During the first 6 years of my recovery I did not hear of “National Recovery Month.” I started working in the addiction treatment field in 2012 and that year was the first year that I learned about the initiative. I started having conversations with friends that I knew from “the rooms” and none of them had heard of it either. Now, if you know me, you can predict that the next thing I did was start asking questions… A lot of questions. Here’s what I learned.
Recovery Month began in 1989 as “Treatment Works Month,” which was dedicated to honoring the work of treatment professionals in the substance use field. It evolved into “National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month” in 1998, expanding to include celebrating individuals in recovery. In 2011 it evolved once again to “National Recovery Month” which also included mental illness.
31 years ago, this initiative looked much different. It is reported that only 10% of the people who need addiction treatment actually get it. Therefore, it is no surprise to me that the millions of Americans in recovery do not know about National Recovery Month. Not everyone that is in recovery gets the opportunity to go to treatment; furthermore, if you have not worked in the addiction treatment field, you probably would not be familiar with Recovery Month either.
Working in addiction treatment for the past 8 years has instilled in me a sense of responsibility; a responsibility to spread the message that recovery IS possible, no matter how hopeless a situation seems. I have discovered the importance of speaking my truth; that truth is that I used to use drugs and alcohol to excess and that my life was extremely unmanageable. However, starting in 2006, I found a new way to live. Being able to say that out loud in circles of people that I know professionally, some of whom do not work in the addiction treatment field, has been freeing and empowering. Imagine what a different world we could live in if everyone could be as open as I now feel compelled to be.
There is STILL so much stigma surrounding mental health issues and addiction in all its forms. Thankfully though, “National Recovery Month” gives me and the countless other people in recovery in our country the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments out loud. My hope is that other people can feel comfortable sharing their experiences with addiction AND recovery without fear of judgement or reprisal.
Over 70,000 people die annually of a drug overdose AND over 88,000 people die annually of alcohol related illnesses. The people who have lost their lives to addiction do not get a do over, but the countless people who are currently living with the disease stand a chance. I am going to keep advocating for these people, and I hope you will join me.