September is National Recovery Month, observed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 2017 marks Recovery Month’s 17th year in existence. It started out as an observance to highlight the importance of addiction treatment and to honor the work treatment professionals do. In 1998, Recovery Month evolved to National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, to include individuals in recovery from substance use disorders. In 2011, it changed again to National Recovery Month and currently includes all aspects of behavioral health.
Just as the recovery movement as a whole, Recovery Month has progressed and evolved as time goes on. But it’s rare that we ever hear anything about National Recovery Month from the mainstream media or the general population. I’ve only heard about it from people in recovery, their loved ones, or people personally touched by addiction and recovery. But we should ALL be talking about National Recovery Month. It’s important enough for us that we should, here’s why.
Americans Consume More Opioids than Any Other Country
If you haven’t heard yet, you might be living under a rock. We are living amongst an intense opioid epidemic. STAT recently reported that over the next 10 years, 650,000 people will die from opioid overdoses. Legal prescription drugs make America the world’s leader in opioid prescriptions. Over prescription of these addictive, and easy-to-obtain, drugs have led to more substance use disorders and more overdose deaths. This is something we can no longer ignore, as Americans and human beings. We must talk about solutions. We must talk about recovery.
Only 10% of People with a Substance Use Disorder Get Treatment
We’re in the depths of an addiction epidemic and people are dying, yet only 10% of people with a substance use disorder receive the treatment they need. The surgeon general’s report attributed the lack of treatment to shortages in care, low number of affordable options, and waiting periods or weeks or months to get help. People need accessible and affordable treatment options. They need to know recovery is possible, that it exists, and that they can thrive living a sober life. This is where Recovery Month comes in. If we talk about it more, the percentage of people getting help and becoming and staying sober will increase.
In the Digital Age, Especially, Stories Save Lives
Stories have always held power. There’s something about the honesty, authenticity, realness, and connection we feel when we read or hear a story that holds us in a special way. They allow us to connect with some of the darkest parts of ourselves. Stories give us hope that we can achieve the same or a similar outcome of the people’s stories we are hearing. I can testify to this first hand. Social media has changed the recovery landscape and sharing our stories is directly and indirectly saving lives. I have received many emails and messages via my blog from people telling me that my story helped encourage them to get help, or helped them start on their own pathway to sobriety. It’s been proven that the more we talk about the hard things and how we got through them, we give others permission to do the same.
Recovery is Not Something to Be Ashamed of
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma attached to addiction and recovery. People believe the traditional stereotypes that say addiction is a choice, that doing drugs or drinking alcohol makes you less of a person, and that if you can’t control your consumption, there is something wrong with you. But that’s just not true. Addiction is a spectrum and recovery can work for a variety of drinking issues. And being in recovery should not be looked at as something shameful or embarrassing. It takes a lot to overcome a substance use disorder. We live in a society inundated with alcohol advertising, where it’s considered ‘cool’ and ‘normal’ to go to happy hour, binge drink, and use wine to relax and deal with life. Then, once you drink too much, society looks down on you and judges you for your choices. It’s a double-standard at best, and sabotage at worst. It’s the same reason people aren’t getting the help they need and why people are dying from overdose. Recovery is not something to be ashamed of. We need to talk about it so that others may find and thrive in recovery.
We need to bring these serious issues into the light. Recovery Month is an excellent time to do it. National Recovery Month gives us a national platform and a time period to share our stories, to talk about addiction and recovery, and to educate ourselves and others about these pertinent topics. The topic of recovery isn’t something that shouldn’t only be confined to people who have been personally touched by addiction. This should be a concern to everyone because addiction is deeply affecting our world, our communities, and our fellow human beings. The time to act is now, and it’s starts with a conversation.
About the Author
Kelly Fitzgerald is a sober writer based in Southwest Florida who is best known for her personal blog The Adventures of a Sober Señorita. Her work has been published across the web including sites like The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Ravishly, SheKnows, Elite Daily, The Fix, Brit + Co, Addiction Unscripted and AfterPartyMagazine. She is currently writing a memoir.