Graduate Leads National Recovery Month Awareness


By Iyana Turner, Program Associate

Derrick, Izzy, Rhonda

Derrick Washington, career services manager; Rhonda Johnson, Byte Back graduate; and Iyana Turner, program associate at the National Recovery Month kickoff event, which Rhonda organized.

Addiction treatment and mental health services can enable people with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live healthy and rewarding lives. That’s what National Recovery Month is all about – awareness and education to improve lives.

Byte Back graduate Rhonda Johnson organized and hosted a National Recovery Month kickoff event September 1 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Local organizations, certified peer specialists, and supporters attended to share resources, inspiration, and a commitment to community service.

The highlight was a self-composed song by Rhonda’s granddaughter, which included heartfelt reflections on personal progress.

recoveryRhonda’s path to being a community leader was a long but inspiring one. She discovered Byte Back in the midst of her recovery process. The tech skills she learned in class helped her write, publish, and market her book Memoirs Of An Addict: Fact or Fiction.

Rhonda was inspired to take classes and become a certified peer specialist, dedicating her life to helping others through recovery and wellness. She takes great pride in this role and wants to spread awareness of the program and the help it brings to the community.

The DC Department of Behavioral Health hosts the Peer Specialist Certification Program training for adults with a self-disclosed history of mental illness and/or substance abuse.

Certified peer specialists, like Rhonda, help those recovering to develop strength-based personal goals, monitor their individual progress, advocate for effective services, and understand how to navigate the behavioral health system.

To shine a spotlight on the importance of their role, a man who is both a veteran and peer specialist said, “This movement is bigger than all of us. Those with doctorates and master’s degrees, … they live in a book, which means that they live in a box.” Peer specialists bring with them a unique ability to genuinely connect and help people.

Rhonda is continuing National Recovery Month by leading a series of continued education classes through the Department of Behavioral Health with topics such as self-advocacy and recovery and moving past stigma.


  • If you’re struggling with addiction and want to get help, please visit the Addiction Prevention and Recovery resources here.
  • If you’re struggling with a psychiatric or emotional crisis, call the Access HelpLine at (888) 7WE-HELP or for mental health services, contact Mary’s Center.
  • If you or anyone you know would like to be a certified peer specialist, please click here for more information.
  • The DC Department of Behavioral Health is holding a Purple Wave Festival from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, September 24, 2016, on the Yard at Howard University to increase public awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders and to celebrate recovery.

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