My name is John Winslow and I’m a person in a long-term recovery, which for me means that I haven’t used alcohol or other drugs for over 43 years. When I first got into recovery at the age of twenty-six, we did not have the language that would allow me to articulate such a statement. But…… oh my, how the times have changed!
After getting sober I spent my career working in all areas of the addictions field including prevention, intervention, treatment, and (especially in the latter years) recovery. For years I had been a hard-core traditionalist when it came to recovery. My last treatment experience in 1976 was staunchly 12-Step oriented. I embraced it fully and it saved my life. I later became an addiction counselor and pretty much exclusively promoted the 12-Step model for recovery from any and all addictions. Actually, for much of that time there were few alternative offerings available.
About 10 years ago, my home state of Maryland introduced the Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) model. What a breath of fresh air! We began embracing an inclusionary (rather than exclusionary) system of care that offered no wrong door INTO recovery, and extended that into no wrong pathway OF recovery. I was challenged to be open-minded and to reassess my belief system of how recovery works in the world at large. In many ways, ROSC was like going back to the future, in which treatment providers, once again, began to build bridges into the recovery community, honored peer-to-peer relationships, and supported broad recovery coalition-building efforts.
Around this time period, William White, renowned addiction historian and internationally recognized author, began to focus his efforts on the recovery movement and wrote extensively on ROSC. Shortly thereafter, Greg Williams came out with his groundbreaking movie “The Anonymous People.” His film significantly shifted perspective about recovery from addiction and offered new language as advocated through highly respected national recovery advocacy organizations such as Faces & Voices of Recovery.
Our ideas of what recovery was, who was offering it, what it looked like, what qualified one to be in recovery, and how recovery was obtained and maintained were all being challenged, re-examined, and revised to acknowledge and embrace the fact that multiple pathways to and of recovery truly exist!
To further move this truth forward, the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) offered its inaugural Multiple Pathways of Recovery conference in 2015. This first-of-a-kind national conference promoted and celebrated ALL recovery pathways including: 12 Steps (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous), Yoga, Caribouddhism/Nature & Buddhism, Celebrate Recovery, SMART Recovery, Individualized Recovery, LifeRing Secular Recovery, Medication Assisted Recovery, Faith-Based Recovery, Women For Sobriety, Red Road to Wellbriety, Phoenix Multisport, Fit2Recover, Volunteerism,and In the Rooms (virtual recovery). Conferences such as this help to inform participants and broaden greater understanding of a broad array of options for recovery from addiction.
Thankfully, SMART Recovery continues to be at the table at CCAR’s annual Multiple Pathways conference, educating those new to its offerings how, why, and for whom this program of recovery helps, offering an alternative for some who might not otherwise engage in more traditional recovery programs, as well as providing a complimentary resource for others who find that the SMART meetings add an element to their recovery not solely found in a 12-Step experience.
About the Author: John Winslow is the founder of International Recovery Day, a free online event to be globally launched on September 30, 2020. Its overarching goal is to globally connect recovering individuals, families, and communities in order to provide worldwide hope to overcome addiction through connecting the dots between all folks in recovery – from all recovery pathways – all around the globe – all in one day. This event seeks to shift the focus from the ravages of addiction to the hope offered in recovery,and promises to be a one-of-a-kind historic online experience. Click here to visit the International Recovery Day Facebook page to learn more about this upcoming event and how you can become involved.