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Becky Bowers-Lanier on Why Advocacy is Essential for Recovery-Focused Legislation

The countdown to legislative session has begun, and advocacy is our best tool in our toolkit to help create real policy change that is people focused, recovery focused, and good for Virginia. For GivingTuesday, consider donating to SAARA to help us build our advocacy resources.

Becky Bowers-Lanier, EdD, MPH, is an advocacy consultant and longtime friend of SAARA of Virginia. Advocacy is one of the key pillars of SAARA’s work. In combination with our work in education and support, we hope to create a world free of stigma against Substance Use Disorder (SUD), with access to recovery resources for all Virginians. We sat down with Becky to get her perspective on advocacy and the issues the recovery community faces:

Why focus on education and advocacy when working in recovery?

Education and advocacy go hand in hand. In my job, I continue to learn as much as I can about the issue before me so that I can help translate what I learn to others in policymaking positions. The same holds for people in recovery; learn and teach. The most effective advocates are those with the lived experience who can teach others what works for people in recovery and what obstacles to full recovery should be removed. Staying quiet is like voting in elections; you must contribute to be part of the solution.

What are some of the biggest challenges people in recovery face in the legislature and policy arena?

Uninformed policymakers who haven't kept up with trends and concerns of people in recovery and associated stigmas. These are serious challenges, and there are lots of opportunities for working for change. Telling your story is critical, as is working with others. There is strength in numbers.

What is something you would like others to know about people in recovery?

Perhaps my most important job as a "professional" advocate is to help policymakers understand the issues before them. When we talk about recovery, first and foremost we're talking about people living their lives, day after day, making decisions to walk the journey of recovery. Substance use disorder is a chronic condition. It's like diabetes. Persons with diabetes live their lives from one decision to the next, sometimes multiple times a day. What should I eat? How should I exercise? How much insulin should I take? These are decisions that run continually through their minds as they work to stay as well as they can be. The same holds true for those in recovery. What triggers are out there now waiting to challenge me? What approaches do I take to stay well? With whom may I need to talk to help me negotiate a situation? When should I talk with someone? In my job, I try to paint a picture that might resonate with policymakers to help them understand recovery and those in the journey.

Individuals in recovery, along with their families and community, deserve to have their voices heard this upcoming legislative session. SAARA hosts Advocacy Training events to empower people in recovery to leverage their stories in order to inspire policy change. We have a team of qualified recovery specialists that have their own unique stories of recovery who have grown our base of activists. Help us energize our advocacy efforts by donating to our GivingTuesday campaign, hosting a Facebook fundraiser on behalf of SAARA, or sharing our social media post to help spread the word.

Have questions about how you can help SAARA reach our GivingTuesday goal? Contact Betsy at betsys@saara.org.