A Movement Called Recovery
By Ben Jacques, Stoneham Independent, June 29, 2017
A dozen or so people sat in the Marcy Room of the Stoneham Library recently to watch an award-winning film that is changing how we look at addiction.
The film was a documentary called The Anonymous People, and rather than showing the lurid effects of alcoholism and drug addiction, so often the focus of media attention, it shows men and women getting well.
The feature film is about the 23.5 million people in long-term recovery and the movement many of them have started to educate and advocate for those with addictive illness.
Anyone who has attended a 12-step program knows how central anonymity is to the healing process. Without anonymity, a husband, a wife, a son or a daughter would be exposed to the punishing stigma society has placed on addictive disease. They have guarded their own stories and those of others as a sacred obligation.
But times and needs have changed. Now, as the voices in The Anonymous People are heard, the focus is changing from illness to health. From addiction to recovery.
People are stepping up to tell their stories.
“I no longer say, ‘I am an alcoholic,’” one middle-aged man in the film says. “I say, ‘I am a person in long-term recovery.’”
In short, the film’s message is this: Telling our stories gives hope for those still struggling with addiction. And it brings us together into a potentially powerful movement.
Such a movement can transform the way society deals with addictive illness. It can have enormous political and social impact, leading to the full funding of treatment and recovery services.
As former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy says in the film: “If you can tap into the 20 million people in long-term recovery, you change this overnight.”
This means full funding at the federal, state and local level for addictive illness treatment and follow-up support.
In some communities, advocates have opened “recovery centers.” These are safe places where anyone in or seeking recovery can drop by, get a referral, meet others and find support as they work to stay healthy.
For three years, now, the Stoneham Coalition, has worked to educate and prevent addictive illness in our town. It has brought people together to find ways to stem the spread of alcohol and opioid abuse.
At Coalition events in schools, vigils on the Common, and community meetings, recovering addicts have told their stories, bringing understanding and hope to others.
The Coalition works closely with other Stoneham organizations, schools, the Library, Stoneham TV, Board of Health, church and services organizations. It co-sponsored the recent book authors’ series at the Stoneham Library and the screening of The Anonymous People.
This documentary presents forceful evidence that by coming together we can successfully fight addictive illness. It’s a challenge to us, to our town and to our families, to focus on recovery.
The 23-million-plus Americans in long-term recovery, many of them in Stoneham, can best show us the way.
Note: If you would like to show The Anonymous People at a group meeting, please contact the Stoneham Public Library.