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Advocate for Recovery Returns to Politics

December 8, 2008
by Daniel Guarnera
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Tom Coderre, National Field Director of

Faces and Voices of Recovery since 2006, has a new job:

chief of staff for the Rhode Island state senate.

Tom's inspiring story highlights the intersection between recovery and advocacy. He was born into a politically active family, and at age 25--in 1994--he was elected state senator. He rose to a leadership position in the Rhode Island Senate and was the executive director of a large Providence non-profit organization. It seemed like everything was going his way. All that changed about six years into his Senate career, when he started using crack cocaine.

Politicians, by nature, tend to want to be all things to all people--a dangerously heavy burden. Despite participating in several treatment programs while still maintaining his Senate seat, Tom wasn't able to stop using alcohol and other drugs. His recovery didn't begin until he was arrested and ordered to complete a treatment program.

Tom lived in a recovery house for two years and became involved with Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts, for which he organized a "Hill Day" for people in recovery to meet with their state legislators. His political experience and advocacy skills led him to Faces and Voices of Recovery, where he was responsible for organizing the

Recovery Voices Count civic engagement initiative, among other projects.

Here's a profile of Tom from Addiction Professional.

Here's a long profile from the Providence Journal.

Here's a multimedia slide show about his story.

Here's Tom's testimony in his own words.

Now, Tom will once again return to the state capitol as the newly appointed state senate chief of staff. In this role, he'll be responsible for overseeing over 50 staff members and the body's day-to-day operations, as well as advising the senate majority leader.

Tom had become one of the most prominent national advocates for addiction treatment and recovery, and his presence will be greatly missed. At the same time, however, he will not only have the opportunity to positively affect addiction-related legislation in his new job, but also the very fact that a person in long-term recovery holds such a public post testifies that treatment works and recovery is possible--there is no room for stigma or policies that treat people in recovery like second class citizens.



Daniel Guarnera

Daniel Guarnera is the Director of Government Relations for NAADAC, The Association for...

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