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National Recovery Month

by Claire Barbetti, PhD, MA

It’s National Recovery Month! 

September is National Recovery Month.  Each year the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) collaborates with people in recovery to celebrate a specific theme related to recovery.  This year’s theme is Join the Voices of Recovery: Together We Are Stronger. The focus is on celebrating and creating communities that promote prevention, treatment, and other kinds of recovery services.   

Recovery Month banner states: Join the Voices for Recovery: Together we are stronger.  Recoverymonth.gov.  National Recovery Month 2019 is the 30th anniversary.

We know from the research that college age individuals in the United States consume the most alcohol of any other demographic, and that most of this consumption is in the form of binge drinking rather than dependent use.  

Graph showing percentages of binge drinking by age groups

Image credit: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/alcohol.htm

Risk factors associated with binge drinking include chronic conditions, sexual risk behaviors, violence and injuries—including partner violence, motor vehicle crashes, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The good news is that in the last year, binge drinking has decreased nationwide among college students to less than 30% for the first time.

Graph depicting that binge drinking among college students has dropped below 30 percent

Other substances, like marijuana and nicotine vaping, are on the rise, and substances like Adderall continue to be misused more in college populations than in non-college populations. What’s clear is that the high pressure of academic expectations and college culture can be sometimes crippling, and many college-age adults—when lacking other resources—turn to substances to manage stress and emotion or to fit in.  For some, this is the beginning of a painful journey into addiction.

It’s fitting that September—the start of the academic year—is Recovery Month. With all the beginning-of-the-year activities and parties, it’s a good time for awareness and accessing resources.

What is recovery?  (It’s not just about abstinence!)

Words many people associate with recovery are “quitting,” “abstaining,” “detox,” “treatment,” “staying clean,” and so on.  It’s a bleak picture that feels like a lot of other people managing one’s life.  But recovery is much richer and more interesting than the stereotypes that usually come to mind. Recovery is a process of healing. It’s about finding pleasure in ways that are self-sustaining. It’s about growing and connecting rather than feeling empty and lost. The brain heals in recovery: new pathways to pleasure, awareness, and self-knowledge grow each month a person practices recovery. Relationships heal in recovery: communication and appropriate boundaries grow stronger the longer one learns not to block out emotions with addictive substances or behaviors. 

What does recovery look like?

There are many varied colors and shapes to the recovery process—each person’s process is different. There are 12-step programs like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) that use spirituality as a foundation for healing. There is also SMART recovery which utilizes a more cognitive behavioral approach to recovery, focusing on changing maladaptive thought patterns to thoughts more in tune with reality. Harm reduction approaches like Moderation Management prioritize supports that reduce harm from addictive behaviors. Refuge Recovery, a Buddhist community, focuses on self-awareness, community, and service. Communities like The Phoenix emphasize an active lifestyle and connecting with others through a variety of sports and health-related activities. Recovery 2.0 crafts recovery from a mindfulness perspective taken from the yoga philosophy of self-knowledge. Many online recovery groups exist also: LGBTteetotaler, the r/stopdrinking subreddit,   Women for Sobriety, Soberistas, and sobriety apps like Sober Grid. And many, many more.

Recovery at WVU

And there are resources here! We have a rich recovery community on this campus. Serenity Place , 628 Price St. on the downtown campus, supports each person’s personal path to recovery. It’s an inclusive space for all people who want a safe, healthy, and engaging place to socialize or study or cook or meditate. Their lounge space is comfortable and full of light, art, and books.  There are computers for studying and a kitchen for cooking meals.  There are kind people to talk to. Not to mention the weekly hiking on Sundays, sober tailgates, outdoor adventure trips, and Friendsgiving.

Consider taking a tour of Serenity Place and getting to know the staff and student organization, Mountaineers for Recovery (M4R). Also check out the great article featuring the Serenity Place, Mountaineers Are Always Free, in the national newsletter Recovery Campus .

Help us celebrate National Recovery Month by getting involved and adding your voice. We need people inside recovery, allies outside of recovery, and people who define recovery in diverse ways to help change a culture of addiction to a culture that supports people’s health and joy.

Upcoming events sponsored by the Serenity Place

Outdoor Adventure Hike, September 28

Participation in the Homecoming Parade, Friday, October 4 at 6:30 p.m. on High Street.

For further information, contact the WVU Collegiate Recovery Program.

Recommended resources

Websites

On campus

National resources

Recovery communities, hubs, and apps

Books

  • Awakening Joy, by James Baratz
  • Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein
  • The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown
  • This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, by Annie Grace
  • The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, by Catherine Gray
  • Unbroken Brain, by Maia Szalavitz
  • The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk

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