Recovery is possible, everyone is deserving of it

September 30, 2020 | by Justin Wolfe, LCPC, CADC, CRC
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

To celebrate Recovery Month, participants in the adolescent dual diagnosis and addiction program at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Naperville created an art project. The end result was a beautiful mural with handprints from clients, leaves identifying supports that they used, the serenity prayer inscribed within the tree, and a gift to share with others who find themselves taking steps to create a life worth living.

Every September, we celebrate National Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders. We celebrate those in recovery while also remembering those who were not as fortunate.

The overall message holds true all year: Recovery is possible and can be attained regardless of how distant it may feel at times.

The message of hope and recovery is needed now more than ever, as mental health and substance use issues are increasing at exponential rates.

Meetings and support groups — the places people in recovery could turn to for guidance, understanding and connection — have been turned into online formats, furthering the disconnection.

Substance use and mental illness are the only things that can rewire the brain to undo the natural connection to family, loved ones, hobbies and a sense of purpose. Connection is needed now more than ever — and recovery is connection.

This year, it is critical that we recognize, support and connect with those in recovery. The science has showed us that the disease of addiction is not one that someone "chooses" to have, or that someone "lacks willpower or the strength to just stop."

These beliefs are harmful, shame-provoking and even condemning at times. These beliefs emotionally and physically isolate those who are struggling and prevent them from raising their voice or reaching out.

To pursue recovery is to combat the physical, emotional and social consequences of the use of these stigmas. The resilience of individuals with co-occurring and substance use disorders is something to celebrate.

Individuals who struggle with addiction not only have to overcome the disease of addiction itself, but also the stigma associated with the disease. No other medical condition provokes such a strong reaction — and derogatory words to describe — individuals afflicted with the disease. 

When one hears terms such as "junkie," "addict" or "alcoholic," it does not elicit warm, fuzzy feelings. These terms have been embedded into the language that contributes to viewing individuals with a substance use disorder in a different light. It is time for that to change.

When we think about our most at-risk population for suicide and impulsivity, it is this one. There is strong clinical evidence that substance use contributes to the development and intensifying symptoms of major depressive disorder, suicidal ideation, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, bipolar disorder and psychoses.

An individual who experiences a major depressive episode and uses substances is at a seven times greater risk of attempting and completing suicide than an individual who has a single diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Yet, despite all of this, the stigma and judgments attached to the disease and the people it afflicts persist.

Recovery is about connection — connection with meaning, purpose and personal fulfillment. Individuals who have lost this battle should be remembered for the good that they have brought to this world, not their disease. Countless individuals in recovery will gladly give all that they have to help another and we need to support them.

Recovery is possible, and everyone is deserving of it. Take time during this pandemic to connect and acknowledge the strength and resilience within each of us.

Linden Oaks Behavioral Health is open and available to support your recovery needs. Our programs are all evidence-based and address mental health conditions alongside substance use. Services aim to support the unique needs of the high-risk population and help individuals in their recovery journey.

If you or a member of your family would benefit from working with a therapist, please contact Linden Oaks Behavioral Health at 630-305-5027 for a free behavioral health assessment.

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