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The Importance of Community in Recovery

August 31, 2021

By Beau Black

Substance use disorder affects us all, in a multitude of different ways. The impact goes beyond the addict and his or her family, extending into the community. In our society we may face significant costs as the result of addiction. These costs can come in many forms such as:

  • Loss of friends or loved ones
  • Financial loss from drug-related crime
  • Lost productivity
  • Increased insurance costs to cover both health and property
  • Decreased safety 
  • Property loss
  • Decreased property values

Just as our communities are significantly impacted, they also play a vital role in supporting those in recovery. More than just friends and family, having the support in recovery of a community of peers is crucial. And because we’re all affected in one way or another, the process of addiction recovery is, similarly, for everyone

Mutual support relationships — in the form of therapy, accountability, 12-Step groups, friends, family, and church groups — help provide each other with a vital sense of belonging and support.

The Effects of Addiction on a Community

Recovery Research Institute reports that substance use disorders are among the top public health problems in the US and other nations around the world. The financial cost to American society of alcohol and drug abuse is a whopping $420 billion annually. 

Among others, alcohol and drug abuse was a contributing factor in the number of deaths from: 

  • Cirrhosis (48%)
  • Liver cancer (30%)
  • Violence (30%) 
  • Self-harm (11%) 
  • Traffic accidents (21%)

An average of more than 70,000 people die from drug overdose each year — 93,000 in 2020 alone — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Another 95,000 die from alcohol-related causes, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH) data. That is a lot of lost human potential, and it doesn’t begin to count those whose potential is blunted — rather than extinguished — by addiction. 

Substance abuse treatment costs an estimated $36 billion per year, in contrast to the $420 billion cost of substance abuse. Each dollar spent on treatment saves four times that in healthcare costs and seven times that in criminal justice system costs.

The Effects of Addiction on a Community - The Meadows

The Importance of Community Support in Recovery

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” The organization identifies four crucial areas that support addicts in recovery during the treatment process:

  • Health

Beyond just abstaining from substance use, it’s making healthy choices for our physical and mental wellbeing

  • Home

Securing a safe and stable place to live

  • Purpose 

Having responsibilities that give our lives meaning and a reason to get up in the morning, whether it’s working, volunteering, or home/school duties

  • Community

Forming relationships with family and friends who support and help us move toward our goals

Mutual support relationships — in the form of therapy, accountability, 12-Step groups, friends, family, and church groups — help provide each other with a vital sense of belonging and support. SAMHSA emphasizes the involvement of people “who believe in the person’s ability to recover” in helping those in recovery to leave unhealthy life roles and engage in new ones, ones that lead to a greater sense of belonging, personhood, empowerment and more.

The role of hope is also essential in the recovery process, according to SAMHSA: “The belief that recovery is real provides the essential and motivating message of a better future — that people can and do overcome the obstacles that confront them. Hope is internalized and can be fostered by peers, families, providers, allies, and others.” In other words, those in recovery can ‘borrow’ the hope of others in their ability to get better when they can’t see that hope for themselves. 

Those in recovery can ‘borrow’ the hope of others in their ability to get better when they can’t see that hope for themselves. 

National Recovery Month

“Recovery is For Everyone” is the theme of this year’s National Recovery Month, which highlights the importance of dealing with addiction and promotes the range of treatment options available. It also celebrates the progress along the way for those of us in recovery. 

The goal of the month is “to remind people in recovery and those who support them that no one is alone in the journey through recovery,” and “to educate others about substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders.” The latter refers to conditions like depression or anxiety disorders that commonly exist alongside and worsen substance abuse problems. 

How to Get Help

Feeling weighed down, beaten down, or overwhelmed by the effects of your addiction? If substance abuse is thwarting your potential, maybe it’s time to make the decision to deal with your addiction and uncover its causes. The Meadows offers a range of programs and resources to help, along with a supportive community just waiting to join you. Start or continue your journey into recovery today.