It is an unfortunate truth that people who struggle with drugs or alcohol are frequently stigmatized and looked down upon. It is a phenomenon we have explored a number of times in this blog. The sad fact is that stigmas related to substance use disorders often contribute to a person’s difficulties finding work after going through treatment, rebuilding relationships, or even maintaining their sobriety.
These negative stereotypes and unfair judgements of those who have developed a substance use disorder might seem like they are permanently entrenched in our society. But efforts to overcome these problems are constantly underway. One form those efforts take is what is known as “National Recovery Month.”
What is National Recovery Month?
National Recovery Month (Recovery Month for short) is an annual observance held in September. At its heart, Recovery Month is about educating Americans about the ways in which treatment for substance use disorders (as well as for co-occurring mental health disorders) can improve the lives of those who have found themselves in the grips of drug or alcohol use.
The idea is to break down the stigmas that threaten to undermine hard-won sobriety by celebrating recovery success—just as we celebrate the successes of people who have overcome other kinds of hardship.
The official website of Recovery Month puts it like this:
Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery, just as we celebrate health improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. This observance reinforces the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.
An Essential Message for Everyone
We want to highlight the last bit of the above quote again:
This observance reinforces the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.
It is hard to think of a more important set of guiding principles for recovery from substance use disorders. The stigmas that tend to be attached to substance use disorders are often grounded in misunderstandings—including the ideas that drug or alcohol use stems from bad character, a lack of faith, and/or a failure of willpower.
Recovery Month reminds us that we are really talking about a brain disease—in other words, a health issue rather than some sort of moral failing. Framed that way, it is easier to understand the importance of prevention and treatment as well as to understand that recovery is, in fact, possible.
Standardizing the Slogan
Over the years, Recovery Month has adopted a new theme for each year. Going forward, however, the month will always be defined by a powerful—and powerfully simple—tagline:
Every Person. Every Family. Every Community.
The tagline is an excellent reminder that while substance use disorders definitely affect individuals, they also impact entire families and, by extension, entire communities. Putting stigmas to rest and creating a supportive ethos around recovery is a central idea of Recovery Month. Again, from the website:
The 2023 Recovery Month observance will work to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible.
The Time to get the Help You Need is Always Right Now
Have feelings of guilt or shame kept you from seeking treatment for a substance use disorder? For far too many people, the stigmas associated with drug or alcohol use stand in the way of making the decision to get help.
That is why the message of National Recovery Month is so very important. Together, we can all work toward a more helpful, kind, and evidence-based approach to thinking about substance use disorders. Importantly, this is not an idea that is only relevant in September. Instead, it is an idea that should underpin the ways in which we think about substance use disorders and those who struggle with them no matter what the calendar says.
And that is why we always emphasize that the best time to get help for a substance use disorder is always right now. Don’t wait for some hard to define “better time.” Don’t let embarrassment convince you to try to hide what you are going through. Don’t let misguided people in your life insist that you should be able to overcome a substance use disorder all on your own.
The team at The Aviary Recovery Center near St. Louis, MO, is fully committed to personalized treatment for substance use disorders and the co-occurring mental health disorders that may be entangled with them. We are devoted to evidence-based care grounded in our expertise, experience, and empathy. And we are ready to help you reclaim your sobriety—and your life—right now.