NARR Conference 2021

The National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) hosted its 10th annual “Best Practice Summit” and our staff had the privilege of participating in this three-day long convention, hosted right here in Richmond. Our staff and peers who attended were asked to share a few of their personal highlights with the Lifers in our weekly house meeting that all Lifers attend. Here are some of the highlights:

Recovery leads to so many possibilities. 

There are so many opportunities for growth and learning. Maurice, one of our house managers, who is also a peer coach, said that after the NARR convention he felt like the sky is the limit. Many individuals who participated also struggled with addiction. Candi, one of our Lifers who was able to volunteer at the Summit and also attend many of the sessions, stated that even though everyone was there in their fancy suits and she initially felt out of place, she was treated just like everyone else. Candi witnessed individuals with the same background as her doing such great things to make a change in the field of recovery.

Maurice learned that 79% of people in recovery are now in the community volunteering with recovering addicts. Melissa, another one of our house managers and peer coaches, chose to sit on the workshops that would strengthen her leadership skills, so she can bring those resources back to the other house mangers.

Peggy, a peer specialist with REAL LIFE, participated in a collegiate workshop, where she learned about educational resources available to anyone over the age of sixty, like free college courses at VCU and other universities. Peggy has achieved almost five years of sobriety, went back to school, got married, and became a homeowner. These opportunities for professional and personal development would not have been possible for some of our peer staff, had they not pursued recovery.

There are people from all different backgrounds who have a passion for working in the field of recovery. 

It is amazing how many people came together from all over the United States to help those in recovery. Some of these individuals have lived experiences and some simply have a passion for working with this community, but no matter the background, it was eye-opening to witness the number of powerful people who wants to make a change.

Alan, a RL house manager, participated in the Developing Recovery Residence Leaders Workshop lead by John Shinholser, the president of The McShin Foundation. It provided great insight into what it takes to lead. Candi met a couple from Chicago, who originally wanted to pursue commercial real-estate, but switched gears and decided to create a real-estate foundation that builds recovery houses. Sydney, our Quick Start to Employment Manager, told us about a Lawyer named Steve Polland, who fights counties and cities nationwide against barriers like zoning laws. With all of Steve’s success, Sydney was surprised to find out he to is also in recovery.

Whether it is people who are working hard for recovery residence funding, NARR board members, lawyers, or recovery house presidents, they all are advocating for the same mission of bringing accessibility and awareness to recovery resident programs.

Knowledge is power.

Ervin, a peer specialist with REAL LIFE, encourages anyone who is in recovery or working in this field, to understand the system you are fighting against. Addiction and incarceration have been and continues to be stigmatized. It is imperative that anyone struggling with addiction take the time to learn about the disease and how it affects them. Addiction isn’t always just drugs or alcohol; it is all compulsory behaviors that negatively effects our lives.

Beyond understanding and dismantling the stigma, we also learned about the disproportions in recovery programs. Black people and people of color (POC), are underrepresented in most recovery houses, with about 30% being black or POC, and 70% being white individuals in Virginia (this is up from 80%/20% just months ago). Additionally, Alan learned that there are more Starbucks in America than there are recovery houses. He also was able to meet an individual from the Virginia Project, who informed him of a new treatment option for opioid recovery. This treatment option is an earbud like device that sends waves through the brain, which is meant to aid in the opioid withdrawal process. Considering our countries opioid epidemic, that should be the other way around. Melissa learned that 20.1 million individuals struggle with substance use disorder, with over 100,000 individuals passing from overdoses. Arming ourselves with the knowledge and understanding of addiction and the way it affects our lives and outcomes is an important component of successful recovery.

 We are beyond grateful for NARR hosting this wonderful conference annually. Having it in Virginia allowed almost all REAL LIFE staff attend, which was an incredible treat. VARR, who our Director is Vice- Chair for the board of directors, did an incredible job hosting the conference and playing an instrumental role in planning the conference. And to all who presented at the conference, including our Director, thank you – the information was invaluable and we are so grateful!