Every September, millions of Americans along with their families and other loved ones celebrate National Recovery Month. What originally was started in 1979 asTreatment Works! Month by the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) has now become the pinnacle of recovery celebration and advocacy in the United States. Over 23 million Americans are in recovery, and by some estimates over 90 million Americans are touched by substance use and mental health concerns – many with loved ones in recovery. September is a time, then, to visibly recognize the overcoming of some of life’s toughest obstacles.
For many, this looks like attending a candlelight vigil, or participating in a town hall advocacy event; for others, it is organizing conferences and documentary screenings (such as The Anonymous People). For those in Texas though, where everything is arguably “bigger and better,” it is just a bit of each of these things and more. On Oct. 1-2, thousands will visit Dallas (a vibrant community of commerce and, yes you guessed it, recovery) for the culmination of this year’s National Recovery Month – The Big Texas Rally for Recovery (BTRR).
The Big Texas Rally for Recovery, like other recovery rallies across the country, began as a vision of celebration by some of the Lonestar state’s most active advocates. Joe Powell, CEO of the Association of Persons Affected By Addiction (a recovery community organization in Dallas), and Ben Bass, Executive Director of the Recovery Alliance of El Paso, started the rally in 2011 with their collaborative initiative, Texas Recovers. Since 2011, the event has drawn tens of thousands of individuals and taken place in major cities Austin, Houston, and now in 2016, Dallas. None of this can explain the passion and drive behind the BTRR, or what it’s really about, though. . Joe Powell, on the other hand, can:
The Oct. 2 rally , as if it weren’t enough, is only part of the weekend festivities planned. The Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy has partnered with Texas Recovers, Faces & Voices of Recovery, Drug Prevention Resources and the Southern Methodist University Health Center to bring an amazing lineup of pre-rally events—all on the SMU campus. Oct. 1 will kick off with recovery ambassador training, presented by Faces & Voices of Recovery with support from the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy.
“For those in Texas though, where everything is arguably “bigger and better,” it is just a bit of each of these things and more.”
The free training features a “Science of Addiction and Recovery” seminar, an “Our Stories Have Power” recovery messaging workshop, and a keynote talk from Texas native William Cope Moyers. Moyers, a Vice President with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, will highlight our past and present within the recovery advocacy community, beginning with the origins of our organized movements and traversing through the decades of stigma and shame to where we are now—a time of growing hope and acceptance.
Following the recovery ambassador training, the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy and Faces & Voices of Recovery will host a free ice cream social with an all-star lineup. In addition to speakers like Sasha Coles McLean from the movie Generation Found; Joe Powell, CEO of the organization hosting the rally; and Neil Scott, host of Recovery Coast to Coast radio, there will be a special “DaVerse Lounge” performance by rally emcee Will Richey and Alejandro Perez, Jr. Their dynamic and interactive blend of original stories, poetry and music will help attendees reflect on the history of recovery advocacy and inspire us to continue discovering our individual and collective recovery voices. The Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy also will debut a visual “recovery advocacy history” installation, which will be seen publicly for the first time.
Finally, to wrap up the events on Oct. 1, the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy and Drug Prevention Resources will host the Dallas premiere of the recently released documentary, Generation Found, with a panel discussion to follow. The film, which highlights the youth recovery movement of Houston, has debuted to phenomenal reviews as it screens across the country. Sasha Coles McLean (principal of the recovery high school shown in the movie) as well as Emilio Parker (recovery coach, and co-star in the documentary) and John Cates (youth recovery pioneer, and also a co-star), will provide a Q&A after the screening.
I can’t think of a better way to cap off National Recovery Month than in Dallas. Since moving away from Texas to begin graduate school in Philadelphia, it has frequently been in my mind and heart. The advocates, the families and the communities in Texas are among the most energizing and loving in this country. With a weekend full of recovery activities, this is one you don’t want to miss.