Skip to main content
  • Ben's Friends
  • Columbia Recovery Coalition
  • Columbia World Projects
  • Dear Mama
  • Humanities Research Center at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Recovery Working Group at The Center for the Study of Social Difference
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
  • Talks will be recorded for future distribution.

  • Your entry and attendance constitutes your consent to be filmed.

Bike outfitted with a box for serving coffee

How do recovery journeys—both individual and collective—inspire creative processes, inform research trajectories, and build community? Join us for an innovative gathering of artists, authors, activists, and scientific researchers as they share their stories and foster conversations about what it means to practice recovery.

Through social practice artworks, scientific research, and creative writing, conference speakers will train students and community members in best practices, coalition building, and harm reduction to achieve social impact for the Columbia and Manhattanville communities. The conference will also attend carefully to the intersectional nexus between recovery and decarceration, foregrounding the voices of formerly incarcerated individuals.

This multi-part gathering is open to the public, and we especially encourage the entire Columbia community—students, faculty, staff—and all our neighbors in Manhattanville and beyond to engage.


time5:00pm EDT


Registration, Free Narcan Bike, Free Hot Coffee Bike & Free Library Bike Activation PLUS Vendor/Sponsor/Community Group Tabling.

time8:00pm - 9:30pm EDT

Keynote & Free Ice Water

A conversation between Leslie Jamison and John Freyer about how their experiences in recovery shape and inform their current creative practice. Audience members will then have 20-minute one-on-one “Free Ice Water” conversations about turning points in their lives.

John Freyer

Associate Professor in Cross Disciplinary Media

Virginia Commonwealth University

Leslie Jamison

Associate Professor

Columbia University School of the Arts

time8:30am EDT

Free Hot Coffee/Recovery Roast

A special coffee-tasting event. Participants will taste a variety of coffees from Dear Mama to finalize the Columbia Recovery Coalition edition of Recovery Roast. This coffee tasting event will introduce participants to the rich history of coffee and the complexities of roasting, tasting, and enjoying. Also taste editions of Recovery Roast from the project partners in the UK and across the country.

John Freyer

Associate Professor in Cross Disciplinary Media

Virginia Commonwealth University

Zachary Sharaga

Founder and CEO of Dear Mama Manhattanville

Dear Mama Coffee

time9:30am EDT

Not Going Back

A conversation with frontline harm reduction workers, community activists, and researchers about the abject failure of the war on drugs and the role that comprehensive harm reduction, robust multi-pathway recovery supports, and innovative social science research can work to repair and replace the tired criminal justice-focused paradigm. Rebecca Jordan-Young from the Recovery Working Group at Columbia's Center for the Study of Social Difference moderates.


Rebecca Jordan-Young

Ann Whitney Olin Professor and Chair

Barnard College

Morgan Godvin


Beats Overdose

Fernando Montero

HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies

Dziko Singleton

Co-Coordinator Compreheive Harm Reduction

Health Brigade

time11:00am EDT

Doing it Wrong

A conversation about ways that the Collegiate Recovery model can actively support students in recovery. Topics will include recovery and education supports in the criminal justice system, research into the efficacy of collegiate recovery and the impact on current Columbia students who lack these kinds of support.


Keith Murphy

Senior Substance Abuse Counselor

Rutgers Student Health

Noel Vest

Assistant Professor

Boston University School of Public Health

Kristine De Jesus


Students Recover

Tom Bannard

Program Coordinator Rams in Recovery

Virginia Commonwealth University

Caleb Knight

MFA Poetry Candidate 2024

Virginia Commonwealth University

time12:00pm EDT

Lunch Break

Free Hot Coffee Bike Activation

time2:00pm EDT

Carl Erik Fisher in conversation

A conversation about the history of addiction and recovery, the evolution of the recovery movement, and what it was like to get sober from the perspective of artists, writers, and activists in the era of stigma, anonymity, church basements, and community centers.


Carl Erik Fisher

Assistant Professor

Columbia University

Amanda Valdez


Paul Villinski


Rev. Jan M. Brown


SpiritWorks Foundation Center

Kasey Anderson

Director of Development and Community Engagement

Alano Club of Portland

time3:30pm EDT

Riveting Blazers - Recovery, Memoir and Daily Practice

In Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering, she observes: “If addiction stories run on the fuel of darkness—the hypnotic spiral of an ongoing, deepening crisis—then recovery is often seen as the narrative slack, the dull terrain of wellness, a tedious addendum to the riveting blaze.”Jamison joins in conversation with Mary Karr and Elizabeth Crane to speak about the narrative possibilities of recovery and aftermath: How can the story of rebuilding become as riveting as the story of falling apart? The writers will talk about the creative and emotional work of writing from life and the roles that recovery, community, and daily practice play in their writing lives.

Leslie Jamison

Associate Professor

Columbia University School of the Arts

Mary Karr

Peck Professor of Literature

Syracuse University

Elizabeth Crane

Adjunct Associate Professor

UCR Palm Desert Low Residency MFA

time6:00pm EDT

Free Hot Supper

A simple supper for invited guests, including individuals who participated in Recovery in Practice programming, and additional guests from the broader recovery community, including persons who belong to or provide services for communities affected by addiction. Dinner will be coordinated by Jason Alley and the NYC Members of “Ben’s Friends,” a support network for food and beverage industry professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction, to develop a simple, locally-sourced menu served in an environment of communal seating that allows for participants to dine and engage in dialogue.

time7:30pm EDT

Poetry Reading

Mary Karr

Peck Professor of Literature

Syracuse University

Kaveh Akbar

Director of the English and Creative Writing Major

Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Joy Priest

Assistant Professor of African American / African Diasporic Poetry

University of Pittsburgh

time8:30am EDT

Coffee @ Dear Mama

Free Narcan Bike, Free Hot Coffee Bike & Free Library Bike Activation

time9:30am EDT

True Story: Writing Our Lives Workshop

Writing isn’t about making pretty sentences; it’s about telling the truth. In this truth-telling workshop, we will create three pieces of flash creative nonfiction, arriving in the present, excavating our past, and creating rough drafts for our futures.As we write, read, and listen to our stories together in community, we are able to borrow each other’s courage, delving deeper into our own shame, joy, hope, and fear. When we focus on the ways we are changed by the process of writing rather than what happens to the writing after we are done, we are able to write the work of our hearts.Moving away from the traditional workshop model based on dissection and critique, we will instead center gentle, strength-based feedback, allowing the most powerful parts of our writing to rise to the top and show us the way.*Please bring a journal and a pen. All are welcome. No previous experience required.

Valley Haggard


time12:00pm EDT

Service Project

Meet at the start of Giraffe Path: St Nicolas Park 135th St and St Nicholas Terrace. More details to come.


Conference Organizer

John Freyer is an artist, author, and educator based in Richmond, Virginia. His artistic practice intersects with the spectrum of topics related to addiction and recovery, including using the arts to engage with marginalized populations, participating in peer-reviewed social science research, and advocating on behalf of young people in recovery.

Freyer's projects include All My Life for Sale, Big Boy, Live IKEA, Free Ice Water, and Free Hot Coffee. Freyer is an associate professor of Cross-Disciplinary Media at Virginia Commonwealth University. Freyer’s practice engages accidental audiences in galleries, museums, and public spaces. He explores the role of everyday, personal objects in our lives – as commodities, fetishes, and totems and investigates how the circulation of objects and stories enriches social ties between individuals and groups. He earned his MFA from the University of Iowa. His work has been reviewed in The New Yorker, The Sunday London Times, Artforum, Print Magazine, and NBC’s The Today Show. Freyer is a Fulbright Scholar, a Macdowell Colony Fellow, and was an Artist in Residence at Light Work and the Fannon Center, Doha, Qatar. Freyer has brought his social practice projects to the TEDx stage, has exhibited at Mixed Greens Gallery in New York, and the Liverpool Biennial Fringe in Liverpool, UK.

Freyer’s 2018 Tate Exchange Program at Tate Modern in London featured his series of social practice artworks, including Free Ice Water, Free Hot Coffee, Free Hot Supper, and premiered an original song written by Freyer and performed by a coalition of four UK-based recovery choirs.


Kaveh Akbar's poems appear in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Paris Review, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. He is the author of two poetry collections: Pilgrim Bell (Graywolf 2021) and Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James 2017), in addition to a chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic (Sibling Rivalry 2016). He is also the editor of The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse: 100 Poets on the Divine (Penguin Classics 2022). In 2024, Knopf will publish Martyr!, his first novel. In 2020, Kaveh was named Poetry Editor of The Nation. The recipient of honors including multiple Pushcart Prizes, a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship, and the Levis Reading Prize, Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and teaches at the University of Iowa and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph College and Warren Wilson.

Kasey Anderson is a self-described “gradually retiring songwriter” who has toured with Counting Crows, Steve Earle, Jason Isbell, and others, appeared at AmericanaFest, Bumbershoot, CMJ, and festivals around the United States and Europe, and whose songs have been covered by Counting Crows and Star Anna, and praised by NPR, The Onion A/V Club, Paste, Rolling Stone, and the Village Voice. Kasey joined the Alano Club of Portland in 2019 and serves as Director of Development and Community Engagement, overseeing fundraising and the design, development, and management of programs such as the Recovery Toolkit Series, Artists in Recovery and Plates for the People, a collaborative cooking program for people in recovery co-founded by the Alano Club and Ben's Friends.

Jason Alley is a chef and founding partner of Alley/Jones Hospitality. Alley co-founded Ben’s Friends RVA, a regional chapter of the nationwide support group for sober food and beverage people. His former restaurants, Comfort and Pasture, were highly celebrated for featuring local products prepared simply, with contemporary interpretations of classic Southern flavors. He has been featured in magazines including Southern Living, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, Food Arts, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Alley has also appeared in national television programs (Chef's Afield, Road Trip With Chef G Garvin, Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern, and Guys Grocery Games), national advertising campaigns for Duke's Mayonnaise, and a short documentary film titled Pimento Cheese Please. Chef Alley has also received a "Rising Star" award from Star Chefs.

Tom Bannard is the Assistant Director for Substance Use and Recovery Support at Virginia Commonwealth University. A person in long-term recovery, Tom is passionate about changing the way we treat substance use and firmly believes that we must improve our systems of care by focusing on long-term recovery supports, allowing easier access to treatment and recovery resources, educating and supporting family members, and reducing stigma around substance use. ​Tom directs Rams in Recovery, the largest Collegiate Recovery Program in Virginia, and oversees an expansion grant through the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to expand recovery supports at nine schools in the Commonwealth. Tom spent the first seven years of his career working with people experiencing homelessness at CARITAS.

Rev. Jan Brown is the Founding/Executive Director of SpiritWorks Foundation Center for the Soul. Jan is a person in long-term recovery from addiction, meaning she has not used drugs or alcohol or drugs since January 1, 1987. She is an ordained Deacon in the Episcopal Church, presently serving at Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, VA. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a BA in Psychology and is certified as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist. In 2018 Jan received her Master of Addiction Science Degree from the International Programme on Addiction Studies through a specialized program with King’s College in London, the University of Adelaide, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Jan is also an Addictions Educator and sought-after speaker on topics of recovery-oriented systems of care, recovery support services, and recovery management.

Elizabeth Crane is the author of four collections of short stories, Turf, When the Messenger is Hot, All This Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter, as well as two novels, We Only Know So Much and The History of Great Things. Her work has been translated into several languages and has been featured in numerous publications, including Other Voices, Nerve, Ecotone, Swink, Guernica, Coachella Review, Mississippi Review, Florida Review, Bat City Review, fivechapters, The Collagist, Make, Hobart, Rookie, Fairy Tale Review, failbetter, The Huffington Post, Eating Well, Chicago Magazine, The Chicago Reader, and The Believer, and anthologies including Altared, The Show I’ll Never Forget, The Best Underground Fiction, Who Can Save Us Now?, Brute Neighbors, and Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2008 and 2010. Her stories have been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts. Crane is a recipient of the Chicago Public Library 21st Century Award, and her work has been adapted for the stage by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company and has also been adapted for film. She teaches in the UCR-Palm Desert low-residency MFA program. Her debut memoir, This Story Will Change, is out now from Counterpoint Books.

Kristine De Jesus, Sugarman Practitioner in Residence, Princeton University, is a vocal ally for people in recovery from substance use disorder and is an organizer involved in the local and national recovery advocacy movement. While a Sugarman Fellow, Dr. De Jesus has been creating a virtual student recovery community platform that will ensure services are centered in supporting students from systematically marginalized groups within higher education and are grounded in models of equity and justice. This virtual recovery program will target students at colleges that do not offer collegiate recovery programs, specifically at minority-serving institutions (including tribal colleges and historically Black colleges/universities), community colleges, and trade schools, with the intention of reducing both health and academic disparities and increasing the successful matriculation of students in recovery in the post-secondary education setting.

Carl Erik Fisher, M.D., is an addiction psychiatrist, bioethics scholar, and author. He is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, where he studies and teaches law, ethics, and policy relating to psychiatry and neuroscience, especially issues related to substance use disorders and other addictive behaviors. He is the author of The Urge: Our History of Addiction, an intellectual and cultural history of addiction interwoven with his own experiences as an addiction psychiatrist at Columbia and as someone in recovery himself. His writing has been supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s program in the Public Understanding of Science and Technology, the Kavli Foundation’s Scientist-Writer Workshop at New York University, and the Jentel Artist Residency Program. His other writing for the general public has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Nautilus, Slate, Scientific American MIND, and elsewhere.

Morgan Godvin is a writer from Portland, Oregon. She founded Beats Overdose, a harm reduction provider for the music and entertainment industry. She is a research associate with Health in Justice Action Lab and a council member on Oregon’s decriminalization Measure 110 Oversight and Accountability Council. She was formerly incarcerated.

Valley Haggard is an author, teacher, and energy worker with over two decades of experience in 12-step recovery. Combining Reiki and Shamanic Reiki practices, she leads healing narrative workshops and sacred circles, integrating energy work with expressive writing locally and internationally. Haggard has facilitated Writing to Heal workshops for diverse groups, including incarcerated women, war veterans, the homeless, sex trafficking victims, medical students, and more. She is the author of three books, The Halfway House for Writers, Surrender Your Weapons: Writing to Heal, and her memoir, There’s No Accounting for the Strangeness of Things. She has received several awards, including Richmond Magazine’s Theresa Pollak Prize and Style Weekly’s Women in the Arts Award. She writes a weekly blog called Skip the Small Talk and recently launched God Is My Boyfriend: Recovery from Sex and Love Addiction and My Quest for the Divine.

Leslie Jamison is the New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams, The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, Make it Scream, Make it Burn, and a novel, The Gin Closet. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and was the guest editor for the 2017 edition of Best American Essays. A finalist for a National Magazine Award, her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, and Virginia Quarterly Review. She directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Rebecca Jordan-Young is an interdisciplinary feminist scientist exploring the interplay between science and gender, sexuality, class, and race. She is Ann Whitney Olin Professor and Chair at Barnard College. Her book Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography (Harvard 2019), coauthored with Katrina Karkazis, challenges entrenched beliefs about the hormone, debunking myths with evidence. It addresses six domains—female reproduction, aggression, risk-taking, power, sports, and parenting—revealing how "science-y" stories perpetuate stereotypes about gender, class, and race. The book received the Gold Medal in Science from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Her first book, Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences (Harvard 2010), critically examines early hormone exposures' impact on the human brain, earning the Distinguished Book Award from the Association for Women in Psychology.

Mary Karr is an award-winning poet and best-selling memoirist. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed and New York Times best-selling memoirs The Liars' Club, Cherry, and Lit, as well as the Art of Memoir, and five poetry collections, most recently Tropic of Squalor. Karr is also a songwriter, having collaborated with Rodney Crowell, Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams and others on a country album called KIN. She is a two-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and Radcliffe Fellow. Mary Karr is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University.

Caleb Knight is a queer poet living in New Jersey. He works as an audio engineer at Sound on Sound Studios, blogs for the Association of Recovery in Higher Education, and attends the MFA Poetry program at Columbia University. His work has been published in FRiGG Magazine, Door Is a Jar Magazine, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly. He is in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder. Knight uses he/him pronouns.

Fernando Montero is a HEALing Communities Study Affiliate at Columbia University's Social Intervention Group (SIG). He conducts interdisciplinary research that combines medical and economic anthropology. His work examines the racialized, gendered intersection of the opioid overdose epidemic, mass incarceration, shifts in narcotics supply chains, and public assistance programs for psychiatric disability in the United States. His research seeks to understand the reasons behind the opioid overdose epidemic's shift from predominantly white and working-class to increasingly affecting black communities. Additionally, he is conducting a long-term ethnographic study of the War on Drugs and militarization in the Afro-Indigenous region of Moskitia on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras.

Keith Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor at Rutgers Student Health in New Jersey. He has over 14 years of experience helping those struggling with addiction and other major life issues rebuild their lives. In his present role as a Recovery Counselor, Keith has been tasked to help the students in the College Recovery Program develop skills for recovery and life in college and beyond. As a member of the Rutgers counseling staff, Keith has the privilege of seeing students flourish and become world changers.

Joy Priest is the author of Horsepower (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, and the editor of Once a City Said: A Louisville Poets Anthology (Sarabande, 2023). She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, and the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from the American Poetry Review. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlantic, The Nation, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. Joy was born in Louisville, KY, and has facilitated creative writing workshops with incarcerated juvenile and adult women. She is currently an Assistant Professor of African American / African Diasporic Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh and the Curator of Community Programs & Praxis at the Center for African American Poetry & Poetics.

Zachary Sharaga is the Founder and CEO of Dear Mama Manhattanville. Zachary began his career in hospitality in 2004 when he opened Louis 649 -- a bar in Alphabet City that became one of Manhattan’s premier jazz and cocktail venues. Louis 649 has ranked in the Top 10 Best Bars by celebrated publication Zagat for ten straight years. Known for nightly entertainment featuring prominent jazz musicians from around the world, a world-class craft spirits and cocktail program, a weekly educational platform for the beverage industry and enthusiasts called Tuesday Night Tastings, and a keen attention to detail and hospitality, Louis 649 attracted a loyal following from around the world for ten years.

Dziko Singleton is an R-CPRS, HIV/Hep C test counselor, consultant for two federal agencies, and co-coordinator of the largest harm reduction program in Virginia. She identifies as a woman in abstinence-based recovery and is currently enrolled at J. Sargeant Reynolds and Virginia Commonwealth University studying in the Substance Abuse Counseling and Human Services degree programs. Singleton uses she/her pronouns.

Amanda Valdez’s mixed media practice encompasses diverse histories, from quilting and sewing to tiling and brick-laying, as well as virtuoso gestural painting. Her works reflect the body and its histories, including scars, sags, symmetries, asymmetries, and a lifetime of emotions. Valdez earned her MFA from Hunter College in New York City. Recent solo exhibitions include The Deep Way at the Landing in Los Angeles, Gratitude at Denny Gallery in New York, Piecework at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, New York, Rattle Around at KOKI Arts in Tokyo, and Ladies’ Night at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. She received artist residencies from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Byrdcliffe, MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo, along with grants and awards.

Noel Vest is an Assistant Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. As a formerly incarcerated scholar, Dr. Vest is an advocate for social justice issues and public policy concerning substance use disorder recovery and prison reentry. His research interests include mental health, substance use disorders, poverty, social justice, addiction recovery, and pain. He was recently awarded a K01 early investigator award from NIDA to study collegiate recovery programs through an implementation science lens. He received his PhD in Experimental Psychology from Washington State University. He recently finished a postdoc in the Department of Pain Medicine at Stanford University.

Paul Villinski has created studio and large-scale artworks for more than three decades. He has lived and worked in New York City since 1982. Notable exhibitions include a mid-career survey, "Paul Villinski: Farther," at the Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, VA.; "Paris-London: Music Connections," at the Museum of Immigration, Paris, FR; a solo exhibition, "Burst," at the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; “Passage: A Special Project,” at the Blanton Museum, University of Texas, Austin; “Material Transformations,” at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Montgomery, AL and Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, FL; “Making Mends,” at the Bellevue Museum of Arts, Bellevue, WA; “Second Lives: Re-purposing the Ordinary,” at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY; and “Prospect.1,” an international Biennial in New Orleans, LA. Villinski's “Emergency Response Studio,” a FEMA trailer redesigned and rebuilt into a solar-and wind-powered mobile artist’s studio, was the subject of a solo exhibition at Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, TX; and was featured in the New Museum’s “Festival of Ideas for the New City."