Every September, communities across the country celebrate National Drug & Alcohol Recovery Month by turning their attention and support to those who are struggling with substance dependence and abuse. While many individuals and families deal with these issues every day, Recovery Month reminds us that recovery from addiction is an ongoing process, the success of which thrives with support from friends, family, and community.

Drug and alcohol abuse are serious health threats to millions of Americans, and cost approximately $100 million every year in health care and lost wages. Consider these statistics:

a) More than 19.5 million Americans use illegal drugs

b) Over 14 million have used marijuana in the past month

c) More than 15 million are dependant on alcohol, and 54 million are binge drinkers

d) An estimated 2.3 million people used cocaine on a regular basis in 2002

e) Nearly four million people have used heroin at some point.

These numbers show that substance abuse and addiction touch all of us in some way. While we may not be struggling with a substance abuse issue ourselves, most of us know someone who is.

However, each of us can be an asset to those we know who are struggling with an addiction. Recovery is most successfully achieved when it is a collective effort?#34;that is, when the true meaning of community is rediscovered, and recovery is supported by caring friends, family, and health professionals. To highlight the successes that can be achieved when recovery is supported by others, this year’s Recovery Month is themed “Join the Voices for Recovery: Healing Lives, Families, and Communities.” How can we continue to be an advocate, a voice for recovery? Each of us has something to offer.

Family members can continue to offer love and acceptance of the person struggling with addiction. Friends can continue to offer support and encouragement. Remember, a loved one with an addiction is still a loved one, and a friend who suffers from substance abuse is still a friend.

Health care professionals can recognize and treat substance abuse and addiction in a compassionate, caring manner. And every member of the community can themselves be a voice for recovery by learning about these issues.

Substance abuse and addiction are illnesses, much like cancer or the flu. Illnesses do not deserve scorn?#34;they require treatment. We must continue our efforts to make treatment and support services more accessible and affordable, and continue to involve family and friends in the successful treatment of addiction. If you or someone you know need help, become a Voice for Recovery.

Family Service and Mental Health Center can be a valuable resource in a time of need. Please call us at 383-7500.

Margo Bristow
Substance abuse counselor,
Family Service & Mental Health Center of Oak Park & River Forest

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