Dan Smith: “Andrew Gonyea Leads the Fight Against Addiction”

The plague of addiction that has beset the country has not spared Vermont. Fortunately, a shift in the public perception of addiction, both locally and on the national level, has aided those suffering its consequences in getting help. Andrew Gonyea, Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Vermont Foundation of Recovery, is one of many Vermonters who has lived through addiction, and has become a leader in the recovery movement.

As blogger and entrepreneur Seth Godin said in a Ted Radio Hour (Raz, 2014, January 17) about effective leaders,

they need two things. The first is, they need a tribe, a group of people, large or small, who’ve chosen to come together around a common interest or goal. And then the second thing, a vacuum…When we sense that there’s a vacuum…someone feels enough push that they overcome that internal resistance and say, all right I’ll do it. Let’s go.

As the tribe of Vermonters seeking recovery from addiction grew, so did the vacuum in place of tangible resources for those in need. An NPR report from 2015 (Zind, January 6) offered an explanation for the lack of resources.

In response to these challenges, Andrew Gonyea found his tribe in Vermont’s recovery community. On their behalf, he rose to the challenge of filling that aching void and started the Vermont Foundation Of Recovery (VFOR).


Sober House Poster]. (2018, December 12). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/vtfor/photos/a.1607446332801606/2198218493724384/?type=3&theater

With the VFOR, Gonyea (n.d.) has set out to realize his vision of providing “every Vermonter struggling with addiction…ready access to a full spectrum of recovery supports and services.” Gonyea found recovery from addiction while incarcerated. The consequences of his active use saw him serve three years under the Vermont Department of Corrections. It was during this time that he decided to change his life and commit it to those suffering similarly at the hands of addiction.

Since his release in 2008, he has become a staple in Vermont’s recovery community and had dedicated his time to managing recovery homes in northern Vermont. Speaking at a recent addiction awareness event at Burlington International Airport (Aspenti, October 2, 2017), Gonyea reflected on his story and made clear his call to action. “I’m not a bad person…I have this mental illness… It takes all of us to come together.”


Photograph of Andrew Gonyea]. Retrieved from http://vermontfoundationofrecovery.org/staff-and-board/

As VFOR’s (n.d.) website stated, Andrew’s “smiling face is seemingly omnipresent throughout the recovery community in Vermont and beyond.” The above photo of Andrew makes that abundantly clear.

He has established himself as a leader in the recovery community.  Andrew’s commitment to his vision is obvious in the work he does with VFOR and how he leads. His transformational leadership role has given others in recovery the confidence to step into positions of responsibility, emboldened by his infectious passion for the work he does (Cherry, 2018). His partnership with these team members is key. As entrepreneur Derek Sivers (2010, Feb.) said, team members “transform [the] lone nut into a leader.” Several of those brave followers that work with him at VFOR act as live-in managers for the four recovery homes across northern Vermont, including the Burlington home pictured below. Andrew has provided these individuals with the support and guidance needed to achieve their full potential in these roles, leading passionately by example in the work he does every day.

house 1[Photograph of Lyman Ave House]. Retrieved from http://vermontfoundationofrecovery.org/lyman-ave-burlington-vt/

Andrew’s leadership at the helm of VFOR is making its mark. In addition to the four recovery homes that operate in northern Vermont, the organization is slated to open three more in Barre, Morrisville and St. Johnsbury, furthering Gonyea’s vision of providing local and immediate housing services to those in recovery and in need. This video by Addiction Campuses (2018, October 25) detailed the role of recovery homes in the lives of those recovering from addiction.

In the same NPR interview about leadership (Raz, 2014, January 17), Seth Godin said:

I think that what almost everyone does want is something better. And the art of disruption then is being able to figure out what is the likely path to get [people] from here to that better place with the least amount of appropriate fallout.

Vermonters suffering from addiction wanted something better for their lives. Godin (Raz, 2014, January 17) went on to say that

part of what you need to do is leverage the tools you’ve got, the people you have and the momentum you have to do something that might not be comfortable and might not be fun, but at least takes you to a new place in a way that’s productive and useful.

Andrew has leveraged the insight he’s gained from his checkered past to start something momentous in Vermont’s recovery community. He never asked to be a leader, but his passionate vision and enthusiasm for life has aptly established him as one. He has, indeed, taken Vermonters with addiction to a new place, where those in recovery can find a home and the beginning of a life free from the chains of addiction.


Addiction Campuses. (2018, October 25). How can a sober living home help someone in recovery from addiction? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r52fbo5sLSE

Aspenti. (October 2, 2017). Change Corridor to fight opioid addictions unveiled at Burlington International Airport. Vermontbiz. Retrieved from https://www.vermontbiz.com

Cherry, K. (2018) Leadership styles: 5 major styles of leadership. Retrieved from https://www.explorepsychology.com/leadership-styles/

Raz, G. (Host).  (2014, January 17). Seth Godin: Can ordinary people become leaders? [Radio broadcast]. In TED Radio Hour. Washington, DC: National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2014/01/17/261096538/can-ordinary-people-become-leaders

Sivers, D. (2010, Feb.). Derek Sivers: How to start a movement [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement?language=en

Vermont Foundation Of Recovery. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://vermontfoundationofrecovery.org/

Zind, S. (Producer). (January 6, 2015). Addiction Patients Overwhelm Vermont’s Expanded Treatment Programs. [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://ondemand.npr.org/anon.npr-mp3/npr/me/2015/01/20150106_me_addiction_patients_overwhelm_vermonts_expanded_treatment_programs.mp3?orgId=691&topicId=1027&d=230&p=3&story=375207090&siteplayer=true&dl=1


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APA cite in text as: (Smith, 2019)

APA cite in full References as: Smith, D. (2019). Andrew Gonyea leads the fight against addiction. Vermont Psychology. Retrieved from https://wp.me/p4elXk-AJ

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12931062_10101970948180951_1742389649912349462_nDan Smith: I live in Burlington with my partner, her two kids and our two rescue dogs. I’ve worked as a bicycle mechanic and barista for the past ten years and have played my drums with numerous groups in the area. The human mind has always fascinated me. Insight into my own, and other’s experiences makes life rich. I look forward to a future with evermore questions.