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Walk Like MADD – Fighting Substance Abuse in Our Community


Patients and staff from A Forever Recovery join the Michigan Chapter of MADD for a 5K walk in Grand Rapids, MI.

There was a slight chill in the air as the first touches of autumn began to show signs around Michigan. Even though it was rather brisk on Saturday, September 12th, 2015, the day was filled with bright sunshine and plenty of smiling to be seen all around Sixth Street Bridge Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dozens of people were there that morning to participate in a fundraiser that took the form of a 5K walk, all to support an organization that stands for an immensely important cause – Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

As the patients at A Forever Recovery find ways to overcome their addictions, one of the most important things that they learn is the ability to give back to the community. For weeks, months, or even years, many of our patients have had a very selfish view of the world around them and the people in it. There is a lack of empathy, and their only concern has been for themselves and how they are going to find their next fix or get their next drink. In recovery from addiction, our patients gain a deeper understanding of the effects that they have on those around them. They discover a desire to help others, to make a difference in the world, and to be the best version of themselves that they possibly can.

Joining in the “Walk Like MADD” fundraiser was an excellent chance for our patients to do just that. It was a chance to get out into the sunshine and join with others in making a difference.

Aaron wanted to take this opportunity to try and turn that experience from a negative one into a positive one. Most of the patients at our treatment center have been in a situation where they could have caused grave physical harm to others. Thankfully, he never took a life, but knowing how he might have ruined or ended someone else’s life due to his own negligence while he was using, he wanted to do his part in helping to keep others from making that same mistake.
“I went to the MADD walk in support of the victims and their families,” says Aaron, one of the patients who participated that day. “When you’re in active addiction using alcohol, you’re not really aware of what you’re doing when you operate a vehicle. It was a great opportunity for me to start reintroducing myself into the community.”

From a Mother’s Pain to a Nation’s Purpose

In 1980, Candace Lightner, a woman who had lost her daughter, Cari, due to the negligence of a person who had made the horrible decision to get behind the wheel of a car after they had been drinking created Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Today, there exist hundreds of MADD offices and affiliates all across the country.

In the 35 years since its foundation, this organization has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the deadly practice of drunk or drugged driving, and to push for stronger laws and harsher punishments for those who pose a dangerous threat to our nation’s roads and highways.Their mission statement declares their intent to:

“To end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking.”

The MADD organization has helped our society make great progress in their mission. In 1980, before the creation of MADD, around 25,000 people died from accidents involving alcohol, approximately half of all traffic deaths in the country. Since new laws have helped to deter drinking and driving, and the recidivism of repeat offenders, that number has dropped dramatically. In 2013, a report stated that 10,076 people were killed due to drunk driving, less than half of the number in the late 70s and early 80s.

Unending Passion for Their Cause
Much of this progress is due to MADD’s unending passion for their cause and the unwavering dedication to the victims and their families. The BAC level (blood alcohol content) to determine just how impaired a driver is was once 0.15%, and MADD participation in President Reagan’s Council on Drunk Driving helped to lower it to 0.10% in 1982. Later, in the early 2000’s, MADD played a vital role in lowering it even further to the current level of 0.08%.

On top of these changes in legislation, MADD has been instrumental in many states imposing ignition interlock devices on vehicles driven by drunk driving offenders. These devices test the BAC of the driver and will not allow the vehicle to be started unless the person in the driver’s seat can pass the breathalyzer. Raising the drinking age to 21 and zero-tolerance laws for drivers under the age of 21 both saw support from MADD. They have created youth alcohol prevention programs, victim advocacy programs, and campaigns for designated drivers. Their work has been a vital part of the fight against substance abuse in our neighborhoods and on our roads.

Making it Matter – Giving a Helping Hand

In everything that MADD has done for our society over the past 35 years, perhaps one of the greatest things that they have given us is a cause to stand behind. As the patients at A Forever Recovery begin to rediscover their empathy for the other people around them, they begin to find that they want to make the world a better place. They feel the need to right the wrongs that they have done in their lives. They want to leave a better mark on society than they have so far.

By joining in at the “Walk Like MADD” event in Grand Rapids that day, Aaron and the other participants took many steps on a path around the Sixth Street Bridge Park. However, as many times as they lifted their feet from the pavement and put them back down, they weren’t just taking steps in a fundraising 5K walk. They were taking steps on the path to recovery from addiction.

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