A month to celebrate recovery

Since 1989, September has been declared Recovery Awareness Month. Its focus is to promote treatment, recovery strategies and practices, and to celebrate and encourage all those brave individuals who have chosen to acknowledge the effect of addiction on their lives and to walk the path of recovery.

You probably know someone living in recovery. Chances are equally high you are not aware that person is living in recovery. They may be living a life very similar to your own — raising a family, working on a career, engaging in hobbies and connecting with friends. Although there is no medical cure for addiction, it is manageable through the honest and painful process of recovery.

During Recovery Awareness month, we honour all those who have made the difficult decision to embrace recovery. They are engaged in the process of learning how to make changes in their thinking and behaviours, and learning to live a meaningful life without drugs and alcohol. Recovery is a choice that begins when someone recognizes their substance use has become unmanageable and admitting they need and want change. Reaching out for help begins the process of self-discovery, personal insights, taking responsibility and sharing these experiences with others. It’s a process of engaging in life and reconnecting with family and friends. Over time, these brave individuals become sources of hope and inspiration for those still struggling with addiction.

There are no simple answers when it comes to the disease of addiction. The reasons for it are varied, and the ways to treat it are equally diverse. For many, recovery is a long and challenging process. One thing that can be agreed on is that people struggling with addiction require time. Time to seek help, time to find supports, time to refine recovery plans to address their unique needs. Time to learn to live without drugs and alcohol, and address the underlying issues that led to addiction.

I recently ran into a former client who completed our Community Addiction Treatment Program about 10 years ago. When we first met, he was living at a halfway house after being released from prison. He made it clear when he started the program that he was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober so he could keep his life on track. I clearly remember his positive attitude and the impact he had on others in the program.
When his time at the halfway house came to an end and he would be moving back to his hometown, he was asked how he felt about gaining his freedom. His wise and insightful response was that he gained his freedom the day he put the bottle down. When we met up, we had a quick chat and he let me know that he was retired and spent most of his time playing with his grandchildren and working in his garden. He also mentioned that he has continued to live in recovery and the life he lives now would not have been possible without it.

If you have someone in your life who is struggling with substance use, you are not alone. There are resources available in the community that can provide education and support for you. There are also many supports to help people using substances make positive changes in their lives and work in collaboration with them to make healthier, safer choices whether they are considering changing their substance use using harm reduction principals, or working toward complete abstinence and lifelong recovery. The first step toward recovery is believing it can be accomplished, and the proof it can be accomplished can be seen in all the people who will be celebrating their recovery this September.

Greg Croft
Assistant director of addictions services at Mission Services of Hamilton

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