Helping and celebrating those in recovery

Helping and celebrating those in recovery

When many people think of recovery, they may think surgery or something physical-related, but many may underestimate the importance of recovery for those with addiction and other behavioral health disorders.

September is National Recovery Month. This awareness month, in its 25th year, is recognized to shine the light and educate the nation on behavioral health and addiction recovery.

Experts take this opportunity to share information on addiction treatment, behavioral health services and share stories of those who have overcome their battles with these disorders.

According to MentalHealth.gov, recovery from behavioral health disorders and/or substance abuse disorders is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to achieve their full potential.

“These stories and successes often get overlooked,” says Dr. Cynthia Gordon, addiction psychiatrist with Advocate Medical Group in Des Plaines, Ill. “This observance month gives an outlet to educate and highlight those stories.”

Dr. Gordon, who is board certified in both addiction medicine and psychiatry, says the key to prevention of these disorders is early detection and treatment of underlying situations that can lead to addiction and psychiatric illnesses.

“Adolescence, in particular, is a time of social, physical and emotional change that can be extremely stressful to the developing mind,” she says. “Adolescents have often not yet developed good coping skills, or the ability to recognize that they are in trouble and to ask for help.”

She says this age group is, therefore, particularly vulnerable to substance use disorders, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

“Parents and teachers should be mindful of this when they see a child with frequent physical complaints such as headache and stomach upset, absences from school or extracurricular activities, increased fatigue or changes in appetite or sleep,” Dr. Gordon says. “These same warning signs often present in adults.”

Dr. Gordon says that people with depression, anxiety and addiction are frequently sick or tardy; they miss work and cancel social engagements; and they may appear withdrawn or distracted and can exhibit changes in behavior, weight or sleep habits.

Treatment Options
Contrary to popular belief, most treatment options do not usually involve medications or hospitalization initially, Dr. Gordon says.

“The most important step is first having a thorough evaluation performed by a health care professional such as a primary care physician, a psychiatrist, a therapist or social worker,” she says. “There are then many modalities for treatment available.”

Addiction treatment usually is done on an outpatient basis and the person often continues to work or attend school during treatment. However, Dr. Gordon says sometimes more intense treatment in a residential setting is recommended for the first few weeks before moving to an outpatient setting.

How can you help those in recovery?
Dr. Gordon says one of the best ways you can help someone in recovery is just by being compassionate and supportive.

“It often seems to the outsider that the person is choosing to use alcohol or drugs or is refusing to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get moving,” she says. “The truth is that addiction and psychiatric disorders are not a choice:  They are illnesses that can be treated successfully, allowing the persons afflicted to return to enjoyable, productive lives.”

Dr. Gordon adds that the love and support of family and friends are often vital components to successful recovery from addiction and mental illness.

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About the Author

Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.