The UK Recovery Walk: Shrewsbury
The thing that changed people’s attitude towards gay people was Pride. The classic hit ‘Sing if you’re proud to be Gay’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glad_to_Be_Gay and the impact of the Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney http://www.mardigras.org.au/ and the Pride marches in the UK encouraged people to be true to themselves. When people cannot be proud of themselves and true to themselves, it can be very destructive. The suppression of a person’s identity can often cause significant mental health issues.
In many ways, the UK Recovery Walk is similar as it is a time for people to embrace their addiction, rather than hide it. Of course a person’s sexuality is different to a person’s substance use, but what is similar is the stigma gay people have had and sadly still suffer. The illegality of practicing homosexuality and supposed treatment to correct it led to lasting damage and in the case of Alan Turing, led to his death. http://historysheroes.e2bn.org/hero/whowerethey/91
Bad treatment for drug users in particular can be incredibly destructive and sadly religious groups have often tried to pretend they have a cure, causing pain, misery and dis-empowerment as drug users surrender to a greater power and have the false view that in some way their behaviour is caused by some evil presence or sin. The concept of Conversion therapy is still practiced by some Christians: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/campaign-groups/conversion-therapy In the case of drug use, the cause of addiction is often identified as sin and idolatry: https://www.christianliferesources.com/article/drug-abuse-325
The importance for me about the Recovery Walk is people being able to say “I am proud of who I am.” For some, it will be the triumph of abstinence showing people that addiction is not a chronic relapsing condition. For others it will be saying, “I may take substances you do not approve of, but I am a confident person who is not going to be determined by negative stigma often peddled by the state and media.” For me the Recovery Walk is a deeply political act, because it is confronting negativity and celebrating difference.
As I walk with friends I will be there on behalf of those whose lives were prematurely ended by the state, making their drug use illegal meaning the drug supply was often contaminated and ruining their lives through unjust imprisonment. As a small child I grew up with illicit drug users and of course they had their challenges, but I also saw incredible kindness, fun and creativity. We have a duty to remember them fondly and to celebrate their lives on our walk.
I also love to see families on these occasions. It is so difficult to admit to a child that you have taken drugs or had a problem with alcohol. For family members to stand alongside their loved ones is so powerful because it shows acceptance but also solidarity.
I personally have not had a drug or alcohol issue, but like many people I am in recovery from my own issues. I have my running that helps my mental and physical health issues, as many attend AA or NA meetings I will be taking part in the Shrewsbury Park Run before the walk. The Park Run movement is throughout the UK and is now International, it is my AA, it provides me with a place to share with others who are on a journey of sorts. I have from this moved on to longer races but I never forget Park Run because that was my foundation point. http://www.parkrun.org.uk/shrewsbury/
In Recovery we need to celebrate our successes not defined by others but by ourselves. In Park Run we encourage people to take part, and it is also a culture where people give back by volunteering. The joy of the annual recovery walk for many is celebration, for others it is commemorating and I also feel it is a time to give something back by volunteering our time.