80 degree temperatures, cut by a nice breeze carrying the smell of BBQ, was a perfect setting for the McShin Foundation’s 8th Annual Recovery Festival. With about 3,000 attendees, Hatcher Memorial Baptist Church was full of BBQ trucks, a moon bounce, Richmond vendors, shaved iced, and supporters of the Recovery movement all to support September as Recovery month.

John Shinholser, founder and president of McShin, asked me to join them for the fourth year! He gave me an awesome opportunity to speak and address the attendees. I decided to talk from the perspective of a non-addict who has had the opportunity to learn about addiction and study it in depth for four years.  An excerpt from my discussion:

“I’ll be honest with you, before I began my research in the Richmond City Jail four years ago, I had a very conservative view on this topic. I thought addicts knew right from wrong, and if they wanted to quit they could quit…they were just not trying hard enough. Boy was I wrong. Unlike most people in society, I was given the unique opportunity to work with offenders and addicts and learn that my previous thoughts were not at all accurate and was a very uneducated way of thinking. Over the four-year study period, I was truly given a look into what factors the most effective programs include, and what programs encompass that are not so effective. It is education that we must focus on – educating the general public about substance abuse so that strides can be taken to provide more effective programs using best practice and evidence based models.”

As the recovery movement moves forward in Virginia, we have our work cut out for us….we must work to effect public policy so that legislators get smart! We aren’t asking them to get soft on crime, or are we saying that justice shouldn’t be served. But it’s about time that adequate programs that are run in the most effective manner possible, are available to those who suffer from the disease of addiction.

To read the Richmond Times Dispatch article on Recovery Fest: Cook-off celebrates recovery from substance abuse, click here: www2.timesdispatch.com/news/local-news/2012/sep/09/tdmet02-cook-off-celebrates-recovery-from-substanc-ar-2190054/

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