The stigma of substance addiction is hard to escape. Even after someone has completed treatment and entered long-term recovery, other people might approach them with suspicion and distrust. Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of recovering substance users living and working in their community.
Consider what Mike Townsend, Director of Recovery Kentucky, has to say about the issue:
“When we first open a program, we go into a community and say, ‘We want to build a 100-bed recovery center here.’ When the community hears this, they’re often very fearful. They think, ‘What are you doing? You’re going to open a program and have a hundred addicts in my community?’
How can we change the negative stereotypes people often hold about recovering substance users? Recovery Kentucky and Ann’s Restaurant are leveraging service to change public perception and put a positive face on recovery.
Building Trust through Community Service
Founded in 2004 by the Kentucky Housing Corporation, Recovery Kentucky’s mission is to help recovering substance users avoid falling into the traps of homelessness and incarceration. Its 14 housing centers across the state provide a structured living environment and peer-mentored education to help residents live a life of sobriety.
As part of the program, Recovery Kentucky residents are encouraged to participate in community service. Mike Townsend lists holiday festivals like those held on the Fourth of July as an example. “The people in the program will go and help with the event. They’ll set up the tents, set up the booths, and get materials needed for the event. They’ll just make themselves visible and support that activity,” he says.
For many of the women and men in the program, volunteering is an opportunity to show their gratitude to a community that’s helping them change their lives. Their public presence and interactions with community members can go a long way toward changing negative attitudes about recovery. Townsend says:
“Sometimes the men will be out there talking to people, and people will say, ‘Gosh, you could be my next door neighbor. You could be my son. You could be my brother. You don’t look like an addict.’ It helps to break down the barriers that people have about ‘those people.’ When ‘those people’ look like our brother, our sister, our son or daughter, then it puts a different face on recovery.”
Building Trust through Food Service
Ann’s Restaurant is a local staple in downtown Franklin, Indiana, where it’s been in operation since 1952. It was originally owned by Alta Spicer and Elton Leach, the siblings of Tara Treatment Center founder Ann Daugherty. Today, Ann’s is owned by Tara, and all proceeds are used to support the efforts of the Treatment Center.
Part of Ann’s mission is to act as a career stepping-stone for people who have recently completed Tara’s treatment program. Individuals who are committed to sobriety and have a positive attitude may be invited to join the staff, and the restaurant isn’t shy about the fact that some of its employees are recovering substance users.
“All of our staff is aware of it. Even our customers are aware of it to a certain extent. They just don’t know who is and who isn’t in the program,” says Jim Klein, General Manager of Ann’s.
The arrangement teaches valuable work skills to employees, and it teaches restaurant patrons that people in recovery can be productive, trustworthy members of society. And far from being put-off by the idea, Klein says many customers are enthusiastic about it:
“The customers are very supportive of it. I actually haven’t had a customer that had a problem with it. In fact, some of them say that every city in America needs something like this, and most people are proud that we have something like this in our hometown.”
Recovery Kentucky and Ann’s Restaurant: two organizations doing their part to dispel fear and put a “positive face” on addiction recovery!
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