Recovery Reinvented has been no small event in the past, but this year, North Dakota First Lady Kathryn Burgum hopes the all-virtual event will have an even larger reach.
Judging from early registrations, it appears she may get her wish. So far, the event has nearly 1,600 registrants, coming not only from the Midwest but from both coasts and countries around the globe.
"People that come to this event are either struggling with the disease of addiction, or their life has been affected by the disease of addiction, or they're in recovery, or they're behavioral health professionals that are also learning more about services and how to help people," Burgum said. "But we also have a lot of people from education and health care and law enforcement, so it really just varies by where somebody is in their life."
Recovery Reinvented is an annual gathering hosted by the first lady to advocate for breaking down the stigma surrounding addiction, and for supporting recovery.
The all-day event will be held virtually from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, and this year will feature keynote speakers Drew Pinsky, a television personality and addiction specialist widely known by his stage name, "Dr. Drew." He will speak on the connection between addiction and mental health as well as challenges brought on by the pandemic. Also participating is David Sheff, author of the novel "Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction" and one of Time Magazine's 2009 World's Most Influential People.
This year, the event also will focus on the work of Solid Comfort, a Fargo company that manufactures hospitality furniture and has developed a recovery-inclusive workplace philosophy called "Solid Start."
Burgum says one of her goals this year is to highlight the role corporate North Dakota can play in addiction recovery support, something she said Solid Comfort models with its "Solid Start" program.
"Seventy-five percent of their workforce has struggled with the disease of addiction or been incarcerated," she said. "They have an incredible story related to how they support people as they get back on their feet and how they help in a lot of other ways, besides just giving them a job."
Burgum has spearheaded the issue of addiction recovery for the Gov. Doug Burgum administration since her husband was elected in 2016. Prior to his election, she had not spoken publicly about her own struggles with alcohol addiction. She recalled impulsively deciding to share her story moments before her introduction during a speaking event.
Burgum, now 18 years sober, was blown away by the response. Her hope is that by continuing to speak about it, she can help normalize having the conversation about addiction and help fewer people suffer in silence.
"I never really thought I could be someone who would do that. I call myself the 'accidental first lady,' but that door opened and I have this opportunity and I'm just so grateful," she said. "I never saw this as part of my future, but I know I wouldn't be here, either, if not for my recovery."
Recovery Reinvented is free and open to all. For more information or to register for the event, visit recoveryreinvented.com/2020/.