September is National Recovery Month, a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)-sponsored event that increases awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders, and celebrates the individuals living in recovery.

National Recovery Month (Recovery Month) is a national observance held every September to educate Americans about substance use treatment and mental health services that can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder live a healthy and rewarding life.

Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery, just as we celebrate health improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. The observance reinforces the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.

The 2018 Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Invest in Health, Home, Purpose, and Community,” explores how integrated care, a strong community, sense of purpose, and leadership contributes to effective treatments that sustain the recovery of persons with mental and substance use disorders. The 2018 observance also aims to increase awareness and encourage audiences to take advantage of the increased dialogue around behavioral health needs and the increased emphasis on tackling our nation’s opioid crisis.

So how are the four pillars of this year’s theme positively affected by recovery?

Health

Obviously, the most important thing a person can have is their health – both mental and physical. Mental and substance abuse disorders can have a powerful effect on the health of individuals, their families, and their communities. In 2014, an estimated 9.8 million adults aged 18 and older in the United States had a serious mental illness, and 1.7 million of which were aged 18 to 25. Also 15.7 million adults (aged 18 or older) and 2.8 million youth (aged 12 to 17) had a major depressive episode during the past year. In 2014, an estimated 22.5 million Americans aged 12 and older self-reported needing treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use, and 11.8 million adults self-reported needing mental health treatment or counseling in the past year. These disorders are among the top conditions that cause disability and carry a high burden of disease in the United States, resulting in significant costs to families, employers, and publicly funded health systems. By 2020, mental and substance use disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide.

In addition, drug and alcohol use can lead to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Addressing the impact of substance use alone is estimated to cost Americans more than $600 billion each year.

Preventing mental and/or substance use disorders and related problems in children, adolescents, and young adults is critical to Americans’ behavioral and physical health. Behaviors and symptoms that signal the development of a behavioral disorder often manifest two to four years before a disorder is present. In addition, people with a mental health issue are more likely to use alcohol or drugs than those not affected by a mental illness. 

A 2014 National Survey on Drug Use & Health showed that of those adults with any mental illness, 18.2% had a substance use disorder, while those adults with no mental illness only had a 6.3% rate of substance use disorder in the past year. If communities and families can intervene early, behavioral health disorders might be prevented, or symptoms can be mitigated.

Data has shown that early intervention following the first episode of a serious mental illness can make an impact. Coordinated, specialized services offered during or shortly after the first episode of psychosis are effective for improving clinical and functional outcomes.

Home

A happy, healthy home life can help tremendously with your recovery. But what if you’re one of the unfortunate ones with no home to go to? Then you need to turn to recovery homes that can help people in their early recovery because at the end of the day, home is defined by SAMHSA as “having a stable and safe place to live”. For people in early recovery, they’ve had to give up pretty much everything they’ve known because those people, places, and things may put them at risk for relapse – so it can be fairly isolating.

A recovery house can fill that void with a safe place to be in, compassionate people, and a life that’s filled with purpose. High rates of relapse have led to these peer-run, recovery-oriented housing schemes. These homes offer safe, alcohol- and drug-free environments that afford people in recovery a place to be surrounded by like-minded people who are all chasing the same goals; recovery and wellness.

Recovery homes are increasingly viewed as a viable and cost-effective alternative to established recovery-oriented systems of care. These homes are a good alternative because they provide safe and healthy environments that support residents in their recovery. These communities empower people by providing support as they transition towards living independent and productive lives in their respective communities. Recovery homes offer a unique alternative to harm reduction—a component of the Housing First model—for individuals whose main goal is to find a sober living environment.

Purpose

If you don’t have a purpose it is easy to feel lost or worthless. By adding purpose to your life, you add meaning, you add goals, you add satisfaction. SAMHSA defines it as “conducting meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.”

Community

SAMHSA defines community as having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope. With a strong sense of community comes the feeling of being useful and needed.

The good news is that, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a treatable disorder; it might not have a cure yet but it can be managed successfully. Research on the science of addiction and the treatment of substance use disorders has led to the development of research-based methods that help people stop using drugs and resume productive lives, also known as being in recovery.

Spend this year’s National Recovery Month working on the most important thing in your life – you.