From coast to coast people in recovery from addiction are coming out and getting organized. In fact it was banner year for recovery movement in Canada. The purpose of the Recovery movement is reduce the stigma and shame surrounding a life in recovery, improve standards of care and treatment for people suffering from addiction disorders and bring about evidence based research showing that recovery is a real, available and sustainable goal.
Marshal Smith is the Director of Corporate and Community Development for the Cedars at Cobble Hill Addiction Treatment Centre and one of Canada’s loudest voices in the movement.
Smith himself went through his own personal battle with addiction, which started in 2004, losing a home, friends and a career within the provincial government—most notably chief of Staff to the Minister responsible for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Bid. He found himself one of those stigmatized on the streets of Vancouver’s. Now clean and sober for nine years, he has rededicated his life to the cause of recovery—and to helping those who are suffering in silence with a loud and clear voice.
Marshall added the idea is to break through stigmas and stereotypes to a new conversation, much like the one that is currently ongoing with mental health illnesses. When people hear the word addiction, they think of the homeless, they think of marginalized people and they think of people who came from broken homes growing up around abuse and neglect.
That may well be the case for some but the vast majority of people with addiction disorders have intact families, homes, careers and lead productive lives all the while suffering a brutal sickness in silence.
“People in recovery are now unifying around these key priorities,” said Smith. “To bring attention and resources to this important public health issue. Thousands of people do get better every year, proving that recovery is both possible and sustainable. Those living in long-term recovery are the evidence that this serious health problem can be overcome and that there are real solutions to the problem of drug and alcohol addiction.”
In 2014, Cedars at Cobble Hill held a national roundtable on recovery that included Federal Health minister Rona Ambrose. From the meeting came a pledge to host a National Summit on Addiction Recovery, an historic event in Canada.
The National Summit was held in Ottawa from January 27 to 28th 2015. The summit brought together Canada’s leading experts representing the fields of recovery, treatment, continuing care, harm reduction, education, research and government.
“This was a first of its kind summit,” said Smith. “It’s led to the establishment of a document titled the National Commitment to Recovery form the Disease of Addiction which sets out a vision and series of principals for what recovery means in Canada. The document is a significant step forward toward a greater body of work.
The first step, said Smith, is to start researching and collecting data with the National Recovery Advisory Council so a clear picture can be painted of actual numbers.
However much like Smith, who is open and forthcoming with his struggles with addiction, many Canadians are ready for a sea change when it comes to matters of addiction and shifting gears from simply reducing harm to focusing on long term solutions.
“Success is all around us. We must study that success and build a community health response based on what has worked. Because of the recovery movement the government is making investments in this area, which in the end, benefits us all greatly and is the first step towards our eventual goal.”