Erasing stigma while recognizing, celebrating National Recovery Month in Alaska

Erasing stigma while recognizing, celebrating National Recovery Month in Alaska
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 10:34 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Nationally recognized as Recovery Month, September is a time to support treatment and recovery practices for those with alcohol or substance abuse disorders.

Leaders in the Alaska recovery community say the month carries extra significance in Alaska where alcohol-related deaths are over twice as high as the rest of the nation.

“It’s a time that we really get to honor and celebrate folks who are choosing to live a sober lifestyle, who are in recovery from prior addictions, from alcohol, from other substances, from mental health issues,” said Tiffany Hall, the executive director of Recover Alaska. “All of those things are so stigmatized, usually, that it’s a really great opportunity to flip that narrative on its head and really recognize and support the choice that folks have made to better themselves and better their whole community.”

Every day, Recover Alaska works to reduce excessive alcohol use and harms all over the state.

As a city dealing with a homelessness crisis, Hall says it’s especially important to appreciate and celebrate people’s journey to recovery in Anchorage.

“Once they are experiencing homelessness, that is so traumatic that the only thing they have left to turn to are substances to help deal with the pain and the trauma and so a lot of folks make the assumption that first it’s substances and then homelessness but so often it’s true that it’s homelessness and then substances or some combination thereof,” Hall said.

Hall said alcohol is also tied to other issues affecting Alaska communities including suicide, domestic violence and sexual assault.

According to Hall, it’s shown that over 75% of Alaskans are impacted negatively by someone else’s alcohol use. Those recovering may look like ordinary people you’d see in everyday life.

As someone who’s dealt with recovery herself, Hall says asking for help is okay. She said on average it takes seven attempts to successfully become sober.

“I know that I needed other people’s help to get here and now I really love being able to support other folks kind of find that path,” Hall said.

Another Alaskan serving those dealing with long-term recovery is Sam Garcia. He works at Banyan Treatment Centers, a facility in Wasilla that treats veterans and active-duty military.

Garcia frequently shares his story and supports veterans through the process of getting into treatment.

“The opposite of addiction is connection,” Garcia wrote in an email. “So, for me, recovery month is all about building that connection with others and ourselves. By sharing our stories, we make it safer for others to voice that they are struggling and want something better. By making resources accessible, recovery is reachable. Spread support, not stigma.”

Regardless of who you are, Hall believes recovery is possible for everyone.

“For anyone who is struggling, you are not alone,” Hall said. “It can feel really lonely, it can feel very isolating — I know that was my experience — but it’s just not the case. There’s so many folks who are going through it and who have been through it who are ready to help. But I would just say don’t give up, it does get easier.”

Recover Alaska and other organizations around the state have events dedicated to celebrating and honoring those in recovery throughout the month. There are several events on Recover Alaska’s September calendar.

Recovery Month concludes Sept. 30 with Mobilize Recovery Day of Service, a nationwide movement to show support to those in recovery or who have gone through recovery and are now sober. Those participating will join service projects to support those in their journey to recovery.