September is a very important month.
Not only are we able to recognize and celebrate recovery, but we’re also able to educate and provide resources for Suicide prevention.
September has been recognized as National Recovery Month. Recovery is a much more complex topic than meets the eye. Many people have misconstrued ideas about substance use especially when tied with mental health. It has become more and more prevalent in the data being reported that substance use has links to mental illness or disorders.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (or SAMHSA) has created a working definition of what recovery is. Their definition states that Recovery is, “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” So how can we as friends and family support the ones we love who may be working towards recovery?
Here are some things to think about:
Educating yourself on substance misuse and mental health challenges can feel like a large task, and knowing where to start can feel even more overwhelming. The internet has a bunch of really great resources including, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) webpage. Another way to educate yourself on how to support a family member or friend working on their recovery can be as simple as asking. Sometimes we think so largely on how we can help that we forget that we can directly ask the person how we can help better understand their situation. For people just beginning their recovery process people of support are going to be who they rely on most. An example of how to help support and educate yourself at the same time could be to attend a meeting together, or a counseling appointment.
Recovery is a process and doesn’t happen overnight. As a person of support try your best not to hold unreasonable expectations. The same thing goes for someone who is working on their recovery. Because recovery is a journey, small steps make big changes. Recovery from a substance, specifically, is similar to behavior change and for a behavior change to be successful there need to be a few factors present. You need to be motivated, and you need to be ready. Take this into consideration as you support someone who is working on their personal recovery. While working through your own recovery or supporting someone else through their remember that a relapse in behavior should not be seen as a failure. Rather, an opportunity for growth. Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a few steps forward.
Celebrate the little successes. Let the person or people you support know that you are proud of their progress. To offer encouragement can also extend to changing your personal lifestyle a bit to support the person in recovery. An example of this may be hosting drug and alcohol free events, parties and celebrations. This can show that you are serious about their recovery and that fun can still be had without the presence of substances. There are many other ways you can support and encourage friends and family in recovery. Above all let them know they are not alone, allow yourself to be a known support system but balance time for yourself as well.
Talk About Stigma
Stigma plays a large role in how we view people with substance use, or mental health disorders. Part of how we can break the stigma surrounding these challenges is to talk about these topics. There tends to be so much shame and blame placed on people who are actively working towards a healthier lifestyle. With this being said a lot of how we contribute to these stigmas is by the word choices we use. Words like addict, druggie, dirty, psycho, or crazy have been used in the past to describe people who may be experiencing addiction or a mental health crisis. However, what needs to be addressed is that these people are experiencing something and might not have the resources to get the help that they need. People are more than a word that degrades their situation. We can begin to shift stigma by starting with the word choices that we use to describe some, and talking openly about topics that might feel uncomfortable. The only way to make a positive change is to educate ourselves and to normalize that recovery is possible.
Setting boundaries is a helpful strategy that you may have to practice as someone who is in recovery or as someone who is supporting someone else working on their recovery. As a person who is working on your own recovery, it can be helpful for your own growth to recognize and identify people or situations in which you were challenged in your recovery. It is okay to give yourself some space from these people, places or things that you may have associated with during your active addiction. Boundaries may be
physically or verbally set. As a person supporting someone else’s recovery boundaries may look a little different. Enabling tends to be a common factor for people of support. Enabling can vary based on each individual situation. For example, enabling a person in recovery could be giving them money. Typically, someone who is enabling will not know that they are enabling or being used, because their intentions to help are good. Remember that you can still be helpful and supportive without enabling, but challenges may be faced in this piece.
Help to make sure recovery is possible by sharing support groups and help lines. Support groups may meet locally or use online platforms due to Covid-19. To find a meeting near you you may choose to start with the National Helpline through SAMHSA at (800) 622-4357.
For more specific meetings and assistance with recovery visit:
This webpage has resources on mental health, drugs, alcohol, and prescription medication, as
well as domestic violence information.
Southwest Counseling Service offers a variety of solutions for those who hope to begin their recovery journey. To learn more about the services provided call (307) 352-6677.