HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Addiction treatment groups and state officials came together to celebrate recovery on Wednesday. Advocates said it was about spreading a message of hope and reminding people that recovery is possible for everyone.

“Everybody who is staying clean one day at a time, make some noise,” Craig Gittens said in a speech. Gittens has been sober since 2019.

“1,136 days of continuous sobriety,” he said. “Wow, freedom feels good.”

Celebrating recovery like this is the mission behind the annual Recovery Advocacy Day, hosted by the Pennsylvania Association of County Drug and Alcohol Administrators (PACDAA). Gittens said he wants to use his story to give people hope to know that recovery is possible.

“My heart received healing from my recovery family,” he said.

He still grieves the lives lost to addiction, calling for a moment of silence during his speech, but he said those in recovery deserve their happiness. At Wednesday’s event, people like Gittens shared success stories, celebrating every day of their own or their loved one’s recovery.

“Some of us standing here today overdosed, stopped breathing, turned blue, turned gray, and now we stand before you today happy, joyous and free,” Gittens said.

Several community and state organizations came to support the event and help educate people about addiction and recovery, including the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Network.

“We practice harm reduction principles every day, we put on seatbelts when we get in the car,” executive director Carla Sofronski said.

She said harm reduction — minimizing the risk of drug use — is essential to recovery.

“If we’re not implementing harm reduction practices…we are not keeping people alive, we are not keeping people safe for them to enter the recovery community,” she said.

Advocates like Sofronski are making progress in the state legislature. A bill to make fentanyl test strips legal advanced to the full Senate on Tuesday. Advocates said allowing people to buy these test strips is a crucial step toward saving lives with fentanyl appearing in more drugs.

“Folks think they’re taking one thing, but instead they’re getting something mixed with fentanyl. This is a way to test that and be safer. People who use drugs do not all want to die,” Sofronski said.

Sofronski said she also met with state lawmakers on Wednesday. She wants more legislation to protect those still struggling with addiction, including a bill to create a Safe Syringe Program. The program would provide clean syringes, reducing the risk of HIV and Hepatitis C, and would offer several other services like HIV testing, access to naloxone and referrals to drug treatment.