By Jessica Carreras
Deborah Garrett is the chair of Greater Macomb Project Vox and helps plan Celebrate Recovery each year, an event which includes a march and rally in support of substance abuse recovery. Garrett, who resides in Macomb county, is also a recovered alcoholic and hopes to reduce the stigma of substance abuse.
1) How did you get involved with Celebrate Recovery?
I became involved as part of the planning committee through Greater Macomb Project Vox.
We’re really excited about this year! This is the ninth year that Detroit has participated in the march and rally at Belle Isle. Andrea Isom from Fox 2 is our guest master of ceremonies this year.
According to Faces and Voices of Recovery (a national recovery advocacy group) there are over 70,000 people expected to participate on Sept. 12 in marches and rallies all over the country. This year marks the 20th anniversary of National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. For 20 years, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has supported this month-long celebration of people in recovery from substance use disorders, as well as the people who have helped them and those still in need of treatment. With programs on the government “chopping block” across the board, it’s more important than ever that we come together as a community, let our voices be heard and send the message that millions of people live happy, productive lives in recovery, and that we vote!
The last statistic I heard here in Michigan was a 300-person waiting list to get into inpatient treatment. As a united community, we have the power to change things like that.
2) Tell me a little bit about Macomb Project Vox. What is the purpose of the organization?
Greater Macomb Project Vox is a grassroots recovery advocacy group. Here’s our mission in a nut shell:
Many people who suffer the effects of addiction can and do get better and lead meaningful and productive lives. The ways they achieve this are as many and varied as the people Alcohol and Other Drug problems affect. Shaming and stigmatizing those with AOD problems shows not only a lack of understanding of the problem, but prevents people from seeking help. Removing environmental barriers to recovery, which include the promotion of laws and social policies that reduce AOD problems, saves money in medical, criminal justice, social services and productivity costs. It is vitally important to promote services that support a recovery lifestyle.
3) Why is the upcoming walk important for those recovering from substance abuse? It allows us to come together as a community and celebrate those who are in recovery, support their friends and family, increases awareness and send policy makers a clear message that we are not a minority.
4) Why should the LGBT community get involved?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that LGBT Americans are at increased risk for alcohol and other drug problems. Most research indicates that the level of drug and alcohol problems in the gay community is two to three times higher than that of the heterosexual community.
Despite these statistics, there is resistance and denial about AOD abuse in the gay community, and a lack of awareness of the problems associated with AOD abuse. Few prevention programs are inclusive and sensitive of gay and lesbian culture and few education materials that specifically target the needs of the LGBT community are available.
Use of alcohol and other drugs is also strongly linked to increased risk of HIV.
I think a common goal should be to increase the LGBT population’s knowledge about the link between alcohol and other drug use with AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, family violence, drunk driving fatalities and injuries, and exposure to date rape and other crime. Working together can also increase LGBT people’s ability to receive substance abuse services that are sensitive to their specific needs.
5) How has substance abuse touched your life personally?
I am a person in long-term recovery myself, which means I have not used alcohol since November of 2001. I was convicted of my third DUI at that time and went into an inpatient treatment program to keep from going to jail. I really haven’t looked back. I got out of an emotionally abusive marriage within six weeks of getting sober. I am now facilitating a group here in Macomb County at CARE that looks at the connection between trauma and addiction specifically in women. Many wonderful doors have been opened to me to provide service in this area. I am a big supporter of art as activism, which is one of the reasons I lobbied to include an evening of poetry at 1515 Broadway (Sept. 11) and the play “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” (Sept. 13-14 at 1515 Broadway) as part of the Celebrate Recovery events.