Johnston, who is in recovery for alcohol and prescription drug abuse, co-founded SLAM NYC, which is committed to creating a sober high school in New York City. Thanks to an invitation from Borough President Oddo, SLAM and filmmaker Greg Williams agreed to screen his film, “The Anonymous People,” which is a documentary talking about recovery, shame and hope.
“It has been emotional to watch my home borough go through this epidemic and to lose so many Staten Islanders,” Borough President Oddo said as he opened the event on stage. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking about pain, addiction and death. Now we want to talk about recovery.”
The event attracted families, teachers, students and others who were interested in learning about the addiction-recovery process.
“I don’t want any more kids to die from this,” noted Johnston, addressing the audience from the stage. “Staten Islanders—you are our heroes on this issue because you are talking openly about the problem and recovery.”
The film ran 50 minutes and was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Advance Editor Brian Laline. On the panel were Ms. Johnston; Joe Schrank, Slam NYC board member and participant in the film; Greg Williams, filmmaker, The Anonymous People; Michelle Lipinski, Director of the Northshore Recovery High School; Adrienne Abbate, Director, Tackling Youth Substance Abuse; Luke Nasta, Director, Camelot Counseling Center; Thom Krauss, President and Co-Founder, SLAM NYC; and Tom Checchi, SI Advance.
The panelists discussed media coverage of addiction issues as negative and discussed the problem with anonymity, which while understandable and necessary for so many people, is associated with shame.
“We shame far too many people. The language that we use to talk about addiction in the media is very negative. We need a language of empowerment. Words have meaning. Words have power,” panelist Schrank said.