These past few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about President Joe Biden and the new White House administration. Another one of our blogs covered his specific stance on addictions and the opioid crisis, but there is also some indirect work to call out as well. Former Boston mayor Marty Walsh was recently appointed to Biden’s cabinet as the U.S. Secretary of Labor and it is worth noting that he is a staunch recovery advocate.
Walsh was recently featured in a Washington Post article that highlighted his sobriety and his public stance on addictions. He proudly proclaims to be part of a 12-step program following a difficult struggle with alcohol and has used his political prowess to push for more de-stigmatization.
The Post actually called out an interesting point when describing Walsh and the current Biden cabinet. It seems as though many of the latest appointees have broken new ground. There is the first Native American Secretary of the Interior, the first African-American Secretary of Defense, the first Latino Homeland Security Secretary and, in the case of Walsh, the first Cabinet member in U.S. history to be openly involved in a 12-step recovery program.
Walsh, as the article points out, represents a great deal of Americans. He is actually 20 years sober from alcohol but, as he puts it, this continues to be a daily struggle and one that he doesn’t try to hide or put behind him. Walsh’s openness inspired thousands of voters in his hometown of Boston and is now getting recognition from millions more thanks to his new high profile role.
Post writer Ana Marie Cox made an interesting analogy when comparing Walsh’s approach to that of former President George W. Bush. Bush famously struggled with alcohol during his 20’s, but was often dismissive of his problem; often trying to minimize it. Walsh, on the other hand, has been using this struggle to shed sympathy towards people battling addiction problems; classifying it more as a disease and something we can’t always control. His hope is to take the shame away and demonstrate how successful you can be after a recovery program.
“It’s one thing to tell the world that you beat your addiction; it’s quite another to confess that a rearguard attack could come at any minute,” Cox explains in her article. “To say ‘I’m an alcoholic’ after more than 20 years sober – as Walsh does – is admission that, for you, the work of recovery is never done.”