At the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy, our role is to envision and passionately pursue a new future. A future where alcohol and other drugs are less of a drain on individual lives, families and communities. A future where fewer people develop substance use disorders, more people get the help with the treatment they need, and all people in recovery are able to live unimpeded by discrimination. But how? How do we inform public perceptions and understanding, reform public policies and practices, and—at the same time—tear down the sometimes subtle stigma that makes education and reform so challenging? More research and innovation? More public and private investment? More collaboration and integration? Yes, yes and yes. All of that. But there's something even more fundamental that can change both the hearts and minds of those we seek to influence, and those we seek to help: our recovery stories. Let's face it—people still sick with addiction are not effective at shaping public understanding, perceptions, policies or practices. Neither are doctors, police officers, teachers or parents who have experienced others' sickness but have never seen recovery. In fact, most among us (indeed, many of us at one time) unwittingly work against the cause of developing an accurate understanding of alcohol or other drug addiction among the public. So, when you think about it, the only path to the bigger solutions is the one paved by our recovery stories. We need drug and alcohol addiction recovery stories just to hold the inaccurate, stigmatizing, half-stories at bay. And we need lots and lots of recovery stories—millions—if we want to reduce the stigma of addiction meaningfully over time. That's why several colleagues and I were so grateful for the opportunity to contribute our recovery stories to a "Brief but Spectacular" feature that aired on the PBS NewsHour. When we share our stories, people tend to reach out, replacing silence and isolation with dialogue and connection. And folks who need help like I once did, and support like I still enjoy, suddenly find it. Watch a brief segment of the PBS series: I'm grateful to help others share their stories too, like the remarkable one of a woman who was admitted the first day the Betty Ford Center opened in 1982, planting the seeds for her brother, son and grandson to eventually start their recoveries there too. Most of us know addiction sometimes travels through families, but it's nice to let the public know recovery can too! And it's always nice to pay tribute to Mrs. Ford, whose own very public recovery story has impacted so many for so long. We also begin to discover the subtler, hidden signs of the stigma we're trying to smash. When praised for my "courage" to share, for example—a totally well-meaning gesture, to be sure—I hear the implication that I may or ought to be fearful or inclined to keep a secret—that maybe there is some shame I am acknowledging. By contrast, it's hard to imagine people with heart disease sharing that they had bypass surgery and getting applauded for the "courage" to reveal such information. In exposing such perceptions and thinking, and discussing them, we begin to show and see addiction in a more accurate light. And so too does the world. That was the vision of another recovery advocacy pioneer who predated Mrs. Ford by many years—the late, great Marty Mann, for whom the women's unit at Hazelden in St. Paul is named and whose 2001 biography is from Hazelden Publishing. In a historic 1955 talk at Hazelden, Mann referred to the nation's "conspiracy of silence," borne of ignorance and also perpetuated by it. Her solution: massive, constant, long-term education. "Education," she said, "designed to completely change public attitudes, not just on the intellectual level, but on the feeling and therefore acting level." The kind of education that can only be accomplished through the power of our personal stories. If you have one, and are drawn to the call of advocacy, I encourage you to share it with someone today.