Home > Voices of recovery to use lived experience from alcohol harm to drive change.

[Alcohol Action Ireland] Voices of recovery to use lived experience from alcohol harm to drive change. (28 Sep 2023)

External website: https://alcoholireland.ie/voices-of-recovery-to-us...

Campaign launched ahead of International Recovery Day of Sept 30, includes well-known recovery advocates Olympic boxer Kenneth Egan, Senator Frances Black and singer Mary Coughlan.


 Alcohol Action Ireland has launched a new initiative, Voices of Recovery, to harness the lived experience of people in recovery from alcohol harm to drive much needed policy change.


The initiative, led by people in recovery from alcohol, aims to remove the stigma around getting help for alcohol problems and to drive evidence-based policy change on issues such as better alcohol treatment services, curbs on alcohol marketing and holding the alcohol industry to account for the harm its product causes.


The first 10 signatories to the initiative include well-known recovery advocates Olympic boxer Kenneth Egan, Senator Frances Black and singer Mary Coughlan. 


Chair of Alcohol Action Ireland, Prof Frank Murray, said:


“Alcohol is an addictive substance that we as a society glorify, normalise and market – so it’s inevitable people will develop a problem. But when they do, there can be immense shame and stigma. This should not be the case. We constantly hear from the alcohol industry – whether it’s through marketing or via the media looking for tax breaks, even as their profits soar. It’s long past time that we hear from the people affected by alcohol harm – the missing voice, up to now in the narrative around alcohol harm.”


Kenneth Egan, well-known recovery champion, psychotherapist and also Olympic medalist, is one of the campaigns ‘voices’.  He said: “I am doing this to reach out to people and say – it’s OK to speak out and to reach out for help. Recovery is possible and you can do it and everyone should know that.”


Mr Egan also spoke about the impact of alcohol on his mental health. “I was using alcohol as a mask, a way to escape. I was a very chaotic binge drinker and I didn’t find the real me until I stopped drinking. My sobriety is the most important thing to me – even more than my Olympic medal. I hope that Voices of Recovery will break down the stigma around seeking help and allow people to be more open about what’s going on in their lives.”


Paddy Creedon, board member of AAI and the driving impetus behind the initiative said: “I’m delighted to see this initiative get off the ground. The lone voice is never heard so that’s why we have come together collectively to let our lived  experiences be heard. We have a vision to mobilise the ‘recovery community’ (individuals in recovery, family, friends, recovery agencies also) into community recovery advocate networks that will work together to bring about change at policy level and improve access to recovery services for all. For example, we have seen the recent issue with the marketing of zero alcohol products. They are not suitable for children, but they are also not suitable for people in recovery and that needs to be heard.”


Prof Murray added:


“This is a powerful group of voices that we have not harnessed and heard from before. In other areas of health, people speak out to raise funds, campaign, get better treatment services, but when it comes to alcohol, unfortunately, people don’t feel as at ease to speak out. This will hopefully change with the Voices of Recovery campaign. By understanding and listening to people’s experiences with this lens, it should become easier for politicians to make the right decisions around alcohol harm.  


In Ireland, 15% of the population have an alcohol use disorder – nearly 600,000 people. Behind such an alarming statistic are stories of devastation for individuals and their families. Yet in Ireland, alcohol is glorified as a central part of how our lives are organised. This is pushed by the massively profitable global alcohol industry and facilitated by weak and frequently incoherent government policy in this area. We would like to see an Alcohol Office for harm reduction within the department of health to drive policy change for alcohol issues that span so many areas of life.”

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