Celebrate Recovery on September 30
In order to celebrate recovery, we need to understand that it is not an easy road.
One of the most debilitating diseases in the world is addiction. It’s estimated that about 4.5 million Canadians suffer from drug addiction, and this figure doesn’t include family members affected by addiction. Fortunately, there is treatment available, but addiction is not curable. Those who have conquered their addiction are considered recovered, not cured. It’s important to realize that many people go on to live productive and healthy lives once they stop using the addictive substance. Since 2012, there’s been a push to celebrate recovery from addictions.
In the United States, September is designated Recovery Month, but here in Canada, we just have Recovery Day. Last year, about 30 cities held special events, and this year, even more will. Recovery Day began with a nine-minute video by filmmaker Greg Williams that had the goal of breaking down the stigma of addiction and focusing on solutions to addiction. The movement began in Vancouver but has trickled across the country to help others.
Myths About Addiction and Treatment
Many times, addicts are seen as bad people making bad decisions, but drug and alcohol addiction is much more complex than we realize. There’s no “one size fits all” to cure addiction. Often, addictions come hand-in-hand with other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, and all of the health problems within a person have to be dealt with to find long-term recovery. Here are a few other myths associated with treatment and addiction:
- Addiction is a character flaw.
Addiction is actually a brain disease.
- People can just stop using drugs if they want to.
Drug and alcohol addiction actually changes the brain, which leads to a compulsion to use the substance. Teens become addicted much more quickly than adults because their brains are not fully developed.
- You can’t force a person into treatment for it to be successful.
Many people go into treatment to keep a job or because the legal system ordered them into it.
- Treatment should be a one-shot deal.
Studies show that treatment reduces many of the risky behaviors associated with addiction and it reduces the substance use, but many addicts need continuous treatment to overcome drug and alcohol use. There are some who can quit cold turkey and never go back to using the substance again, but many others need a wide array of services to keep them on the road to recovery. Treatment needs to be individually tailored to address each person’s specific needs.
- After treatment, if a person continues to abuse drugs or alcohol, it’s a hopeless situation.
Relapse into substance abuse is not failure. Addiction is a chronic disorder that makes a person more vulnerable when dealing with work and family problems. Stress can trigger a relapse, especially in the first few months following a release from a treatment program. Don’t give up on an addict, because recovery is a long process that isn’t easy.
A Day to Celebrate Recovery Gives Hope
When people come together to share their recovery stories, it’s proof that treatment does work. Recovery is possible. The awareness Recovery Day brings challenges the societal stigma of addiction, and it builds community to give hope to others who are dealing with this difficult problem.
Recoverydaycanada.com has information about events in different cities. Vancouver is hosting a street festival. Montreal hosted an event at Girouard Park on September 17.
If you miss out on the event in your community, make plans to celebrate with your friends who are in recovery to honor their commitment to their health. Find inspiration and support in what they’re doing to maintain sobriety. Give hope to others who may have friends and family dealing with addiction. Let’s focus on solutions and finding help instead of shaming addicts.
Get Ready to Participate in World Suicide Prevention Day
We have the ability to stop others from attempting suicide. We need to reach out to others and lend a helping hand to those who desperately need it.
This past spring, Canada experienced a crisis of suicides in its aboriginal population. In one northern Ontario community, more than 125 individuals attempted suicide in about a six-month time frame. Considering that the community itself only has a population of about 2,000, that figure is alarming. The suicide rate for First Nations males is 10 times higher than that of non-indigenous males. For women, the rate is 21 times higher. The government has responded by sending more healthcare providers to the area, and according to news reports, the Red Cross has gotten involved. Parliament held an emergency session last spring to address some of the problems, but it’s going to take time to change the statistics.
Suicide Prevention Tips
The World Health Organization knows that there is a suicide epidemic in the world. WHO estimates that one person dies every 40 seconds every year by suicide. That’s about 800,000 people around the world. This figure does not include those who do not succeed, which could be another 25 times more people. Nor does this figure calculate how many people are affected by suicide each year. It’s not just those who die or try to die, it’s those who love this person. In September, WHO wants to get the message across that suicide is preventable. It takes just three simple steps:
One key element that researchers have found in preventing suicide is relationship. Those who are contemplating suicide often feel distant from those they love and they need the connections and communication for full recovery. It’s not easy to talk about suicide and it can be extremely scary. Many people avoid the conversation, because it can be so awkward. There’s also a myth that by talking about it, you actually encourage those who are thinking about it to actually do it. Many high schools don’t teach “Romeo and Juliet” just for that reason, but research hasn’t really show a connection.
When talking to someone about suicide, it’s important to listen and to show compassion without being judgmental, which can be a very difficult assignment as well. Here are some things you can say and questions you can ask:
- I have been concerned about you lately.
- How can I support you?
- I’m here for you. You’re not alone.
- I may not understand how you feel, but I love you and I want to help.
- I want to check in with you to see how you’re doing.
- Have you thought about finding professional help?
If you need some ideas on what not to do:
- Don’t say things like “look on the bright side” or “suicide will only hurt your family” or “suicide is wrong.”
- You don’t need to fix their problems or even give advice.
- Don’t blame yourself.
- Don’t promise to keep their secret.
Responding to a Crisis
When a person tells you that they’re thinking about suicide, even though you might be a layperson, you should evaluate the immediate danger. You can do this through asking them about their suicide plan. When someone has a specific plan, the means to carry out their plan, and a time, you should probably get help immediately. You don’t have to take care of this situation on your own, no matter what the other person wants. A life is a stake. You should never leave a suicidal person alone when an attempt seems imminent. You should also remove potentially lethal objects from the area as well.
Join International Association for Suicide Prevention on social media for ways to get involved in World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. Know what’s going on in your community to prevent suicide and to find assistance quickly. There are many resources available across the country. Suicide is preventable when you know how to act.