Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.
Recovery Support is alive in NH, in spite of it all.
In the five years I’ve been in recovery from addiction as a New Hampshire resident, I count two principal events: 1) The rapid onset of a crisis of preventable death by overdose, hastened by abstinence-obsessed and punitive policies concerning drugs and the people who use them, and 2) A rapid awakening to the power of love and community in improving the lives of people like me. These two developments conflict and inform each other. One is sure to win out. Let me tell you why.
Five years ago there were about 900 Alcoholics Anonymous groups, 80 Narcotics Anonymous groups, one Cocaine Anonymous group, 60 Al-Anon groups, and perhaps a handful of other anonymous-style mutual aid supports for people affected by addiction in our state to find understanding and community. Recovery was underground; a handful of brave souls went public with their recovery status if their ‘cover’ wasn’t already blown.
Three years ago a guy in a recovery house in Dover ordered a meeting-starter kit from Heroin Anonymous International. HA now totals 24 weekly meetings statewide. SMART Recovery and ALL Recovery meetings emerged to offer secular and non-ideological recovery support and reign in a wider swathe of people seeking improvement. At least 10 distinct, local brands of recovery support for families and loved ones of people with substance use disorders sprang up and multiplied with NH parents declaring a recovery status at the helm.
Lately, individual and community-wide triumphs over addiction are top-fold items in NH’s daily and weekly news media. A young mom declares herself unashamedly “recovering” and determined to pay forward her newfound hope and stability. An employer boasts his shop’s recovery-friendly credentials and urges others to hire straight from their local recovery house. A county jail opens its cell blocks to Recovery Coaches offering Narcan and transitional support. Development of harm reduction services have become calls to action among state and public health officials, helping to change the way we think about and promote recovery.
Eight state-supported Recovery Community Organizations – grassroots collectives offering training, advocacy, and practical recovery support via trained community members – operate a steadily growing number of storefront Recovery Community Centers on “Main Streets” in nearly every county. These organizations are primarily funded through contracts with the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services and are supported and held accountable by a Facilitating Organization (“FO”) contract held by Harbor Homes, Inc. These eight of the state’s eleven Recovery Community Organizations publicly report their activity; as you’ll see, they have not been throwing pencils at the ceiling…
Between July 1 and December 15 of 2017, Recovery Community Organizations funded through the “FO” have made the following, often lives-changing contacts:
Recovery Coaching enrollment: 1,247 people; Telephone Recovery Support enrollment: 1,101 people; Crisis Mgmt/Systems Navigation: 1,316 individual services; Community Outreach: 19,844 people; Volunteer Engagement & Training: 1,596 people; Center-generated groups: 5,801 attendees
These are the data at my fingertips as an employee of the “FO.” While funding for New Hampshire’s substance use disorder continuum of care remains woefully insufficient and complicated, recent reports of recovery’s death in New Hampshire are greatly exaggerated. It’s important to note what remains in place and is working, which includes a responsibly managed network of Recovery Community Organizations and nine Recovery Community Centers.
Perhaps a spotlight isn’t needed. The proof of progress on attitudes about people with past or current problematic substance use may be visible and palpable enough.
As a friend recently explained to me in my moment of funk:
“Five years ago if we were in this restaurant, and I walked up to that lady and said I used to be a heroin addict, she’d probably make this face and [clutches imaginary purse]. I could walk up to her whole group now, say the same thing, and they’d congratulate me. I have no doubt.”
Not one person, fellowship, organization, or political party can claim the growth of Community Recovery in New Hampshire. Governors can’t. Our legislature waffles between “live free” and “die” every legislative session. It’s unclear whom to credit for all of this growth because there are now so many of us providing support in our own way.
One thing is becoming clearer, though: Recovery is possible, to a person and for any community, if we commit to the track we’re on.
Dean LeMire is the Assistant Project Director for the Statewide Peer Recovery Support Services Facilitating Organization grant at Harbor Homes, Inc. He lives in Dover.