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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Day the Silence Ended: UNITE to Face Addiction, Washington DC

By Jeff Grubert

What’s exciting about the recovery movement sweeping our nation is that we finally have a way of speaking about long-term recovery without breaking the anonymity set forth in Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Why would a person with long-term sobriety want to learn a new way of speaking about recovery? 

Simply put, everything we have experienced in long term recovery is due to the fact that we are sober, that we have a loving relationship with a Higher Power, and that we have become aware that there are millions of people still suffering from the disease of addiction. In fact, the numbers reveal that there are not enough AA meetings available in the US for the number of people who need treatment. With this fact in mind I have come to support all roads to recovery and I want to help open more doors for people who need treatment now.  

How can those of us who have long term recovery stay stagnant in the guilt and shame that plagues our spiritual growth and not step out of our comfort zone to reach more people who suffer from this cunning, baffling and powerful disease?

The New Recovery Advocacy Movement

It is all about removing the stigmas associated with the disease of addiction. It’s about suiting up and showing up as a recovered person to work, speak, and vote for positive changes in healthcare and justice systems. There is a long history of members of AA getting involved in advocacy for people who still suffer.

Even Bill W. himself appeared in front of Congress advocating on behalf of the alcoholic. I was moved deeply by the movie depicting his commitment beyond the rooms of AA and that film is now available on Netflix — Anonymous People. 

October 4, 2015, with Hurricane Joachim threatening to cancel the gathering, I stepped out of my comfort zone and flew to Washington DC to stand with Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, The Fray, Jason Isbell, Dr. OZ, Patrick Kennedy, the Surgeon General of the United States, and thousands of people with long term recovery as a public witness asking for US policy changes related to the way people with the disease of addiction are being treated in the United States. 

Thousands of us showed up to say we are no longer going to stand on the sidelines and watch those who suffer from addiction being treated with discrimination. We stood together in the hope of a future where the medical establishment would incorporate the incredible insights that have come forth from 12 step meetings on how best to treat addiction and combine it with the hundreds of ways recovery can be offered to the alcoholic who still suffers. We acknowledge openly that Bill W. had a spiritual experience in a hospital and we demand better medical care at the entry level but also better long term care that will follow the patient for as long as they need it.  We gathered in Washington DC to end the silence, to step out of the guilt and shame that plagues us when we are drinking and even when we are sober.

From the front stage with electric guitars pounding for 6 hours to the back row of a standing room only crowd gathered at the Washington monument in DC, the cries for change could be felt and heard. I met parents who marched with pictures of love ones lost to the disease and people carrying posters reading, “We Recover and WE Vote,” and “Incarceration is NOT treatment.”

The most important news was delivered by Vivek H. Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States who walked out on stage and delivered these words while pointing enthusiastically at the crowd, “I’m on your side,” then went on to announce that his office has completed a comprehensive report on drug addiction in America. It will be released in 2016. This historic moment was met with a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd. The significance of the SG’s report is as important as its publication on smoking in 2014. Dr. Murthy spoke passionately about his commitment to ending the stigma of the disease of addiction and to challenge the federal government to uphold the current healthcare laws that the insurance companies are disregarding.

The founders of United To Face Addiction (facingaddiction.org) made a special plea to all people in the United States who enjoy the benefits of long-term recovery to become more aware of the crisis we are facing as it relates to the treatment and incarceration of people who suffer from this disease. They spoke loud and clear that we must use our vote to help those who still suffer, especially as more and more people seek recovery.  

If 23 million people in the United States would vote for candidates that advocate for better insurance coverage and treatment instead of incarceration we would not only solve the massive crowding in prisons across the country, but people suffering from addiction would receive fair treatment options so they could be guided toward the incredible gifts of living a life of recovery. 
Ironically, the day the silence ended, October 4, 2015 was the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, whose prayer has been suggested as the backbone of Step 11 for over 75 years. What I experienced in Washington DC on October 4, 2015 was surely a manifestation and promise of the prayer of St. Francis. It was a spiritual experience for me and countless others who weathered the storm to take a stand.  I have almost 27 years of sobriety, three beautiful daughters, and all of the blessings that have come from the hard work I got to do in the first half of my life. Even still, the march on Washington DC with UNITE to Face Addiction has given me a new vision and new passion for the sober life. 
Now, what is available to those of us in long term recovery who want to make a difference is not only the gifts of community that come from local meetings, sponsorship, and commitments on a local level, but a doorway to enter a bigger room with a bigger mission to end discrimination for people who suffer from our disease. 

We can and will make it possible for millions more to follow in our footsteps. I support ALL roads to recovery! I am UNITED to Face Addiction! I am a proud, anonymous member of AA, committed to the health and sustainability of Alcoholics Anonymous, but when I step out of the holy ground of those rooms, I am on fire as a person in long term recovery working, speaking, writing, and now advocating for those of us who still suffer. Why don’t you join us?

Jeffrey Bryan Grubert, was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960”s and 70”s. He spent 30 years building a successful home entertainment company in Laguna Beach, CA. He voluntarily entered a treatment center for alcohol and drug addiction and has spent most of his life committed to practicing and teaching the art of living a sober life with the help of disciplines including the 12 steps, the Catholic faith, and Zen meditation.