“Dead people never find recovery,” says David Stoecker.
It’s with that ethos that Stoecker conducts his work as coordinator of advocacy and education outreach for the Missouri Recovery Network Inc., founder of Better Life in Recovery Inc. and co-founder of Springfield Recovery Community Center.
Stoecker likens substance use disorder treatment to surgery, and if those he seeks to help don’t get assistance, they could face overdose or even death.
“Far too often, when someone completes treatment, they are referred to recovery support groups and the relationship is over,” he says. “I walk along with people and teach them how to apply what they have learned in treatment to their every day life, much like a physical therapist working with someone after surgery.”
Stoecker provides free narcotic overdose treatment medication, and the training on how to use it, to the people he works with. He even trained probation officers and CoxHealth security staff on how to use the meds.
For those he helps, Stoecker is relatable, too. He’s been there.
“I am a person in long-term recovery, so I know that recovery is possible,” he says. “I have also been to far too many funerals and felt that having lived through 25 years of substance misuse, coupled with multiple mental health diagnoses, all stemming from childhood physical and sexual abuse, I could give people hope.”
Stoecker’s experience led to the creation of Better Life in Recovery, which helps to connect those recovering from substance abuse disorders find positive, sober activities in the area. Better Life in Recovery, which Stoecker directs, has since grown to more than 100 groups and events in 2017 from one in 2012 and three in 2013.
“People in recovery and their families picked up over 3.5 tons of trash out of Missouri riverways through our stream team and have painted 11 elementary school playgrounds since we started in 2012,” Stoecker says.
Stoecker also serves as an advocate for those with substance abuse disorders, traveling frequently to Jefferson City to speak out on bills on their behalf.
Springfield Recovery Community Center was born out of advocacy, as well, after Stoecker and others learned there was no such center locally. The center, which he also directs, was one of the first two that became funded in the state, and there now are four providing resources to address the opioid epidemic.
The center also is home to meetings for people with substance abuse disorders who identify as atheist or agnostic. It’s an alternative to Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous – which he said have a spiritual component.
Last year, Stoecker was honored for his work with national recognition in the form of a Voice Award from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for being an advocate for substance abusers.
Element Springfield South opened; Outlaw Gentlemen Barbershop added a second location; and wellness studio Stretch Zone launched.