September is National Recovery Month, a national observance, born 27 years ago to celebrate the successes of those who have recovered from mental illness and substance abuse. While it is true that the statistics around substance abuse are chilling, the number of people recovering from both substance use and mental illness is on the rise. Millions have recovered and have gone on to lead healthy, productive, meaningful, and self-sustaining lives. It can be done.
National Recovery Month is a time to celebrate these successes and continue to bring awareness and education to the public about what is possible in recovery. It involves hearing the stories of those who have overcome their addiction and inspiring those still struggling with tales of encouragement. It is about finding compassion for those we know who are in recovery and cheering them on, knowing that recovery is possible.
Our mantra at Fedcap is about creating relevant, sustainable impact in the lives of those we serve. Each of those words has special meaning and we did not land on them lightly. To be successful in recovery. the path has to be relevant, it has to be sustainable, and it has to have impact—for the individual in recovery and for those who live with, work with, and love him.
What makes recovery relevant? Recovery must be tailored to the needs of the individual. It must be a process that meets the individual where she is—no matter where she is, without judgment, without a prescribed formula for behavior, and with unconditional support. There is no cookie cutter process for recovery. Relevance in recovery means listening with love to victories as well as struggles and truly witnessing and mirroring back the best of what’s possible for that person. It means understanding her family dynamics and her history and accepting her for who she is, right here, right now.
What makes recovery sustainable? Many people believe that once an individual attains sobriety, that’s success. But focusing only on sobriety can be a set up for failure. The process of recovery takes the time it takes depending on the individual. For some it may be months, for others it may be decades. Sustaining sobriety and truly recovering means looking at recovery from a multi-faceted approach. It means creating an individualized plan that involves the support of professionals and peers who have been through the process and come out the other side. It can involve a variety of therapies from mindfulness to learning new skills to establishing healthier habits. It means regularly assessing what’s working and determining if additional support is needed at any time. It means imbuing the individual with the power to make good choices in relationships, finances, physical and economic well-being. For those of us who love the individual in recovery, it means choosing to support with fierce respect.
Finally, what creates impact in recovery is looking beyond the process to understanding what will work not only for the individual but for those in her immediate orb. How have those people been affected and how can they, too, recover from the effects of addiction? Recovery is not just an individual process, but it involves the community as they grow to understand the nature of substance use disorder and mental illness. Impact also means carrying the message—as in AA—of experience, strength, and hope that reflects the stories of effects of addiction. Impact also means telling the truth about mental illness and addiction thus wiping away the shame.
I’ve heard the expression: the opposite of shame is compassion. This is what National Recovery Month is all about—it’s about education, awareness, and compassion for all of those—of us—who are affected by substance use disorder or mental illness. During this month, I plan to think each day about ways to support those in recovery on a day-to-day basis. I am happy to report that our Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, NH, is serving dozens of people who go there to experience relevant, sustainable, and impactful care in their recovery. What can you do to inspire relevant, sustainable, impact in recovery?