April 04, 2019
When Malik Williams mentions that he's a person in addiction recovery, there is sometimes a noticeable shift in the conversation.
It's a stigma he said he faces often – even in his photography business.
"It's not outspoken sometimes," Williams said. "I say, 'Hey I'm in recovery.' And you can just get a feel or a vibe that the whole conversation has changed. All of it isn't verbal. A lot of it is just a feeling that you get. Sometimes you can feel embarrassed, or shameful. Those are some of the things that I had to face."
Williams and Lisa Kelley hope to break down that stigma by discussing their respective experiences with addiction in a new podcast being launched by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation. Both Williams and Kelly are among the people featured in the foundation's "Someone You Know" campaign.
The IBX Foundation has announced the podcast – available here – as one way it is expanding the campaign, a public awareness effort to reduce the stigma of opioid addiction. In addition, there will be a new associate, or support, group for people touched by addiction.
The campaign also added 10 new ambassadors – people whose stories highlight the paths to recovery. Their stories will be featured on a mobile exhibit that will travel to colleges, corporate campuses and community events throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania.
The campaign is part of IBX's commitment to joining "a movement that will not be stopped," Chief Executive Officer Daniel J. Hilferty said Thursday.
"Businesses have a role to play in changing the paradigm around recovery," he added. "We've got to be more open to making sure that we cover the treatment that our employees need. We need to be more involved with the provider community so that the follow up is there."
Inpatient care not only helps people battling addiction when they need it, Hilferty said, but it reduces long-term health care costs.
"We created this 'Someone You Know' program so we could go out and educate folks about the substance abuse disorder crisis and show them that whether they are in the throes of addiction or they are related to someone ... that we would become a safe haven," Hilferty said. We wanted to become "a place where they could come, engage in dialogue and understand the disease better and get connected to professionals that could help them."
The support group will serve as a place for people to share various experiences surrounding opioid addiction. People can share their road to recovery. Families can share the struggles of helping someone battling opioid addiction. Lost loved ones can be grieved.
As for the podcast, Williams said he wants to highlight that all sorts of people have battled addiction, adding that it's not due to a "personal or moral deficiency."
"Everyone that's in addiction isn't just a bad person," Williams said. "I was raised with morals, principles, respect. I never lost those things, even when I was in my addiction. It's hard to explain. I didn't lose them, but at the same time, the life I was living, you wouldn't have had a chance to see them, either."
The first episode highlights the relationship between Williams and Kelley, who first met at the Kensington Storefront, where she serves as an artist.
Kelley, who raised a foster son who is currently in recovery, is completing her Epidemic project, a collection of 192 panels being placed in parks around Kensington. Each panel features woven fabric strips containing the wishes, prayers and memories of people affected by addiction.
Like Williams, Kelley said she hopes the podcast helps eliminate the stigma of addiction.
"I talk a little bit about this pin that I have that says 'Naloxone Saves Lives,'" Kelley said, referencing the overdose antidote. "I hope when people see that pin, they ask me about it and it starts a conversation and maybe a connection. And maybe it can change somebody's mind about the humanity of somebody else."