Surviving an addiction is no small feat. Overdose related deaths went up by 50 percent in the past few years in Philadelphia. But thousands of people will be celebrating their sobriety this weekend with the annual Recovery Walk.Marchers publicly celebrate their recovery from addiction in the walk, which will take place this Saturday, at Penn’s Landing. Organizers use it to create a visible reminder that people can and do overcome addiction.
In its first year, there were 100 participants. Last year, there were 25,000.
“At one time, you know, people were so bound by their shame and guilt that we were anonymous. And so people never saw individuals in recovery — we saw people who were still in the throes of their addiction,” said Beverly Haberle, the Project Director of the grassroots group PRO-ACT, which organizes the event.
She likens stepping out of the proverbial recovery closet to “a new civil rights movement.” And, when addicts feel comfortable identifying themselves as in recovery, it can actually aid their progress.
“It’s really very freeing, and for some people it allows you to take the actions you need in order to sustain your recovery. If you are tied into shame and guilt, many times you won’t go to the people who can provide help for you – you won’t tell anybody about the problem.”
Zara Teachey hit rock bottom from an addiction to crack cocaine more than eleven years ago. Watching the Honor Guard — recovering addicts with several years of sobriety march — inspired her. Now Teachey is a member of the Honor Guard — and will walk at the head of the line this weekend.
“It gives me the opportunity to let others know that recovery is possible. And I just want to be that hope for the next person coming behind me,” she said.
The Recovery Walk will continue almost two miles through Old City.