My name is John Winslow and I was born in 1949. I’m a person in long-term recovery and am now officially a “Snowbird”- meaning I live with my wife, Monna, in Virginia Beach, Virginia during the summers and on the golden Florida Gulf Coast during wintertime. I’ve got a cat, two grown children, and three grandchildren. I’m officially retired after a lifetime career of working in the addictions field to include prevention, treatment, and recovery advocacy. I feel blessed and deeply grateful for the many gifts bestowed upon me.
I began using alcohol and other substances in my mid-teens. By my late teens I was drinking alcoholically but didn’t have a clue. I was a child of the 60’s – sex, drugs, and rock & roll. I got married at age 18 and was drafted into the service later that same year. Two years later my daughter was born. By that time my addiction had taken over and getting high was now my priority – although I’d never admit it… even to myself. In early 1975 I checked myself into the psychiatric unit of a Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital for 2 months. I didn’t think I was “crazy”, and I knew I must be too young to be an alcoholic. While there I was coerced into attending a local A.A. meeting. I listened to their stories and told myself I wasn’t “that bad”, not realizing those AA folks were going home to sleep in their warm beds that night while I was the one riding back to the “Nut House”. The ensuing year took me down a rapidly spiraling slide into darkness and despair.
My last use of alcohol & other substances was in January 1976. I had just turned 26 years old. That evening culminated in a head-on collision in which I had crossed over the center line and struck the other vehicle. Fortunately, no one was severely injured. I often refer to that night as the best drunk I ever had because it was the catalyst for experiencing what I call my “moment of truth”. I realized I was powerless and defeated, and subsequently experienced a conversion of consciousness. I received wonderful help in the form of an excellent treatment experience followed by strong recovery support and have sought to give back ever since.
My recovery journey eventually enabled me to return to school and obtain a master’s degree, become a Licensed Professional Counselor and work one-on-one and in groups with countless individuals addressing a myriad of addiction-related issues. I eventually established a private practice outpatient treatment program: Addiction Counseling Services which I owned and operated for about 20 years.
My recovery journey has been a spectacular experience. I had the honor of serving in a mental health supportive capacity for the police and fireman during the September 2001 rescue efforts at Ground Zero in New York city. I’ve taught a collegiate course on addiction, presented to law enforcement administrators at the F.B.I. Academy in Quantico, Virginia, served as President of the Maryland Addiction Director’s Council, and had the opportunity to open one of the first Recovery Community Centers in Maryland – the Dri-Dock Recovery & Wellness. I also served as Coordinator of the Recovery Leadership Program for the Maryland chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence. Additionally, my recovery journey has twice taken me to the White House in my role as recovery advocate. Recovery has given me the opportunity to raise a family, be of service to my community, and to live a life of dignity and respect.
As a recovery advocate, I had long pursued the idea of connecting the dots between recovering individuals, families, and communities. This included creating a “Recovery Wall” at Dri-Dock in which we hung framed T-shirts from various recovery organizations located around the country on one of our center’s walls – symbolizing to the recovery newcomer that they were not alone – but part of a larger net of recovery supports. The whole concept was based on the notion that “We can do together what none of us could do alone”!
Most recently I became the founder of a non-profit organization known as International Recovery Day, Inc. The inspiration for the vision of this venture emerged from three converging notions:
- Reading a newly released book by the acclaimed recovery author William (Bill) White: “Recovery Rising”
- In his book, Bill wrote “the effects of an online recovery support service increases in tandem with the number of members using such services, the effects of participating in a recovery celebration event increase in tandem with the number of people participating in such events, etc.”
- Reading a biography on Marty Mann – known as “The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous”
- Marty Mann, under the tutelage of Bill Wilson (co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) was a visionary who went on to found what eventually became known as the National Council on Alcoholism. She had big thoughts and wasn’t afraid to take a risk and put them into action.
- Hearing of the prophecy of “The Spider’s Web Encompassing the Globe” from Don Coyhis – founder of the Native American recovery organization White Bison & the Wellbriety movement.
In the United States today during Recovery Month (September) we have Recovery Events that vary in locations, dates, & times: numbering in the hundreds, we have Recovery Rallies varying in locations, dates, & times: numbering in the thousands, and we have Recovery Walks varying in locations, dates, & times that may even number in the tens of thousands. We also are now seeing pockets of Recovery-related celebrations popping-up worldwide. But how could we possibly connect the dots? What thread could we use to bring everyone together at once? So many different addictions (Food, Gambling, Sex/Love, etc.), so many varying pathways (S.M.A.R.T, Celebrate Recovery, N.A., etc.), so many countries!
I realized that an inclusionary historical on-line global event could transcend geography and time-zones, and bring together folks from all addictions, from all recovery pathways from all around the globe all on the same day, potentially engaging millions of recovering folks (including those with loved-ones in addiction, in recovery, and lost to addiction) demonstrating to the world that we can and do recovery. Thus, the concept of International Recovery Day was born!
Our overarching goal is to globally connect recovering individuals, families, and communities in order to provide worldwide hope to overcome addiction.
We, who are in recovery, want to demonstrate to the world (and one-another) how immense and united a force we have become. We want to shout from the rooftops all around the globe that we DO recovery and offer help and hope to individuals, families, and communities all across the globe. We hope you will help us spread the word about this upcoming historic event.
Registration for International Recovery Day is free but can only be completed online in a few short steps. Our website is: internationalrecoveryday.org
* Coupled with our September 30th free online event is our sister initiative: “Recovery Lights Around the World” in which on the evening of Sept. 30th we light up our town halls, houses, bridges, and state capitols in purple lights.