Prevention, treatment and recovery services from around the nation unite every year to celebrate National Recovery Month. The event is held throughout September “to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use issues and celebrate the people who recover,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Addictions remain a taboo subject for many people, and its reality and effects, whether mental, physical or social, have yet to be fully understood. National Recovery Month highlights a growing problem that demands attention. This month-long encouragement campaign has the power to bring together and inspire citizens to help those who are struggling.
National Recovery Month also emphasizes the services offered by various treatment and recovery providers and allows people who have successfully recovered to share their story. “Recovery Month provides a vehicle for everyone to celebrate these accomplishments,” the website states.
Daniel Baker, a 25-year-old Utah resident, has struggled with pornography addiction since age 11. In his blog, “My Fight Against Pornography,” Baker speaks about his struggle and gives readers insight into his recovery process.
Baker said he believes it is important for people trying to overcome addictions to put their life back in order. Exercising, praying, developing healthy eating and sleeping habits and taking on extra projects can all be effective components of recovery.
Some may worry about social repercussions when sharing their problems with others, but it’s important to realize that something needs to change and help must be sought. “Friends and family were a big help, but the best support was starting to believe in myself. I was my biggest support,” Baker wrote in an email.
Recovery can be a long and difficult process, but change starts within the person. Baker told others to first believe. “Nothing ever happens until a person starts seeing themselves for the important people they are,” Baker said. “Second, when you fall down, get back up again, no matter what.”
Baker said as an addict, it’s very difficult to tell the mind to say no to the body. Addictions take control over the body and mind in search for pleasure. “To me, addiction means ‘slavery to oneself,'” Baker said. “I was my own worst enemy for a lot of years. I enslaved myself.”
BYU neuroscience graduate students Ashley Nelson and David Hedges work with neuroscientist and professor Scott Steffensen to understand how substance dependency alters the way the brain functions. Their work, which mostly takes place in the addiction lab on the 12th floor of the Kimball Tower, focuses on “changes in neuronal activity and dopamine in response to exposure to drugs of abuse,” Nelson and Hedges explained in an email.
“Many people don’t understand that addiction does actually change the brain—addicts cannot simply quit after a certain point,” Nelson and Hedges said. “The body and brain become physically dependent on the substances involved.”
Steffensen and his students said they believe it’s possible to change the brain back to its original state and fight addictions on a molecular level.
BYU offers addiction support through multiple on-campus services, including the Counseling and Psychological Services, located in the basement of the Wilkinson Student Center, which offers one-on-one counseling, group therapy and prevention consultations to help students in distress.
The McKay School of Education website outlines different ways to face addictions. According to its website, seeking help is a key component to recovering. Help support groups may include loved ones, leaders and professionals.
To find relief from loneliness and despair, the McKay School encourages serving others. With service comes opportunities to interact with others, which can boost a person’s self-esteem and allow for spiritual renewal.
Each person is unique and might find different paths to recovery; however, recovery should be seen as a process as it requires efforts and perseverance. Options are available, and campaigns like National Recovery Month remind people that the healing process never is easy, but it’s attainable.