Friends of Addiction Recovery- New Jersey (Friends) convened a two-day meeting to strengthen its five existing county chapters and explore inroads into counties that have yet to establish chapters. The retreat, which took place Feb. 8-9 in Perth Amboy, was facilitated by Dona Dmitrovic of who previously worked with the Johnson Institute in Washington, D.C., whose advocacy recruitment and engagement model has been integral to Friends since 2005.
The working group of 14 people gathered on the cold Friday night for dinner and followed that up with an inspiring opening session. Toward the end of the night, eyes were growing weary but the dialogue was alluring. It was concluded that Friends has met many objectives, but there’s still more to be accomplished through joint organizing efforts. Members of the Friends county chapters were joined by the Friends Steering Committee in an attempt to build stronger recovering communities and to work on honing advocacy skills throughout the state. Eric Arauz of North Brunswick, one of five recovery speakers at the 2007 Rally for Recovery, said the chapters held great promise for providing advocacy that was “statewide and zealous.” Among the topics the group explored was Advocacy with Anonymity, a critical hurdle in building an addictions issues constituency. The debate over anonymity has been a thorn in the side of the addictions issues advocacy effort for years as members of 12-Step groups hold the traditions sacrosanct.
Essex County Chapter Member Kevin Bullock said what he wanted from the meeting was a clear and strategic approach for the Friends chapters. He said that “uniformity of language” by the RCO’s was important to their advocacy work. Consistent use of language has been the focus of other advocacy trainings conducted by Faces and Voices of Recovery and Join Together.
The working group also agreed that Friends has capable and power-filled volunteers and that these dynamic people should be dubbed ‘recovery ambassadors’ because the word ‘volunteers’ just doesn’t do justice to their efforts. “Increased visibility,” was the goal Friends Community Organizer Jeanette Grimes said was needed for the recovery community. Grimes said there needed to be periodic assessments of chapters to determine their progress in making themselves known to the community at large.
Other Recovery advocates who took part in the retreat had this to say:
“The passionate enthusiasm of everyone who attended helps to strengthen my recovery advocacy work.”
Judy Fuqua, Friends Steering Committee Member
“This organization can really make a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives. Lifting the stigma of addiction will help so many people in so many ways. I am clearer about what our mission is and hope that we can find a way to spread the message and educate a lot of people.”
Cindi Caponegro, Union County Chapter
“We’re all on the same track—end stigma, strengthen treatment and recovery and unity of both for client and family.”
Pat Craven, Burlington County Chapter
“I have a better scope on how I can get training, as well as more information that I can pass on to others.”
Katherine Woodley, Union County Chapter
“The understanding and direction from other county chapters will help to advocate in our chapter as well.”
Cynthia Bullock, Essex County Chapter
“Knowing that a chapter is going to be started in the southern part of the state helps my recovery by being able to be with people who are also in recovery.”
Patricia Dennis, Friends Steering Committee Co-Chair
“There’s hope for recovery communities when we harness the energy, organize and stay within guidelines.”
Lisa Gladwell, Friends Steering Committee Co-Chair
“The sharing is so important. Sometimes it seems like recovery is a big secret. Just being with people who are willing to work for this goal is so encouraging. Personal stories are so empowering because you know it is possible.”
Bob Craven, Burlington County Chapter