The Tweakers Project Fights Meth Stigma
A bold nonprofit seeks to support meth addicts and show them that they don't need to be ashamed, its founder tells The Fix.
Recovering addicts often connect off the radar—in private basements or anonymous messaging boards. The Tweakers Project takes a different approach, by connecting addicts (and their allies) in a public forum. The nonprofit is devoted to helping people get clean from crystal meth. It relies largely on an online network of support for those seeking recovery, and also helps to educate addicts and their friends and families about addiction. There are no paid employees: volunteers, most of them recovering addicts themselves, do all the work. Over the past three and a half years, they've placed 39 people in rehab or recovery services, including hospitalizations. Volunteers take a hands-on approach, booking rehab beds themselves or driving people to the hospital. They don't endorse a single recovery method, and their sole purpose is to help people get and stay sober, by any means necessary. "We don't endorse anything but we endorse everything," founder Jimmy Palmieri tells The Fix. "Not one model will be a workable solution to each individual." Palmieri founded the group after losing someone close to him to addiction. "There wasn't enough peer-based support," he says. "[The project] works because people are sharing the same experience. It reminds people they're not alone."
The group has gone global, linking people on multiple continents via email and Facebook—which Palmieri calls a "miracle" for its ability to reach such a large audience. The Tweakers Project Facebook page is like a 24/7 recovery group, and currently has over 2,500 members. "It's an open group," he says, "which I did so everyone could join—not just addicts—so moms and dads, friends and family members could learn more about the disease of addiction." Palmieri knows the lack of anonymity might dissuade some potential members, but he feels passionately about changing public attitudes towards addiction—particularly meth addiction, which is the subject of heavy stigma and ignorance. "A lot of people are afraid people will find out they're addicts. They have a lot of shame-based fear," he says. "And it's true that not everyone will look at addiction like a disease, like diabetes or cancer. But we hope to educate people, to show that addiction shouldn't be shameful."