September is Recovery Month - National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, that is. And to celebrate people in recovery, as well as those who provide them services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will host an assortment of activities.
"Recovery Month provides an opportunity for those in Recovery to attend sober social activities, courageously express their commitment to a sober life and meet other people who are also in recovery," said Michele Federico, of Gastineau Human Services Treatment Services.
This year is Recovery Month's 20th anniversary, and the theme is "Join the Voices of Recovery: Together We Learn, Together We Heal."
In addition to "The Art of Recovery" gallery exhibit, which opened Friday and shows through the month at the Silverbow Back Room, events include a celebration of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day, Recovery Poetry Slam, SoberFest party, Recovery Film Festival, Recovery Month Book Clubs and an "I Am My Own Anti-Drug" poster event.
Teri Tibbett, advocacy coordinator for the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, said the activities help to raise awareness that recovery is possible and provide resources for people who are interested in making steps toward recovery from alcoholism or drug abuse.
"Another (reason) is to provide something fun to do in an alcohol-free environment," Tibbett said. "The art show and poetry slam offer chances to use the creative process both therapeutically and as an alternative to using substances. SoberFest is a chance to meet people, listen to music, dance to live music and have fun without alcohol. The Recovery Film Festival at the Gold Town Nickelodeon offers a chance to watch films depicting the lives of people affected by addiction."
"The Art of Recovery" exhibit was created by various people in recovery from addiction disorders or mental illness. In his artwork, contributing artist Justin Williams refers to drug and alcohol abuse as a plague.
"Raised partially by an alcoholic and drug addicted mother, I was raised to think that type of lifestyle was normal, but through experimentation with drugs and drinking, I found that that is not OK," he writes. "Now that I am grown up, and have a family myself, I have decided to raise my own family traditionally by discouraging drug and alcohol abuse ... By leading the children by example instead of just words, we have a greater chance of promoting a sober lifestyle for our future generations."
According to Kate Burkhart, executive director of Alaska Mental Health Board and Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, "a very conservative estimate" of the number of Alaskans dependent on alcohol is 17,000 - 3.6 percent of the total population.
"When you include Alaskans age 12 and older (appropriate given the extent of alcohol and other drug use among adolescents), the number expands to 22,000 Alaskans dependent on alcohol," she said.
Burkhart said the Division of Behavioral Health reports a regional prevalence rate for adult substance abuse of 4.09 percent in Southeast Alaska. Not to mention, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that an estimated 12 percent of American children live with at least one parent who is dependent on alcohol or an illicit drug, she said.
"This is corroborated by the reports of drinking behaviors given by Alaskan adults participating in the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System," she said.
According to that system, 6.4 percent reported engaging in heavy drinking (an average of more than two alcoholic drinks per day for 30 days for men and an average of more than one alcoholic drink per day for 30 days for women) and 19.2 percent reported engaging in "binge drinking."
Regardless of the stats, Federico believes alcohol and drug addiction are significant problems everywhere.
"(Addiction) has social and human costs that are beyond calculation, and yet the social investment in treatment is minimal," she said.
Federico and other coordinators believe Recovery Month serves to educate the public on substance abuse as a national health crisis as well as teach that addiction is a treatable disease and recovery is possible.
"(It also helps to) de-stigmatize the reality and undo the stereotypes of those in recovery and the process or recovery," Federico said.
"Recovery Month highlights the benefits of treatment for not only the affected individual, but for their family, friends, employer and society as a whole," Tibbett added. "Educating the public reduces the stigma associated with addiction and treatment. Accurate knowledge of the disease helps people to understand the importance of supporting treatment programs, the people who work in the treatment field, and people in need of treatment."
For More Information on Recovery Month in Juneau, contact advocacy coordinator Teri Tibbett at 465-4765 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or by e-mail at email@example.com.