Over the past several years the opioid epidemic has received local, state and national coverage. The crisis in the United States has forced the public and our politicians to take a closer look at how addiction is impacting every area of our society. Even with this coverage, addiction remains a topic that carries with it stigma and shame. For far too long, people in recovery have been reluctant to speak out or identify as a person afflicted by the disease of addiction or alcoholism.

In recent years, organizations have begun to encourage individuals to share their experiences in recovery. They have cultivated messaging and language that allows them to share positive stories of their recovery. While progress has been made, many individuals are still reluctant to identify themselves as “a person in long-term recovery.” To combat this stigma, it is up to those of us in recovery to share our stories when we are ready and to change the way society views addiction.

There are multiple ways to get involved and make social change that will benefit all of us. The Recovery Advocacy Project suggests the following actions to affect the needed change.

Tell your legislators that opioid litigation dollars should go toward recovery solutions.
  • Due to litigation efforts against opioid manufacturers and distributors, many states will receive large settlements. As individuals in recovery, we can advocate for these dollars to be spent on addiction treatment and recovery resources. You can send a letter to your representative using the Recovery Advocacy Project’s template.
Ask your governor to stop criminalizing addiction and mental health.
  • Addiction is a disease, not a moral issue. In place of harsh laws, individuals struggling with substance abuse could be helped by receiving medical care, legal support, and recovery resources. To advocate that recovery resources replace harsh substance abuse laws, you can send a letter to your governor using the Recovery Advocacy Project’s template.
Tell your legislators to fund addiction recovery services.
  • Recovery resources can help individuals reenter society with dignity. Support services include recovery housing, peer coaches and support, employment opportunities and training, and other long-term rehabilitation programs. You can send a letter to your representative to advocate for recovery services using the Recovery Advocacy Project’s template.
Ask your governor to support mental health parity.
  • Mental health and physical health are not always covered equally by insurance companies, making it difficult for individuals to finance treatment. You can ask your governor to enforce mental health and addiction parity laws using the Recovery Advocacy Project’s
Update addiction-related language in state codes and regulations.
  • Language in our state codes and regulations has not caught up to what we now know about addiction. You can advocate for updating addiction-related language using the Recovery Advocacy Project’s template.
Recover out loud by sharing your story.
  • By sharing your recovery story, you show others in recovery that they are not alone. Your experience can also provide society with an opportunity to see addiction differently. If you’re interested in sharing your story with Wasatch Crest, you can email our Alumni Coordinator, Becky Wheelock, at [email protected].

It is often the shame and stigma of addiction that keeps people who need help from seeking it. As we stop the misinformation and shine light on the millions of people living healthy sober lives, we provide hope for the future. It is our responsibility to become advocates for change.

About the Author

Rich McDonald, CMHC, is Wasatch Crest’s Clinical Director. As the leader of Wasatch Crest’s clinical program, Rich has created a clinical culture that empowers clients to rewrite their stories and develop meaningful lives. Rich brings over 25 years of leadership experience and ten years working in the recovery community.

Leading with respect, accountability, and acceptance, Rich embodies Wasatch Crest’s human-centric treatment approach. He’s passionate about incorporating nature into recovery and is dedicated to helping clients build lives worth staying sober for.

Rich is an avid trail runner and has successfully competed in many marathons, ultra marathons, and 100-mile trail races.

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