How to Start a Recovery Community

Could a Recovery Community be a viable option to help you or a loved one with alcohol addiction? Learn more about them and how they are beneficial to individuals battling addiction.

A recovery community is typically made up of individuals recovering from addiction, as well as their families, loved ones, and addiction treatment professionals. These communities advocate for recovery services, provide community education, and offer peer support services for those in recovery. The ultimate goal of recovery communities is to bring people together and use resources to support recovery from addiction to alcohol and/or drugs.

There are various national recovery communities, as well as state-level organizations with local branches. More recently, Faces & Voices of Recovery, with headquarters in Washington, DC, has become the leading national force among the recovery community. This organization engages in advocacy, with aims to increase funding for treatment services and uphold the rights of those living with addictions.

Faces & Voices of Recovery has numerous affiliated recovery communities throughout the United States, and local recovery communities can apply to be affiliated with this organization. If you’re looking to start a local recovery community, you may wish to become linked with a national organization like Faces & Voices of Recovery, but this is not necessary to be successful. Regardless of affiliation status, there are steps you can take to create a successful recovery community in your area.

Step One: Assess

Before building a recovery community, it is important to assess the specific needs that exist in your location. This may involve talking to managers of local addiction treatment centers, speaking to those living with addiction as well as to their family and loved ones, and conducting community surveys. The results of your assessment will tell you what specific services your local recovery community can provide to best support those in the area. Community members may be seeking support group meetings for families struggling with a loved one’s addiction, or you may find that your community requires more significant services, such as temporary housing options for people recovering from addiction.

Step Two: Engage People

Building a recovery community requires the collaboration of individuals in recovery, friends, and family members of those living with addiction, alcohol treatment providers, community leaders, and people interested in advocating for those who live with addictions. In order to start a recovery community, you must be prepared to bring these people together. To achieve this end, it is important to hold public meetings to provide information and gain feedback from those interested in participating in the recovery community. In today’s technological world, you would also benefit from using a website and social media account to provide information about your efforts and to engage people in the process.

Step Three: Determine Your Scope

After you have assessed your community’s needs and brought people together to engage in conversation about the recovery community, you must decide upon the scope of the community, or what services it will offer. You may determine that your area simply needs a social media support group, or you may decide to offer social media support as well as regular in-person support group meetings. Some communities may decide to engage in additional services, such as opening peer support centers, participating in political action to benefit recovery, or starting education and outreach campaigns. In addition to determining specific services, you will need to decide whether to operate your recovery community on an informal basis or to become an official nonprofit organization.

Step Four: Consider Costs and Funding

As with any initiative, it is important to consider costs when starting a recovery community, and your expenses will vary based upon the scope of the community you wish to develop. For example, if your community will simply involve support group meetings and social media interactions, your costs may be minimal. You may be able to find meeting space at a local church, college, or community center, and these places might be willing to allow you to use their space free of charge or for a small fee. If this is the case, you may be able to operate on donations.

On the other hand, if you have extensive plans for your recovery community, such as getting involved in formal education or outreach services or opening a peer support center, more significant funding may be necessary. To secure additional funds for your program, you may benefit from fundraising activities, such as hosting local 5K races or community events. Your recovery community program may also be eligible for a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). For instance, SAMHSA offers funding to recovery communities that provide peer support services to those with addictions and/or mental illnesses. If you choose to seek this sort of funding, you must first be prepared to create an official nonprofit organization, called a recovery community organization (RCO).

Focus on Advocacy and Education

Beyond finances and the logistics of starting a recovery community, it is critical that you consider the mission of your program. Ultimately, your goal should be to advocate for better services and support for those in recovery and to reduce the stigma associated with addiction, regardless of the scope of your recovery community. As the recovery community Friends of Recovery in New York explains, one of the key tactics that recovery organizations use is public education and awareness. This involves educating the public in order to remove the negative connotation surrounding addiction and drawing their attention to success stories of those who have recovered. Fortunately, having public conversations about the realities of addiction can be effective for removing some of the stigma associated with recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. That being said, something as simple as holding support group meetings and creating a social media presence can make a difference, even if your recovery community never engages in more formal practices, such as becoming a nonprofit or offering a peer support center.

The Role of Remote Monitoring

To enhance the specific services your recovery community offers, you may want to consider utilizing remote monitoring services to hold members accountable. For instance, your community may consider BACtrack View, a remote monitoring system comprised of BACtrack Mobile and the BACtrack View smartphone app. Users can test themselves and self-report or a group member can choose to monitor another person or a number of others in the group. Through random or scheduled, or on-demand BAC testing, community members can verify their sobriety (and therefore, progress) to family and other group members.

Regardless of the scope of your recovery community, you can make a difference in the lives of those with addiction. Recovery communities involve a variety of activities, ranging from support group meetings to political advocacy, and you can choose services and activities to meet the unique needs of your community. You may begin with an informal program that involves Internet support with the help of remote monitoring services and find that it morphs into something much bigger, such as a nonprofit organization providing a range of support.






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