GLENS FALLS — Their message is consistent, their belief in change impassioned and their goal to get government funding earmarked for recovery and detoxification programs is part of their daily work.

And the members of Friends of Recovery want everyone to know, addiction is not a crime.

“We are here to shatter the stigma,” said Ashley Livingston, co-chair of Friends of Recovery for Washington and Warren Counties. “Addiction is chemistry not character.”

Livingston, along with several others, was at the Aviation Mall in Glens Falls on Saturday afternoon in hopes of sharing information about addiction and recovery with the community.

While some passersby and shoppers stopped by the informational table and statistic-decorated evergreen tree to pick up information about community resources for family members, many hurried past, trying to glance at posters and T-shirts like – Recovery is the new normal. Clean is the new dirty. Fund the solution, not the problem – while still walking.

“That’s part of the stigma,” Livingston said, referring to the reason people are hesitant to actually stop at a table about recovery.

That’s why Livingston, who said she has been in recovery for a long time, is working to change the conversation.

“We want to shed a positive light on recovery. There are 23.5 million people living a life of recovery and people in recovery contribute to the community, they own businesses, they volunteer, they vote,” she said.

Judy Moffitt, who co-chairs Friends of Recovery with Livingston, said that the stigma about addicts and denial – addicts or family members not seeing or recognizing the disease – often keep people away from treatment, as well as funding and insurance barriers to care.

By stigma, Moffitt and Livingston are referring to people who still believe that addiction is a weakness or a moral choice. But extensive clinical studies have shown that addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a disease just like diabetes or heart disease. The brains of addicted individuals process the drugs differently.

Friends of Recovery is part of the New York statewide coalition of people in recovery working toward educating people about the power and value recovery brings to individuals, families and communities.

“We are the bridge between individuals and recovery,” Livingston said.

Along with assistance from The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, also known as OASAS, Friends of Recovery is working toward bringing recovery centers of care to communities throughout the state. That means, making sure people in recovery are supported with recovery coaches, recovery centers and detox in local hospitals.

Livingston talks about the dangers of sending people detoxing off drugs home from the emergency rooms.

“People will die … We want to get legislators to invest in solutions, to invest in recovery services like recovery coaches,” she said. “We want recovery community centers in every county.”

And Tuesday, Feb. 28, along with recovery advocates from around the state, Livingston and Moffitt will be in Albany lobbying legislators as part of a statewide advocacy day.

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“I’m in recovery, and I voted. I want them to fund the solution, not the problem. And I am also advocating for a detox in hospitals,” Livingston said. “Ninety percent of addicted individuals are not in treatment.”

Moffitt added that families also need help in emergency rooms and during someone’s recovery.

“My passion is to help families with the pain and suffering of addiction,” Moffitt said, adding that families also need to understand addiction before an addicted loved one returns home.

“It’s like a tree and you get a diseased tree healthy and then put it right back into contaminated soil,” she said.

Through an OASAS grant, a recovery center will soon be opening in Saratoga Springs. “We are opening a recovery center next month,” Moffitt said. “We have a location and a director hired.”

Friends of Recovery meets the third Wednesday of every month at the Crandall Library, but his month their meeting is Feb. 22 and it is open to the public.

“We will be talking about advocacy day,” Livingston said, adding that they are also planning sober events like their recent sober Super Bowl party or sober karaoke.

This Wednesday from 4:30 to 8 p.m., there will be a community forum, “Hometown vs. Heroin & Addiction” at the Southern Adirondack BOCES, Building D, Gym, 1051 Dix Ave. in Hudson Falls. Narcan training begins at 4:30 p.m., and at 6 p.m., Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan, will lead the discussion forum.

Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli is a features writer at The Post-Star. She can be reached at kphalen-tomaselli@poststar.com for comments or story ideas.


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