Is it a coincidence that the last day of August is International Overdose Awareness Day and then suddenly the sun sets and then rises and we are in September - Recovery Month ? No coincidences. Not ever. I think it is so fitting that the last day of August is a dedicated day to pause and take time to remember those we have lost, to create awareness of this horrific epidemic we are in the midst of, and then we get to turn the calendar page to focus on the joys of recovery.
Unfortunately, it is often the deaths that ultimately bring attention to issues in this country. So sad that we have to wait until it is this bad. Over 129 lives each day. The deaths, the family out- cries, the vigils are now ever present in the times we live in. Just open the paper in any town across America and look at the obituaries. You will find the names of those way too young to appear in that particular section of the paper. So there is this last day of August, this one day to remember those we loved and lost (and of course family and friends mourn 365 days a year) and then we wake up the very next day to find ourselves in Recovery Month.
I had someone question recently why Speakers For Change was hosting an event for Overdose Awareness and Remembrance. Why were we focusing on overdose deaths and not recovery solutions?
Well my answer is that without remembering and acknowledging the lives we have lost - we cannot find new solutions. Unfortunately, we learn an enormous amount of information from each loss of life. We learn valuable lessons from failures of healthcare systems and agencies. We learn about faulty insurance coverage. We learn about doctors over prescribing pain medications. And we examine closely what still needs to be done and what supports could have been in place that may have better supported that individual - that perhaps could have prevented loss of life.
Yet, couldn’t all of this learning, these lessons easily be found in the living? From those 23 million Americans living in recovery in the United States of America? Instead of what didn’t work - what does work?
I sincerely believe our lessons and learnings must come from both populations; grieving families and those that found recovery. In fact, the changes we are slowly seeing are coming about because of both advocating groups.
But here is the key - In order to learn, in order to change processes, we must be heard. We need more voices to join in. We need more family members to step out of the shadows of shame and blame and we need more individuals to proudly come forth and stand up and talk about their recovery.
Our learnings and lessons that this country is sure to soon absorb must come from as many as possible. Just as parents must be brave to talk about their losses, stand up and speak out loud to fight for changes in systems of care, and to help change stigma - so the same must be said for more individuals in recovery. We all have a part to play and the most important thing we can do is speak out loud.
And so we have a day and a month to draw attention to our important cause, to educate others that have been in the dark and do not understand. Let's use our voices wisely. Let's stand up and talk about our losses, recovery and the need for more recovery supports. Let's point to what works and what doesn’t and lobby for those changes to be made.
Change is coming . . . Be Part of it !