Recovery Fair was not something I could have imagined when I first got sober in 2000 and thought sobriety meant talking about the good old days with a bunch of tattooed losers and never having fun again (I assumed sober people got their kicks by holding hands and singing Kumbaya). Once I cleaned myself up, however, I saw that addiction had prevented me from learning some of the basics about how to live, and it made me think that creating a day that showed just how much fun sober people could have—and also introducing them to the people, services and products that would show them how to live better, whether it was a chiropractor, an accountant to help straighten out those long-avoided tax returns or a non-alcoholic cooking powder wine so they could make coq au vin without worrying that they hadn’t sautéed all the wine off—might be a good idea.
So The Fix, a daily Web site for alcohol and drug addiction recovery news that I help edit, partnered with rehabber The Hills and threw the first-ever Recovery Fair on Saturday, November 10th, where friendships were formed, children’s faces were painted, and no one sang a note of Kumbaya. Here are five of my favorite moments from the day:
1. Meeting Candy Finnigan.
Like most sober addicts—and people—in the free world, I’ve gone through my obsessions with A&E’s Intervention, from the first episode with Gabe the gambler through Alison the huffer and many more. It didn’t take many viewings for me to be blown away by Candy Finnigan’s intervention techniques. Firm without ever being cruel, warm but not indulgent, she typifies, to me, the way people need to speak to addicts and their families if they’re going to be heard. (I also like how this photo somehow looks like I’m talking to her as she’s about to embark on an African safari.)
2. Getting help the other-fashioned way.
I’ll admit it: I, like probably a lot of people, thought that crystal healing belonged somewhere between primal scream therapy and past life regression on the list of ideas to get behind. But then I got a back-of-the-head headache just before the fair opened to the public and Rachel Zabar, who was providing the day’s crystal healing, handed me a geode that she said would ease my pain. I didn’t bother to explain that Advil doesn’t do me any good or that the 21 drops headache aromatherapy oil I bought at Sephora had proven useless. I clutched the crystal as I ran around trying to get things organized. At some point a few hours later, I realized I was still grasping it, and also that my headache was gone.
3. Mimes and volunteers rock.
First of all, I loved the fact that we had a mime. And secondly I loved how many people volunteered their time that day—including Elizabeth, who’s the young woman standing next to the mime in the photo above. She’s interning at The Hills and was assigned the task of helping me out the day of the fair. The reason she’s volunteering—and thus making and holding posters with three stop signs on them while standing with a mime? She wants to be a psychiatrist. She’s 16. When I was 16, I wanted my parents to go out of town so I could throw a party. You hear so much today about how the youth of America are coddled and unmotivated; well, Elizabeth could teach us all a few things.
4. Introducing my boss to Dr. Drew.
Dr. Drew has been something of a mentor to me and I believe that what he does to spread awareness about addiction is impossible to quantify. I’d promised my boss, Paul McCulley—who, along with Howard Samuels, the owner of The Hills (standing next to Drew in the photo above), financed the event—that he would show up for us. And he did. I look like a member of the paparazzi in the photo and couldn’t care less (that’s rare).
5. Recovery is not nearly as boring as it sounds.
Of course a Recovery Fair sounds boring. But the simple fact of the matter is that addiction, with its repetitiveness and hopelessness and mundanity, is what’s tedious. The fair, and recovery, is anything but. If it takes a big chest to prove that to other people—hey, we’re going to do whatever we have to in order to get the word out.
Anna David is the executive editor of The Fix.
Photographs by Gil Cortes