September is National Recovery Month. Now in its 26th year, Recovery Month celebrates those people who have gotten their lives back in long-term recovery and the support systems around them that make recovery possible. Recovery Month also promotes the message that recovery in all forms is possible and encourages the community to come together to help expand and improve access to services for those in need.

The recovery month theme “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!” highlights the value of peer support by educating, mentoring, and helping others. It invites individuals in recovery and their support systems to be catalysts and active change agents in communities, and in civic and advocacy engagements. – SAMHSA website

What a perfect theme for this moment in time in the addiction field: voices joining together to talk about and raise the visibility of the power of recovery! Not only is the issue of addiction and recovery being shown in the media through shows like A&E's “Intervention”, it is also being talked about openly and honestly on social media, on mainstream news websites like the Huffington Post, and with a first of its kind national rally in Washington in October: Unite to Face Addiction.

Why now? Why are people stepping out of the shadows and speaking up about addiction? I think it’s because addiction is becoming an epidemic and is exploding in parts of the country that have never experienced addiction issues before.  As a result entire communities are being destroyed, and people who may not have given much thought about addiction before because it didn't touch them personally, realize now that something must be done.

That something is providing more access to treatment rather than incarceration for those suffering from addiction. It's making sure that the family members of those suffering from addiction have access to treatment as well. And it's about sharing our stories of hope, happiness and success when recovery is achieved. Nothing is more powerful and touches more people than a story, and those of us who have been fortunate enough to get to long-term recovery have lots of stories to tell!

While I can't speak to recovery from the perspective of the addict, I can speak to it from the perspective of the family member. I know the devastation that comes from losing someone to addiction; I lost my brother 8 years ago to alcoholism and I still have not gotten over it nor have I properly grieved for him. I watched my husband battle an alcohol & drug addiction and my sister battle a crack addiction for years. To watch someone you love struggle so mightily with something you don’t fully understand is the most frustrating, heartbreaking, helpless feeling in the world. You go through their addiction right along with them and the fear, pain, worry and guilt is almost too much to bear…

But I also know the relief, joy, and pride that come from seeing my husband and sister overcome their addiction and achieve 14 years and 10 years of recovery respectively. I’ve seen them both repair relationships that were thought to be beyond repair and go back to being the amazing, loving people they were before addiction took over their lives. In the case of my husband, I’ve also seen him go back to school, get his associate’s degree and now work in the field as a drug & alcohol counselor to pay back the gift of his recovery. He is now pursuing his bachelor’s degree and will be working toward his license next year. The power of recovery has totally transformed their lives and I could not be prouder of either of them!

I also want to speak briefly about my own recovery. As I’ve written about before, 14 years ago I tried Al-Anon and it didn’t work because I didn’t think I needed help; sound familiar? I didn’t have time because I was busy trying to hold things together at home raising my daughter on my own and I didn’t want to deal with any issues I had with my family members’ addiction; it was their problem not mine. 14 years later those issues started to surface and it was my husband, who successfully achieved recovery through treatment and a 12-step program, who suggested that I give Al-Anon another try.

I’m so happy that I listened to him because I’ve been able to find peace and am working on my own recovery by dealing with issues and emotions I kept shut away for years. Al-Anon has had an amazing effect on me and it’s wonderful to have programs available to us as family members where we can work on our issues in a safe, non-judgmental space with others who are dealing with the same things and know that we are not alone.

Recovery is a POWERFUL thing, for the addict, the family, and the community. No matter how long it takes us to get there or what we gave to go through to get it, the goal is to get there and see all the joy, pride and success that are waiting for us because we are worth it!

Nadine Herring is the owner of Virtually Nadine, a virtual assistant company that provides online administrative support and social media management to addiction specialists and social service organizations. I specialize in working with this undervalued and overworked field to help them deal with the time consuming process of running an organization.

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