Recovery Grads Continue Journey by Helping Others

After years of living in the throes of addiction, Walter Asbury has come to realize that his past is not something to be ashamed of, but to be embraced.

“My story is what sets me free,” Asbury told a warm and enthusiastic crowd of fellow graduates and well-wishers at the Recovery University graduation ceremony at the Institute of Living on Dec. 23. “I’ve been in recovery for 12 years and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.”

Asbury was one of 27 people who earned their Recovery University graduation diploma after completing an 80-hour course training them to become recovery support specialists, working directly to help those who are struggling with the same challenges they have faced.

The course is offered through Advocacy Unlimited Inc. of Connecticut and co-directed by Karen Kangas, PhD, director of peer recovery programs for the Behavioral Health Network. Many of the graduates have been able to get into recovery and stay on track thanks to treatment and care they received at BHN organizations. Kangas and fellow director Paul Acker hugged each of the graduates as they received their diplomas, with family members and friends filling the room with applause.

“Rushford was where it all started for me,” said graduate Edward F. Skiffingyton, who also is a leader on the Rushford Client Advisory Committee. “Now I feel like I am an agent of change. My whole purpose in life is educating others and giving hope.”

Harold I. Schwartz, MD, psychiatrist-in-chief at the Institute of Living, said his organization was proud to host the latest Recovery University graduation ceremony, which is held at various locations.

“I congratulate the work you have done and the great achievement in making the most of your experience and bringing it to bear on behalf of others,” he said.

Kangas, who is herself a person in recovery, said the graduates were among the most impressive class she’s seen since the program began 10 years ago. “You are all living proof that there is always hope, there is always recovery,” she said.