Personal Politics Hurt Recovery Movement


By Farley and Susan Barge

Early in the national election season I made a personal commitment to not post anything political that wasn’t specifically about the addiction crisis in America. The logic is simple, as a movement we are the beneficiaries of a unique position that is almost unheard of in the American political system, we have true bi-partisan support! Why? Because, as those of us in the movement know, almost everyone is affected by addiction in our country. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse Costs Our Nation More than $484 Billion per Year, over twice the economic impact of cancer or diabetes. Each year approximately 40 million debilitating illnesses or injuries occur among Americans as the result of their use of tobacco, alcohol, or another addictive drug. 31% of America’s homeless suffer from drug abuse or alcoholism. As many as 60% of adults in Federal prisons are there for drug-related crimes. And illicit drug users are more likely than others to have missed 2 or more days of work in the past month and to have worked for three or more employers in the past year.

In March of this year (2016), the U.S. Congress voted and passed the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act by an overwhelming majority. The bill passed the U.S. Senate on March 10, 2016, by a vote of 94-1. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 13, 2016, by a vote of 400-5. This is true bi-partisan politics which demonstrates that when we are faced with a crisis, our country not only speaks with one voice, but we act with once voice.  We need that same bipartisan support to get CARA funded! United we stand, divided we fall.

With increasing regularity I’m viewing others ‘in the movement’ demeaning political parties and candidates that they don’t agree with on social media and the internet. Let me be clear, if you are in a position of leadership locally, regionally or nationally, you are HURTING THE RECOVERY MOVEMENT IN AMERICA when you demean a political candidates or parties publicly. Furthermore, you are limiting your effectiveness as a leader to be inclusive to all people affected by the addiction crisis in our country.

We have been called a “constituency of consequence”, but will our constituency remain  united enough to make a difference?  Someone asked a thought provoking question of me a year ago.  “Does the recovery agenda mean enough to you to focus on the candidates’ positions and commitment to that, at the expense of some of your other political preferences?”  Let’s all think long and hard about that question.  Is this truly the biggest issue for people who say they are recovery advocates?

Leaders in the recovery movement must look past economic, social, racial, religious and political beliefs and learn to speak out with one voice. We should not be pulled into the petty conflicts of what our media has become today when we represent something much greater than ourselves. The recovery movement isn’t about who wins the election, it’s about saving lives and changing forever the way we treat addiction in America.

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