When anonymity is one of the major tenets of the best known addiction recovery organization, it seems incongruous that Greg Williams, a person in long-term recovery from drug abuse, is urging others like him to publicly disclose their status. He believes that is the answer to counter the stigma that is still prevalent toward addiction and treatment for it. He is so certain that he is right that he has devoted months of his life to “The Anonymous People,” a film documenting the many “game changers” as he calls them, people who are willing to be open about their success with recovery.
Dan Duncan, the Associate Executive Director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse – St. Louis Area (NCADA), agrees with Williams. His organization was founded in 1945 to confront and get rid of the stigma surrounding addiction, but now in 2013, it is still rampant. “A lot of it comes with public perception,” says Duncan. “Everyone seems to know somebody who went through treatment and they’re back out drugging or drinking – ergo treatment doesn’t work – it’s a waste of time and money. That plays out into insurance practices and political decisions. What they don’t necessarily hear from are people like me. I’m in long term recovery. I haven’t had a drink or a drug since 1980. I’m not unique at all – there are millions of us.”
Duncan believes that because the stigma still exists, it’s easier for people in recovery to remain silent. “If I tell someone I’m an alcoholic, there’s an immediate perception surrounding that. But if we start coming out and talking about this appropriately, we can change the language and change the perceptions.”
Williams adds, “It’s a story that most people don’t typically get to hear. We see on the news and we see in reality television the front end of addiction. We see the worst in our ERs and in our hospitals and everywhere, the worst of addiction. But we don’t necessarily get to see people like Dan and myself who are in long-term recovery, who pay taxes and get back to work and have recovered from this illness.”
Duncan and Williams agree that the key to successful treatment and recovery is changing the discrimination that those seeking help for mental health or substance abuse face. Says Duncan, ““Why should somebody who has an addiction be less able to get help when they need it than somebody who is suffering with cancer or heart disease or whatever?”
“The only way we are going to change this is with a constituency of consequence,” says Williams. “We don’t have that in America - a constituency of consequence – who will stand up and say, ‘No, let’s not open another prison. Let’s open another treatment program or let’s open a recovery program.’ And we don’t have that yet. But there are 23 million of us with the potential in our families who can become that."
Williams concludes, “It’s time. We have amazing, amazing people in recovery and it’s time we start celebrating them and sensationalizing the idea because it’s powerful. 23 million people - that’s a power. And they can get well.”
Williams will be in St. Louis on Thursday, May 9 for a “sneak preview” of his film at the Tivoli Theatre. He will participate in a question/answer session following the screening. The event is sponsored by NCADA – St. Louis, Missouri Recovery Network and Queen of Peace Center.
Greg Williams and Dan Duncan were Don Marsh's guests on "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss addiction, recovery, Williams' documentary and his use of Kickstarter to fund it.
Screening of Greg Williams' Documentary "The Anonymous People"
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Q and A with Greg Williams at 8:45 p.m.
Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Blvd.
Landmark Theatres Website