My earliest memory is from age two. My sister and I were using a combine harvester as a jungle gym when I missed the bar and landed hard on my feet. No one noticed anything wrong at first. I was young enough that suddenly wanting to be carried around more didn't seem odd. It wasn't until days later when my parents took me to the doctor that a debilitating fracture was discovered.
Addiction often follows a similar course: the person with addiction may not know what's wrong or be able to express that something is amiss, and people around that individual do not always recognize signs of trouble. This reality, unfortunately, means that too few people get the help they need for their addictions.
Addiction and its treatment represent a serious challenge for Tennessee. Our state ranks fifth in cannabis production, second in meth lab seizures and third in prescription drug abuse. We have a generational cycle of addiction among many families -- from that great grandfather who made moonshine during Prohibition to a teen today who is raiding medicine cabinets looking for painkillers. For the health and wellbeing of families and individuals of all ages across Tennessee, we have to break the cycle of addiction in which so many are caught.
September is Recovery Month -- the ideal time to explore how we can encourage anyone wrestling with alcohol or drug addiction to seek treatment.
Here are three important steps towards a life-changing and even generation-altering recovery:
Don't Wait. The time to get help with addiction is now. Once a person takes the initial steps toward recovery efforts, it may take years for certain behaviors to feel entirely "normal" again. No matter how long an addiction has existed, recognize the problem at hand and get started on the solution. In my daily work with drug courts in Tennessee, I've seen many people from all walks of life succeed, surviving decades-long addictions.
See the Doctor. We don't think twice about having healthcare professionals fix our broken legs. We should just as easily ask them to help treat addiction as well. In Tennessee, a practice known as SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) can connect you to a clearly designed recovery plan. Ask your doctor if he or she participates in this program, and inquire about other addiction treatment services.
Trust the Process. You may have heard that "it often gets worse before it gets better" when fighting addiction. However, temporary discomfort from withdrawal surely pales in comparison to lasting sobriety. Recovery has many pathways, and they all involve trust--trusting a sponsor, a counselor, a psychiatrist, a higher power. Whatever method you choose, believe in this wise decision you've made.
Recovery Month honors those who have beat addiction as well as those about to take their first brave step into treatment. Let's get started!
Michael Reynolds is Program Manager at Centerstone (www.centerstone.org) for eRecovery, a technology enhanced service in collaboration with the 12th Judicial District Drug Court that provides treatment for adults with mental illness and addiction who are in the criminal justice system.