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A quarterly newsletter from Massachusetts Access to Recovery (ATR) where our efforts to support individuals in recovery intersect.

We often treat our street intersections as meeting points, a place to meet a friend before continuing together to a shared destination. We hope to meet you at The Corner with the same goal in mind: to collaborate, walk together, and work together to better support individuals in recovery.


When the road is dark, we rely on the streetlamps and lights above us to help guide the way. The work we do for those in recovery comes with challenges, but when we hear from ATR participants, they light us up. Our ATR participants are resilient, their courage guides us and inspires us.

Meet Carissa

Every morning, ATR participant, Carissa, wakes up ready for another day of deliveries. Her route consists of tight street corners, deliveries at apartment buildings, houses, and a few tricky parking spots. She looks in her side mirror and sees the message, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” She has seen this message before, but now it means a little bit more.

Read her full story below.

Every morning, Carissa wakes up ready for another day. She showers, brushes her hair, her teeth, and heads out the door for another day of deliveries. Her route consists of tight street corners, deliveries at apartment buildings, houses, and a few tricky parking spots. She looks in her side mirror and sees the message, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” She has seen this message before, but now it means a little bit more. Just over a year ago, her struggles were so close to her that she was unable to see the opportunities waiting for her. She could not see that she was just as deserving of the love she freely gives to those around her. In ATR, Carissa says she was able to step back, create some distance, and take care of herself.

“Tough,” Carissa said, describing her life before ATR. After her two kids were taken into custody by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), she was without an income and in need of support to get back on her feet as she began her recovery journey. Carissa shares, “I stopped caring about me. I was struggling because I didn’t have that many friends or the support of my family.” Her ATR Coordinator, Liz, stepped in to help Carissa get caught up on bills, find some professional clothes for job interviews, and connect her with ATR Career Services. “She was willing to work with me,” Carissa said, and when she began the Paths to Empowerment (P2E) Program, “[Liz] was on top of it, making sure I was ready to start.” Having Liz on her side to touch base with each week kept her motivated for the next step.

The first week of P2E is dedicated to uncovering the individual in each ATR participant. Carissa said, “We’re all in recovery. So, there is a lot of negative that we can focus on,” but in P2E, facilitators want to know, “What are the good things? What are your accomplishments?” She said that instead of listing the things she had done wrong in life, her mindset shifted to the positive, “What is great about you?” She said, “The fact that we were all in a program looking for work and the first thing we focused on was not work – it was us.” Carissa rediscovered her strengths, describing herself as intelligent and hardworking.

After completing P2E, Carissa was ready for the next “steppingstone,” enrolling in the Holyoke Community College Customer Service Training. She learned interpersonal skills like making a good first impression, communication techniques, relationship building, as well as practiced real life scenarios and how to respond to them. In this course, Carissa fine-tuned her resume, interview skills, and her marketability. When she completed the course, she felt more confident, prepared for her interviews, and secured a job as a delivery service provider (DSP) driver.

After all of life’s challenges clouded Carissa’s vision, she was able to take a step back and create the distance she needed to see where she could go next. “My life is still tough; it’s not that those hardships go away. Before, all I could see was tough. Now I see it as manageable,” she said, “Those problems did not go away, but my ability to handle those problems is here now.” With the ability to take care of her kids, manage her recovery, and keep up her hardworking attitude, Carissa hopes to go back to school, finish her bachelor’s degree, and save up to travel with her kids.

During National Recovery Month, we are celebrating the thousands of ATR participants, like Carissa, who have re-ignited their dreams and passions and are taking the steps to make them come true.


When we have exciting updates about the ATR program, you can find them here. Consider this your one-stop-shop for ATR announcements.

Recovery Capital Is For Everyone

Next week, Advocates for Human Potential (AHP) and ATR program staff host the next Working Recovery event focusing on recovery capital. We hope you will join us on Tuesday, September 6, from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. (ET) to learn more. Click here for details and register today!

Read below to learn a bit about what recovery capital is, how individuals in recovery use it, and why we think recovery capital is for everyone.

Media often portrays the worst of addiction, focusing on overly negative, glamorized, or demonized versions of people who use drugs. These portrayals often overlook the scores of people who do recover and join the fight to combat the flawed narrative that addiction is a moral failing or character flaw. Based on a nationally representative sample of US adults, 9.1% or 22.35 million Americans have resolved a substance use problem (Kelly et al., 2017). How have they done it? Well, how have you overcome challenges in your own life?

First, you might take an inventory of the resources you have within your reach. For someone with a substance use disorder (SUD), the depth and breadth of internal and external resources that can help begin and sustain their recovery pathway is called "recovery capital," (Granfield & Cloud, 1999; Cloud & Granfield, 2004). While research differs on how to measure and categorize recovery capital, there are four generally agreed upon domains of recovery capital, including: human capital, physical capital, social capital, and cultural capital. Think of recovery capital as money in the bank - the more you deposit, the more you can withdraw in times of need.

Recovery capital is for everyone because we cannot build it without the support of our communities. When we create institutions and organizations that provide equitable resources to support others, everyone, including those in recovery, benefits. This National Recovery Month, consider how your workplaces, faith communities, neighborhoods, and families can be more equipped to build recovery capital for those around you.

If you want to learn more, join our Working Recovery webinar event on Tues., September 6, where we will explore each of the recovery capital domains and hear from panelists about their lived experiences. Click here to register!


Beep beep! ATR has a lot of moving parts and our team oversees the traffic of incoming participants, ready to begin their recovery path. With that, we know that there are thousands across the nation who are starting their recovery journeys, too. This Traffic Report is where our communities intersect across the state of Massachusetts and across the country.

A Conversation with a Recovery Coach

During National Recovery Month, we want to celebrate the journey individuals go through in recovery. We also want to educate others about recovery, so we went right to the source. We are grateful for the organizations we work with through the ATR Provider Network, including a number of Recovery Coaches, such as Ryan Whitcomb. We asked Ryan a few questions to explore his perspective of recovery as a person who has been through it, around it, and now helps others heal within it.

"You never know what someone is going through. That one conversation, that one act of kindness could change someone's life."

Recovery Coach, Ryan Whitcomb

Ryan Whitcomb describes himself as "the least anonymous person" in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). After working in EMS for 18 years, his substance use disorder (SUD) brought him to the Gavin Foundation where he sought treatment. Ryan found community and connection, beginning a life in recovery almost 5 years ago. We wanted to talk to him about what being a Recovery Coach looks like and how we can learn to better support individuals in recovery.

Thanks for talking with us, Ryan! Let's jump right in. As a Recovery Coach, what is your role in an individual's recovery?

My role is to remove barriers and connect participants with recovery options of their choosing. Every participant has different needs and we really want to provide that wraparound support because, many times, this is not their first time. My job is to keep up with them, help them understand their triggers, and talk to them as they are going through recovery. I will even drive them to or from meetings, whether that's AA, NA, or another support group. I check in with participants and try to talk to them at least once a week and meet face to face once a week. We're not their sponsor, we're not their therapist. We are just someone who has been there; I've been through it.

When you work with a client, how do you provide them with support?

We meet individuals where they are at and it's important that we try to understand their story. The most important part to me is providing that one-on-one support with a participant. We will create a budget plan with them, help them find a primary care doctor, a therapist, and discuss their goals. There are individuals that still have family they are involved with, or children, and we want to make sure to keep that going. If they need help navigating the justice system or getting their kids back, that's really important to a lot of our clients. We find out what they need and provide resources.

What is a common topic you work on with your clients?

First, we work on a relapse (or recurrence) prevention plan. This includes staying away from high-risk situations and knowing their personal warning signs or triggers. Anything that may have caused a relapse in the past, we want to avoid those things or places to prevent one in the future. We make a list of people or groups they can reach out to if they ever need urgent help or support, and we work on coping skills to help them as they go.

We also want to make sure they have a social life. Life doesn't end when you're sober. I remember when everything I did, I had to do with alcohol, and the first year and a half [of recovery] wasn't fun for me. I like to work with participants and get them connected to other sober networks, sober communities, sober softball, and get them engaged with likeminded people. My office is at a recovery center where it is a safe place to come; we hold their eyes up to the whole world out there.

There is a lot of stigma around substance use and recovery in our society. What is one thing you want people to understand about recovery that might ease some of that stigma?

We are not bad people; we are sick people. Addiction can affect anyone. People look down on the people they see on the street drinking out of a paper bag, but there are also people in their houses, hiding it from their wives and husbands. This is a disease.

What would you say to the person who looks down on people with a SUD or in recovery?

Instead of looking down on them, lift them up. You never know what someone is going through. That one conversation, that one act of kindness could change someone's life. It happened to me earlier today. A guy got kicked out of a liquor store, so I start talking to him, tell him where I work, gave him my number, told him my office is right around the corner and to come see me. He might come by - you'd be surprised! Instead of walking by with my head down, stop and talk to someone. People just need help.

What keeps you motivated to do this work?

I worked in EMS for 18 years; it's always been about helping people. Now, it's just a different angle of helping people. In the ambulance, it was helping in an emergency. The Gavin Foundation is where I went for treatment and 5 years later, I'm working for them. It's full circle. I wouldn't go anywhere; I love what I do. When someone finishes their six months in a sober home, it is a complete 180o. It's more than the pay. Seeing participants get back to their families? It's amazing, for both me and the participant.

September is National Recovery Month. How do you hope to see the community advocate for individuals in recovery?

Tell them they are not alone. Addiction can affect anyone. There is support for people in recovery, the key is being able to ask for help.


We are excited to not only share the progress of the ATR program, but also share this space with partnering organizations who are making an impact on individuals in recovery and spotlight their work. In The Rotary, we will host discussions with other organizations as well as discuss important topics that are affecting our community and our participants. In a rotary, you may find yourself in the midst of chaos and confusion, but The Rotary is where we come together to help each other move in the right direction.

September is National Recovery Month and

National Workforce Development Month

September is a special month where we celebrate individuals in recovery for all they have overcome and the ways they have held to their humanity during a time of changes and challenges. In addition to National Recovery Month, we recognize National Workforce Development Month and the importance of everyone who contributes to our nation’s workforce, as well as those entering it.

Read below how ATR prepares participants within their recovery and for the workplace.

In the ATR Paths to Empowerment (P2E) Program, ATR participants are not only meeting new challenges in their early recovery, but also preparing to enter the workforce. We know that when people in recovery are employed, they experience positive life outcomes. We cannot think of a better program to recognize than P2E where ATR participants are celebrated as they hold their humanity in one hand and their potential to create a new future for themselves and their families in the other.

In the first week of P2E, participants are given the opportunity to stretch beyond being just a “person in recovery,” and shed whatever labels the world has given them before. They get to redefine themselves and are reminded that they are more than their substance use disorder. Through different exercises and brain teasers, participants collaborate with each other, share their interests, hobbies, their proudest moments, and who they are.

While P2E is designed to prepare participants with basic computer skills, practice interviews, how to write a resume or cover letter, and prepare for the workplace, the first week of P2E is dedicated to the participant – the individual. During a recent P2E graduation, one ATR participant shared, “This class restored my faith in myself and helped me in preparation for my future.”

This month we celebrate anyone in recovery, whether it has been 10 days or 10 years, you are making an impact in your community by showing up for yourself every day. We also honor those entering and reentering the workforce, building their careers, or creating more accessible and equitable workplaces for all. 


There are always training opportunities, webinars, or events to look forward to. Check in here to put your next destination on the calendar!

Working Recovery: 2022 Webinar

Working Recovery: How to Build Recovery Capital

Connecting Real Lives to the Concept

Last year in September, in celebration of both Labor Day and National Recovery Month, Advocates for Human Potential (AHP) and the Access to Recovery (ATR) program staff hosted our first national virtual symposium, with more than 1,700 registered guests from various fields across the recovery community. Together, we explored the impact employment has on an individual’s sustained recovery from substance use disorder (SUD).

This year, we are excited to host a follow-up virtual webinar: Working Recovery: How to Build Recovery Capital. Join us Tuesday, September 6, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. (ET) to learn what recovery capital is and hear from a panel of guests who will discuss their personal experiences with recovery capital.