NEW YORK NURSE: September 2009
by Erin Silk
Those struggling with addiction know all too well the pitfalls and triumphs associated with recovering from the disease. And now, thanks to a new campaign to educate the media, the public may gain a better understanding of substance use disorders and what it takes to overcome them.
The campaign, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Learn, Together We Heal,” highlighted during the 20th anniversary of Recovery Month in September, shares real-life stories of those recovering from the devastating effects of alcohol and drug use. These true accounts are used to convey the message that recovery is possible, while highlighting the very real facts of the disease.
Former addicts from all walks of life share how their lives and the lives of others were impacted by substance use and what the road to recovery has meant for them. Addicts’ stories, many brutally honest, detail the path to abusing and credit loved ones or co-workers who cared enough to intervene. In the words of one “Voices” poster, “Sobriety and life are worth fighting for. We just have to be shown the way.”
In addition to the stories, the media kit includes basic information and reporting resources about substance use disorders, treatment, and recovery. Because the media is positioned to influence the public, it is hoped that it can help dispel common misconceptions about addiction and communicate the truth about recovery. The media kit helps the public to see that addiction is a disease and an addict’s recovery from it is personal and unique to them.
Addictive illness is the major public health problem in the U.S., with at least 10% of the work force abusing alcohol, prescription, and/or illegal drugs. Nurses are not exempt from this population. The Statewide Peer Assistance for Nurses (SPAN) Program, a resource for nurses coping with drug-related problems, has long sought to erase the stigma of addiction through outreach efforts to nurses who have misused drugs and/or alcohol.
According to SPAN director Ellen Brickman, “Voices for Recovery” is a significant campaign in that over time, more and more nurses are willing to tell their story. “Many times, one of our nurses in recovery will accompany a SPAN Regional Coordinator to an educational program on addiction in the nursing profession offered at a hospital or nursing school. At the end of the presentation, the nurse will share his or her own path of addiction and recovery. It puts a face on the disease and greatly impacts the audience. We often have audience members stay to talk to the nurse in recovery and many times they share a personal struggle with addiction or a family situation. It is critical that nurses continue to come forward and share their experiences with this disease to reduce the stigma and inspire others to seek help.”
In 2007, there were 23.2 million people aged 12 or older who needed treatment for a substance use disorder in the United States. With more than 11,000 specialized drug treatment facilities that provide rehabilitation, behavioral therapy, counseling, medications, and other types of services in the United States today, there are many options for treatment. Through accurate reporting, the media has an opportunity to create an open dialogue about recovery and encourage those struggling with addiction to seek help. To receive more information about “Voices for Recovery,” or to download a media kit, visit recoverymonth.gov.