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RICares Changing Addiction Conversation

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

 

On May 31st, RICares, the local organization that works to advocate for Rhode Island's recovery community, will present a sneak preview screening of The Anonymous People at The Columbus Theater on Broadway at 7 P.M.  

The feature documentary is about the 23.5 million Americans living in long term recovery, and the emerging public recovery movement that will transform how alcohol and other drug problems are dealt with in our communities. The movie trailer can be found here.  

GoLocal spoke with RICare's Board Chair and Senate President Chief-of-Staff Tom Coderre, who was recently awarded with the Vernon Johnson Award by RICares which "recognizes people who are in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol or other drugs and their allies who have given back to their communities so that future generations can experience the reality of recovery."

In addition, GoLocal talked with the producer of the documentary Greg Williams, as well as RICares supporter and volunteer Nicky Estrella, about the public recovery movement, and what it means to them, and the impact it has on the community.

Out of Church Basements -- and Into Public View

"There's an emerging recovery community movement organized of individuals, families, and allies who are working together to put a face -- and a voice -- to public policy issues for recovery advocacy, including prevention and treatment measures," said Coderre. "We've had a good deal of a success from a budgetary standpoint here in the state."

However, it was the public perception of recovery -- and the need to get the stories out into the public -- which drove Coderre to become involved with RICares.

"There are 23.5 million people in addiction recovery in this country," said Coderre. "The recovery movement is aiming to bridge the gap between the "basements" -- usually church basements -- where AA meetings take place, and bring these stories to light for the public to understand."

"My own story of recovery has been very public, based on my political involvement," said Coderre, noting that he has been in recovery since 2003. "I had the ability to get my story out there, but working with RICares, I've been able to help other people, along with myself, in the process."

Coderre continued, "The screening of the documentary - and the aim of the movie - is to bridge the gap between people who've spoken out, and to broaden the public understanding of recovery. This is a public health issue, a civil rights issues. There was a time when people wouldn't talk about AIDS."

"That's what we're doing with the recovery movement -- working to break down the public stigma, to show it's a community health issue -- not a moral weakness," said Coderre. "When people recover, communities recover."

Film Producer Speaks Out

Greg Williams, who produced The Anonymous People, is 29 years old -- and has been in long term recovery since he was seventeen. However, as he told GoLocal, the process was rife with difficulty -- and he wanted to work to change that.

"For the first four or five years of my recovery, I feared doors would be shut to me," said Williams. "Jobs, relationships, you name it -- I became angry about those doors that were closed because of the stigma attached to recovery."

"Then, I met hundreds, and thousands of people in recovery, and thought, why can't we have a galvanizing movement for this public health issue, like Race for the Cure."

Williams, noting his background in film and TV production, talked about how the idea for the documentary came to be -- but no one wanted to fund it.

"Look, no one wanted to put their name on a project about addiction," said Williams. "The media doesn't really go for addiction recovery, or solutions stories. They want the train wreck, unfortunately, which is not what this is about."

"So I started a Kickstarter campaign, looking to raise $45,000 in funding for the effort of making the movie -- and ended up raising $85,000," said Williams. "Thanks to the support I got, I was able to stay true to my vision with the movie, which I'm proud of -- and hope people come see."

Addiction, and Recovery, as Family -- and Community Concern

Nicky Estrella, who became involved with RICares through her volunteer work at Anchor Recovery Community Center in Pawtucket, noted that addiction doesn't discriminate.

"I grew up in a family with addiction issues. It's a cycle of abuse, and it effects everyone -- not just someone you don't know," said Estrella. "Addiction was always viewed as a "family secret" -- and it's the kids who really suffer."

Estrella noted that her work at Anchor consisted of helping those in recovery with computer skills, and assisting in the ability to look for a job if need be, among other services. 

Estrella, a mom of three now herself, told GoLocal, "Every kid deserves a childhood, which is why I'm involved with such organizations as RICares and RISE. It is a chance to bring addiction to the forefront in hopes to help families heal."

Tickets for the screening of The Anonymous People on May 31 are $7 in advance at $10 at the door, and can be purchased online at http://ricares.brownpapertickets.com.

 

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