When People Unite, Amazing Things Happen
On October 4th 2015 the silence ended. That was the day that the UNITE to Face Addiction rally happened on The National Mall in Washington, DC. Tens of thousands of people in long-term recovery from substance use disorders came out and ended their silence so they could break the stigma of addiction. There were also grieving parents and spouses that had lost their loved ones to the disease of addiction, and recovery allies. The bottom line is everyone is sick of seeing people with substance use disorders die, one every four minutes to be precise. The other issues that were addressed were the decriminalization of addiction, the failed “War on Drugs,” S. 524: Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (C.A.R.A.); a bill that is going before congress, and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act that the insurance companies are failing to follow. Each one of those issues is of vital importance and I recommend researching them online.
It wasn’t all seriousness though. There were inspiring speakers, political speakers and phenomenal performances by artists like Steven Tyler, [iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/zTM0l44AfDc” align=”right” mode=”normal” autoplay=”no” grow=”yes”] Joe Walsh and Sheryl Crow, to name a few. Dr. Oz was there and led us in the new UNITE to Face Addiction anthem along with Paul Simon. Dr. Oz is a fierce advocate in changing the current system of addiction treatment. It’s hard to put into words the whole UNITE to Face Addiction rally. There was so much going on and it was all so POWERFUL. We laughed, cheered and cried. President Obama even sent a videotaped message to the UNITE crowd about what his administration wants to see done with the addiction epidemic we are in. I posted a different video because I couldn’t locate Obama’s UNITE video but the message is similar about the severity of the opiate epidemic. My suggestion to anyone who really wants to get a grasp about what happened that day, is to go to FacingAddiction.org and look at the pictures and read what the website has to say. The event lasted five hours and it was one famous person after another speaking, singing and supporting this movement.
Silence = Death
This whole rally stemmed from the documentary, The Anonymous People, which can be seen on Netflix. The whole point of this film is that there are 23 million people in recovery and they are not standing up for the 22 million that are still out there using and need help. At one point in the movie they refer to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s and the signs the LGBT community used when they rallied, SILENCE = DEATH. That’s exactly what’s been happening in the recovery community. Our silence has cost hundreds of thousands of lives over the years. We in recovery have not advocated for our brothers and sisters still out there using. In Washtenaw County the death toll due to overdose has tripled in the last five years. Thirty-two people died in 2012 and in 2014 sixty-five died. 2015 is looking to match, if not overtake 2014’s death toll.
Where Was Ann Arbor?
How did Ann Arbor and the surrounding towns play into this whole rally? First of all, many may not know this but we have an enormous community in Washtenaw County. Much of this is due to the fact that we have two large treatment facilities here. People with substance use disorders come here to seek treatment and then stay. Because of this, it wasn’t too hard to fill a bus full of people and head to Washington, DC. We just put the word out within the recovery community and our bus filled up. We had students from the Collegiate Recovery Programs at The University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, folks employed at recovery organizations like Home of New Vision, Dawn Farm and The Ann Arbor Women’s Group, people associated with Maple Rock, volunteers from the Washtenaw Recovery Advocacy Project (WRAP), and a myriad of other people in recovery and recovery allies. There were forty-six on the bus but there was a whole group that flew there, so the total was closer to sixty. We wore t-shirts that depicted that we were from Ann Arbor, in recovery, and happy. We chose safety green, a neon color, so we wouldn’t be missed. We are proud to be from Ann Arbor and we are proud to be in recovery.
The group that flew went early to be a part of the Fed Up rally. Fed Up is an organization that is, well, fed up with the amount of overdose deaths. Many of the members have lost a loved one due to addiction. The Fed Up rally was on October 3rd. A whole group from Ann Arbor also stayed longer to be a part of Advocacy Day which was October 5th. Over 500 people met with their Senators to try to get them to back the CARA bill. Saturday, Sunday and Monday Washington, DC was filled with people who are saying ENOUGH to this overdose epidemic, ENOUGH to people with substance use disorders not being able to get medical help, and getting thrown into jail instead of being offered treatment. ENOUGH, ENOUGH, ENOUGH!
People with substance use disorders are people too. We are more than twenty percent of the human race. Half of us are in recovery and the other half still suffer. Addiction knows no social barriers. It will afflict those from Yale to jail. We are here. We are dying. It’s time to change the conversation about addiction and look for solutions to this national health crisis.
Want to see pictures from that day? Go to Facebook and look up hashtag #A2UNITES. We took a bunch of pics!!
This article was originally published in the November 2015 edition of Groundcover News in Ann Arbor. Please support ending homelessness by buying Groundcover newspapers.