Recovering addicts, former judicial officers and community members came together Saturday afternoon for a community event hosted by New Mexico Alumni in Recovery aimed at celebrating wellness and recovery.
The event, which took place at Santa Fe’s Harley-Davidson store, included speakers from the Administrative Office of the Court’s Department for Therapeutic Justice, the Office of Peer Recovery and Engagement, and retired state Supreme Court Justice Barbara J. Vigil in celebration of National Recovery Month.
“This group is a brilliant idea because when you graduate from Drug Court, recovery doesn’t stop then,” Vigil said.
“You all, having gone through the recovery, the hard work, the sacrifice, the pain and suffering that you felt, that your families have felt, you also have the responsibility and honor to reach down and help others,” she added.
New Mexico Alumni in Recovery offers classes and support to Drug Court graduates. Founder Carlos Gonzales, who now works at the Administrative Office of the Courts, shared how a judge spared him from a prison sentence.
“I should have been in prison for 18 years if it wasn’t for Judge Mike and these programs and people like retired Justice Barbara Vigil,” Gonzales said. “People that look at something else in others and say, ‘There’s something in there that can change.’ ”
A ride sponsored by the Doomstriker’s law enforcement motorcycle club, escorted by state police, kicked off the event. It also featured live music, food and raffles.
Robert Mitchell, a senior statewide manager for Problem Solving Courts, said the event celebrated the wider scope of National Recovery Month.
“The judges and people who are here today, they are the heroes,” Mitchell said.
The sentiment was echoed by Reese McAlister, event co-organizer and president of New Mexico Alumni in Recovery, who said the day was meant to honor those in recovery and make people aware of various services offered in the state.
“It was really the idea that we’d be able to talk about recovery and reach people who are trying to learn more about it,” he said.
Amid motorcycle rides, food and music were heartfelt testimonies from recovering addicts, many of whom are now involved in the organizations aimed at supporting others struggling with addiction. One anecdote came from Nathan Lawson.
“One time I called my probation officer, said, ‘Catch me if you can,’ before hanging up and going on the run,” Lawson told the attendees. He has been sober for seven years now and works as a training coordinator for the Office of Peer Recovery and Engagement.
Melisha Montaño, a recovering addict who has been sober for 11 years, now heads up the Office of Peer Recovery and Engagement program and uses her story to reach those in need who are struggling with addiction.
“We are not anonymous people,” Montaño said. “We don’t do this loop of jails and institutions anymore. We help those who are out there because we can share our stories of success.”