Empowering Young People in Recovery 

“Being in recovery is more than abstaining from a behavior —it’s about resiliency. We want to show people that the things they’ve gone through can actually be transformed as the building blocks to changing the world.”  Justin Luke Riley


By Barbara Nicholson-Brown

It’s National Recovery Month, the annual observance held for the last 29 years to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life. Recovery Month reinforces the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.

Millions of Americans lives have been transformed through recovery. Recovery Month provides a vehicle for everyone to celebrate these accomplishments. Tens of thousands of prevention, treatment, and recovery programs and facilities around the country take part. They speak about the gains made by those in recovery and share their success stories with their neighbors, friends, and colleagues. In doing so, everyone helps increase awareness and furthers a greater understanding about the diseases of mental and substance use disorders. (www.recoverymonth.org)

Arizona’s Celebration

Now in its 13th year, Celebrate the Art of Recovery Expo (CARE) is one of Arizona’s largest community events offering educational workshops, resources and solutions in addiction treatment and behavioral health, with the opportunity to meet many of the leading professionals in this industry. Attendees will learn about awareness, education, family recovery and prevention.
CARE is honored to welcome Justin Luke Riley as Keynote Speaker. He offers compelling, articulate thoughts on the topic of recovery to promote the fact that people CAN and DO recover each and every day. Justin has been in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder since 2007, and we are certain he will inspire you. He is Founder of Young People in Recovery (youngpeopleinrecovery.org).

We invite you, your family and friends to join the Celebration on Saturday, September 22 at the Phoenix Convention Center. (www.celebratetheartofrecovery.org) for complete details.

In a recent interview with Justin I asked:

  • Give us a history of your use of drugs and alcohol, and how old were you when it started?

By all accounts, I was a great kid, and had an awesome family. What people didn’t know was I had a growing substance use disorder. I started misusing substances at eight years old — but it wasn’t until I was 14,  I began to create substantial obstacles in my life. Luckily, I was 19 when I finally entered into my 11 year long recovery journey.

  • You attended seven treatment centers before reaching long term sobriety, tell us about that.

Though I was fortunate enough to experience multiple treatment and recovery modalities, it was not until I had a spiritual awakening that my life began to change forever. A belief in a higher power and life dedicated to altruism were my two biggest epiphany’s.

  • What advice would you give parents who suspect their child is struggling with addiction?

Talk with them, without judgment. Talk to them to understand, not to dictate solutions. At least not at first. Listen to them, remind them of your love for them, and then begin exploring solutions together.
Having someone in long term recovery to work with you is always a wise way to begin finding solutions.

  • How do you respond when someone says that recovery needs to remain anonymous?

Though there are programs that work, in large part because of anonymity, I choose to let a lot of people know that I am in recovery so I can give them hope. Again, I believe in anonymity and never want to force someone or a program to abandon that important principle.

  • How can a family best support a loved one in recovery?

Ask them. Ask them what is helpful for them, because it differs from person to person. However, generally, if you listen to them, learn from them, love them, and also uphold your own boundaries, a family can get through this together.

Many young people see getting high or drunk as a rite of passage, and if they get sober they will be missing out on “fun” or not part of the crowd.  How can we change that perception?
This is one of the biggest reasons we need to lift up amazing recovery stories, so people know that people can and do recovery. And to make to sure people know that you can still have fun in recovery.

  • How did YPR start and what is its Mission? 

A group of young people that were in recovery wanted to show that young people can and do recovery as well as they are strategically poised to bring revolutionary recovery solutions to the world! Young People in Recovery (YPR) provides the training and networks all individuals, families, and communities need to recover and maximize their full potential. YPR accomplishes this through chapters, programs and advocacy efforts.

  • How do young people get involved and  energized to become part of YPR?

They find our of us from social media and word of mouth. Locally, people can join our chapters and participate in pro social events, learn about advocacy, get support from workshops on employment, housing, education, and even learn about other pathways of recovery by attending an all recovery meeting. Plus, they can apply to lead a chapter of their own. 

  • How to you continue to stay on the road to recovery?

Faith, family, generosity, service to others, and being steeped in recovery advocacy is what works for me.