UNITE to Face Addiction: I am Not Alone

October 29, 2015
Brendan Gault
University of Nevada Reno Recovery & Prevention Community

Brendan (second from left) in front of the White House
with fellow students from NRAP: 
Alicia M., Dan S., and Claire C.
I am a person in recovery from a substance use disorder and a member of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Recovery & PreventionCommunity (NRAP). I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally in our nation’s capital.
     UNITE to Face Addiction was an attempt to raise awareness about the addiction crisis facing our country. The object of the rally, which was held on the National Mall, was to show that there really are people, like me, who are affected and, more importantly, recovering from the disease of addiction.

I got to the rally and was blown away by the number of people who were there. The stage was huge and flanked by large screens but was nothing compared to the size of the crowd. People were packed from one edge of the stage to the other, and from the stage all the way back to the sound and light tower. It was an amazing sight to behold. What made the large number of people especially awe-inspiring was the simple fact that we were all there for the same reason. There was something magical about the fact that so many people showed up to stand up for the rights of recovering addicts. It helped remind me that I am truly not alone.

Sometimes being an addict is very difficult. You feel like the world has written you off as a failure and that you are fighting an impossible battle against stigma and prejudice. Society likes to tell addicts, recovering and not, that they are bad people who have done bad things and that is just how it is. From experience, I know addicts can recover and go on to do great things. This event helped remind me of this. The massive number of people exemplified the fact that the deadly stigma of addiction is beginning to break down. Everyone there was in the moment and trying to make a difference.

There was more to the event than just the sheer number of people who showed up. The messages presented at the event also helped me on a personal level. For example, there were people there with solutions for helping with the opiate epidemic that plagues our country and has also hit the Reno/Sparks area hard. With overdose reversal medications like Naloxone, lives can be saved!  How great for these people to have the opportunity to live and enter recovery. From my personal experience, I can only imagine the good this drug can do. There were also people at the rally who are in recovery from addiction and have incredible amounts of clean time and who have gone on to do amazing things.

The person who stood out the most to me is the current United States Drug Czar, Michael Botticelli. He himself is a person in long-term recovery. His story is inspiring because despite his past battles with his substance use disorder he was able to get into recovery and now works in the White House. Not only is it comforting to know that the president’s advisor on drug policy is a person in long term recovery, it also helps remind me that there is nothing I can’t work towards and accomplish in recovery.

Finally, as the rally was coming to an end, Steven Tyler invited all of the other musicians who performed on stage and they sang a classic Beatles’ song "Come Together." It was the perfect way to end the rally because that is what the whole event was about. There have been many agencies working separately on the addiction-related issues. Although their individual efforts have been useful, as these agencies unite and work together they can and will do so much more.

I hope the rally and the Advocacy Day that followed have brought the topic of addiction into the discussions of people in power. Only time can tell the effects that this event will have, but I feel it was a great start to something powerful.

NRAP is part of the University of Nevada-Reno's ongoing student services. Read more: Enhanced support extended for campus Nevada Recovery and Prevention Program

Find out more about Collegiate Recovery Communities in the Fall 2015 issue of The ATTC Bridge.

Did you attend the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally?  What was your experience? 

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