The Transformative Effect of Belonging and Empowerment

Patty McCarthy

Belonging and empowerment have been some of the most powerful factors in both my personal recovery and professional work for the past 30 years. The sense of belonging within a peer group, a family, a community, or a movement, contributes to my sense of purpose and meaning in life.  This is certainly not unique to recovery; it’s what helps us thrive and survive as human beings.  Without it many of us will experience feeling lost, disconnected and hopeless. In the recovery movement, while many are outspoken and visible, not everyone wants to be visible or vocal in advocacy and activism.  We not only need to acknowledge that, but we need to be better at providing meaningful ways for all people to engage at the level they are comfortable with, if and when they choose to engage. However, most importantly, we need to ensure that everyone feels that they belong and that the recovery movement is for everyone. 

 

Recently, author and social change expert, Leslie Crutchfield was one of the keynote speakers at the 2020 Recovery Leadership Summit hosted by Faces & Voices of Recovery.  Leslie’s book, How Change Happens; Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don’t, is a must read for movement leaders.  It’s basically a framework based on the winning organizing strategies of movements like marriage equality, anti-tobacco, anti-drunk driving and gun rights.  In the recovery advocacy movement, we know that almost everyone is impacted by substance use disorders in some way and know someone who is in recovery. We’ve come a long way towards putting a face and a voice on recovery over the past twenty years.  However, as Leslie explains in her book, the transformative effect of creating a sense of belonging and empowerment is one of the most critical factors of movements that successfully impact social policy. There is so much more to be done to ensure that the movement is reflective of those who are most impacted and empowering new leadership whether in local communities, states or nationally.  As a woman in a leadership role who values a servant leadership philosophy, my commitment is to remain open to new ideas and the positive contributions of the incredibly diverse and passionate people of the recovery community.  I encourage everyone to reach out to myself and our team at Faces & Voices of Recovery to share your interests and enthusiasm for change in the recovery advocacy movement. 

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