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Likely, you have heard of things that are celebrated throughout the United States. Some celebrations last a day, others the entire month. Some might seem silly, where others are important.

Pi day is March 14th to represent the number pi. On that day, pizza places may offer a whole pizza for $3.14. If you like pizza, that is a good deal, but does it serve a larger purpose? You decide.

In honor of Star Wars, May 4th is dubbed “May the Fourth Be with You” as a pun for “the Force.” Fun for Star Wars fans, but again, not something that brings a greater awareness to society.

August 13th is International Left Handers Day. Being left-handed has its challenges in a right-handed world. Through observations over time, I have noticed that many people seeking treatment, and those who work in the field are left-handed.

February is Black History Month to honor and celebrate the contributions made to American history from African Americans. Given the current state of our nation and its history, awareness is warranted.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in October. There is no cure for cancer. The goal of breast cancer organizations is to raise awareness, funds, education, and research to improve care.

From these examples, it might be safe to say that every day is worth celebrating.

LGBTQ Pride Month is in June and commemorates those who supported Stonewall Inn in New York City. In June 1969, protestors resisted police harassment and persecution of the LGBTQ community. This event began the movement to outlaw discriminatory practices.

History of National Recovery Month

Treatment Works! Month was the original name for National Recovery Month. It began in 1989 to honor addiction professionals. Nine years later, it was renamed National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month to expand the focus on persons suffering from substance use disorders.

In 2011, National Recovery Month was changed to include healthcare professionals, clients, and behavioral health.

Each year, National Recovery Month selects a theme to focus on. This year, 2020, the theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Connections.” It is a reminder for people in recovery that we all have victories and things that maybe we wish we had done differently.

Why do we Need to Focus on Addiction Recovery?

The two biggest reasons are reducing stigma and raising awareness to reduce the shame.

Stigma is still an enormous problem associated with addiction and other healthcare problems. Things like depression, mental illness, and HIV were extremely stigmatized. Through education and awareness, this has lessened some. Not much progress has been made to reduce the taboo associated with addiction.

Not only do others stigmatize substance abusers, but individuals with substance abuse can also engage in what is called self-stigma. This occurs when the addict absorbs the negative social attitudes about addiction.

Healthcare providers can shame or humiliate persons with substance abuse. A person who is known to be or enters a hospital and is under the influence may receive inadequate treatment. Doctors and nurses can be critical and believe that those individuals are engaging in drug seeking behavior.

The moral model of addiction permeated society during the Colonial Years (1492-1763) and much of the American Revolution (1763-1820s). We mean by the moral model that the individual was blamed or thought of as having a flawed moral character. This view explained why some drank and used drugs, and others did not.

In the 1820s, Dr. Benjamin Rush began to introduce the idea that there were adverse effects on the body because of consuming alcohol. This started the concept that addiction was a disease. Stigma still exists despite moving away from the moral model.

Language Can Make a Significant Difference

Language matters. Person-first language has many benefits.

Compare the following: Mary has a substance use disorder. Mary is an addict. The first example has a neutral tone that separates Mary from her behavior. The latter indicates that Mary is her behavior.

Identifying an individual as having a condition like substance use helps maintain their integrity and dignity.

Person-first language also recognizes that substance abuse is not a moral defect of character.

What Can You Do to Get Involved?

Sign up for the SAMHSA webinars for National Recovery Month.

Educate yourself and others:

Gently correct others when they speak misinformation about addiction.

Address media bias and misinformation.

Talk about the reasons people might use drugs and alcohol.

Individuals who have substance abuse problems are human beings.

Watch educational videos like Ted Talks.

Use the Addictionary. This helpful tool is like a dictionary and alerts the reader if a term is a stigma inducing language. Consider the following examples; abstinence and abuser, the first two entries in the Addictionary.

Abstinence – the absence of substance use. There are several types of abstinence that have different meanings. Continuous abstinence is absence from the drug of choice, whereas complete abstinence is the absence of all substances.

Abuser is a person who exhibited impaired control over substance use despite the harm caused by doing so. This term has a tone that tends to increase stigma and can be a barrier to treatment. Using the word abuser does not place the person first, but rather the action or behavior.

Look for events near you using #NationalRecoveryMonth or share your story on social media using the same hashtag.

Host an event like coordinating a walk with family, friends, and your community.

Posting your event allows others to find it.

Write about your event on social media to help raise awareness.

Attend an event.

The National Recovery Month 2020 calendar lists multiple events throughout September.

“It’s the little things that count, hundreds of them” ~ Cliff Shaw.

Many things can reduce the stigma of addiction and raise awareness. It starts with us.

If you are struggling with addiction and want to get help, contact The Ho tai Way – Recovery for women. We use evidence-based treatment to meet your specific needs. What better time to get sobriety than National Recovery Month? Call (714) 581-3974.