What The New Addiction Recovery Advocacy Movement Can Learn From Lawmakers
The entire country took notice yesterday of the symbolic and dramatic action taken by a large number of Democrats in the House of Representatives when they conducted a sit-in on the chamber floor to demand a vote on gun control legislation. While the demonstration proved to be unsuccessful in its attempt to move the House into conducting an actual vote before recessing, the powerful message conveyed by and voiced during the sit-in reverberated across the nation. The message was that something must be done about gun violence, and it must be done now.
I was left thinking, “what if?”
What if addiction recovery advocates, people in recovery, their families, other allies and our nation’s countless prevention, treatment and recovery support service providers all decided they had enough too? What if instead of being fed up with one more moment of silence and act of inaction, we instead became so fed up with one more premature funeral of a child, a parent, a friend, colleague, neighbor, teacher, actor, musician, etc. that we so felt moved to take greater action?
What if we decided that we’ve had enough of underfunded prevention, treatment and recovery support services? What if we decided that we’ve had enough of young people and their families not having greater access to early-intervention services? What if we decided that we’ve had enough of long waiting lists that literally leave people dying to get treatment or disenfranchised by a system that is failing them? What if we decided that we’ve had enough of inadequate long-term recovery support services for a condition we know takes four to five years to stabilize? What if we decided that we’ve had enough of having enough?
I was left thinking, “what if we really grew bolder?”
What if the new addiction recovery advocacy movement really grew tired of insufficient legislation? What if we really grew tired of burying our friends? What if we realized that our all too often isolated walks and rallies in September, where we largely preach to the choir, just aren’t cutting it? What if we took our demands for systematic change en masse to the very people, places and systems we are seeking to change? What if we found the courage to collaboratively speak as one voice and so brazenly deliver the message that something must be done, and it must be done now?
What if we used social movement strategies such as sit-ins to really move the needle much further than a hair?
I think that Georgia congressman John Lewis said it best yesterday, and I think his call to action is one that the new addiction recovery advocacy movement ought to take heed of, internalize and use as fuel for furthering change: “Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary, sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”