(Chicago) – Recovering from trauma, addiction, incarceration, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and other life challenges takes help from others.
Many people require social services and formal clinical interventions, such as counseling and treatment. Alongside these interventions, or even long after they’re over, the process of recovery continues. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines it, recovery is “a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”
way that people move forward in their recovery is through mutual support groups,
also called peer support or self-help groups. These groups are not treatment,
but rather they are meetings where peers can connect over common issues, share
their experiences, and listen to others. Some of the most well-known mutual
help organizations include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Smart
In Illinois, Winners’ Circles grew out of a need for something more. Individuals who had substance use disorders and who had also been involved in the justice system sometimes felt stigmatized or out of place when attending groups for addiction recovery alone. And so TASC began developing Winners’ Circles in the 1990s as a resource for people overcoming the dual challenges of substance use disorders and justice system involvement.
Today, Winners’ Circles serve these purposes and more.
“In Winners’ Circles, we don’t use labels like ‘alcoholic’ and ‘addict.’ It’s about facing challenges without using words that carry shame and stigma. We want people to know that they’re winners,” said Toy Beasley, TASC recovery support coordinator.
In several locations across Illinois, Beasley is helping communities launch peer-led Winners’ Circles for people who are striving to address an array of issues.
“We’re trying to bring something different to the community,” he said. “There are many types of support groups, but they don’t fit everyone. We want to make sure that we offer a welcoming and healing place for everyone, no matter what their journey is.”
There are currently four Winners’ Circles in Illinois, including two in Chicago, one in Bloomington, and one in East St. Louis.
“This is exciting because the community needs it,” said Beasley. “In each of these places, our partners saw an opportunity for people to come together. You don’t need to have a substance use problem or criminal justice involvement to be part of Winners’ Circles. You may just be going through a difficult time, trying to pay the rent or take care of your kids. Really, it comes down to knowing you’re not alone.”