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September is Substance Abuse Recovery Month

September is that time of the year when things start to change in an almost predictable fashion. Even as the leaves start to change color, there is a burst of activity in the educational realm, with children going back to school for another exciting year of learning and fun.

As an adult outpatient counselor, I am open to any change or development in the mental health/substance abuse field. In fact anything that deals with the human condition or experience has always fascinated me. I believe that I am a therapist at heart and can always find a way to relate to people. It is also what I enjoy doing the most.

As I look at the substance abuse and mental health events calendar, I observe that September is the national alcohol and drug addiction and recovery month.

The mission of Recovery Month according to SAMSHA is to celebrate people in recovery, applaud the services provided by treatment providers and to support the belief that recovery in all its forms is possible.

On a personal level, I know that I had a very rewarding experience helping my young adult and mostly male clients in their journey towards recovery. I am humbled by the fact that I learned a lot from them and they have definitely added to my breadth of knowledge and awareness of what it is like to cope with an addiction.

The following are some of my own observations:

· Recovery from alcohol and drugs is 100% possible. All that is needed is a positive attitude and a humble and honest commitment to prioritize recovery over everything else.

· Most substance abuse disorders are accompanied by a co-occurring mental health disorder. In many cases, the drug was chosen as a way of self-medication to cope with other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, PTSD etc. Recovery will therefore be meaningful and effective when treatment addresses the mental health symptoms as well.

· On an average a higher proportion of males exhibit symptoms of substance abuse disorders as compared to females. One of the contributing reasons for this is that a lot of young men have been taught since they were little that in order to be strong men they need to hide their emotions and feelings. Consequently, such men lack the skills for distress tolerance and may seek to ‘mask their emotional feelings’ through the use of alcohol/drugs.

· Recovery will not have lasting results unless alternative coping strategies have been substituted for drug seeking behaviors and activities. These could be simple lifestyle changes to avoid boredom and inactivity such as making time to go to the gym, pursuing a hobby or interest that does not involve the use of drugs.

· Family support is very important in recovery. The person abusing drugs will seldom seek help on his own. Quite often one or more family members will over function to compensate for the reduced functioning of the drug-seeking member. This results in ‘co-dependency’. What family members can do instead is to lovingly encourage and support the drug seeking member to seek professional help and counseling. Family counseling has been found to be very effective as well.

· Recovery is a lifelong commitment to remaining abstinent and taking a humble stand in recognizing that it cannot be done alone. Involvement in community support groups such as AA meetings, CCAR, participation in church activities, belief in a higher power etc. is positively associated with sobriety maintenance.

· Prevention is better than cure. Parents need to stay involved with their kids and recognize the little signs of addiction before it gets out of control. One does not become an addict overnight. Most abusers start with small dozes until they develop a ‘tolerance’ when a higher dosage of the addictive substance is needed to give the same effect.

If you or your loved one is coping with a drug abuse/ mental health problem, give us a call or e-mail us. We do not have any waiting lists and we can schedule an appointment within 24-48 hours. Most insurance plans including Medicaid (Husky A and B) are accepted. We will look forward to hearing from you!

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