Being open about addiction recovery gives others hope
National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month is observed each September. This year's theme is "Join the Voices in Recovery: Saving Lives, Saving Dollars." It's a time for persons in recovery from addiction to publicly acknowledge their recovery.
While this has not always been the case, we in recovery stand up to let people know that addiction is a treatable disease, and that thousands recover and go on to lead productive sober and drug-free lives. This has many benefits to the community, such as public safety, and responsible citizens and taxpayers.
Many 12-step programs suggest "personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and film." I agree, and this tradition should be rigorously upheld. However, to state that I am in recovery from addiction is not the same as stating I got clean and sober in Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous or from any specific treatment program or church affiliation. To say that "I am in recovery from addiction" is a statement that means "I have a particular illness or disorder." It doesn't at all describe how the illness was treated or by which method the person recovered.
If we publicly state that we are in recovery from addiction, that will touch and bring hope to those needing treatment. It also will help those who still see addiction as a moral or ethical issue to look more closely at their bias.
Stigma works against the truth and limits possibilities. Medical science has documented the neurobiology of addiction based on more than 40 years of research, and yet there is still a significant portion of our society that believes that the addict or alcoholic should be able to stop and show some self-discipline.
If only it were that easy. Addiction disrupts the neural mechanisms associated with reward in such a way that the individual no longer has a choice. Those in recovery have learned this, come to accept it as their reality, and do what is necessary to stay clean and sober, often leading productive, joyous, remarkable lives.
If you're in recovery from addiction, tell someone who doesn't know. If you work in the addiction field, describe the miracles of recovery to people who don't know about recovery from addiction. If you're a family member of someone in recovery, tell friends how much better things are when the family gets into recovery. Write your legislators and support laws that improve access to addiction treatment and minimize stigma. The Recovery Month observance lets people know that there is hope, and that help for alcohol and drug abuse disorders is effective and available.
Go public during Recovery Month!
M.P. "Andy" Anderson is director of Community and Alumni Relations at Hina Mauka.