Recorder Staff
Sunday, October 4, 2015
(Published in print: Monday, October 5, 2015)

“The crowd, it’s just this enthusiastic happy crowd that’s just done with being silent, they’re done with being silent about addiction … oh, the surgeon general’s on stage right now,” Linda Sarage said, from the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Sunday evening.

Sarage, director of the RECOVER Project peer-to-peer addiction recovery center in Greenfield, traveled with a group of 40 from the Greenfield community and Holyoke to join the Unite To Face Addiction rally.

Listing performers and speakers from the Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik to White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli, and President Barack Obama by video, Sarage called the rally “historic.”

“Bill White, who is the grandfather of the recovery movement, in 1998 he wrote a piece, ‘Someday, someday we’re going to see leaders of our nation speak about drug use,’ and this is the day, today is the day, Oct. 4,” Sarage said. As national voices took the stage, attendees described a tone far removed from the rhetoric of the war on drugs.

“It’s really a historical day for addiction and recovery. No longer will we treat addiction as a criminal activity or a moral failing,” Sarage said. “I’m sorry, I’m caught up in the energy.”

Greenfield native and Amherst resident Sarah Ahern put the number of attendees at about 10,000 — not the 50,000 hoped for, but not a small crowd. Ahern said she volunteered all day setting up the event, and was headed back to the metro station an hour into the 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. rally.

“I wanted to be part of the national voice that says, ‘This is the day the silence ends, no more shame, no more stigma,’” Ahern said. She has begun an effort to bring the Gloucester Police Department’s widely-publicized Angel Initiative — an open-door policy and a promise to help drug users into treatment — to Franklin County.

“My family, we have four people in recovery, I’ve lost two cousins to the disease and I couldn’t stay silent anymore,” Ahern said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257