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When Heroin Almost Took My Life, My Phone Saved It

At the end, “theres only” two things I cared about: the purse of heroin on my glass-topped coffee table, and the cell phone next to it. They were my two life lines. After a decade of mistreating opiates, I couldnt stop using heroin. I was psychologically, physically, and emotionally dependent on it. My telephone, too, was an absolute necessity. It related me to my network which Id started constructing since I worked in the White House as a young, ambitious staffer. On the last day of my drug use, I looked down at the table. To my left, the baggie. To my right, the phone.

At the time, I had no idea that one of those two things would save me from the other. Now, my phone and, more particularly, its social media capabilities are an intrinsic part of my new life in recuperation. Its been more than two years since I got the call on my cell, tell people there was a bed available at a public detox. I took that call, and the chance to get sober. While I was in rehab, I transmitted with my family and friends. I started connecting with other people in recuperation online, through Facebook and Twitter. Through social media and articles I read, I learned that addiction is a chronic brain illness. Online, people were speaking up about its own experience, breaking the stillnes of addiction. Id detected my tribe and it fit in my back pocket, or right in the palm of my hand.

Being placed on waiting lists, knowing that my window of willingness to keep fighting for help was diminishing by the hour, were some of the most terrifying moments in my entire life.

My phone is how I found out my friends were dying of the health problem that I had. Early in my recuperation, I lost four people who were very close to me, all within 3 months. One, Nick, was an aspiring performer. He was may be in his room and had died hours earlier from a fatal overdose. Another friend, Greg, died simply a few short weeks after. I will never forget get those messages, or how I recognise, days later, that my friends were only four out of hundreds of people who die every day from addiction-related issues. It seemed that, everywhere I became, someone had lost a son, a daughter, a pal, or a mother or father-god. Addiction, I recognise, was lethal. And staying silent was our death sentence.

Ryan and Greg in April 2015. Greg died a few months after this portrait was taken.

Sitting on my couch in the Pasadena sober living home where Id eventually landed, I seemed down at the phone in my hand. Statistics swirled in my brain. Addiction affects 1 in 3 people in the United States. Merely 10% of people with addiction actually got therapy for their cancer. The wait time for access to public facilities typically outperforms 30 periods. I myself had frantically called multiple therapy centers, simply to be told that beds werent available, and likely wouldnt be for multiple weeks. Being placed on waiting lists, knowing that my window of willingness to keep fighting for help was diminishing by the hour, were some of the most terrifying moments in my entire life. I knew that untreated addiction was lethal. And yet, 23 million people in the United States live in long-term recuperation. People attained it but how to attain that attainable for more people?

On the evening of October 4, 2015, I opened my Facebook app. And there, in my hands, was the livestream video that changed my life forever: the UNITE to Face Addiction rally on the National Mall in Washington , D.C. It sounds like a small thing, but watching that concert, which was attended by tens of thousands of people in recuperation and included performances by sober artists that I grew up listening to on the radio, changed my perception of what was possible. That was my community my people. And the latter are standing up for what they believed in. They werent hiding and they werent ashamed. That was the working day that I stopped being a social media bystander and got involved. Id detected my purpose and once again, it was right under my nose.

The period I recognise what could be: October 4, 2015. UNITE to Face Addiction.

I had a mission: to lift-up voices of people in recuperation, and share the vital narratives of our community.

The idea that social media can create massive cultural change isnt a new one. Because social media allows people to communicate freely and share information, it enables the creation of like-minded groups. If these groups are big enough, or driven enough, they have the potential to positively influence and shape cultural progress. Recent examples of this include the Green Revolution in Iran, Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, and #BlackLivesMatter protests. And, of course, the new grassroots movement to end the stigma of addiction. Our community, once marginalized and reproached into stillnes, had received a route to make its voice heard and it was loud . Feeling inspired, I logged on to Facebook messenger and detected Tom Coderre, a recuperation advocacy change-maker and pal of Facing Addiction, the movement whose operate I admired. He immediately put me in touch with co-foundersGreg Williamsand Jim Hood and I was on my route. I had no idea where I was going, or how I would get there, but I was run. I had a mission: to lift-up voices of people in recuperation, and share the vital narratives of our community.

Soon, I was on the road, heading to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. Hey, Id done crazier things now, I was doing them in recuperation, and for a good cause. We coined the project Addiction Across America and partnered with Facing Addiction. We were driving 3,000 miles east to speak at the convention and advocate for addiction solutions. It was a 30 -day road trip through the heartland of America communities hit hardest by the addiction crisis. I had nothing but $20, my phone, and a $100 Google Stream notebook when I came up with the relevant recommendations. But I also had a road map from the people whod taken this expedition of advocacy before me, and the narratives kept going. I published some of these narratives in a digital web series. That was the beginning of what is now called the Voices Project.

It was also the beginning of my recuperation advocacy. After the convention, and the 2016 election, I recognise the tremendous influence that social media could have on how people talked, supposed, acted, and even voted. I learnt a route for us to transform the recuperation motion into a campaign one so big that it couldnt be ignored or silenced. So I started a Facebook page, then added Twitterand Instagram. Up front, I chose these accounts would never be about me. The level was always to raise up the voices of others. The pages began to grow. People from all over “the worlds” detected me. 5,000 adherents was transformed into 50,000. Now, that number is over 200,000 people, mixed across all three platforms. But its never been about the numbers. Each one of those adherents has a face, a heartbeat. They are real to me. Theyre people. Theyre a mom in Connecticut who lost her child; an incarcerated recovering heroin addict in Richmond whos a peer leader in his cell, helping others find recuperation; a brave young man in Los Angeles who would come out as person or persons in recuperation and tell his inspiring tale for the first time.

Before the Voices Project, I never thought of myself as a narrator. But I guess its who I am and today, Im okay with that. Im a narrator with a purpose. I didnt set out to become an advocate. I had no idea that my recuperation would take me in this direction, but like so many others across this country, once I became aware of this crisis, I couldnt ignore what I learnt. The injustice, prejudice, and epidemic loss of life have me mad as hell. Every period, more lives are lost; another unfair, discriminatory policy is write. So much depends on telling our narratives. I cant stop. I wont. And while I dont often know what to say, I do know what to do today.

And thats where you come in. The Voices Project demonstrates that together we can help purpose the addiction crisis. We can do the operate that we could never achieve alone. Together, well purpose the stillnes and indicate this country that we are one of the largest constituencies ever to exist. We can inspire change, save lives, heal our communities, and build a digital motion like nobodys ever seen before. This is the # VoicesProject.

Ryan Hampton is an outreach leading and recuperation advocate at Facing Addiction, a leading nonprofit dedicated to ending the addiction crisis in the United States. Join the Voices Project.

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