Recovering out loud — very loud, with heavy metal music blasting through the Forks — was the theme of Winnipeg’s second annual Recovery Day, celebrating those getting past addictions.
"It’s really important to celebrate recovery," said Aurora Recovery Centre’s Ian Rabb, himself a recovering addict. "We’re so burdened in our city and our province, every day hearing about the meth crisis and opiate overdoses, I consider it a health crisis… but today we’re celebrating people that can get free of drugs and alcohol and do different things with their life."
Recovery used to be anonymous, but more and more people are now speaking publicly to lift the stigma, like keynote speaker Mackenzie Phillips — a former child star and recovering addict.
"I insist on recovering out loud," Phillips said. "Everybody knew my struggles, my addiction was so well covered in the press, so why not be open about being well?" she said.
Phillips recently starred on the sixth season of Orange is the New Black as a drug-dealing character who also goes through recovery. She said more TV shows accurately depicting addiction — and that it’s not a moral failure — will help fight stigma.
"I am so supportive of any movement, any event, that’s working to normalize recovery and make all of us who are in recovery just as valuable and meaningful as anybody else," Phillips said. "I’m very much interested in anything that chips away at the stigma."
Families and friends teared up as they visited a display to celebrate those in recovery, and those lost to overdose and suicide.
The two paintings of trees — one drenched in sunlight, the other lit by moonlight — were adorned with pictures of those lost, and those saved.
Artist Ruby Rain, herself a recovering addict, created the paintings at the request of Beyond Boundaries Academy and Aurora Recovery Centre.
"It’s a very emotional and healing experience," Rain said. "I’m just really honoured to be able to do this."
Families pinned pictures of loved ones on the paintings with Rain’s help, several of them tearing up or asking for a hug and sharing their stories with her.
"I wanted to start with the night sky, the lost piece first, because I knew it would be the hardest," Rain said. "When I was painting it, I had a lot of the people we lost in my heart."
But creating the sunlit tree, she felt the spark of hope that’s driven her own four-year recovery.
"I did not think I would be able to get sober, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done," Rain said. "But it’s been amazing. Being in recovery, you’re choosing to learn how to live. It’s incredible."
Tessa Vanderhart is interested in everything, but especially local news, health policy and statistics.
Updated on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 3:29 PM CDT: Adds photo