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Celebrating Connections: National Recovery Month 2020


September is National Recovery Month. This month is dedicated to educating Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery.

We asked some of our staff to offer their thoughts on why Recovery Month is so important and why we should take time to recognize it each year.

Salvatore Gintoli, Senior Director, Crisis Services

“A while ago, a friend gave me his 24-hour coin as a reminder to take it one day at a time. When you are on your path to recovery, small steps are safe steps. The voyage is not just a physical one but an emotional and spiritual one as well. I keep that 24-hour coin on my desk as a reminder to have patience, show compassion, and move slowly and deliberately when helping others. To not assume that I know what a person needs and to always keep in mind that addiction is an illness—it’s a chronic illness that people will battle for their lifetime, one day at a time.

I feel that we’ve come to a place in our society where we are beginning to understand more about this, but we’re not completely there yet. There are still many among us who see substance use disorders and mental illnesses as character flaws, weaknesses, or signs of immorality, and that’s why organized events like National Recovery Month are so important. Formally recognizing and embracing recovery, celebrating hope, and sharing our knowledge about the true nature of these illnesses are essential steps toward eliminating stigma and helping each other to stay on the path.”

Sean Brannack, Community Employment Specialist, SMA Work Release

“We need to observe National Recovery Month because we want our clients to live healthy and successful lives.”

Christopher Brown, Assistant Director, DMRT

“National Recovery Month is important to me as it is an annual reminder of observing our clients’ progress from their very first day to their last while achieving the goals that they have set for themselves along the way.”

Evelyn Carpenter, Substance Abuse Counselor, Reality House

“Recovery month allows recovering addicts and alcoholics to share who they were in their addiction and who they are today in recovery. Giving others hope that they too can recover one day at a time”

Michael Everett-Scherr, Director, SMA Work Release

“Recognizing recovery is acknowledging our mission to our clients and their loved ones. It’s important to remember that it’s about progression and not perfection. Recovery is the first step our clients take to become who they are, not who the addiction says they are.”

Kevin Gallagher, Executive Chef/Vocational Instructor, WARM

“The 2020 National Recovery Month theme, ‘Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Connections,’ reminds people in recovery that, in most cases, you need a good support system for recovery and that you don’t have to do it alone!  You need to stay connected to your sponsor, your meetings, and your recovery program. With the right people in place to provide love, strength, hope, and support, you can recover.

Heather Haroldson, Senior Director, Case Management

“We’re all recovering from something.  But with each passing day, it gets easier.  We have to remember to stay strong, vigilant, determined, and empowered by our ability to change.  National Recovery Month allows us the opportunity to do just that.  To stand together as one united front, not as ‘addicts,’ but as human beings that are all in this together.”

Sandra Jackson, VP, St. Johns County

“Recovery Month is important to me because we have to keep pushing and fighting the fight to help educate and treat those who are struggling with substance use issues. We want to see a future where families can stay intact, damage done by substance use is prevented, and lives are saved.”

Chef Kirk Kief, Executive Chef, Reality House

“We need to recognize National Recovery Month because recovery is the way of life that addicts want, not the way of life that their addiction wants.”

Linda Langford, Administrative Assistant, Reality House

“National Recovery Month is important as it acknowledges and supports those who have battled or continue to battle addiction. It recognizes continued support for individuals who have reached their milestone or those who continue to battle addiction to strive to reach their milestone.”

Nicole Lauver, Substance Abuse Counselor, St. Augustine

“[Recovery Month] is not just a time for the people who have been in sustained recovery to celebrate, but for all of those who have stood up and inquired for help and recognized that it is never too late to enter recovery.”

Amanda Logan, Clinical Director, DMRT

“In such trying and uncertain times, the significance of community support is emergent. National Recovery Month is an opportunity to raise awareness and provide education so that we may extend the compassion and hope that we share throughout the year.”

Thomas Lopez, Director, Work Release

“Working with clients to discover their ‘why’ is at the very core of what we do in addiction recovery, and ‘why’ is the way forward.”

Dan Murray, CTTU Case Manager, Flagler

I know, from my 20 years of experience, that every adult knows at least one person who struggles with addiction, so this is why Recovery Month is important. Recovery Month brings to light an important issue that is failing in so many communities in our society. By having a month-long recovery celebration, we get our message out to the public and raise awareness for both addiction and mental health.” 

Pam Palmer, Director, Adolescent Residential Services

“Recovery month is important to recognize because we have so many families that struggle with addiction with not only themselves but their loved ones. This week, we have heard of two families losing a son and a granddaughter to drug overdoses. We need to continue to raise awareness as much as we can. The more we can highlight the road to recovery and share success stories, we can instill hope as well as save lives.” 

Amber Poole, Peer Recovery Specialist, Putnam County

“Recovery month is important to me because it draws attention to those who have recovered from mental illness. When someone is in recovery, a lot of times they are in a dark place and feel unimportant. Overcoming an addiction or making progress towards one’s recovery is extremely hard work. Being in the pits of despair and feeling like life is hopeless and meaningless is hard to work through. Depression is a black hole that one feels that they cannot climb out of. People in recovery need to know that they are important, and they deserve recognition for their hard efforts.” 

Teron Rayam, Community Employment Specialist, SMA Work Release

“I feel it’s important to bring awareness to the daily struggles of addiction by empowering those committed to taking the steps towards recovery. Recognizing National Recovery Month could be the ray of sunshine needed to escape a dark tunnel in our lives and jump-start the road to recovery.”

Nancy Russo, VP, Putnam County

“To me, Recovery Month is important because it gives us the opportunity to inform the community about the facts behind the causes of mental illness and addiction and highlight testimonies of those who are in recovery to show it is possible and that there is no wrong road to recovery, everybody’s path is unique.  We need to increase our community education to reduce the stigma.”

Jessica Szymczyk, Clinical Director, Adolescent Residential Services

“It is easy to say, working for an agency that focuses on recovery, that Recovery Month is important to recognize. I see it as greater than within our agency and even the central Florida area. Addiction has been stigmatized and seen as a moral failing, a lack of self-control, rather than seen for what it is: a complicated biological and biochemical process intimately connected to the environment.

By celebrating Recovery Month, we are making a statement to our clients, our community, and the state that we recognize addiction for what it is and that we are not ashamed to proclaim the importance of awareness that a month of celebrating can bring.

It is certain that we have had losses and tragedies, personally and professionally, related to addiction. I’d like to think that we, as individuals in SMA Healthcare, create a community that has seen far more successes and small victories. Recovery Month provides us the opportunity to reflect on these successes and model for our clients that recovery is part of our DNA; it is something to be celebrated, and we are proud to be part of their recovery here at SMA Healthcare.”

Latricia Sims (and Eugene Otey), Community Employment Specialists

“National Recovery Month is important to help those in recovery celebrate their success and support their continued success.”

John Stage, Assistant Director of Operations, Reality House

“This has always been hard for me due to the fact my daughter was hit by a drunk driver. Since employed at SMA/Reality House, one of the things I always share with our clients is to reflect and forgive, but the hardest one to forgive is yourself.  Learn from your mistakes but don’t live in them.  Always take two steps forward, because if you take one step back you are still one step ahead.”

Jennifer Stephenson, Senior Director, Outpatient Services

“National Recovery Month is important to me as it helps bring attention to the millions of people walking daily in recovery and can bring hope to those just starting on or considering that journey.”

Burton Thomas, Director, DMRT:

“National Recovery Month is a time for us to recognize and bring awareness to the disease of addiction.  For some, recovery might mean being clean for 10 years or more and celebrating sobriety dates.  For others, it might mean continuing to battle relapse and fighting through it each time.  No matter what stage of recovery a person is in, National Recovery Month is a time to remind those still struggling that you are not alone, that help is available, and that you can create a better life for you and your family.”

Alicia Vincent, VP, Flagler County

“Recovery month is so very important to educate about the disease of addiction and the fact there is hope for recovery for those individuals suffering. Educating the public on the stigma and barriers while encouraging those in need to seek the help they need will open the doors for the recovery process to evolve.”