When we focus on a solution, our problem goes away.

My name is Tiffany Hunsley and I am a mother in long term recovery. I have a progressive, chronic, and to often fatal disease that is in remission due to recovery.

Eleven years ago, I entered drug court and began this journey of recovery. Prior to that, I lived a life of dependence; dependence upon drugs, alcohol, my family, my friends, the criminal justice system, and society, as a whole. This was not of my choosing; I have a disease and was unaware of its symptoms, until it was too late.

There are approximately 20.6 million Americans with this illness, many of them still suffering & dying today. It is one of the leading causes of accidental death in our country. Stigma is the reason people don’t ask for help, stigma that we, as a society have created, together we can put an end to it.

Since lack of information breeds fear and fear breeds stigma, one clear prescription for fighting stigma is renewed awareness and better education around recovery. Why focus on the recovery and not the addiction? We, who have recovered, recognize that when we focus on the problem the problem gets bigger. When we focus on the solution, our problem goes away.

Like me, many of us are standing proud and strong despite society’s desire to keep us down. We have found unity and the inner strength and resolve to rise up despite people’s fear and ignorance. It’s up to us, our families and those we know, to help further reduce the stigma attached to addiction and continue the New Paradigm for Recovery Making Recovery – and Not Relapse – the Expected Outcome of Addiction Treatment.

There is a solution and my recovery and the many others like me are living proof. We do not lack willpower, nor do we need to be punished. I wish someone would have told me I have a disease that talks to me in my own voice and tells me I’m not sick. We see addiction everyday but not recovery and recovery is happening in communities all over the world.

Today, I am a shining example of what can happen when we treat the person and not just the symptoms.

Therefore, I am not anonymous. Through recovery I found my voice. Today, I am honored to be a face & a voice for recovery. To show others that no matter how far down the scale you have gone, nothing is impossible. To show that a woman with felonies, children taken away, homeless, and unemployed, can not only recover, but thrive. Today, I am a shining example of what can happen when we treat the person and not just the symptoms. We can treat the person with drug courts instead of prison, long term treatments instead of the traditional 28 days, with ongoing follow-ups and continued family and community support. Today I am a loving mother of 4, drug court graduate, college graduate, home owner, taxpayer, voter, Founder & Executive Director of Recovery Is Happening & an advocate for recovery. Why? Because it’s a disease not a decision!

We must not sit idly by as injustices abound around us. We have a voice & we must use it. We must advocate for those who trapped in the horrors of addiction, who no longer have a voice, as I once was. I am not my illness! I have a name, a history, a story to tell, & I will no longer hush my voice for someone else’s comfort.