National Recovery Month is an annual observance held every year in September.
Recovery Month has been recognized for over 30 years, and the theme for 2021 is a universal message – Recovery Is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.
The goal of Recovery Month is to promote awareness of evidence-based treatment methods and recognize the recovery community as a whole. This includes people actively in recovery as well as treatment professionals who make recovery possible.
September is a month to promote how substance misuse and mental health treatment services can empower those struggling with addiction or mental illness and their family members to live rewarding and healthy lives.
Addiction advocacy is extremely important. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that nearly 20 million Americans battle a substance use disorder.
Those are not just numbers. The statistics represent people – individuals with meaningful lives – whose family and friends are often just as affected by their disorder as the person who is struggling.
The History of National Recovery Month
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) established Recovery Month in 1989. At that time, it was called, Treatment Works Month, and served as a way to recognize people working in the field of addiction treatment.
Nearly ten years later in 1998, the name was changed to National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month and the direction was expanded to include not only addiction treatment professionals but also those who were struggling with substance use issues.
Thirteen years later in 2011, it adopted the current name of National Recovery Month, and once again broadened the focus to also include mental health issues.
In 2020, Faces & Voices of Recovery took over many of the Recovery Month responsibilities from SAMHSA, although they still remain actively involved.
The official color of Recovery Month is purple and it is observed nationally throughout the United States each year for the entire month of September.
Understanding Addiction For Recovery Month
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports, “addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that can alter brain chemistry in a way that makes it difficult for a person to resist intense urges to use drugs or alcohol despite serious personal, professional, and even legal consequences.”
One factor of alcohol and drug dependency that is often overlooked includes the underlying mental health conditions that often drive people into self-destructive behaviors and exacerbate the issues of a substance use disorder.
The presence of a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder and others, combined with a substance use disorder is referred to as a co-occurring disorder.
When this happens, dual diagnosis treatment is necessary for recovery to be successful and long lasting.
The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) reports that approximately half of all people with a substance use disorder also experience some form of mental health disorder.
Both conditions, the substance use disorder and the underlying mental health conditions must be addressed at the same time for treatment to be effective and sustainable.
This is one of the reasons National Recovery Month expanded the focus to include mental health issues in 2011.
National Recovery Month helps promote awareness of both conditions and overcome the stigma associated with issues of mental health and of addiction.
Overcoming the Stigma and Seeking Treatment
All too often, substance use disorders and mental health conditions are considered a moral failing, a lack of willpower or self-control, and an inherent weakness by some people in the general public.
The reality could not be further from the truth, though it is exactly this fear and stigma that very often keeps people from getting the help they desperately need.
Research shows that fewer than 10 percent of the people who need treatment for substance use disorders ever receive professional, specialized care by trained health care workers, psychologists, and physicians.
Effective treatment, whether at an inpatient residential treatment facility or an outpatient program, often needs to begin with detox if a person is dealing with advanced issues of addiction.
Being able to undergo the withdrawal process in a safe, comfortable, and medically supervised environment can reduce the intense fear of detoxification, which many times keeps individuals from seeking help.
After detox, adapting to a life in recovery will involve individual therapy, dual-diagnosis treatment, and group and family therapy if needed.
To complement recovery treatment, a regimen of good nutrition, a regular exercise routine, mindfulness practices, and support groups can also have a positive impact.
While a treatment program may appear overwhelming to a person looking at it from the outside, the truth is, addressing the underlying causes of addictive behavior while creating new lifestyle habits becomes a rewarding cycle.
There will of course be challenges, such as the possibility of relapse, but that should never be considered a failure. Cultivating a lasting recovery is always worth putting in the work to achieve it.
Celebrating Recovery During National Recovery Month
Another aspect of the Recovery Month observance is bringing attention to the thousands of dedicated addiction treatment professionals who truly care about individuals working to overcome their personal struggles.
Their compassion, understanding, and devotion to not giving up on anyone makes it possible for so many people to put their issues of addiction in the rearview mirror.
During times of distress, people in recovery should always know they have access to treatment professionals who will listen to them, work with them, and help them stay on a positive path in a non-judgmental manner.
During the month of September, take the opportunity to learn more about the issues of addiction and mental health.
The Faces & Voices of Recovery website has a calendar of educational and artistic events held during the month, and many of them can easily be attended virtually.
Recovery Month in September may also be the right time to talk to a loved one, a friend, or a colleague struggling with addiction about seeking treatment. For others, it might be time to consider seeking their own personal help.
Don’t forget to wear purple during September to show your support and use the hashtag #RecoveryMonth in social media for posts related to National Recovery Month.
A new, more rewarding, and healthier life is possible on the other side of treatment because, as the theme of this National Recovery Month suggests, recovery is for everyone.