This Saturday (September 22) in Philadelphia, thousands will join Recovery Walks! 2012 to celebrate sobriety in a big way. Hosted by the non-prof PRO-ACT as part of Recovery Month, the annual walk covers 1.75 miles through the historic city, raising funds as well as awareness. “We do this so that people understand that recovery is possible, and that there is hope out there for individuals and families that are still struggling with this illness,” Beverly Haberle, executive director of the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, which hosts PRO-ACT, tells The Fix. Last year, 15,000 participants made it the largest walk ever assembled in support of addiction recovery. Organizers hope to beat that figure this weekend. Plenty of festivities are also planned: politicians and celebrities like Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and YouTube sensation Ted “Golden Voice” Williams will make appearances, and there will also be a “Recovery Idol” singing contest. But for Haberle, one real highlight is the Honor Guard—participants who have 10 or more years in recovery—leading the walk. “There’s some pride attached to it," she explains, "but also it’s a demonstration to other people that long-term recovery is possible.”
When Recovery Walks! began 11 years ago, expectations were very different. “Our first walk, we had 100 people and we were feeling great about it,” says Haberle. “The first few years, people didn’t know what to expect, having a bunch of ‘addicts’ around. We said ‘in recovery’ but they didn’t hear it quite that way, so we were sort-of shuttered off to places that were less conspicuous.” But the organizers and volunteers stayed committed, and the recovery movement in general began making great strides to change misconceptions: “Not only the number of people, but the breadth of the community that is supporting recovery has grown over the years.” And with the community growing more supportive, the walk has been granted more prominent routes through Philadelphia. “If you think about this movement, when would people 11 years ago have been cheering a bunch of people in recovery?” asks Haberle. “All of those are signs of more and more understanding and support for recovery and what recovery means, and that’s what’s exciting.”
Another clinic that's part of Scientology's Narconon rehab chain is facing a damaging lawsuit. Former patient William Sweeney is suing the Pur Detox Clinic in Dana Point, California for negligence, medical malpractice and negligent supervision, after he jumped off a third-floor balcony in a suicide attempt while coming off the prescription meds to which he was addicted. Sweeney claims that he was rapidly weaned off the drugs following a mere 20-minute interview, that no staff members ever checked up on him to see if he was suffering from withdrawal symptoms, and that he only saw a doctor once during his stay. While the staff member assigned to him was sleeping on another floor last December 11, states the lawsuit, "at approximately 6 pm plaintiff returned to the unsecured third floor, went out on to the unsecured balcony through an unlocked and unalarmed sliding door, and attempted suicide by jumping off the balcony." Sweeney's injuries included multiple fractures and he required a four-week stay in hospital. Another Narconon facility, Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma, was recently blamed for the deaths of three patients who were told to spend five hours per day in a sauna as part of their treatment. Seven patient deaths have been recorded at that facility since 2005.
Fiona Apple was busted today in Sierra Blanca, Texas, not far from the Mexican border, for having hashish on her tour bus. According to TMZ, the famously volatile musician—who also was in possession of a small amount of pot—is currently behind bars at Hudspeth County Jail. In recent interviews surrouding the June release of her fourth studio album, The Idler Wheel..., it sounded as if 35-year-old Apple, who shot to fame when just a teenager with her 1996 album Tidal, had settled down a bit in terms of her substance use. The New York Times, for one, reported that Apple said she’d given up “heavy drinking.” But it’s possible that Apple—like many problem drinkers, not to mention Lady Gaga—went on the ill-advised “marijuana maintenance” plan, and is now paying for it. That said, Apple’s not the first artist who’s been pinched by the cops in Sierra Blanca, who apparently have a thing for weed-loving tunesmiths: Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg have both been cuffed for drugs here in the past.
Low-income smokers in the state of New York spend a quarter of their income on smokes, a new study shows. On average, they'll blow 23.6% of a $30,000 salary on cigarettes—nearly twice the national average. (Meanwhile smokers earning $60,000 or more spend on average just two percent of their incomes on cigs.) New York State has the highest cigarette tax in the US—at $4.35 a pack—and New York City dwellers pay an extra $1.50 on top of that. The tax was set in the name of good health, but some question the justice of it. “The poor pay $600 million in cigarette taxes and get little help in quitting,” says Russ Sciandra of the American Cancer Society. The authors of the study write: "Although high cigarette taxes are an effective method for reducing cigarette smoking, they can impose a significant financial burden on low-income smokers."
New York's taxes have helped cut the state's habit by 20% between 2003 and 2010, but they haven't made a dent in the smoking rate among poorer citizens. Critics see the taxes as unfairly punitive to the poor: “It busts their theory that high taxes equal submission to their coercive measure,” claims Audrey Silk of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. Telling penniless puffers to quit is easy, but the expense of some quit-smoking aids can be an issue—some opt instead to pick up cheaper roll-your-own cigs that are even more unhealthy. However, New York state does offer a free smoker's quitline, and can provide a starter kit of nicotine patches, gum or lozenges for those who qualify. Poor smokers in NYC can utilize quit-smoking clinics that offer meds and counseling at little or no cost. Still, “They can be a hard-to-reach population,” says health department spokesman Peter Constantakes.
Comedian and self-proclaimed "Queen of Mean" Lisa Lampanelli has never been shy about insulting people for a laugh. She's now targeting semi-famous celebrities who have been (allegedly) struggling with the bottle. Right after '70s actress Sally Struthers was charged with DUI last week, Lampanelli took to Twitter to write, "Sally Struthers (Gilmore Girls actress) charged with DUI. Sounds like those African kids with the flies on their faces aren't the only ones who need a sponsor! #AA." And this week, she had a field day with Dina Lohan's woozy, slurry interview on Dr. Phil: "Czech Republic bans liquor sales after wave of deaths. After her Dr. Phil experience Dina Lohan may want to winter there! #alkie." But Lampanelli is no stranger to addiction herself. She says she's a lifelong food addict who has attended Overeaters Anonymous in the past, even taking part in a residential, 28-day "food rehab" program. She recently underwent a gastric sleeve surgery and has lost 80 pounds within the last five months.
We're in the middle of Recovery Month, and one of the more interesting ways it's being marked is through a YouTube series. Young People in Recovery is a collection of stories told by young women and men. “Recovery has really given me an opportunity to have freedom to do anything because I’m no longer chained by alcohol and drug addiction,” says Greg Williams, a 28-year-old who is 11 years clean and sober, in his video. “The moment that changed everything was when I got into a near-fatal car accident. I woke up in the hospital a couple days later and from there that’s where my recovery started. It was in treatment where I found that hope and motivation to change my life.” Young People in Recovery is supported by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Faces & Voices of Recovery donors. The videos were filmed in Boston back in January, and are intended to spread the positive message that recovery is possible. “Alcohol and drugs took everything from me. Before I found recovery I could be in a room full of people and feel alone and scared and hopeless. I just didn’t like who I was!” says Justin Riley, 24, who has been in recovery since 2007. “There is hope and solution for everyone.” If you have a recovery story, you can find information on how to participate at facesandvoicesofrecovery.org.
Kristina Fenn—Young Person in Recovery: