Recovering Together Cafes: Conversations to Promote Recovery and Well-Being

America has been encountering an opioid epidemic that has been consistently on the rise. From 1999-2017, almost 400,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids. * To be clear, America’s approach to how we view and treat a national drug epidemic has not, historically, been consistent. Bring to mind the crack epidemic of the 1980’s and 90’s.  The crack epidemic primarily impacted poor Black and Brown people across the country and as such, the response was to punish the addict with lengthy jail sentences and unjust laws.  The narrative shaped for the face of poor, Black and Brown addicts was that they were criminals, animals or “super predators”, if you will, not deserving of compassion but rather people to be feared and locked up behind prison walls.  While opioid addiction does not discriminate, the face at the center of this epidemic is white people.  In contrast, the opioid epidemic is viewed with much more compassion and the approach to dealing with this problem has been a push for treatment rather than incarceration.  Over the last 20 years, the focus has been a preventative effort to work with those who are suffering from opioid addition. Recovery centers across the United States are working to cater programs to the needs of those they serve.

Recovery is a multi-step process; taking the recoveree through acknowledging their addiction to being in active recovery and maintaining sobriety. There is no ideal path to recovery; every person’s journey is unique to them. In essence, no two recovery programs are the same. There are many challenges that come with maintaining sobriety and it is much more than just recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol; it is a complete transformation of the mind, body and spirit.

Last year, Be Strong Families debuted Vitality Cafes: a process modeled after Parent Cafes, with questions grounded in 6 domains of vitality (physical, spiritual, emotional/mental, financial, social and environmental) to promote holistic wellness. Since then, Be Strong Families has been approached by agencies in the recovery community to respond to the opioid crisis by adapting Vitality and Parent Cafes with a specific focus on peer-to-peer conversations to support the recovery process. A collaboration effort was born to develop "Recovering Together Cafés." We believe that these new cafés will fulfill a very important need in the recovery process – that of an effective, non-clinical, peer-to- peer support that will assist sustaining motivation for people in recovery, their families, and their communities. Be Strong Families has been in collaboration with North East Treatment Centers and the Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center to co-create a deck and a training institute curriculum with partners who have combination of lived, and professional experience in the addiction recovery field.

We used Appreciative Inquiry to uncover our positive core and discover the best of what is– the strengths, wisdom, experience, passion, expertise, training, and skills that each team member and organization brings to the process. Building on these strengths, we began to dream about the future. Although we began with the hope to create a Café resource for people in addiction and recovery, we realized that everyone is in recovery from something in their lives;everyone has something to get past, and looking for a way to move forward. With this realization, we decided to call them “Recovering Together: Conversations to Promote Recovery and Well-Being”.

We envision a future where Recovering Together Cafés are an opportunity for individuals, families, and communities to grow together towards positive change. These conversations meet people where they are and affirm that healing is possible regardless of where a person is on their journey toward holistic well-being. Participants learn that they are not alone and find the personal and collective strength necessary to let go of shame, stigma, and guilt and move forward. 

We like seeing others recognize the strength within themselves and to catalyze their vitality. To learn more about the Vitality Café deck, and our other resources offered, click here. We are looking forward to continuing the Recovering Together Café development process. If you would like to partner with us on a Café development project, contact us at


*Scholl L, Seth P, Kariisa M, Wilson N, Baldwin G. Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths – United States, 2013-2017. WR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 21 December 2018