Community Keynote: It Takes a Village

Finding ways to help those suffering from drug and/or alcohol abuse is a topic that has perplexed the best minds in the area, especially as drug-related deaths increase and dollars for treatment is more likely to be cut from the state budget than enhanced. Area treatment centers and support groups are doing everything they can to help addicts break the cycle they are trapped within; a cycle which unfortunately will lead to more hospitalizations, incarcerations, and deaths.

First Step Recovery, a part of the Village Family Service Center, has been a leader in the area’s treatment industry for many years. Acutely aware of the addiction issues in Fargo/Moorhead, First Step has continually evolved to meet the needs to drug addicts, alcoholics, and their families.

One of the ways First Step is battling addiction is by bringing recovery speaker William C. Moyers to Fargo on September 28. “William has been an advocate for recovery for many years and is at the forefront of the movement to take addiction and recovery out of the shadows and into the community and public policy discussions,” explained First Step Clinical Director and Primary Counselor Patti Senn. “We believe William will encourage the community to continue to advocate for public policy that supports treatment, promotes family and individual recovery, and further reduces the stigma associated with addiction.”

Moyers’ visit is part of First Step’s recognition of National Recovery Month. Throughout the month of September, treatment centers and recovery groups will be hosting a variety of events geared at increasing public awareness and support for addicts. “His (Moyers) passion and ability to engage his audience and spread the message and hope of recovery for all fits perfectly with the goal of Recovery Month,” Senn said.

Recovery is not a solitary activity, nor is motivating a paradigm shift towards greater support and funding. Together, the FM area is hoping the many activities scheduled during September can begin that movement. “We hope all of these events continue to increase awareness of the devastation caused by addiction and more importantly, send the message of hope and help for recovery for individuals, families, and the community at large,” Senn explained.

For Moyers, the topic of addiction has both personal and professional implications. “I am the vice president of public affairs and community relations at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and I am a person in recovery,” he said. “I overcame addiction to alcohol and drugs back in the 90s.” Moyers has managed to meld his personal and professional history into an identity as a national advocate for addiction, treatment, and recovery. “I advocate for unmasking the stigma of addiction and promoting the recovery from it.”

Although Moyers didn’t initially see a career in public speaking, he quickly realized it was needed. “Right away I realized we (the addiction and recovery field) had no voice,” he said. “In participating in dialogue about how to respond to the war on drugs and how to get insurance companies to stop discrimination against people and families in recovery, I discovered the power of my story.”

One of the hallmarks of any recovery program is the belief that nobody helps addicts better than other, recovering addicts. It is within this vein that Moyers found his true purpose. “What I have learned over the decades is that I can be a beacon of hope for people who don’t know what to do to overcome their substance abuse,” he said. “I started speaking because I thought it was the best way to be an advocate, but now I know I can be a source of hope for people.”

In addition to bringing Moyers to Fargo, First Step is also sponsoring the first annual Dick Beardsley Run for Recovery on September 22nd. According to Senn, all funds raised directly support the First Step Recovery Family Program. “First Step Recovery is the only agency in the area that provides a Family Program as part of its treatment program,” she said. “We believe addiction is a family disease and that a person’s ability to find recovery improves when family members are involved in the treatment process.”

First Step’s Family Program is offered free of charge. So far in 2016, the treatment agency has provided over $76,000 in family services, which include individual and family group sessions and educational materials, all with no cost to the participants.

Whether you attend Moyers’ speech, participate in the Run for Recovery, or donate your time and resources in other ways, you are an important part of the area’s recovery efforts. Addiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Neither does recovery.

The William C. Moyers Community Keynote will take place on September 28th at 7:30 pm at Avalon West in Fargo. Tickets are $8 and can be obtained at William Moyers Community Keynote.

The Dick Beardsley Run for Recovery (either a 5K Run or a 1K Fun Run/Walk) will be held on September 22nd beginning at 5:30 pm in Lindenwood Park. To register for the Recovery Run or to support someone who is, visit First Step Run for Recovery.

Information on both events and how you can show your support can be found at First Step Recovery or by contacting Patti Senn at


By Jamee Larson