January 27, 2016

Many Paths to Recovery, Reducing Shame, Increasing Self-Advocacy

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New - HeadshotFor the past five years, Young People in Recovery has worked within the youth and young adult recovery advocacy space to normalize recovery from substance use disorders, creating recovery-ready communities through our grassroots volunteer chapters and contracted programming in more than 90 communities in 30 states.

At times, this tireless work has seemed like a constant uphill battle; at other times, it has seemed as if we have been on the point of cracking “DaVinci’s Code.” One thing is for certain, however, and that is that the face of recovery and self-advocacy within our country is changing for the better.

William White calls this paradigm shift the “new recovery advocacy movement,” which is more than apt to describe this third wave of recovery advocacy in the United States. For us at YPR, it is simply a way of life. Thousands of YPR supporters, members, leaders and staff spend their days, nights and weekends helping to reduce stigma and shame, increase education around peer-based recovery supports and — as of this year — increase awareness of the philosophy “all paths to recovery.”

As we have continued to expand our reach through our members and communities, we see the truth that the rhetoric from the larger recovery community about supporting all paths is often just that: rhetoric. In practice, hundreds of thousands of individuals are not supported in meaningful ways when utilizing a so-called alternative path or program of recovery such as SMART, Medication Assisted Recovery, Life Ring and many others.

As YPR’s policy director, Doug Rudolph, recently wrote: “What may work for one person may not work for another, and that’s okay. Recovery support systems need to foster a person-centered approach. We need to raise awareness of community-based support groups (both 12 Step and non-12 Step), natural and self-directed recovery, and educate the public and stakeholders on medication assisted therapy and harm-reductive methods to help close the gap between science and practice, and reduce stigma.

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“Raising awareness of and reducing barriers to the many pathways is the most critical issue facing the recovery community today. When people are missing the essential support that is compatible with their personal recovery, lives are lost.”

YPR has no secret mission or agenda other than helping all individuals to have access to the supports that give them the best chance for success. We are filled with hope from the stories we receive every day of people entering or thriving in their recovery, often in what our communities would consider nontraditional ways. Their stories of success are as hopeful and inspiring as any other.

It is important that we continue to elevate the conversation surrounding the supports we provide and advocate for in terms of the behavioral health of our youth and young adults in this country. This is a community effort, one that will require a dialogue and action to successfully integrate into our recovery communities. We need to harness and collectively focus our limited capacity in one direction: on preventing needless deaths by ensuring people receive the support they need by raising awareness of and reducing barriers to the many pathways to recovery.

We are ready to focus on saving lives, however possible. Are you?

Robert Ashford, peer recovery support specialist, is a young person in long-term recovery. He serves as the program director for Young People in Recovery and is an MSW student at the University of Pennsylvania.

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