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Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Recovery Awareness

Visible, vocal, valuable: This is the theme of September’s Recovery Awareness month. With all the resources and effort that are put into assisting those with addictions, it is important to celebrate those who have reached the recovery stage. It is now understood that people in recovery must continue to take one day at a time, but it is still helpful for them to have the support that they deserve. This month is also designated to promote the message that recovery in all forms is possible, and every citizen should take action to expand and improve the availability of effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those in need (NCADD).

What exactly is recovery? One useful definition is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential” (SAMHSA, 2014). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has determined criteria that should be met before an individual can be considered to be in recovery. The four criteria are in the areas of health, home, purpose, and community. In terms of health, someone in recovery would need to be overcoming or managing his or her disease or symptoms. This would involve abstaining from alcohol or drugs and making healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being (SAMHSA, 2014). Having a stable place to live is also an important aspect of being in recovery. Purpose is defined as being able to perform meaningful daily activities, such as having a job, attending school, volunteering, or other ways of participating in society. Lastly, community refers to the support, friendship, love, and hope that social networks can provide (SAMHSA, 2014).

The process of recovery is very individualized in that no journey is ever the same. Some tools that may be involved in the recovery process include clinical treatments, medications, faith-based approaches, peer support, family support, self-care, and many others (SAMHSA, 2014). However, there are some features that are typically important for those who have decided to seek help. For instance, it would be difficult for someone to go through the recovery process without having hope that his or her life can get better. Resilience is also an important trait to have in order to cope and adapt with challenges or changes that may arise. Additionally, having a network of support is extremely beneficial in the recovery process. There will be many ups and downs as one undergoes this process, so having family, friends, or other loved ones available is key (SAMHSA, 2014).

SAMHSA established the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, which promotes “partnering with people in recovery from mental and substance use disorders and their family members to guide the behavioral health system and promote individual, program, and system-level approaches” (SAMHSA, 2014). This initiative helps foster health and resilience (including helping individuals with behavioral health needs to be healthy, manage symptoms, and achieve and main abstinence); promote the availability of recovery-supportive housing; reduce barriers to employment, education, and other life goals; and secure necessary social supports in their chosen community (SAMHSA, 2014). This support can be provided through treatment, services, or community-based programs.

An additional concern in recovery support is cultural competence. Cultural competence can be described as “the ability of an individual or organization to interact effectively with people of different cultures” (SAMHSA, 2014). Anyone who interacts with people in recovery, whether they be health care providers, peer providers, family members, friends and social networks, the faith community, or people in experience with recovery, should be respectful of their health beliefs, practices, and cultural or linguistic needs. In order to be culturally competence, these individuals should also actively address diversity in the delivery of the services and should seek to reduce health disparities in access and outcomes (SAMHSA, 2014).

In order to promote and celebrate the idea of those in recovery, a Road to Recovery Television Series has been developed by SAMHSA. This series was designed to highlight important issues in recovery and has a panel of nationwide experts from the field of recovery. There is a Radio Series available as well. The September episode will focus on mobile applications and interactive tools that promote whole body health and wellness. To view the trailer for this creative approach to recovery, click here.  Another way that individuals can utilize the media during Recovery month is by posting personal stories of recovery to show that it is possible no matter what type of situation someone comes from. These videos are provided by “Young People in Recovery” and are a great way to engage those who are in recovery as well as to give hope to those who may think it is not possible for a person in their position. The videos provided are specifically targeted toward young people to encourage them in their own recovery journey. Greg Williams was one such teen and is now in recovery; however, the other videos are inspiring as well.

Even if you are not personally touched by addiction, it is important to understand and celebrate those in recovery. These individuals have worked very hard to be happy and reclaim their lives. Just as other chronic health conditions require long-term help and support, those in recovery from addictions should be able to be a part of the same nurturing environment (NCADD). As every day can be a struggle for someone in recovery, try to celebrate this population in some way this month.

*[For more resources on the topics covered in this article, see the IPRC HOME library e-Resources accessible from IPRC homepage or at http://www.drugs.indiana.edu/search/home-library.aspx].

By Heather Dolne 9/11/2015