North Adams Recovery Walk Celebrates Path Forward From Addiction And Those Lost Along The Way
On Saturday, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition holds a self-guided Recovery Walk as part of a week-long event called Voices for Recovery acknowledging the end of National Recovery Month. The event acknowledges community members celebrating recovery from substance misuse, as well as those lost to it. Susan Cross is the NBCC’s coordinator for the Beacon Recovery Community Center, which has held virtual and limited in-person meetings in North Adams to guide people looking for support. She tells WAMC that this year’s walk comes at a time when the recovery community has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
CROSS: The strain and isolation that came about with the COVID-19, beginning in late February, early March, made it very difficult for people to maintain their recovery. A lot of the people that I've spoken to, from this community and other communities, from that time period to the present, have struggled with finances, have struggled with not having access to their normal, daily meetings that were shuttered for a period of time. A lot of the fellowship meetings stopped meeting abruptly and gradually reintroduced zoom meetings. However, not everyone has access to internet or a smartphone. Many of the folks have government phones with limited data. And it's hard enough to talk about your struggles with your recovery in person, but then to do it over a telephone or over a computer, I think for some people is even more challenging. There was the influx of the stimulus money that puts large amounts of previously unexpected money into the hands of folks who just don't manage their money well to start with. And for a lot of people I've heard anecdotally within the community of people that support people with substance misuse that, for many of them, that stimulus check was gone within two weeks, even sooner for some, because it was used to purchase drugs.
WAMC: What is the significance of this weekend's Recovery Walk, especially given that it must be distanced due to the pandemic?
CROSS: It's very, very significant and very important. Plus, September is National Recovery Month, and it is a month that all of the peer recovery centers, which is what Beacon Recovery Community Center is, in Massachusetts have historically sponsored large programs where you gather, have speakers, information tables, walk to have some type of a vigil. Knowing we couldn't do that this year, it's been quite challenging to find a way to get people to participate. And there's many messages that we try to spread during this time. Stigma is one of the greatest impediments to recovery. People don't want to be forthcoming about their struggles with addiction, because of the stigmatization in society. So we promote anti-stigma messaging. We promote that recovery happens. We celebrate recovery. We certainly offer resources and guidance. And you know, the paths to recovery are multiple. There are 12 step fellowship programs, there's SMART recovery, there's Buddhist recovery. There are faith based organizations that help people through their spirituality to find recovery. There are All Recovery meetings that are welcoming to all, depending, you know, you don't have to be in AA or NA or any type of particular program. But you can come to an All Recovery meeting, and everyone is welcome, regardless of whether you take medications for your addiction, or whether you haven't had any treatment before. And we also try to remember to share hope that there's hope for recovery. You know, when you're in a deep, dark place, and you can't seem to get treatment, there's oftentimes, especially as we start to approach the fall and winter months, there are beds that are not available in rehabs and detoxes. So you might make that decision or someone you love make might make a decision, "I don't want to live like this anymore," "I want to stop using the substance I'm using," or "I want to stop drinking." And you say okay, let's call the local detox, or let's call a detox in Springfield, and to be met with "gee, we're really sorry, we don't have any beds," sort of that safety net and that hope and support can feel like it's just not there. So we promote the hope, the ability to help guide people. And we also want to remember - because unfortunately, it seems to kind of wax and wane - but we've had many, many losses in this community from overdoses, whether they're accidental misuse of an opiate or an intentional overdose. We've had a great number of them in the community and they don't have specific numbers. But we try to remember those that we've lost and honor their memory by helping others find their path to recovery.
The NBCC’s self-guided Recovery Walk begins at their headquarters in downtown North Adams at noon Saturday. For more information, click here.