September 20, 2023

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

As the recovery movement continues to grow, it’s vital that we become more accepting of those who use substances problematically.

September is recognized as National Recovery Month. It also recognized as National Suicide Prevention, Hispanic Heritage, World Alzheimer’s Disease, Blood Cancer Awareness and Library Card sign-up (read those books!) month. Today – we are focusing on recovery.

Each year in September, millions of people celebrate making a change in their life related to the amount of negative substances they ingest — while many of us may have been too busy renewing our library cards (FYI, they have some awesome books on addiction).

Defining recovery

What does recovery really mean? Recovery is defined as ‘a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength’ or ‘the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost’. For myself, I describe ‘recovery’ from substance use with two words: POSITIVE CHANGE.

Substance use disorder

Now that we are on the same page about ‘recovery’ (and it is ok if you are still pondering your thoughts/opinions), we can break down some of science of substance use disorder. I promise this will not turn into a research paper.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes substance use disorder (SUD) as ‘a treatable mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to their inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol or medications. Symptoms can be moderate to severe, with addiction being the most severe form of SUD.

Notice that this definition does not include ‘moral failing’, ‘lack of control’ or ‘choice’, although many in our society choose to look at it this way. Those with substance use issues are our neighbors, children, family, co-workers, teachers, politicians, sports icons and first and foremost other humans.

As we celebrate those who have tried to not only consider changing behaviors in their life, yet have made plans, efforts, and actions to identify what ‘positive change’ means for them, we applaud you. You are the ‘real MVP’s’, you continue to show the world that we are not our previous experiences. Instead, we can evolve and grow as humans.

You have a part to play

People in recovery are everywhere. If you feel you do not know anyone in recovery from problematic substance use, consider that they may just not be comfortable sharing it due to the stigma and judgment that comes with problematic substance use.

As the recovery movement continues to grow, it is vital that we become more accepting of those who use substances problematically. When we begin to look at everyone as another human being, we can begin to create the atmosphere for people to seek support, seek guidance and most importantly, lead their self-identified healthy lifestyle that supports a more productive society.

You can make a difference by not judging people by their choices and being accepting of everyone, regardless of your thoughts on their lifestyle choices.

About Justin Beattey

Justin Beattey is a father, husband, and strong supporter of community collaborations, acceptance, and support. He works alongside communities and professionals as the Vice President of Education and Credentialing at Mental Health America of Indiana to develop and sustain ecosystems that support positive mental health. His personal motto — “In a world full of pigeons, be a flamingo.”

Wellness Wednesday | Celebrating Recovery, Ending Stigma

Weekly Recipe

Black Bean Chilaquiles