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Recovery rally tackles addiction's stigma

A Murfreesboro resident’s inspiring story in successfully battling an addiction has led to his selection to attend a national “recovery rally” in New York City today.

“It is a daily struggle,” said 51-year-old Richard Soper. “You just take it one day at a time.”

Soper practices psychiatry primarily in the Nashville area and is president of the Tennessee Society of Addiction Medicine. He will be one of 51 delegates as thousands of individuals and families in recovery, treatment partners and advocates form a human chain across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Recovery Rally, organized to take place during National Recovery Month in partnership with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, will mark the launch of The Recovery Project, a multi-year initiative of A&E Network, federal agencies and leading nonprofits to help raise awareness that addiction is a treatable disease and that recovery is possible.

“We reviewed a couple of finalist delegates from Tennessee and Richard’s story rose to the top not only because of the intensity of his struggle, but what he has achieved and given back to the community,” said John Hartinger, a spokesman for A&E Network.

Soper said he had engaged in “self-destructive behaviors” and has been in remission for 17 years.

In addition to his private practice, he authored a 14-page document in 2006 which requested comprehensive review of state statutes dealing with substance abuse and addiction.

He gave it to the Tennessee Medical Association, which took it to the Tennessee Legislature “to ask them to conduct a comprehensive review to bring into the 21st century statutes on the Tennessee books that are still punishing and stigmatizing people and to educate law enforcement, child services and other entities regarding alcohol, substance abuse and other disorders.”

Soper hopes events such as the rally help remove the stigma of addiction.

“It ruins lives and families,” he said. “(But) only a few people get treatment because of the punitive mindset of society. Money can be saved, people’s lives can be returned to health and functional daily activities.”

Following the symbolic bridge to recovery, a public rally will be held at City Hall park in Manhattan. The entire rally will last about five hours.

“I think it is an honor,” Roper said. “Hopefully, this something that will remove the stigma.”

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