Each September is recognized as Recovery Month by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and to celebrate those in recovery. For the past 19 years, Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic (PHMA) has held a Celebration of Recovery to mark Recovery Month. Deborah Taylor, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of PHMA, opened this year’s celebration, emphasizing that recovery is not possible without the support and love of family and friends. “The heroin of today is completely different from the heroin of 30 years ago and in order to have hope for recovery, we (communities and families) need to surround these individuals so they can see that recovery happens,” Taylor stated.
After months of preparation, PHMA staff organized a night to remember for current clients, alumni, and friends and family. Guests were greeted at the entrance with client artwork from each of our programs on the theme of Recovery Month: “Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery.” Each piece illustrated what the theme meant to each program, whether via bright colors or dark pasts. Attendees enjoyed an Italian-style dinner while mingling and connecting with staff and other clients. George Knoerlein, Director of Clinical Operations, hosted an exciting and emotional evening as current clients took the stage to share poetry, skits, song, and dance. All alumni were recognized for their time in recovery by going to the stage and receiving a commemorative pin. The client with the longest time in recovery was proud to announce 30 years of sobriety. The evening concluded with staff and current clients taking the stage to dance to the song “STOMP” by Kirk Franklin. The stage was filled with smiles and laughs as the song flowed through the speakers and the air filled with positive and empowering energy.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Alumni of the Year award. This year’s winner was recognized for his commitment not only to his own recovery, but to the recovery of those men and women in the Phoenix House programs. When this individual isn’t working, he volunteers at Independence House or hosts meetings. During his acceptance speech, he revealed that the most rewarding part of being sober for him is having a relationship with his daughter and hearing her say “I love you.” He also said that he remembered coming to the Celebration of Recovery when he was in treatment over four years ago and although he was going through withdrawal and didn’t want to be there at the time, he remembers feeling like he should give treatment a shot. His speech encouraged the audience to work hard at their recovery so they could experience “real life” outside of the fog of addiction.