National Recovery Month: Let’s Build A Movement

Recovery is the expectation, not the exception — Unity Recovery, a Recovery Community Organization

Each year, September kicks off with National Recovery Month — a time when we see thousands of Americans come forward to publicly share their stories of recovery. This visibility is crucial; it helps fight the stigma associated with addiction and increases awareness of substance use disorders. This awareness allows us to build a continuing movement of people in recovery and families impacted by addiction, to show that recovery can be an expectation, not an exception. This is something we can achieve year-round, not just in September.

Rates of recovery

Unfortunately, of the 20 million Americans with substance use disorder and the 17 million Americans who suffer from alcohol use disorder, less than 10 percent get the help they need. These figures show that what we’re doing isn’t enough. 88,000 Americans die each year due to alcohol use disorder, and 70,000 die due to drug overdoses.

This disparity between the rate of substance use disorders and the rate of recovery makes the mission of National Recovery Month even more important. 

National recovery month

The History and Purpose of National Recovery Month

National Recovery Month is now in its 30th year. It is an annual event sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) with the goal of letting Americans know that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and fulfilling lives. 

Each year we also take this opportunity to celebrate the millions of Americans who are in recovery from mental and substance use disorders, helping to remind us that recovery in all its forms is possible. This is so important in order to redress the imbalance of stigma that people suffering with substance use disorders face: National Recovery Month publicly recognizes the accomplishments of individuals who have transformed and reclaimed their lives.

Through National Recovery Month, we actively help to reduce the stigma and misconceptions that unfavorably cloud public understanding of mental and substance use disorders, which can potentially discouraging others from seeking help. This is essential because stigma — shame in particular — is one of the reasons individuals with alcohol and other drug problems don’t seek help because they fear being judged.

National Recovery Month encourages everyone to take action to advocate to expand and improve the availability of effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those in need.

Each year has a specific theme to promote these objectives. 

National Recovery Month

Photo by William White on Unsplash

The Theme of 2019 National Recovery Month

This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger.” It focuses on community members, first responders, the healthcare community, and youth and emerging leaders. It also highlights the various entities that support recovery within our society.

This theme emphasizes the need to share resources and build networks across the country that support recovery in all its forms. It reminds us that mental and substance use disorders affect us all, and that we are all part of the solution. The campaign will emphasize inspiring stories that can help people in all walks of life to find a path to hope, health, and wellness.

SAMHSA has created a toolkit to help individuals and organizations plan events and activities to promote the objectives for National Recovery Month. You can also find a recovery month event near you.

Building a Movement of People Impacted by Substance Use Disorder

National Recovery Month furthers our mission at Faces & Voices of Recovery to build a movement of people impacted by substance use disorders. We can use the momentum from the campaign to get more involved with recovery community organizations (RCOs) across the nation and internationally. We are stronger together.

RCOs play a crucial role within the recovery community and actively engage in recovery activities year round. Specifically, they:

  • Educate the public about the reality of recovery
  • Advocate on behalf of the recovery community
  • Deliver peer recovery support services

To support the growing network of local, regional and statewide RCOs, we have established the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO), linking them with their leaders and local and national allies. Together with over 100 members of ARCO, we’ve built a unified voice of the organized recovery community, allowing us to lead more impactful, positive change.

To get involved with ARCO or to access our toolkit, visit our website