Mackenzie Phillips Honored At 7th Annual Experience, Strength and Hope Awards Show

By John Lavitt 02/18/16

The Experience, Strength and Hope Award is given in recognition of an individual's honest life's memoir including their journey through addiction to recovery, and their dedication to carrying the message of hope to a society awash in addiction. 

Mackenzie Phillips Honored At 7th Annual Experience, Strength and Hope Awards Show
Mackenzie Phillips at Experience, Strength and Hope Award Show Photo: John Lavitt

At the 7th Annual Experience, Strength, and Hope Awards Show, award-winning performer Mackenzie Phillips was honored for her ongoing commitment to recovery. Now working as a drug and alcohol counselor at the Pasadena Recovery Center, Phillips has dedicated herself as a recovery advocate to spreading a positive message. She also has published a powerfully raw memoir entitled High On Arrival (2011) about her lifelong battle with family demons and the brutal addictions that she eventually overcame, one day at a time.

Held at the Skirball Cultural Center on the night of February 16, the awards show was presented by Writers In Treatment and the Reel Recovery Film Festival. Started by Leonard Buschel, the founder of both nonprofit organizations, the Experience, Strength and Hope Award is given in recognition of an individual’s journey to sustainable sobriety, and their subsequent dedication to carrying a message of hope. The award honors a person for demonstrating character, courage and creativity in recovery. 

Writers In Treatment Founder Leonard Buschel With Mackenzie Phillips Photo: John Lavitt

In the face of the national opioid epidemic raging across the country and being highlighted in the current presidential primaries, the message seems particularly poignant at this time. Best known for her roles in American Graffiti and the sitcom One Day at a Time, Phillips has been affected by this storm of addiction as well. She let her experience on the third season of Celebrity Rehab in 2010 expand into a new calling. Seeing what musician and drug counselor Bob Forrest described as the horror of thousands upon thousands of young people dying from this disease, Phillips became a recovery advocate, passionately giving back what was so freely given to her.

Interviewed by The Fix, Mackenzie Phillips was asked, “In the light of the success you have experienced and the past difficulties you have overcome, what does winning an award like this mean to you?” With a gracious and peaceful look, Phillips replied, “It means that we can recover and we do recover. As long as we continue to walk the path and stay sober, as long as we remember to be mindful of our actions and to keep doing the right thing, then the world is ours. That’s such a wonderful realization to celebrate.” 

It was clear from this response that the 2016 Experience, Strength, and Hope Award represented a new milestone in her life’s work. During the awards ceremony, Phillips received this year’s honor from past honoree John Taylor of Duran Duran. Understanding the resonant power of the moment, Taylor elegantly passed the proverbial torch to Phillips. 

Mackenzie Phillips Discusses Her Award With Past Honoree John Taylor of Duran Duran Photo: John Lavitt

Embracing the opportunity, Mackenzie Phillips explained how, “In the past, I hadn’t owned my truth and I couldn’t speak my truth. I was ashamed of what I had done and caught in a web of lies. Talk about a sea change. Today, I want to be an active part of putting a face on the alcoholic and the addict. I want to help overcome the stigma attached to this disease. In order to do this, I knew I had to give up expectation. I had to leave all that ego stuff by the wayside in order to chase my passion. By making this choice, my life today is filled with a deep sense of gratitude.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.