By: Ariel (Air) Britt
I was asked to write this blog post by default. It all started when several recovery organizations were called out on social media for not speaking out about Black History Month. With all good intentions, the plan was to give a young black person who was affiliated with a collegiate recovery program, the opportunity to share their story. When thinking about who this person could be they “literally could not think of anyone”. Then, they remembered seeing “a black girl” who spoke at the White House for the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s recovery event this past September and well, here I am.
There are others like me. However, considering the trajectory of thought patterns that led to me being asked to write this post, there clearly are not enough young people of color in recovery, let alone on college campuses. There is less access to recovery support and education for people of color. They are more likely to be criminalized for having the same disorder and have sub-par primary educational experiences. If we are serious about increasing recovery support for everyone, we have to start acknowledging the complexity of this problem by doing more advocacy around the kinds of issues that disproportionally affect people of color– mass incarceration, lack of access to adequate abstinence-based treatment, jobs, and education.
So, I challenge you, and not just because it is Black History Month, to look around at the strategic planning meeting that you are having on behalf of people in recovery. Who is at the table? What are you advocating for? Are you creating spaces to listen and learn from individuals that experience stigma and discrimination on a regular basis due to social identities that cannot be physically hidden? I urge you, the next time you are in a recovery space, to seek out people of color and invite them into the conversation so that we can begin to build a more inclusive community.
I am a young black woman in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder, who, with the help of God, my family, and the collegiate recovering community, graduated from the University of Michigan– twice. My personal experience in recovery may be rare and even majestic, but I am not a unicorn. I exist. WE exist. And I will continue to share my experience– by default or not.