Long before opoid abuse rose to national attention, Gwen Lanier of Kalamazoo had been helping people get clean through her Mothers of Hope, a grassroots nonprofit that this year turns 20 years old. Now, her group is taking its fight against drugs to the streets with its first Walk for Recovery on July 27th and invites all allies to attend. "We're going to do chants like, 'Up with hope, down with dope! Hugs, not drugs!'" she says.
Lanier talks about the upcoming walk on today's WestSouthwest, a news and public affairs show on WMUK 102.1 FM, the National Public Radio station at Western Michigan University. She plans to hold the event every year.
The free walk starts at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of Allen Chapel AME Church, located at 804 W. North St. in northern Kalamazoo. First, a recovering drug user and a youngster from a home affected by substance abuse will briefly address the crowd. Then the walk will begin.
"We're looking forward to this wonderful unified turnout of people, from all over coming together, and walking through the neighborhood and giving hope to the neighborhood," Lanier says.
Lanier says the walk is intended to create awareness about the Mothers of Hope's Celebration of Recovery being held a week later for recovering and active drug users, as well as their friends and family members. The celebration is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the group's headquarters at 603 Ada St. in Kalamazoo.
There, two tents will be erected: One tent is for loved ones and friends; the other for those in recovery or still using drugs. Each tent will have speakers from its particular demographic. For example, people in the tent for relatives will hear the personal story of someone like them, according to Lanier.
Mothers of Hope plans to put on the Walk for Recovery annually, always followed by the Celebration of Recovery.
"Gathering together up under a tent, exchanging stories and suggestions, could have an outcome of us coming back together and trying to figure out what could we do next that could be effective," Lanier explains.
According to Lanier, one of the most overlooked groups in the recovery process are the friends and relatives of substance abusers.
She says they sometimes suffer just as much as the user, adding that she can't imagine the pain that she caused her own mother and her three children when she herself was addicted, ultimately escalating to becoming an intravenous drug user.
Lanier is thankful to have made it to 65. She's been in recovery for 30 years, she says, and is committed to helping others become drug-free, too.
"There's still some more Gwens out on the street that are addicted."
She adds: "I don't think there's any kid that their dream is to be a drug abuser."
Hear the longer interview here.
WestSouthwest news & public affairs show airs Mondays and Thursdays on WMUK 102.1 FM at 7:34 a.m., 9:34 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. You can subscribe to the WestSouthwest podcast through Apple podcasts and Google Music. There you can leave a rating and write a review.