September is National Recovery Month, arguably my favorite time of the year. This year’s theme is “Join the Voices of Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities,” which perfectly describes what recovery has done in my own life.
My recovery started in August of 2007, when I woke up in a hospital after overdosing on opioids. With the support of my friends and family, I began a new path that day that started with professional counseling and a myriad of other services, including checking into rehab. It was while I was in rehab, talking to the professionals who worked there, that I decided I wanted to help others just like the staff were helping me.
Rebuilding a life, starting a new one
Entering recovery allowed me to rebuild relationships I had almost destroyed due to my substance use issues. My mother, grandmother, and several other family members welcomed me with open arms. In my first year of recovery, I decided to go back to college. While in college, I was open about being a person in recovery with anyone who would listen. I wanted everyone to know that recovery is possible.
During this time, my mentors encouraged me to continue my education by going on to graduate school. Their pitch was simple: If you want to help people and change things for the better, you need more education. I applied to and was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. My future was bright — something that I could never say when I was using drugs.
While at the University of Pennsylvania I learned about a grassroots movement of people across the nation who want to change the way people with substance use issues are treated. These people were passionate about change — I knew immediately these were my people. Greg Williams helped to draw attention to this movement with his ground-breaking documentary, The Anonymous People.
I was exposed to Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs) like Philadelphia’s own PRO-ACT. RCOs not only help people to find recovery, they help people build a life worth staying in recovery for. I also learned about school programs that support youth in recovery, like The Bridge Way School and The Penn State Collegiate Recovery Program. The more I looked around, the more I saw that support for recovery was spreading.
A recovery story is a comeback story
Today I live a life dedicated to change and service. I work as the executive director of Life of Purpose New Jersey. I sit on several nonprofit boards and even got a chance to serve on the Mayors Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic and to help craft a plan to address the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia. Recovery has also lead to personal fulfillment. I have a beautiful daughter and wife who are the center of my universe. Recovery made all this possible.
Recovery is an amazing thing, and it is not talked about nearly enough. A person’s recovery story is a unique comeback story, better than any you will see in a movie. People in recovery have fought hard for the progress they have made. If you know someone in recovery, find time this month to ask them about their recovery and congratulate them on their ascendancy.
The Independence Blue Cross Foundation is proud to support opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery with their Supporting Treatment and Overdose Prevention (STOP) initiative. STOP aims to increase awareness and create more opportunities for incredible recovery stories like the one above.
Devin A. Reaves, M.S.W.
Devin is a person living in recovery since 2007. He is a tireless community organizer and grassroots advocacy leader. Devin has worked on the expansion of access to the lifesaving medication Naltrexone, implantation of 911 Good Samaritan policies, and the development of youth oriented systems. He wants to build constituencies of consequence that will lead to meaningful public health policy changes around substance use disorders. Devin works as the Executive Director for Life of Purpose New Jersey. Devin received a Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice with a focus on community and organizational change and has a BA in Human Services from Lynn University. Devin also serves on the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force and the Board of Directors for the Association of Recovery Schools.