It’s hard to single out the best way to applaud the work of recovery advocate and activist Ryan Hampton. Should it be for the people-recovering-out-loud aspect of his Voices Project? Should it be because he serves as an outreach lead and recovery activist for the leading non-profit Facing Addiction and the 30-day, 28-state, 8,000 mile road trip he took for the web series Facing Addiction Across America? Or should it be for his widespread writings on addiction and recovery, especially considering those writings have spurred the acclaimed American Fix (All Points/St. Martin’s $27.99)?
While any one of the above would be cause for applause (and combined they deserve a standing ovation), let’s focus on American Fix. Subtitled Inside the Opioid Addiction Crisis — and How to End it, Hampton’s first book reveals that his transitioning from advocate to author came about after he couldn’t find a book about the opioid epidemic that included the recovery movement. So he decided to write the book himself.
Sure there were books on the opioid epidemic, from both a personal as well as public perspective. Heck, we’ve even written about a few of the best of them here. But there wasn’t a book that also addressed recovery advocacy, let alone that could serve as a call to action for recovery advocates everywhere. Considering the recovery constituency is some 45 million strong, that could be a whole lotta recovery advocacy.
“We’re a large constituency and growing,” Hampton told Forbes. “We’re men, women, people of color and we’re from all political backgrounds.”
In fact, the recovery constituency the “largest tent out of any social movement in modern-day history.”
American Fix calls to register one million recovery voters in all 50 states by 2020. And in order to help make sure that happens, Hampton has teamed up with When We All Vote, the non-profit initiative led by Michelle Obama that features the likes of Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Janelle Monae. When the recovery community shows up to vote, insists Hampton, policymakers will have no choice but to act on their behalf.
“We’ve gotten people to share their stories [through the Voices Project], because that’s the most important part,” Hampton says. “But now, it’s about what you do after you share your story. This is what’s going to move our movement forward.”
Hampton seems to have taken a few good cues from legendary AIDS activists -- and ran with ‘em. Like Martin Delaney (Project Inform), he’s a fast-track activist. Like Larry Kramer (Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT-UP), he’s not afraid to get in policymakers’ faces. And like Cleve Jones (The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt), he puts the personal to those affected by epidemic. Hampton also seems to have a thing or two in common with Black AIDS Institute's Phil Wilson, who not only grabbed the ear of President Obama, but also created an empowering website.
Indeed, like each and every one of the aforementioned AIDS activists, Hampton is coming up with and employing bold new tactics to fight a national epidemic. And like his predecessors, he’s determined to do what it takes to beat a deadly disease. That includes how it's treated -- and perceived.
“We know addiction is a chronic health disorder, yet we still treat it with an acute response,” Hampton says. “If you make it past five years sober, you have an 85% chance of sustaining recovery. So why aren’t we treating substance use disorder the same way we treat other chronic health disorders?”
Hampton himself is on year three of sobriety, so this cause of his is also distinctly personal.
“This work is about making sure that if I need help again, if I have a recurrence or a slip, that there are resources there for me, too”, he says. “I’m fighting for my friends, but I’m also fighting for me.”
Applause for American Fix
We at Recovery Boot Camp would like to applaud Ryan Hampton for his insightful and inspiring American Fix. And we encourage everyone in the recovery community to read the book and heed its call. We’d also like to offer Hampton a standing ovation, for his recovery advocacy, as well as for the momentum he brings to the recovery constituency. And we sincerely hope the constituency comes together so that everyone gets the recovery he advocates.