The Voices Project Is Fighting Addiction & Stigma Through Social Media

The Voices Project Is Fighting Addiction & Stigma Through Social Media

By Britni de la Cretaz 04/21/17

Musicians, politicians, actors and everyday people are taking to the Internet to share their addiction stories through the Voices Project.

Image: 
Ryan Hampton, creator of Voices Project and Facing Addiction
Ryan Hampton, creator of the Voices Project Photo via YouTube

Thirty-six-year-old Ryan Hampton is using the power of social media to break down the stigma of addiction. Hampton, who has been using virtual connectivity to create a movement and give voice to people struggling with addiction through his role as a recovery advocate with Facing Addiction, has launched his Voices Project, which encourages people to share their stories of addiction, with the goal of putting faces and names to the addiction epidemic.

The Los Angeles resident—and former staffer in the Clinton White House—became hooked on prescription opioids after an injury. It was through his phone that he first reached out for help. And throughout his recovery journey, he continued to use his device to connect with others who were struggling.

“This is the one space where we cannot be ignored. The time has come for us to speak out, and we’re a community that speaks loudly. With addiction, we’re dealing with imminent death every day,” Hampton told Forbes. “Through social media, we’ve found an innovative way to communicate with each other and connect with people we haven’t met, and now, we’re having this conversation with the rest of the world.”

According to Forbes, more than 200 stories were submitted to the Voices Project and over 500 people sent in messages of support in the span of just one week. Among those sharing their stories through the platform are pro-skateboarder and former Jackass cast member Brandon Novak; Grammy Award-winning musician Sirah; rapper Royce da 5'9"; American politician and mental health advocate Patrick Kennedy; and former child actress and now-addictions counselor Mackenzie Phillips.

There is also a powerful story from Columbine survivor Austin Eubanks, who says, “I learned very quickly that I could use my traumatic experience and physical injuries to manipulate doctors in my favor. Within months of the shooting, I was in active addiction—an addiction that persisted throughout my late-teens and 20s. When the prescription bottle ran dry, I turned to dealers or the internet. I would do absolutely anything to not have to feel.”

Hampton is not alone in using social media to create a movement to de-stigmatize and fight addiction. I Am Not Anonymous shares the stories of people in recovery; they tour the country photographing people for their series, and post their photos and stories on their website and social media. (Full disclosure: I was photographed as part of the project).

Social platforms like Instagram and Reddit also have strong recovery communities, and there are numerous apps that help people stay sober and connect with others, too.

However, Hampton is adamant that people don’t need social media to be able to create change. “No matter if you have social media or not—your way of doing this is talking about addiction at the dinner table, to a parent or a friend or an employer. You should not be afraid to tell your story of recovery or loss and, most importantly, your story of struggle and how you need help. It may not just change your life, it may change someone else’s life,” Hampton says.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.

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