My name is John Winslow. I’m a person in long-term recovery, which for me means that I haven’t used alcohol or other addictive substances since January 21st, 1976. I’m now officially a “Snowbird”- meaning I live with my wife, Monna, in Virginia Beach, Virginia during the summers and on the golden Florida Gulf Coast during wintertime. I’ve got a cat, two grown children, and three grandchildren. I’m officially retired after a lifetime career of working in the addictions field to include prevention, treatment, and recovery advocacy. I feel blessed and deeply grateful for the many gifts bestowed upon me.
My last use of alcohol & other substances was in January 1976. I had just turned 26 years old. That evening culminated in a head-on collision in which I had crossed over the center line and struck the other vehicle. Fortunately, no one was severely injured. I often refer to that night as “the best drunk I ever had” because it was the catalyst for experiencing what I call my “moment of truth”. I realized I was powerless and defeated, and subsequently experienced a conversion of consciousness. I received wonderful help in the form of treatment and recovery support and have sought to give back ever since. My recovery journey enabled me to return to school and obtain a master’s degree, become a Licensed Professional Counselor and work one-on-one and in groups with countless individuals addressing a myriad of addiction-related issues. It’s taken me to the White House in my role as recovery advocate (I was even invited back a second time). I had the honor of serving in a mental health supportive capacity for the police and fireman at Ground Zero during the September 2001 rescue efforts, I’ve taught a collegiate course on addiction, presented at the F.B.I. Academy, served as President of the Maryland Addiction Director’s Council, and had the opportunity to open one of the first Recovery Community Centers in Maryland – the Dri-Dock Recovery & Wellness Center. Recovery has given me the opportunity to raise a family, be of service to my community, and to live a life of dignity and respect.
I had long pursued the idea of connecting the dots between recovering individuals, families, and communities on a smaller scale. This included creating a “Recovery Wall” at Dri-Dock in which we hung T-shirts from various recovery organizations around the country on one of our walls – symbolizing to the newcomer that they were not alone, but part of a larger net of recovery supports. The whole concept based on the notion that “We can do together what none of us could do alone”!
I subscribe the inspiration for the vision of creating International Recovery Day to have come from three converging notions: (a) reading William (Bill) White’s “Recovery Rising”; (b) reading a biography on Marty Mann – “the first lady of Alcoholics Anonymous”; and (c) hearing of the prophecy of the Spyder’s Web encompassing the globe from Don Coyhis – founder of the Native American recovery organization White Bison & the Wellbriety movement, but ultimately, I attribute the idea as coming from my Higher Power/The Universe.
- Marty Mann, under the tutelage of Bill Wilson (co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) was a visionary who went on to found what eventually became known as the National Council on Alcoholism. She had big thoughts and wasn’t afraid to take a risk and put them into action.
- Bill wrote “the effects of an online recovery support service increases in tandem with the number of members using such services, the effects of participating in a recovery celebration event increase in tandem with the number of people participating in such events, etc.”
- I coupled those concepts with Don Coyhis’s Spider Web prophesy – giving birth to a BIG idea.
In the United States today during Recovery Month (September) we have Recovery Events that vary in locations, dates, & times: numbering in the hundreds, we have Recovery Rallies varying in locations, dates, & times: numbering in the thousands, and we have Recovery Walks varying in locations, dates, & times that may even number in the tens of thousands. We also are now seeing pockets of Recovery-related celebrations popping-up worldwide. But how could we possibly connect the dots? What thread could we use to bring everyone together at once? So many different addictions (Food, Gambling, Sex/Love, etc.), so many varying pathways (S.M.A.R.T, Celebrate Recovery, N.A., etc.), so many countries!
I realized that an inclusionary historical on-line global event could transcend geography and time-zones, and bring together folks from all addictions, from all recovery pathways from all around the globe all on the same day, potentially engaging millions of recovering folks (including those with loved-ones in addiction, in recovery, and lost to addiction) demonstrating to the world that we can and do recovery. Thus, the concept of International Recovery Day was born!
* Coupled with our September 30th free online event is our sister initiative: “Recovery Lights Around the World” in which on the evening of Sept. 30th we light up our town halls, houses, bridges, and state capitols in purple lights.
I believe technology is a double-edged sword. It can serve the cause of good or ill. Channeled in a positive direction with good intention we can harness its ability in a variety of ways to reach many more people in need of education, support, and hope.
We will always have nay-sayers. We will always have charlatans. We will always have folks with an ego-driven agenda. However, I have no reason to believe that we will not also always have honest, passionate, humble, dedicated wisdom-driven people willing to step forward in faith to help the recovery movement navigate an uncertain future toward a brighter pathway.
There are MANY pieces of advice that I’d offer to a “newcomer”. One that resonates deeply within me is the concept of “To Thine Own Self Be True”. Listen to the “old-timers” experienced in successful life-navigation beyond putting down that first drink or drug, then look within yourself and your truth and eventual pathway will reveal itself.
“Faith is believing in spite of the evidence… and then watching the evidence change!” Jim Wallis