Mental illness and substance use: Let the recovery begin

The month of September is a very special month for us who have served as professional practitioners in the field of mental health and chemical dependency.

It is a month that we honor those most deserving individuals and families in Recovery from Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders, and to spread awareness that recovery is possible and is occurring regularly among those afflicted.

Recovery Month established just five years ago by the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), increases awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and encourages individuals in need of treatment and recovery services to seek help.

The concept of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care was established during that same year, and has become the mainstay of treatment and care for persons with mental illness and substance use disorders.

Recovery Month celebrates people in long-term recovery and recognizes the dedicated workers who provide the prevention treatment, and recovery support services.

This year’s theme, as provided by SAMHSA is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities,” and “focuses on rural and frontier communities, the criminal justice system, community-and faith-based organizations, ad public health professionals and departments, highlighting the various entities that support recovery within our society.”

SAMHSA goes on to state the theme “encourages communities to be socially inclusive, offering support to those with mental and/or substance use disorders, as well as the chance to seek help, lend a hand, and contribute to their community as citizens, parents, employees, students, volunteers, and leaders.”

The word “recovery,” as contemporarily given, is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

For years treatment professionals struggled with treatment of persons with mental illness and substance use disorders.

Although treatment modalities were somewhat effective, they did not do enough to give their person tools for maintaining lasting abstinence and sobriety, or to prevent relapse so common with persons with mental illness; the process of aftercare. This was always most perplexing and frustrating to treatment professionals as well as for the family of the affected person.

After many years of struggle, and much work in the field of mental illness and substance abuse, conducted by thousands of hard working and dedicated professionals and others, a program was finally developed…the birth of the Recovery Oriented Systems of Care was created.

Rather coincidentally, and perhaps rather ironic, recovery is not only about the individuals and families suffering from the trauma of mental illness and addictions in their midst, but attention must also be placed on those recovering from other traumatic events as well…I turn our attention to those in recovery from the terrible events of Hurricane Harvey.

May the victims of this terrible event, those who have lost family members, friends, their homes and other possessions be able to restore their lives and properties…that they may indeed recover. I always find comfort in the resiliency of the human spirit, however, and it is with an optimistic eye that I know that recovery will be at hand for all of them.

Recovery Oriented Systems of Care contains four major dimensions that support a life of recovery: 1) Health — Overcoming or managing ones’s disease(s) or symptoms. 2) Home — A stable and safe place to live. 3) Purpose — Meaningful daily activities, such as job, school, volunteerism, creative endeavors, etc; and the independence, income and resources to participate in society. 4) Community — Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope. With these dimensions in mind, a set of guiding principles of recovery have emerged, which are: recovery emerges from hope, recovery is person-driven, recovery occurs via many pathways, recovery is holistic, recovery is supported by peers and allies, recovery is supported through relationship and social networks, recovery is culturally-based and influences, recovery is supported by addressing trauma, recovery involves individual, family and community strengths and responsibility; and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, recovery is base on respect.

Recovery Oriented Systems of Care supports the Wholistic Model of care; taking into account the Spiritual Self, the Psychological Self, the Social Self, and the Physical Self; the four selves of the person.

With the advent of Recovery Oriented Systems of care came new, innovative groups; to include peer support groups, the Self Management for Addiction Recovery (SMART) groups; and others. These groups are not to take the place of existing self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, but to augment them.

The SMART group for example, is a “self-empowering recovery support group, where participants learn tools for addiction recovery base on the latest scientific research, and participate in a world-wide community which includes free, self-empowering, science-based mutual help groups.” The SMART group is built upon a 4-Point Program: “Building and Maintaining Motivation; Coping with urges; Managing thoughts, feelings and behavior; and living a balanced life.”

Recovery Oriented Systems of Care are now present within our own Community; in our local Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics, Tropical Texas Behavioral Health System, and other organizations providing care for those individuals and families having mental illness or substance use disorders.

Although we acknowledge that the individual has the primary responsibility for their ongoing recovery, families and the community are most essential for the support of their recovery…a most important entity, and we must insure we are there for them. Until Next Time, Stay Healthy My Friends!