UNITED For 2015

Fairbanks_UNITE-to-face-addictionLooking back on 2015, I reflect on some of the amazing events hosted by Fairbanks to help foster a community environment for people to enjoy educational, fun and sober activities. Of all  of the Fairbanks alumni events that I have facilitated over the last 8 years, my favorite was going to Washington, DC in October for the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally. Fairbanks, as a mobilizing partner for the event, chartered a bus and 36 passionate and brave souls trekked across the United States, despite Hurricane Joaquin brewing nearby. As many have said before me, in addiction we faced our own hurricanes we created and survived, and this indeed was an event and a hurricane we needed to face.

UNITE to Face Addiction was a gathering of thousands of individuals from around the country to show solidarity and a unified voice for the addiction crisis that is occurring and to end the silence about this epidemic. The organizers believe that “together we can help the 22 million Americans with addiction, stand up for the 23 million more in recovery and urgently act to save the 350 lives lost each day.” The mission of this event was to show the nation that addiction is preventable and treatable, and that people can and do get well.

On October 3, as I was strolling around Monument Park I had the opportunity to witness the FED UP Rally, where hundreds of parents, siblings, friends and advocates marched and read the names of hundreds who have lost their lives to the disease of addiction. As bagpipes played Amazing Grace, I scanned the crowd and saw the forlorn look and tears in the eyes of those who longed for something, anything to be done so others would not have to feel the pain and anguish that they felt with the loss of their loved one. The day ended at a comedy benefit for comedians who lost their loves to addiction. The day was a pendulum of emotions.

On October 4, my life was forever changed. There was no sight of Hurricane Joaquin as it had veered off shore. The sun came out and I believe there was a Divine presence guiding and directing the entire day. The love, passion and advocacy that I had the opportunity to witness was an incredibly poignant and heart fulfilling experience. Powerful and inspirational speakers from all walks of life—celebrities, elected officials and other advocates—joined together on the stage in Monument Park with the White House in the visible distance. Our beloved recovery high school, Hope Academy, had also chartered a bus with a group of students, staff, alumni and supporters. We danced and sang to the amazing performances by Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell, Aloe Blacc, The Fray, John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls and more incredible musicians who celebrated recovery or advocated for it.  The final song featured many of the performers uniting to sing “Come Together”, which is indeed is what we did!

Fairbanks_UNITE-to-face-addiction6We returned tired after our bus ride home, but fulfilled and desiring to do more to break the negative stigma associated with the disease of addiction. Personally, I am grateful for the gift of my sobriety.  I am a woman in long-term recovery, which means I have not had to take a drink or a drug for over 15 years now. My Higher Power has given me the opportunity to work with others seeking a similar way of life and to provide opportunities to create fun events for them. When I thought about not drinking anymore, my biggest fear was that I would never be able to have any fun. I love my life today. Through my disease, I have learned so much about patience, tolerance, unconditional love and fun!

To learn more about what happens next after the UNITE rally, visit www.facingaddiction.org.