Phoenix’s Bob Campbell is a recovery expert who has worked in the Drug and Alcohol Sector for over 35 years
Phoenix Futures recently initiated a project which we called ‘You Matter – Your Vote Matters’ to encourage our service users to register to vote in the coming election. Engagement in the political process by the recovery community is not good. We seem to spend a lot of time talking amongst ourselves about recovery issues, but not enough effort is placed upon engaging with the community at large to promote wider understanding of our issues and to influence public opinion. Consequently there is a real risk that matters that are important to our service users and the larger recovery community will remain unaddressed by policy makers.
There is also evidence that people who vote and who stay informed about local affairs tend to have better physical and mental health and stronger social ties. Voting can be seen as a means of encouraging service users to take ownership of their own future by engaging in key decisions that impact on them, their families and their communities.
In terms of building Recovery Capital it is appropriate that an individual’s immediate needs such as housing, health, and welfare are addressed in parallel to treatment for their substance use problems but building confidence and self-esteem is an equally important element of Recovery Capital. Engaging in the process of voting can be a means towards this by identifying with and becoming an integral part of wider society, helping people to succeed in gaining employment, participate in civic life, and consequently sustain their recovery.
It is the view of George De Leon in his concept of ‘Right Living’ that recovery is learned and maintained through interaction with others. Being a positive contributor to the community is a key part of this. Thus individuals engaging with the community through participation in civic life will be able to build positive, sustainable social networks through which all elements of recovery capital can be accessed and nurtured.
We at Phoenix Futures believe that everyone has something to contribute to society and that by engaging in the wider community as active citizens, rather than clients or recipients of services, our service users will build influence and gain respect and begin to set the agenda rather than be passive observers.
The act of casting a vote in the forthcoming election may not in itself bring about the desired outcome but it will provide an entry ticket into being an active and involved member of the community. It will help the person beginning their recovery journey start identifying themselves, not as someone socially excluded but, as an active member of society on an equal standing with others and who can rightfully have a say on the issues that affect their everyday lives.