Sharing experiences, strength and hope is a vital part of addiction recovery. On Sunday (Sept. 23), Coastal Horizons Center, Inc. hosted an event at Empie Park that brought the Wilmington-area recovery community together for a celebration.
The family-friendly event included music by Radiant Soles, food and art vendors and most importantly, fellowship for recovering addicts and alcoholics - and the people who love and support them.
“Shout if you’re free!” sang the lead vocalist of Radiant Soles. Boisterous cheers rang out from the participants.
Freedom is a powerful thing.
National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month is celebrated each September in communities across the nation to help recognize that substance use disorders are as treatable as other chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and that recovery is possible.
At our local event, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield spoke in support of alcohol and drug treatment, noting that active recovery benefits the entire community.
Saffo and Barfield were followed onstage by “James D.”
James gave an account of his life before sobriety that moved some to tears. The telling of his story in the 10 years since brought rounds of applause.
Typical of an addict who had come to the end of himself, James gave witness to the redemptive power of recovery – one day at a time. “The drinking was fun at first,” he said. “And then fun with problems. And then nothing but problems.”
“You should never forget where you came from,” he said. “And how easily you could go back there.” James emphasized the importance of support and the crucial role that the 12 steps play in his sobriety.
The Keynote Speaker for the event was Mary Kelly, who founded Wilmington's The Kelly House in response to the problem of mothers who suffer with addictions. In addition to helping mother's overcoming substance abuse, it also teaches women parenting skills and helps recovering addicts find housing and employment.
Kelly began with a “date of sobriety” countdown. She herself had accrued 43 years of continuous sobriety.
“Forty….thirty nine….thirty eight….” She paused a moment after each number, giving time to recognize each year’s milestone. Celebratory whoops rose above the crowd in honor. As the years, months and days were recognized until “day one”.
“And who will make tomorrow a day one?” Kelly asked. Several people responded with raised hands and those in attendance clapped with encouragement.
“It’s been such a joy to watch this community grow in recovery and services that help us get and stay sober,” she stated. “The attitude of so many residents has changed from an intolerant and judgmental group of people, to one of acceptance and support. We still have a way to go in helping people understand that addiction is a disease that can be – and is being – treated and that we do recover and stay recovered.”
Many recovery services and programs were represented at the celebration.
Coastal Horizons, Alcoholics Anonymous, Recovery NC, the Good Shepherd Center and Celebrate Recovery were among the stations throughout the grounds to direct people to resources. Representatives for each were available for those who had questions.
Only 10 percent of Americans who need treatment for substance abuse actually receive it, according to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Recovery Month encourages people affected by addiction to seek treatment and recovery services so they can reclaim healthy and productive lives in their community.
Anyone who just happened to pass through Empie Park during the event might not suspect that these people – a group that included every race, creed and stage of life – had been broken by addictions of all kinds in the past. No, on this picture-perfect Sunday afternoon, the strongest vibe in the park was joy. In a day that brought the recovery community together to share experience, strength and hope, laughter and victory infused the atmosphere.
It was – after all – a celebration.