September is an important month on our calendar for many reasons – the kids go back to school, Labor Day celebrations herald the end of the summer, football season starts. Sometimes, though, if you or someone you love is struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction, you don’t mark the passage of time. Every day folds into the next in a blur of progress, relapse, and survival. It’s difficult to see anything past the guilt, grief, pain, or shame.
One constant thing about substance abuse and mental health battles, which consequently often occur together, is their secretive nature. Alcoholism, depression, drug addiction – all of these diseases thrive in secret and isolation.
“Nobody understands what I’m going through.”
“I can’t ask anyone for help because I’m so embarrassed.”
“I did this to myself. I deserve being like this.”
“What can I possibly do to help? It seems everything I say makes things worse.”
Do these sentiments sound familiar? Addiction and mental illness are diseases, just like cancer and diabetes. Unfortunately, society has only recently begun to see it as such and is peeling back the cover of shame that shrouds these illnesses. But awareness is only part of the problem. The universal lie told by this devil of a disease is that we are doomed to remain debilitated and limited by our illness and that we will never recover.
The mission of September’s designation as National Recovery Month is to debunk that lie. Our counselors here at Renaissance Ranch, one of the premier faith-based treatment centers in Utah, agree that Recovery Month is a critical piece of the ongoing effort to show those struggling with addictions and their loved ones that recovery is possible and that it can be lasting. The main message of this month’s events is hope and that recovery is worth fighting for at all levels of society.
In 1989, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched National Recovery Month to increase awareness of people dealing with substance-use disorders, mental illness, and other co-occurring issues.
According to SAMHSA’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2017, nearly 20 million people aged 12 and up suffered from a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). That translates into a startling one in every 13 people. Of those, only about 1 million people recognized they needed treatment, and only 1 in 3 of that number could afford specialty treatment. Coupled with the drug overdose rate tripling to about 70,000 deaths in 2019, it’s evident that substance abuse is a major epidemic.
The collateral damage of SUD is also felt keenly by neighborhoods and communities in terms of rising drug-related crime rates, the abuse and neglect of children, and millions of dollars in high healthcare costs and lost wages. In 2017, the medical expenses of SUD-related hospitalization topped $13 billion. In 2016, the Health and Human Services Administration estimated that the annual total economic impact for substance abuse – which includes alcohol, illicit drugs, and opioids – is a staggering $442 billion. That’s roughly the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Argentina.
For 30 years, SAMHSA has led this national effort by sponsoring events, offering webinars and help sessions, and driving support for next-generation addiction treatments. Today, the NAADAC (The Association for Addiction Professionals) is taking over the reins for supporting Recovery Month. You can find all kinds of helpful materials, mental health and addiction recovery resources, and a list of local and national events on its dedicated website, rm.FacesandVoicesofRecovery.org.
The theme for this year is: “Recovery Is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.” This message is evidenced by the more than 200 local, state, and national organizations collaborating with Recovery Month organizers to create events and media campaigns highlighting addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery.
For instance, Renaissance Ranch started the celebrations early with its 20th anniversary reunion on August 21st. The event was free and open to alumni, family, and friends. On September 11th, National Recovery will partner with the Brigham Young University Recovery Community to host a Sober Tailgate for the big BYU-University of Utah rivalry football game. Also on the 11th, Salt Lake City will put on its annual Recovery Day event. Every year, from Vernal to St. George, several Utah cities, communities, and businesses work hand-in-hand with Recovery Month leaders to celebrate SUD hope and recovery.
And, thanks to our pandemic experience, you can participate virtually from all over the nation. National Recovery Month’s kick-off event will be a candlelight vigil live-streamed in Zoom format on August 27th. Another tremendous virtual event is the Friday Frenzy Speaker Jam, hosted by Shining Light Peer Services, an addiction treatment center in Florida. Each Friday, a different speaker will share their recovery story and discuss the various pathways to recovery.
For more information on SUDs and how to get recovery help for yourself or your loved one, stay tuned to our blog or contact one of our counselors at www.renaissanceranch.net.