution to recovery pathways and community wellbeing.

The Well

The Well is a not-for-profit, community interest company (CIC) formed by ex-offender Dave Higham in 2012. Dave left prison for the last time in 2007 having spent over 25 years in addiction and in that time spent more time in prison than he did in the community. Since leaving prison in 2007 he has dedicated his life to supporting others with drug and alcohol addiction through both voluntary and paid employment. Dave set up The Well with his own money and with no blueprint to follow. Instead, he used his experience, vision and determination to create what has now become a leading provider of recovery services in the region.

Dave set up The Well when he recognised a gap in the provision of services during  off-hours and weekends for those people who wanted to achieve or maintain abstinence. The first hub was launched in Lancaster in 2012, and a further four sites quickly followed in Lancashire and Cumbria (in the North-West of England).The majority of staff at The Well have lived experience of substance misuse and offending histories.

The Well has always been shaped, designed and delivered by the people it serves and supplemented by the assumption that both the person and their family need to recover and are thus welcomed. The Well is also open to people with prescription drug histories, mental health issues and trauma, and nearly all the people served have experienced CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The Well is based on the assumption that ‘Where we serve our community, we become active citizens in the community’.

The Social Supermarket

A Social Supermarket has been designed as a positive way of supporting those on low incomes, tackling poor diet and overcoming health inequalities, through the provision of surplus stock sold at heavily subsidised prices.

Since store’s opening in November 2019, Wellfed Social Supermarket has had a footfall of over 5,000 people and has also resulted in 279 referrals into The Well Communities through various mechanisms of support.  The social supermarket has also facilitated (including but not limited to ) delivery of over 1500 hot meals to marginalised families, issued over 150 food bank vouchers, issued 17 free flu vaccination vouchers, delivered 37 emergency food parcels, delivered 242 sets of ingredients and recipes, and assisted families with welfare signposting in respect of white goods.

Well Fed social supermarket secures high-quality short dated food from retail and manufacture supply chains that would otherwise be sent as waste to landfill but is fit for human consumption. We sell this food to customers at reduced prices, typically an average of one-third of normal retail prices. Marketing is carefully targeted at residents on the lowest incomes and thus at greatest risk of experiencing food poverty and related health issues.

The social supermarket model innovates further by working with local agencies to provide a range of on-site support services. These are tailored to members’ needs and help them overcome multiple barriers to getting out of poverty. On-site support, signposting and assertive linkage may include money advice, debt counselling, and courses on healthy eating and cooking on a budget, as well as employability and vocational skills training. The Well-Fed Social Supermarket is a non-profit organisation with all monies re-invested back into the local community.

The Well Communities Social Supermarket is a model which enables residents in Barrow in Furness to access the retail aspect of the social supermarket and our Fairshare Model Food clubs and to be included in The Well Communities  Building Better Opportunities (BBO) Project  which helps members benefit from the employment and business opportunities that are arising in Barrow in Furness both now and through the longer term delivery of the BBO programme.

This is linked to the Well-fed Food Clubs which provide a sustainable alternative to free food distribution and foodbanks. Through a £3 per week payment, members receive approximately £10 to £15 worth of food each week while reducing food waste by working closely with fareshare North West by collecting the food from the regional Hub in Preston. The Well has built up a very strong membership of marginalised families; most of the postcode areas we serve are listed in the indicies of multiple deprivation. Over 30 tonnes of surplus food has been distributed to date.

The whole model is based on looking upstream and looking behind the actual need for discounted food. Each family has difficulties which mean they need to obtain goods due to some form of financial hardship; the intention is to determine such reasons and help in some way to alleviate these problems. These are then linked to in-house support mechanisms which Include assertive linkage to local statutory and third sector organisations.

Building Recovery and Community Capital                                                                     

The Well identifies people’s recovery capital, identifies their  passions, and works with them to create enterprises. They have had several successful enterprise ideas, the first being The Well itself, but they have also had some failures or learning that were not so successful. To get to the successful Social Supermarket idea we went through a process of ideas and attempts, the first being a catering trailer business, where the Well bought and renovated a trailer and employed a member of our community as he had experience as a chef, got a pitch for the trailer, but the marketing strategy of announcing that we were recovering addicts and alcoholics was the wrong thing to do as in the first year the project  was working at a loss. The lesson was that the most important factor about a food trailer is the pitch, and let this business go but kept the company name Well-Fed and started up foodbanks.

The other successful business, “Well maintained” used the employment capital and experience within the Well membership, including carpenters, electricians, plasterers and so on, and renovated our Dolton Road Hub which is now the location for The Social Supermarket.


There were false first steps on the road to creating the Social Supermarket, but the commitment to the principles of peer empowerment, community engagement and CHIME have resulted in a number of successes that contribute to the growth, wellbeing and inclusiveness of the recovery community as an active and vibrant part of the local, lived community. Not all of these enterprises will succeed, but the skill base, dedication and creativity of the recovery community will ensure a net gain and a positive contribution to individual recovery journeys, family inclusion and community connections and growth.

2020 Faces & Voices of Recovery Annual Report

February 13, 2021