Magazine article Addiction Professional

Recruiting an Army of Advocates

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Recruiting an Army of Advocates

Article excerpt

Patty McCarthy has come to learn that building a recovery movement closely resembles building a recovery. Each event unfolds one increment at a time.

Director of the recovery organization Friends of Recovery Vermont since 2003, McCarthy is not accustomed to making pitches to prospective advocacy leaders in front of overflow crowds. Recruitment in her rural state will more likely occur quietly over a cup of coffee.

"Our organizational efforts have to be one-on-one here," says McCarthy, 41, who has been in recovery for more than 18 years. Yet out of such modest efforts have come impressive numbers: a network of 1,400 contacts through the statewide organization's online database.


McCarthy's work now encompasses state, regional, and national advocacy pursuits. Besides her directing Friends of Recovery Vermont, she is active in the regional New England Alliance for Recovery and in January began serving on the 21-member board of the national Faces and Voices of Recovery.

"I see all of this as tied to my recovery, but it doesn't mean this is what will sustain my recovery," McCarthy says. "It certainly is nice to be associated with so many great people."

Building toward success

McCarthy was raised in New Jersey and first entered treatment for alcohol use at age 17. She would go into treatment on three separate occasions before turning 18, but didn't stop drinking until the age of 23.

"But my philosophy about this is that the treatment still worked," she says.

About three years after getting sober, McCarthy began attending some workshops and other meetings on treatment and recovery subjects, and this set the stage for her involvement in the recovery advocacy community. She became a member of Friends of Recovery Vermont before taking over the directorship five years into the organization's existence. The Vermont organization originated from a former state substance abuse agency director's push for allies who could go to the legislature and ask for support for treatment initiatives. The Vermont Association for Mental Health serves as the organization's host agency.

"It was a great feeling to be part of something--an organiza-tion willing to speak up for people's needs," McCarthy says.

She does not believe that a certain "type" of person in recovery makes an ideal advocate. …

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