Recovery Culture: Role Models

Role models, positive and negative, are a crucial part of our upbringing. As a young man, I remember idealizing baseball players like Nolan Ryan and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez; actors like Will Smith and George Clooney; and academicians such as Stephen Hawking. As my life turned a different direction though, I lost all connection with these former positive role models as the only thing that was important became substances to fill a larger void.

Now in long-term recovery, I find myself identifying and connecting with positive role models again. These days, role models are more of a professional and personal nature – those I have met in the recovery advocacy community or leadership thought leaders like John Maxwell. However, as recovery from behavioral health disorders becomes more “main stream” it is up lifting to know that role models, such as those I grew up with, still exist for today’s youth. The best part? Many of them actively talk about asking for help and recovering from things like substance use disorders, mental health concerns, and disordered eating. That we live in a time that those of celebrity status (that often become role models on a wide-spread scale), exist with redeeming humanistic qualities is amazing.

Actors such as Martin Sheen, Russell Brand, and Jamie Lee Curtis are publicly open about their journey’s into recovery, with Russel even firmly committing himself to public advocacy for others dealing with substance use disorders. Athletes such as Daryl Strawberry and CC Sabathia, who recently went public with a piece in The Players Tribune, with his journey and finally seeking help. Even politicians, such as former Texas Governor Ann Richards who very publicly talks about her recovery from an alcohol use disorder and what recovery has meant for her.

These are not the only role models of today, nor should they be. However, at a time when so many are passing from accidental drug poisonings, prescription drug misuse is on the rise all over the country, and mental health concerns among youth (especially on college campuses) are such a pressing issue, it is relieving to know that these types of positive role models exist. These individuals don’t just prevent with “just say no” type messages, but truly humanize the aspects of positive behavioral health for youth and young adults. By being open and honest about recovery on wide-scale public forums it shows that asking for help is not only okay, but should be encouraged.

If social movements are marked by their proliferation into main stream society, the emergence of role models such as these only further asserts that “recovery culture” is becoming a norm. That is a normal I can get behind, and hope that these types of role models only continue to grow as Arielle and I bring our own children into the world.

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