Relationships are a vital ingredient in advocacy success. One of the best ways to grow a relationship with someone is to thank them for their assistance. Over time, this person can become an ally: someone to contact for advice and support.

Do you have an ally that you can thank today?

I had the opportunity this weekend to thank a key ally in North Carolina’s recovery movement. Just nine months into office, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has proven himself to be an active recovery ally. On October 7, 2017, my job was to introduce him as the recipient of the Recovery Champion award at NC RecoveryFest.

When I wrote the introduction speech, I was aware that the address was not just a thank you, but a way to build relationships. I asked myself, “what is the exact relationship that I want to build?”

I have had the opportunity to meet AG Stein more than once since he took office. But I knew that much of the crowd attending the RecoveryFest had not had that chance. So that was my goal: building a relationship between the audience and AG Stein.

I put myself in the crowd’s shoes. AG Stein is an elected official. To many people that brings to mind politics, and politics brings to mind a bunch of images, good and bad. They wonder: Is this politician for real, or are his words just a bunch of lip service?

Actions speak louder than words. AG Stein has taken a lot of action for recovery. That is what I focused on so that the crowd would know this man is for real. As I spoke, I could see lots of heads nodding, faces smiling, and people were feeling positive about what they were hearing. AG Stein may have looked around and noticed the crowd’s reaction as well. Through that simple process, we all moved closer in relation to each other. (Photo at right: Karen Kranbuehl presents Attorney General Josh Stein with  the Recovery Champion Award.)

Here is what I said:

The Recovery Champion award is given to individuals who show courage and perseverance as they fight to advance recovery from substance use disorder.

A few years ago, I would not have imagined that we would be presenting this award to someone in the office of Attorney General.

That office is charged with enforcing laws, like the criminal justice laws and consumer protections. Environmental protections. And protection of our senior citizens.

This Attorney General does all of those things. But he has also added something to this list: Protecting our opportunities for recovery. In fact, he didn’t just add it to the list; he put it right at the top.

Getting added to the list is nice, but of course, we want to know “What did he do?”

Well, NC Attorney General Josh Stein’s office helped draft and guide the passage of two fundamental laws that do some significant things, including increasing opportunities for prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Not only did those laws pass, but they passed unanimously. In our legislature, that is nothing short of amazing. Many would have stopped there and propped their feet up on the desk for a job well done.

Not this attorney general. He recently joined a bipartisan group of colleagues from over 40 states to investigate the role of the pharmaceutical industry in the opioid epidemic.

But wait! There’s more. Attorney General Josh Stein has traveled the state, doing something that is very important but often overlooked: meeting people in the recovery community. He has worked to understand our community and what we need to be successful.

What’s more, everywhere he goes he carries this message: People with substance use disorder do not belong in jails and prison. They deserve treatment and recovery so they can live full lives.

Attorney General Stein, thank you for recognizing our value as a recovery community. Thank you for standing up for us and with us as a powerful ally and champion. I am thrilled to present you with our Recovery Champion Award.