Post by Cara Kane
According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, addiction affects 4.4% of Canadians – and that’s not including the friends and family members who suffer with them. So, ahead of Recovery Day Ottawa, I sat down to chat with Gord Garner of the Community Addictions Peer Support Association (CAPSA).
Garner, living in recovery, is a passionate advocate who knows these stories well. He tells us the story of a woman who approached him to to share that she has been in recovery for 25 years, but was too fearful to hold up the campaign’s “Recovery Ally” poster for fear of stigma.
Garner says of the stigma faced not only during addiction, but years into recovery: “Here we are in this generation… and you can’t tell anyone you’ve been in recovery for 25 years? How tragic is that?”
While addiction is considered a mental illness, it is often separated from the conversation about mental health, and is still heavily stigmatized in society. Recovery Day seeks to break that stigma, and contribute to a greater conversation about addiction and recovery.
“Here we are in this generation..and you can’t tell anyone you’ve been in recovery for 25 years? How tragic is that?”
Recovery Day occurs in cities across Canada and the world as both a celebration of recovery from addiction, and to raise awareness and break the silence in which people in recovery often live. Ottawa’s first Recovery Day was back in 2012, held in the Mayor’s office, growing to an event at City Hall last year with almost 1,000 attendees – a number which Garner hopes will continue to grow. “When the community joins together, that’s where the power is – there is no others, only us,” says Garner.
This year’s Recovery Day will take place at City Hall again on Saturday. There will be a community fair so that attendees can learn more about local organizations that support those suffering from addiction, as well as talks by both professionals and people in recovery, plus a BBQ, musical entertainment (including local hip hop artist Cody Coyote) and much, much more.
“If you want to be more engaged in your community, want your community to be a more engaged community – come to Recovery Day.”
“If you want to be more engaged in your community, want your community to be a more engaged community – come to Recovery Day,” says Garner. While the event is certainly a celebration for those in recovery, it’s also for their friends, families, and the greater community – including those still suffering. Garner is reassuring that Recovery Day welcomes everybody. One of the event’s goals is to foster hope for those still suffering.
Another important part of Recovery Day is its engagement with the broader community and the support of recovery allies. Garner was inspired by the LGBTQ+ allies movement, leading CAPSA to develop their #RecoveryAlly campaign. “Being an ally is part of the solution,” says Garner. It’s a message of support which has gone global through the help of social media.
Garner has been contacted by people from across the world – including a woman from South Africa who was so moved by the message, she asked him to send a copy of their Recovery Ally poster – adding her home, Cape Town, to the end and creating the city’s own Recovery Ally Cape Town group on Facebook. Even comedian Russell Brand posed with the poster at one of his shows in Cape Town.
If you are somebody who has ever struggled with addiction, know someone who has struggled, are celebrating recovery or simply want to learn more about how to support others – come out to Recovery Day.
Recovery Day takes place Saturday September 24th from 11am–4pm at City Hall. Visit www.recoverdayottawa.ca for a full schedule of events.