Recovery Month: What Have We Learned?

Dave”s Page

{I wrote this in 2010. How much has really changed in 12 years?}

Recovery Month is an annual observance that takes place during the month of September.The Recovery Month observance highlights the societal benefits of substance abuse treatment, lauds the contributions of treatment providers and promotes the message that recovery from substance abuse in all its forms is possible. The observance also encourages citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective substance abuse treatment for those in need.

Recovery Month also serves to educate the public on substance abuse as a national health crisis, that addiction is a treatable disease, and that recovery is possible. Recovery Month highlights the benefits of treatment for not only the affected individual, but for their family, friends, workplace, and society as a whole. Educating the public reduces the stigma associated with addiction and treatment. Accurate knowledge of the disease helps people to understand the importance of supporting treatment programs, those who work within the treatment field, and those in need of treatment.

What have we learned about recovery since the sixties? I think we have learned that 12 step programs work. We have learned that there are so many addicts and alcoholics that NA and AA combined could not have begin to handle all those whose new awareness of their problem needs to be addressed. In my lifetime the words “alcoholic” and “addict” have become less negative. We are perceived as people with a treatable disease rather than low life reprobates. The new awareness through the seventies, eighties and nineties has been due to education. So we know that education works.

Hence the advent of treatment centers, half way houses and sober living environments. The combination of the best medical, psychological, clinical and spiritual information in treatment has created a wide ranging industry devoted to edu- cation and recovery. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been given the opportunity to spend quality time developing a foundation for recovery in treatment centers.. These centers have become the launching pad for thousands of individuals who have been wise enough to follow-up their treatment with daily adherence to a 12 step program.

We have learned that treatment and 12 step programs provide the best possible prognosis for recovery for sick and suffering alcoholics and addicts. It it widely known that individuals who leave treatment and immediately involve themselves in a 12 step program have a much better chance of maintaining sobriety. We have learned that people coming out of treatment, in early recovery, do better in a structured sober living environment than living on their own.

We have learned that treatment can be costly.

That it is difficult for the indigent, low bottom, poor and hungry addict and alcoholic to receive treatment unless they are mentally ill. We have learned that there is a tremendous need for gov- ernment subsidized treatment programs for the poor and the more than 25% of all Americans who do not have health insurance. So we have learned that the solution is education, treatment, 12 step program attendance and sober living environments.

What we haven’t learned is that the war on drugs is a failure. That locking up pot smokers is an expensive, jail and court clogging joke on nature and our society. By spending the money we spend on the war on drugs and on locking up minor drug offenders on education and treatment, all Americans would have the option of the treatment, 12 step, sober living solution.

As members of 12 step fellowships we are encouraged, (or actually our organization is encouraged) not to engage in controversy. But as the responsible members of society we have become as a result of our recovery it is our responsibility to speak out on policies that are literally killing our friends and fellow sufferers. Instead of a “war on drugs” we should start our own “war on institutional ignorance” and begin to educate our leaders on the true nature of addiction and recovery. After all we are the experts on this subject. Let us think of positive ways to pass this message on to our national leaders. Let us understand that anonymity does not conflict with advocacy. We are all examples of recovery in action and acknowledging this can only help future suffers find the solution. Bill Wilson asked us to “pass it on” and here is a good way to do just that.

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