By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 9/24/2018
Posted: 9/27/2009
Topics/Keywords: #Humor #Recovery #WINR #JennyCilwa Page Views: 3430
Let's walk down a major intersection carrying banners to show how normal we are.

Today was the third Recovery Walk event we've attended. Our daughter, Jenny, went through recovery at WINR (Women In New Recovery) and now works there in a managerial position. So, to show our support, we always go. Also, because it's actually fun.

Although WINR is a sponsor of the event and provides the venue, the Recovery Walk actually includes participants from any number of recovery centers, as well as alumni and faculty. Each year the participation has increased; Patty Henderson, founder of WINR, remarked during the afternoon that next year they may need to find a more spacious location.

When we arrived, friendly people at a table had us sign in. We learned later that, by signing in, we were agreeing to walk. Apparently Michael was somewhat surprised by that.

Michael signs in.

But we were also entered into a raffle for a T-shirt.

We ran into Jenny straightaway, who of course had arrived early to help set up.

Jenny and Michael at the Recovery Walk. Zach and Madison.

Zach and his friend Madison were also there, where they played with the other kids and had their faces painted.

Children are a big part of the recovery process; it's for their children than many addicts come to be in recovery. Some of these kids remember what it was like to have an out-of-control parent. It's not unusual for these kids to have seen their parents unconscious, or taken off in handcuffs by the police.

Those of us who are not addicts and have not been directly impacted by those who are, may still be working under old societal judgments that addicts are morally flawed, and the whole thing is best not spoken of at all. But like so many judgments foisted upon us by religion, this is another lie. There's a reason why I can have a glass of wine, or not, and not really care one way or another while another person plans out his or her life around the next drink, or hit, or shot, or whatever. While the entire mechanism is not yet understood, it's clearly biochemical in nature. A certain percentage of the population consists of addicts waiting to stumble upon the substance to which they have a potential addiction. Those who happen to encounter their substance, then become addicts and it will take time in recovery to learn to live without indulging their addiction.

Who knows? I might easily become a heroin addict if I ever tried heroin. I might be a potential meth addict. 47 million Americans are nicotine addicts. That's why avoiding addictive substances before becoming addicted is such a good idea.

Rally For Recovery banner.

The Recovery Walk thus serves two purposes: One, to give passersby another view of the addict than our culture provides. And, two, to provide encouragement to to addicts who are not in recovery, to let them know that recovery is not only possible, but far more fun than being a slave to one's addiction.

The face of the woman to the right, Stacy Schaeffer, who spoke of her battle for sobriety, is a good indicator of how happy a person in recovery can be.

Interestingly, Stacy did not dwell on her blackest experiences. Often people who are just beginning their recovery process do. That's understandable, because part of that process is coming to understand themselves and the effects of their behavior on those who love them. Addictive behavior can be dreadful, and the effects can be long-lasting. Meth users often lose their teeth. Alcoholics often lose their families. Any addict can lose his or her life. As can any of us; but the clouded judgment of an addict often leads to life-shortening choices.

All these folks are lucky to be living now, when the problems of addiction are not hidden like they were when I was a kid. I remember my grandmother pressuring my mother-in-law to have a second Scotch. "A bird can't fly on one wing!" she'd chortle. Once, when I was tired enough to know that a drink would put me to sleep, Gramma got quite cross because I wouldn't drink with her.

Nowadays, so many people don't drink or use drugs from choice or because they are in recovery, that choosing not to imbibe usually doesn't raise a single eyebrow. That, plus the availability of a wide variety of successful recovery programs, make the chances of a successful recovery a lot more likely than they once were.

The Event

Many of these organizations and programs were represented at today's event; canopies and tables were set up where visitors and participants could ask questions or offer to volunteer.

The Alcoholics Anonymous booth.

As in previous years, hamburgers and hot dogs were grilled and sold for a modest donation.

Hamburgers and hot dogs were served.

And then awards were handed out, mostly by founder Patty but also one was delivered to Patty, by my daughter Jenny, who always handles the microphone with the polished poise of a pro and who always amazes me when she does. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but it's hard to remember she's no longer my "little girl".

Jenny Cilwa passes an award to Patty Henderson, founder of WINR.

My youngest daughter, Jenny, encountered her addiction early but her mother and I didn't recognize it. And so she went through years that she should have spent learning to live in society, not learning how to do that. In her late twenties she was still addicted, still prone to disastrous decisions, still committing crimes and putting herself and her baby boy in danger.

People in recovery have a saying, that you have to hit "rock bottom" before being ready for recovery. Of course, for each person, "rock bottom" has a different meaning. For her, it was a stretch of time in prison, during which we had the privilege of caring for our grandson.

She'd been in jail before. But this time, she went directly into the program at WINR and this one worked. It's an intense, peer-counseled program with a high rate of success that teaches the women in it, not only to manage their addictions, but to live life successfully when they've done that. They learn how to get and keep a job; how to organize themselves; and how to live and work cooperatively with others.

In Jenny, the result is something she has every right to be proud of. Each year when I attend these things, and watch her managing, instructing, organizing and doing it all with grace and humor, it's all I can do to not embarrass her with tears of joy.

Recovery Walk.

So then the actual walk got going. Each group (and house from WINR) had their own home-made banner. Passersby got to see the "faces of recover" which is what the event was about. Normal people, folks with kids, teens, grandparents, men, women, blacks, whites, Natives, Asians…any kind of person you can imagine, was there.

Recovery Walk 2009 Recovery Walk 2009 Mary and Jenny at Recovery Walk 2009

Because the "faces of recovery" are ours. ANYONE can be an addict.

Faces of Recovery, 2009.

And any addict can be in recovery.