National Recovery Month: Join the Voices for Recovery – Together We Are Stronger

by Joe Pritchard, CEO, Pinnacle Treatment Centers

September is National Recovery Month.

I’m writing this article because for me – and all of our staff at every one of our centers – every month is recovery month.

I’ll go further than that: for us, every day is recovery day.

This is our work, our passion, and our calling.

This year – during the 30th annual National Recovery Month – we invite you to join us in that work.

We invite you to help us raise awareness about recovery from alcohol and substance use disorders.

As the nation comes to grips with the opioid crisis, and citizens, healthcare professionals, insurance providers, and public policy makers collaborate on proactive initiatives to heal those impacted by the opioid crisis – and by addiction of any sort – we want to remind everyone that each and every member of the Pinnacle Treatment Centers family is here to help.

No matter who you are, where you live, or what’s going on with you, we promise to meet you there – literally and figuratively – and help you get where you want to go.

National Recovery Month helps us do just that: reach more people so we can help more people.

It’s an opportunity for us to get the word out about treatment for alcohol and substance use disorders. That’s why this year’s theme – “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We are Stronger” – resonates so strongly with us.

We know we’re stronger together because we see that collective strength in action every day. We see what happens when we join hands and support one another. We know that the best way out of this crisis – and the best way to heal addiction – is to work through it together.

I’ll talk about the specific goals for this year’s theme in a moment.

For now, I’ll offer a quick history of National Recovery Month.

Origin and Evolution

National Recovery Month began in 1989 as Treatment Works! Month, became National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month in 1998, and evolved into National Recovery Month in 2011. The big-picture goals of Recovery Month are:

  • To educate the public that treatment for alcohol and substance use disorders can help people live healthy and rewarding lives.
  • To reduce stigma around alcohol and substance use disorders and treatment for alcohol and substance use disorders.
  • To celebrate the gains made by people in recovery.
  • To recognize the commitment and dedication of treatment providers and the recovery community who make healing possible.

It’s important to note a couple of things here.

When National Recovery Month began back in 1989, things were quite different than they are now. For instance, at that time, the government agency that sponsors National Recovery Monththe Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) – did not exist. It was created by an act of Congress in 1992. Also in 1992, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) became part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

These developments are critical to mention because they represent two things:

  1. The national recognition of the value of a well-organized, well-funded, well-regulated, collective effort to treat substance use and mental health disorders that includes resources, guidance, and reliable, evidence-based information to help develop best practices and establish professional standards of care for addiction treatment.
  2. The paradigm shift from the old model of addiction treatment, which treated addiction as a character flaw or moral failure, to the new, disease model of addiction treatment, which views addiction as a chronic disease similar to diabetes, hypertension, or cancer.

These changes in the early 90s brought us to where we are today: although we would prefer there were not an opioid crisis and an ongoing addiction problem in the United States, 30 years of treatment progress means we have the knowledge, skill, and experience to meet these challenges head-on.

We are here, we are ready, and we know what to do.

Now, back to Recovery Month 2019.

Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger

This year’s theme highlights community, cooperation, and connection.

SAMSHA describes the goals of this year’s theme in detail on their website:

“Join the Voices for Recovery emphasizes the need to share resources and build networks across the country to support the many paths to recovery. It reminds us that mental health and substance use disorders affect us all and that we are all part of the solution.”

This year for Recovery Month, SAMSHA gives us far more than words. It gives us tools to communicate with specific populations to recognize their work, enlist their help, and/or offer help and support in return. Here’s a list of SAMSHA’s five target audiences and resources designed for their unique needs:

  1. The Community. That’s right: the community is first on the list. Click here to learn how families, neighbors, peers, friends, schools, and churches can all help raise awareness about treatment and recovery.
  2. First Responders. Not everyone thinks of first responders when they think of recovery from alcohol or substance use disorders. However, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics are often the first people to arrive at a crisis scene involving alcohol or drugs. This phase of the awareness effort focuses on recognizing that because not only are they first on the scene, first responders are the first line of treatment and support. Click here to learn more about how these dedicated people work to heal our communities every day – and how you can support them.
  3. The Healthcare Community. These are the providers – doctors, nurses, and clinicians – who diagnose and treat people with alcohol and substance use disorders. This community also includes researchers and educators who work in the healthcare field. Over the past several years, members of this community have stepped up their involvement in recovery. For example, they’ve received training in administering anti-overdose medications like naloxone and become certified to prescribe opioid treatment medications such as buprenorphine. Click here to learn more about what they do, and how you can support them this month.
  4. Youth and Emerging Leaders. The world is changing, and – forgive me the use of an old adage – the youth will lead the way. While most of the current thought leaders in the recovery movement have decades of experience in the treatment of substance use disorders, there’s an entire generation coming up right behind them who are ready to take treatment and awareness to the next level. My generation worked to implement the disease model of addiction and reduce stigma around addiction. I’m optimistic about what’s possible when the youth of today move into positions of responsibility tomorrow: whereas part of our journey was setting the table for evidence-based treatment for all, the next generation will apply their brain power to innovative ways to make this treatment even more accessible and effective. Click here to learn more.
  5. Treatment and Recovery Support Services. What SAMSHA wants you to know about treatment and recovery support services can be summed up in this sentence: “Treatment is effective, and people can and do recover from alcohol and substance use disorders.” Because of this, it’s imperative that we close the treatment gap: only about 20% of the people who need treatment get the help they need. Click here to learn more about treatment and explore the wealth of online resources, emergency hotlines, treatment locators, and other resources SAMSHA maintains on its website.

We Can Shape the Future

If you read this article, thank you for taking the time to learn more about National Recovery Month. If you share this article, I thank you on behalf of the entire Pinnacle Treatment Centers team for helping us on our mission to heal families and restore balance to lives damaged by alcohol and substance use. And if you read the list above, click the links, read the information provided, and share your new knowledge with just one person, then I’ve accomplished my personal goal for writing this article, which is to spread awareness about recovery to as many people as possible.

Honestly, my mission here is that simple.

Why?

Right now, there’s a person – probably a lot closer than you think – living with addiction. They may be addicted to anything. It could be prescription opioids, it could be alcohol, it could be marijuana, it could be cocaine.

There’s a chance that person wants to get help, but for various reasons, they don’t.

When you spread the right information about recovery – meaning that when you work to reduce stigma and share facts about the effectiveness of evidence-based treatment – you can change that person’s life for the better.

And that change gets paid forward, because that’s how the recovery community works: we always offer a hand to people who ask for help.

Always.

That’s how we’ll shape the future: by working together to heal one another wherever, whenever, and however we can.