Magazine article Addiction Professional

Clinician Ventures into Advocacy

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Clinician Ventures into Advocacy

Article excerpt

In his role as an addiction counselor, David Stoecker figures he can have an impact on as many as 100 people a year. As director of the community organization Better Life in Recovery (BLIR) in Springfield, Mo., Stoecker is looking to influence the lives and thoughts of thousands.

The community events that BLIR sponsors might seem modest when looked at in isolation, but Stoecker sees them as building local traditions and putting a public face on recovery. Maybe a river cleanup event will strengthen a recovering person's resolve to continue to give back in her daily life.

Maybe seeing an elected leader throw out the first pitch before hundreds of recovering individuals at a ceremony preceding a minor-league baseball game will give a fan in the stands some pause to think about how substance abuse affects his world.

"The idea for BLIR started on a bike ride with my wife," recalls Stoecker, 42. "I felt that I wasn't doing enough, but I wasn't sure what to do."

He started the effort four years ago, around a year into his own recovery. "I was kind of letting things come to me at first," he says. He knows exactly the moment when it became clear that he needed to turn up the intensity on his work in recovery advocacy: It happened when he read online comments posted by ordinary citizens reacting to the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

"They disgusted me," Stoecker says of the postings. "People were saying things like, 'See, these people never get better,' and 'Who cares? It's just another junkie.'"

Uncovering opportunities

Stoecker has recruited subcommittees to work on extending BLIR's mission, which its website describes as an effort "to deal hope and decimate stigma" surrounding addiction through educational and awareness events. The momentum for bringing on more assistance started when three dozen local treatment and recovery leaders accepted his invitation to a meeting to discuss ways to change the language around addiction and recovery in Springfield. At that meeting he shared data about relapse, and his own resolve that the community could do better.

BLIR, which two years ago became a nonprofit organization, has been seeking closer partnerships with community entities such as the Springfield public schools. A group of people in recovery recently completed playground restoration work for the schools. …

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