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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Recovery Walk, 2008

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 5/27/2024
Occurred: 9/14/2008
Page Views: 7397
Topics: #Recovery #WINR #JenniferAnnCilwaRizzo #Addiction
WINR's 2008 Annual Recovery Walk.

Today the recovery home at which my daughter, Jenny, works, had their annual Recovery Walk and, of course, I attended.

Rally For Recovery! Recovery Voices Count

Jenny works at WINR, Women In New Recovery, and is in fact one of their many success stories. She came to them after a number of stints in jail; her addiction is why Michael and I (and my ex-wife, Mary, and daughter Karen and son John) wound up raising her son, Zachary—a mixed blessing indeed; for although we all assume Zach "should" have been raised by his mother, the fact is we hold precious the time we spent with him in our charge. But he is still with us; and now so is Jenny, and it's been so wonderful to see her blossom into the responsible, intelligent, and awesome adult she now is.

Each year WINR holds these recovery walks to, as they put it, "put a face on recovery." That is, we all see the other end of the road to recovery—the end where it has not yet begun. The drunk driver, the strung-out tweaker, the compulsive gambler…all these and more provide images that saturate the media to the point that they represent for most of us the dregs of society and the ultimate end-of-the-road. And certainly some of these unfortunates go no further. But for many of them, the road to recovery starts there, when they are literally in the gutter and have no where else to go but up. The lucky ones find themselves in a program like WINR's, where they learn to address their addictions, as well as how to live a "normal" life and be re-integrated into society and re-introduced to their families.]

So the women of WINR each year take to the street, with their banners and signs, to display to an uneducated general population that there is another end to the self-destructive path of addiction. There is a Road to Recovery.

Walk For Recovery: One of the signs made by women currently in the WINR program.

The Recovery Walk day is a celebration; and it's fun to attend. The women who are currently in the program make signs, and alumni return with their families and friends to support the women who are still there. Children run among the flower beds and there's a grin on every face. Hamburgers are hot dogs and chips and sodas are available, as well as a bouncing thing for the little ones.

Hamburger, anyone? The condiment table had everything one might want except mayonnaisse. No, I don't know who the cute guy is! The Moon Jump is always popular with the kids. Mary, as a family survivor of our daughter's addiction, can't help but grin. Jenny acting as Mistress of Ceremonies.

Part of the celebration is when Patty Henderson, the founder of WINR, hands out yearly awards to staff members. My reward was watching my daughter, Jenny, stand at the microphone and introduce Patty, with complete poise and clarity. Only someone who's had to live with an addicted child can appreciate the mind-blowing relief of seeing that child bloom in recovery.

If you're wondering why I say Jenny is "in recovery" rather than "recovered" it's because recovery is considered to be a never-ending process. Addiction is more like an allergy than an infection; it is never "cured", only managed. As a diabetic must learn to avoid sugar in a sugar-sweetened world, an addict must always maintain awareness that even one dose of his or her drug-of-choice is likely to plunge them back into the depths they worked so hard to rise up from.

Zach, face-painted and wearing his 'Got Recovery?' T-shirt.

The children of addicts, who could so possibly have grown into lives that simply continued the pattern of addiction, crime, hopeless and death, are here happy, normal, and can't help but grow up with knowledge of addiction and the ability to avoid it that other kids never have. Zachary enjoys the recovery walk days and loves being a part of it. Zach isn't much of an observer; he's much more of a participant in any situation in which he finds himself. He handed out water to the walkers, pulled raffle tickets from the buckets when the drawing was held, and in general proved to be a great help to the effort, much to his mother's gratitude.

Zach wasn't the only visitor who was moved to participate. We had a sudden, impromptu rap performance by some guy who called himself "G" who just took over the mike and broke into rhyme without benefit of music or drums.

An unexpected visit from a rapper named G extoled the benefits of sobriety.

No one knew who he was (I suppose his wife or girlfriend was an alumna) but his message was that one doesn't need drugs or alcohol to be a cool rapper like him and no one there was inclined to argue. (After all, none of us wanted to incur a cap in our ass!)

Then the walk began, and shortly after, ended.

The Recovery Walk iitself.

Last year the participants walked all the way from the WINR campus just north of University, to Main and back—over one-and-a-half miles. Given the Arizona heat and the fact that addiction, among its other attributes, does not tend to go hand-in-hand with physical fitness, and you'll appreciate that this year they only walked a block or so.

Then came the event the kids all looked forward to: The piñata. Each kid valiantly attempted to attack the hapless papier maché animal but with limited success.

They knocked off the creature's arms and legs but none of these opened up the goodies inside.

Finally it was Zach's turn. Zach, it seemed, intentionally allowed the other kids to all go ahead of him. He then refused to use the decorated stick, and instead used a single karate punch to stab a hole in the piñata's belly. The goodies fell out and, in an instant, Zach's years of karate training were vindicated.

Afterwards, the last event was the raffle for the door prizes. Zach was tapped to pluck the tickets out of the bin, which he did. Mary won two of the prizes, a T-shirt and a coffee mug. She said afterward that, as she went up to claim her prizes, she felt very self-conscious, worried that someone might suspect collusion between her and the ticket-plucker, her grandson.

Zach pulling winning raffle tickets. That's a lolipop, not a cigarette!

Look at that face. Not a chance!

And here they are, the women who make WINR possible:

The staff of WINR.