September is National Recovery Month.
Definition of recovery: Deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills and/or roles (Bill Anthony, 1993)
If you are in recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction, congratulations! Be it one month or twenty years, it is a cause for celebration. How would you define your recovery?
If everyone in recovery defined what it looked like for them, we would have as many different answers as number of people polled. Recovery is personal and unique and dynamic – it changes all the time. And one has to be vigilant to the strong, sneaky, convincing forces of relapse.
One doesn’t get clean and sober and then stay the same; recovery is much more than that. It is about reconnection, empowerment, self-efficacy. It is about “living life on life’s terms,” as the old AA saying goes.
The fog lifts. Working at a 28-day rehab, I saw many women in early recovery. I worked about once a week, and by their third week of stay, the women noted that I looked familiar; have they seen me before? I would reply that I saw them last week. “No way!” they’d say. By week three, they were just emerging from the murky cloud of addiction into some awareness of self and their surroundings.
And within this recovery, the women had to deal with raw feelings they had avoided by using substances. Grief, guilt, sadness, loss. Those who stayed clean faced these emotions with courage and new skills. And they began their journey into recovery, however it looked like for them.
Celebrate recovery. We should celebrate recovery and those who sustain it, right? Decades of the Alcoholics Anonymous movement have suggested that recovering individuals keep their anonymity to protect them from judgment and stigma. This judgment and stigma was pervasive when AA started in 1935 because the cause of alcoholism was seen as a lack of morals. And while some stigma remains, it does not exist to the same extent anymore.
There is a movement to celebrate recovery and change the dialogue around the stigma and shame of drug and alcohol addiction. Faces and Voices of Recovery is a movement that seeks to end the stigma around addiction and reduce barriers to treatment through health care reform, organizing communities and supporting a peer recovery model. The peer recovery model trains people in recovery, or affected by recovery, to volunteer their support for a newly sober individual. To learn more about the Faces and Voices of Recovery movement, watch their 2013 film, The Anonymous People (it is available on Netflix).
To celebrate National Recovery month, you can
- Celebrate your own recovery
- Tell your story of recovery to someone
- Sign up to be a Recovery Coach (Statewide in ME, contact Darren Ripley at 207- 621-8118)
- Celebrate someone else’s recovery; tell them how you have noticed their life change through recovery
- Be aware of any feelings of stigma and judgment within you towards people with drug or alcohol issue
If you are in recovery, celebrate your accomplishments.
If you need recovery, I hope any stigma or barrier to your treatment is erased.
And if you fit into neither of these categories, I hope you will support National Recovery month in any way that you can.
by Christina Fay, LCSW, LADC, CCS