Ninth annual Recovery Fair takes place Saturday
Every year, September is recognized as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, and an annual East Tennessee event commemorating it is scheduled to take place on Saturday at West Town Mall.
It’s the largest gathering of treatment officials, recovery advocates, program organizers and substance abuse counselors in East Tennessee, and for several hours on a Saturday afternoon, they gather together with one goal in mind — to raise awareness that addiction and alcoholism are diseases, and that those diseases are treatable.
It’s part of a national effort known as Recovery Month, the website of which is http://www.recoverymonth.gov and a nationwide campaign that’s now in its ninth year. It’s sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This year’s theme is “Prevention Works, Treatment Is Effective, People Recover.” It’s a simple message but a direct one.
So often, those who have no personal experience with addicts or alcoholics in their own lives misunderstand just how widespread the impact of those diseases can be. If you think that addicts and alcoholics are weak-willed, morally bankrupt individuals who deserve what they get, then I urge you to think again. A few years ago, former Daily Times reporter Mark Boxley compiled some startling statistics in his “Wasted: People, Money, Lives” series:
• Based on information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance abuse cost the United States more than $250 billion in 2008; in Tennessee more than $5 billion; and in Blount County more than $100 million. Those numbers include the cost of lost productivity, increased health care costs, public losses due to crime, and the tangible cost of enforcing drug laws and incarcerating the people who break them.
• In Blount County, according to information from the Blount County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, about one in four arrests is for a drug offense. And of the 7,491 arrests on drug charges from 2000 through 2008, about half of the individuals charged had been in the Blount County court system before on a previous drug charge. Officials estimated that 85 percent of all crime in the county is connected to drugs in some way, and is doubtful those statistics have improved over the past four years.
That doesn’t sound like the actions of a group of people who are content to destroy themselves and leave the rest of the world alone. It sounds like the consequences of a disease run rampant, unchecked by society because of the stigma associated with it.
That’s part of the goal of the recovery fair — to dispel those stereotypes and provide information; not just on the disease itself, but about how to get help for it. The East Tennessee recovery fair sets up on the concourse of West Town Mall, and the information provided by organizers costs nothing. They know that it might seem difficult to come out and get that information — after all, addiction and alcoholism still have just enough of a stigma that a lot of folks aren’t comfortable talking about their own problems or those of a loved one out in the open. In the middle of West Town Mall. On a Saturday, no less, when co-workers and friends and neighbors might be rounding the corner or stepping out of the shop across the way at any minute.
But if you’re struggling with your own addiction, or you’re trying to figure out how to help a loved one who is, then ask yourself this: Given the resources at your disposal on one Saturday in September, can you afford not to go? Can you afford not to talk to someone who could help?
There’s a saying we have in the rooms of recovery: You can’t save your face and your ass at the same time. Basically, that means you can worry about appearances and make excuses for why you don’t come to this year’s Ninth Annual Recovery Awareness Fair, or you can stop worrying about who might see you and what they might think and take advantage of those resources.
This year’s recovery fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this coming Saturday at West Town Mall, on the concourse near JCPenney. Whatever you have going on in your life next Saturday, if addiction or alcoholism affect you or someone you care about, you should make time to check it out. It could very well save a life, or at the very least provide some understanding to one of the biggest problems facing our society today.
Steve Wildsmith is a recovering addict and the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at 981-1144.