Our Beginning: National Council on Alcoholism

With our roots in recovery advocacy since 1957, Center for Open Recovery’s founding was inspired by the work of pioneering activist Margaret ”Marty” Mann (lesbian, divorcee, alcoholic in recovery – a woman who understood the urgent need to tackle stigma through public education so those afflicted could find help).

In 1935,  Marty began her journey to recovery through the then-unknown group called Alcoholics Anonymous. Her sponsor was AA co-founder, Bill Wilson. After Marty got sober in 1940, she was inspired to encourage others—especially women—to do the same. She saw addiction as a social issue, fed by ignorance, fear, and prejudice. Marty looked beyond her own sobriety and decided that her life’s work would be eliminating the stigma of alcoholism using education and honesty.

Marty founded an organization that is now called National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) in 1945. Its purpose was to make recovery not anonymous. Marty went on to publicly educate and advocate for recovery, helping to open many minds about addiction. Thanks in part to her efforts, addiction is understood to be an illness, not a moral failing. The widespread acceptance of addiction treatment, rehabilitation, and other medical support are also part of Marty’s legacy.

Marty made two critical policy decisions. The organization would:

  1. Approach addiction as a medical issue.
  2. Change attitudes and create understanding through public education.

In 1957, a group of volunteers formed the Bay Area affiliate of NCADD. This became known as The National Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Addictions-Bay Area (NCA-BA).

The purpose of the nonprofit has always been to respond to the unmet needs in our communities to reduce the prevalence and consequences of alcoholism and drug addiction.

NCA-BA pursued its purpose in San Francisco for nearly six decades through providing direct services. It offered DUI and drug diversion programs for individuals who were mandated to attend class by courts and the California DMV, as well as counseling, prevention, education, and other community outreach efforts.

Over time, other resources for people affected by addiction sprung up in the community. However, the population of people who needed help continued to grow as well. The majority of programs available to help them were short-term and crisis-oriented. Aftercare, support, or harm reduction resources were seriously lacking. The spectrum of recovery, which is broader than active drug use or even early sobriety, was not being served in a way that was inclusive, accessible, and open.

In 2015, NCA-BA’s leadership team decided to reposition the organization to fill the broader needs of the recovery community. The group would become a leading advocate for long-term recovery from addiction. We committed ourselves to take on stigma as a key barrier for those seeking treatment, help, and dignity. To this day, COR remains committed to the tradition of educating and advocating for recovery by ending stigma. 

Marty Mann, founder of NCADD. Picture courtesy of NCADD.

Today: Center for Open Recovery

Marty Mann lit the spark that would become Center for Open Recovery. Today, we continue in the spirit of her vision: “to help individuals, families and entire communities discover a path of recovery.”

That path is Open Recovery and it is open and inclusive of all. Open Recovery is an opportunity for those in recovery to claim our shared belonging and be part of a powerful social justice movement.

Open Recovery is a personal identity, a community value, a call to action and a treatment goal. It is not influenced by any particular path or modality of care. Open Recovery is an empowering paradigm for people from all backgrounds, lifestyles, modalities, abilities, and pathways in recovery. 

As of July 2017, COR’s operating model shifted to focus on eliminating stigma and championing long-term recovery through advocacy, education, and empowering experiences.

Rather than continuing to offer direct services from a brick-and-mortar location, working in a virtual model COR is able to reach far more people strengthening the recovery movement.

COR’s trailblazing work is funded 100% by the generosity of donors and philanthropic partners, who understand the dire need to disrupt stigma, which is a barrier to addressing the addiction crisis in our country.

Offering Pop-up events, lectures and bold social media campaigns – we deliver an empowering message and introduce the paradigm of Open Recovery.

Digital recovery advocacy, in-person transformative events, and other bold initiatives support people to make change. Rather than focus on short-term crisis intervention, COR evolved its vision, structure, and offering – and our name to broaden the impact of our work to realize our mission.

Center for Open Recovery is part of a burgeoning social justice movement that is changing the conversation and responses to the public health crisis of our generation. Open Recovery is an affront to stigma, prejudice, and discrimination aimed to remove the barriers preventing care and long-term wellness.

What does recovery look like? It looks like you. Like us. Be Open. #Own It.  #Be Open.