National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September. It is designed to educate Americans on mental health and substance use disorders, in addition to celebrating the work of individuals in recovery and providing support to affected families and patients. This is an important month for me. I battle both: Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Alcohol, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, and this list also goes on.
Junkie, Crazy, Wasted, Depression, Dirty, Psycho, Clean, Hammered, Crack Head, Anxiety, Stoner, Lush, Pill Popper, Tipsy, Tweaker, Bi-Polar, Crack Head, Strung Out, Freak, Baked, Fiend, Wino, Pill-Popper, Dissociative Personality, Disorder, Boozer, PTSD, Blitzed, Druggie, Schizophrenia, Burnt, Psycho. Every word you just read, an image popped in your head to associate with that word. The weight of the stigma in these words is evident. It turns my stomach typing these terms out; I know people identified me with these terms, and in turn, I defined myself by these words.
My mental health and substance abuse issues have taken me all over the place: Therapists, Psychiatrists, Counselors, Trauma Therapy, Sexual Trauma Therapy, Intensive Out-Patient Programs, In-patient Mental Hospitals, 12 Step Programs, Life Coaches, Self-Help Groups, Substance Abuse Treatment, and even Sober Living. Honestly many of these I have tried multiple times.
Every time I went to receive assistance for my issues, I carried all these identities on my back, weighing myself into oblivion. “Don’t you know who I am?” “Don’t you know what I have been through?” I am sure all of us can relate to these questions. I finally got to the point that I dropped all my identities and had to start working with a blank canvas. Coming to the realization that I didn’t know anything, and taking direction from someone else, was the scariest thing I ever did.
Recovery doesn’t discriminate; it can impact every color, sexuality, gender, and socio-economic class. Some of my greatest supporters on the outside have nothing in common with me, but I wanted what they had on the inside. I had to have the willingness to listen. I always thought I was in control, but in reality, I skated by life. I needed to follow directions from medical professionals, other people who have been through the same situation I was in, and like-minded friends and family who wanted to see me thrive. The more I listened and learned, the more I was able to accept my reality. I began to accept myself, and life for what it was.
I tried everything as I was an infant again. I had all these preconceived notions of what I like and what I needed. Once I let go of those thoughts I was able to fill that blank canvas. I did everything I was told and said yes to everything. I learned I like to garden, photography, and hiking. In my substance use and mental health struggles, I would never have attempted to do these things. Recovery isn’t about becoming who you think you are, it’s about learning who you are meant to be.
My canvas now is filled, and constantly growing larger. It is filled with new hobbies, new friends, family members, and friends I had once lost due to my behaviors, a support group of people who deal with the same issues I do. Most importantly my canvas is filled with new identities and characteristics: Honesty, Acceptance, Integrity, Courage, Strength, Trusting, Loving, Hard Working, Supportive, Compassionate, Patient, and Willing.
Being employed by Workit Health has become the greatest gift from my recovery. I have an amazing team: Kali, Courtney, Amy, Jacob, Shaniece, Dom, and Jessica. All of us have experienced or been touched by recovery personally. If you have ever called in, you have spoken with one of us. We carry hope, compassion, and care for every single person we come in contact with. Asking for help is the hardest thing to do. We are all in gratitude that we can be a small stepping stone in people’s pursuit of happiness. Recovery is possible! It is constant work and requires great attention to our mental and physical body.
Recovery month is not only to celebrate those in recovery but to bring hope and light to the possibilities brought on by working on ourselves. Be well.