Between 2017 and 2019, around 1.4 million Texans were facing some kind of substance use disorder; that’s nearly 6% of the state’s residents over the age of 12, according to the 2017-19 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

While the troubles and trials of substance use and substance-use disorders are heard often in news reports of tragic drunk-driving crashes or gossip about a friend of family member’s drug problem, September presents an opportunity to look at the other side.

National Recovery Month has been marked every September. It’s a chance to recognized and support those who’ve struggled through the nightmare of addiction and come into the light on the other side. This September, it’s a chance to show that recovery is for everyone: every person, every family, and every community.

As part of National Recovery Month, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas will host Recovery Day in the Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25 at Kiwanis Park in Lufkin.

In the 2020-21 fiscal year, the Outreach, Screening, Assessment and Referral arm of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas screened more than 3,000 of our neighbors, friends and family members for substance use issues, representing a 33% increase in the number of people seeking help over those screened in the previous year, according to the 2021 Regional Needs Assessment compiled by the Lufkin-based Region 5 Prevention Resource Center. The Prevention Resource Center is also a part of ADAC.

Recovery from addiction has meant a hard-fought but rewarding battle for many of them.

“Recovery has given me a new way of thinking. If you change the way you think, your behavior will change,” wrote ADAC client Josh, a 35-year-old who has been in recovery from substance use for three years and six months. “Each day, we have a choice: to wake up and be a better person…or to continue the selfish, self-centered things we’ve always done. It’s just that simple.”

This year, ADAC Recovery Coach Julie Nash marked four years in recovery from a prescription pain medication addiction that escalated to heroin. You can hear some of her story in ADAC’s newly released podcast, Give, Get, Grow: stories of substance use and recovery.

“I never thought that I would amount to anything more than a heroin addict, and here I am,” she said. “I just want people to know if I can do it, they can do it.”

As a recovery coach, Nash helps people new to recovery navigate the system of care and resources available to them.

Nash and others who work professionally in substance use treatment and recovery want people to understand that addiction is a very real disease, and it’s something that affects people from all walks of life and backgrounds.

Linda James, a licensed chemical dependency counselor with ADAC who has been in recovery nearly three decades, said there are misconceptions and misunderstandings about substance use disorders, like it’s something a person can’t recover from, or that it’s just a series of bad decisions and a lack of self-control.

“The misconceptions are that most people just don’t make it. Most people are not able to pull themselves out of it,” she said. “That’s just not true.”

The widespread nature of substance use and its effects are the theme of this year’s National Recovery Month campaign, and it’s something that counselors and those in recovery know well.

“You never know who’s in recovery. You never know who’s in their addiction,” she said. “Addiction crosses all borders and boundaries.”

If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance use issue, have questions or concerns, or would like more information, contact the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas at 1-800-445-8562 or 936-634-5743.

Tim Monzingo is public relations coordinator for the Alcohol & Drug abuse Council of Deep East Texas and a former Sentinel photographer and reporter.

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