Everyone knows someone whose life has been negatively impacted by alcoholism and/or addiction to other drugs. Most people know someone who has been to treatment and failed to remain sober. Too few know someone who has been to treatment, or even a support group, and successfully abstained from drugs and the problems associated with them. Yet in a nation of 300 million people, an estimated 30 million are active in recovery programs or support groups on any given day. We don't know the exact number, for the same reason most of us don't know someone who has attained and maintained sobriety. Most, as an integral part of their program, remain anonymous.
Anonymity cuts both ways. On the positive front, it protects those in recovery from the stigma associated with being an addict. In that same vein, it discourages them from the dangerous tendency of wearing their recovery as a merit badge. But it also means that most people may never know someone successful in recovery. Which is unfortunate, because many of us don't believe in what we can't see. And if we don't see people in recovery, we may not believe in recovery. This is extremely dangerous, especially in difficult economic times when we are looking for ways to save money.
Addiction is not a simple malady with a simple solution. Just say no, for an addict, is like telling someone who is clinically depressed to have a nice day. Yet as a society we often shortchange the process. Physical, biological, psychological, social, behavioral, and even spiritual deficiencies and needs are inherent in addiction. And untreated addiction is probably the most costly social failure we could have. No other problem impacts on poverty, unemployment, homelessness, crime, violent, dysfunction families, abuse and mental illness, like addiction.
But there is hope, not just for the individual addict, but for society as a whole. Nearly fifty percent of those seeking sobriety achieve it on their first try. And they become normal people, just like you and me. They have fun, they are sad. They deal with problems and frustrations. They work and pay taxes. And they are effected by economic winds of change. They have friends and they have enemies. In short, they live their lives in pro-social ways dealing with the same things the rest of us do, but dealing with them sober. For the past two decades, September has been designated as recovery month. Expend the effort to find out more about recovery. Go to an event. Find out the facts. Meet someone. For activities taking place in your area, go to www.recoverymonth.gov.