The national advocacy organization Faces & Voices of Recovery for years has successfully mobilized a growing community of people in recovery who seek involvement in policy issues. But it has traditionally hesitated to put an actual number on the size of the recovering population overall. This month’s National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month activities for the first time feature prominent display of an estimate: more than 20 million Americans in recovery from alcohol and other drug addiction.
Faces & Voices director Pat Taylor says that while she considers the number conservative, she is grateful to Mark Willenbring, MD, director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), for helping to fill a numbers vacuum for the community. “This is a good place to start,” Taylor says. “We have needed so much more information in this field in order to arrive at a number that is more research-based.”
A written description from Faces & Voices about Rally for Recovery! events that took place around the country on Sept. 12 explains that Willenbring used data sets derived from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions to arrive at the estimate he provided.
As the overall scope of the recovery community becomes more apparent to the general public, so too have Recovery Month events matured from their humble beginnings two decades ago, Taylor says. Awareness and advocacy rallies that once attracted 300 attendees are now drawing more than double that, she says. One of the highest-profile events nationally remains a recovery rally in New York City that features a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and this year included appearances by New York Gov. David Paterson and Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
“Groups organizing these events have gotten more sophisticated; they’re involving more participation from governors, mayors and police departments,” Taylor says. The events are part local fair, part community mobilization, as mass voter registration drives and e-mail blasts to policy leaders have become an integral part of the proceedings in many locations.