There is power in words. I know this from many years in the field as a journalist.
I also know that with a boost from social media, word power morphs and magnifies, and extends to places we can’t predict.
Today, allow me to testify about how one person can make a difference simply by putting thought into words and words into action, through social media, powered by a strong sense that others want and need to connect to make the world a better place.
Here’s how it happened to me:
On February 14, 2014 I read an article on my hometown newspaper’s website about a community screening in Pennsylvania of a documentary about addiction, and hope in long-term recovery.
I immediately shared a link to the movie, “The Anonymous People,” on my Facebook page and wished someone would bring the movie to New Hampshire.
One influential friend and 10 days later, a date was set for a public screening in New Hampshire.
On April 2, 2014 I was seated among 100+ movie-goers at the Dana Center on the Saint Anselm College campus for a free public screening of the movie, followed by a panel discussion.
Among those in attendance: Students, physicians, policy makers, professors, priests, community organizers, recovering addicts and alcoholics, family members with loved ones currently battling addiction and in desperate need of meaningful treatment options –which are few and far between in New Hampshire.
That was at the heart of bringing this movie to New Hampshire, the need for change.
There is a national drug addiction phenomenon featuring heroin and oxycodone currently driving a human health crisis of epidemic proportions. This is not an exaggeration. From our state health officials here in New Hampshire to the U.S. Attorney General, the cost to society in human suffering, crime, law enforcement and incarceration, is exploding.
Missing from the equation: Effective resources focused on recovery from addiction. New Hampshire ranks 49th of the 50 states in recovery programs. The only place harder to find treatment is Texas, according to Cheryl Wilkie, Senior Vice President of the Farnum Center and Webster Place Recovery.
I guess even the drug problems are bigger in Texas.
Some take aways for me from “The Anonymous People:”
- Public perception drives policy: Headlines about the daily horrors of addiction and celebrities stuck in or lost to addiction drive our sense of hopelessness.
- “This is our black plague” – a quote from actress Kristen Johnston, a recovering addict who is one of the many celebrities telling their success stories.
- Lack of systemic support: Those in recovery from cancer are immersed in free post-treatment services “as part of their recovery.” Addicts get five days of detox or 28 days in a rehab bed, if they are among the lucky ones who have insurance or have good timing. After that, they are on their own.
- 12-Step recovery peer-based programs work: Because they offer immediate support with a proven track record – there are some 23 million people currently living in long-term recovery through participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs.
- War on Drugs: A reversal of progress: There was a dedicated push toward recovery during the 1960s and ’70s, “Operation Understanding,” championed by high-profile politicians and actors in recovery, to raise awareness and remove stigma. That momentum was buried under the weight of the orchestrated U.S. “War on Drugs,” chronicled here via “Frontline.”
- Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 excludes addiction: We continue to view addiction as a shame-based disease. U.S. insurance companies provide a fraction of resources for what is a paralyzing and pervasive human health crises in America.
- Community is the backbone of recovery: For an addict, recovery is initiated in treatment centers. But they recover in our communities – provided there are resources available to support them in their sobriety.
- Silence = Death: Borrowed from the early AIDS political advocacy movement and Act Up, actress Kristen Johnston cites “Silence = Death” as the best slogan to describe the urgency of addressing this public health crisis here and now.
So, What now?
I went back to Facebook after the screening and created a community page: Empowering Addiction Recovery in NH. Please join.
It was my initial reaction to keep the momentum going and give people a place to discuss how to move forward, again harnessing the power of social media.
I have heard there were some in attendance interested in bringing a public screening of “The Anonymous People” to their city or town. Anyone can do that. Here is a link for more information at ManyFaces1Voice.org.
Contact your mayor, board of aldermen, town councilors, town administrators, public health officials, state reps, senators and congressmen. Demand that they address the need for treatment and recovery programs and funding. Ask how you can help.
Beyond that, you can reach out to the panelists and experts who supported the April 2 Saint Anselm event, and find out how you can join the conversation and make a difference here in New Hampshire.
Tym Rourke, NH Charitable Foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cheryl Wilkie, VP Farnum Center/Webster Place Recovery (email@example.com)
Lee O’Connor, Narcotics Anonymous Granite State area (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jerry Hevern MD, family physician Suncook Family Health Center (email@example.com)
Megan Shea, Family Willows Manger and Therapist (MShea@fitnh.org)
Eric Spofford, Founder, The Granite House Sober Living (firstname.lastname@example.org)
View this VIDEO: Excerpt from “The Anonymous People” April 2 screening and panel discussion at Saint Anselm, via YouTube.