How National Recovery Month honors those recovering from dependency

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

National Recovery Month is a national observance held in September each year and is organized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – a branch of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The month honors those recovering from or hoping to recover from active addiction or dependency on illicit substances, medications, or alcohol. The month acknowledges efforts of nationwide communities to offer support and attempts to educate Americans on the impacts of dependency on overall health and its causes.  

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What is National Recovery Month?

National Recovery Month is a national observance founded in 1989 by SAMSHA of the Department of Health and Human Services to promote hope, celebrate recovery, and spread the positive message to those struggling with substance dependency in any form that prevention works and recovery can be possible and lead to a better life. The month honors the nation’s strong recovery community while paying homage to the dedication of service providers who make recovery a possibility. 

The organization has a permanent tagline of “Every Person. Every Family. Every Community.” to illustrate the impact of addiction. With over 40.3 million Americans over the age of 12 diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2020, acknowledgment of the hope for recovery and peer support can be crucial. National Recovery Month aims to increase awareness and lower the number of those struggling with dependency or addiction and support and celebrate individuals in recovery.  

How can I celebrate?

There are many ways you might choose to celebrate National Recovery Month this year. Whether you experience substance dependency or know someone who does, consider adding the following Recovery Month events or activities to your events calendar: 

  • Attending a substance use recovery support group 

  • Advocating for the creation of a substance recovery support group or community-based programs 

  • Creating fliers, pamphlets, or posters educating your community on local substance use concerns

  • Advocating for substance use resources and recovery programs in rural and tribal locations 

  • Researching mental health and substance use and how it impacts the brain 

  • Using a purple recovery month ribbon for Recovery Month or a turquoise awareness ribbon for Addiction Recovery Awareness Month

  • Educating your children on safe social practices (if you are a parent or child caregiver) 

  • Donating to a substance use recovery non-profit organization 

  • Donating to a local women’s shelter 

  • Attending a Recovery Month event in your area 

How National Recovery Month honors those in recovery from dependency 

National Recovery Month celebrates and highlights the successes, gains, and contributions of those in the US community and the broader population recovering from dependency. Below are a few ways this month may make a difference, spread awareness, and honor Americans. 

Providing community education and reducing stigma 

There are many stigmas surrounding substance use and addiction. For this reason, people may feel afraid to reach out for support or begin recovery, as they might feel they have damaged their chances of reintegrating into society or their relationships. People might also fear that they will be turned away for support. 

Although stigmas may claim that addiction is “a choice,” studies show otherwise. Dependency on a substance physically changes the brain, which can cause challenges in cognitive reasoning, behavioral health, and relationships. Additionally, substances often have mind-altering impacts and physical risks. On the scientific end, addiction can occur mentally and physically. Various factors are involved in the development of dependency and addiction, which can differ for each person. 

Although the first use of a substance might be a choice, whether someone becomes dependent on that substance may not be. Additionally, shaming someone for trying a substance may not help them break the pattern of dependency, as it often becomes a physical and uncomfortable craving that can be challenging to break without professional, compassionate support and guidance from addiction professionals. 

National Recovery Month sheds light on the scientific intricacies of addiction and evidence-based treatment, reducing stigma. Community education can be an essential part of empowering those who are ready to try to recover. If people feel supported and can obtain safe community resources, counseling, and support groups, they may feel safe and reliable enough to stop or lessen use. One program that offers these factors is harm reduction. 

Focusing on harm reduction 

SAMHSA and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing states that harm reduction services are essential in reducing the number of overdose deaths, connecting community constituents to resources, and reducing the impact of infectious diseases like HIV. Harm reduction includes supplies and services like the following: 

  • Free overdose reversal supplies, substance test kits, contraceptive care, sterile needles, sterile smoking kits, and at-home or on-site testing equipment

  • Referrals to doctors or therapists

  • Free overdose training 

  • Free crisis counseling and support 

  • Free sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing 

  • Recovery resources, support groups, and educational materials on the impacts of dependency and substance use, including risk of heart disease

National Recovery Month can educate communities on the effectiveness of these programs and why they are not enabling. Studies have found that these interventions are highly effective when a client is unable or not ready to pursue complete abstinence. The official harm reduction movement also drives awareness to communities often impacted by substance use, such as those in sex work, unhoused individuals, the LGBTQ+ community, racial minorities, women, young people, and previously incarcerated Americans. 

These programs often aim to remove the barrier of shame in allowing individuals to receive resources. Studies find that shame is one of the most commonly reported emotions in those experiencing dependency, and it is not conducive to a person’s recovery journey. Harm reduction programs allow individuals to receive resources with compassion, empathy, and respect. Individuals can choose recovery when they’re ready because they want to, not because they feel they must do it to “be a good person.” 

Offering treatment and recovery services

Outside of harm reduction resources, National Recovery Month raises awareness of resources and treatment and recovery practices currently in the community for those requiring support. You can reach out to the following if you are considering recovery or sobriety: 

You can also reach out to your medical provider if you struggle to find support through the resources above. Before stopping a substance, check with your doctor. Withdrawal can have harmful and uncomfortable side effects, so ensure you are safe by seeking medical advice.  

Releasing new studies

New studies on substance use, addiction, and dependency are released yearly. Stigmas about mental health and substance use disorders may continue to reduce as more individuals learn about how they function and the resources that are most effective in treating them. Recovery Month showcases new areas of treatment and studies, including the United States Census data on substance use every ten years and newer studies that occur each month.  

How to choose recovery this September

If you are an individual looking to choose recovery this September or any month out of the year, know you’re not alone. In 2019, over 4 million people reached out for substance use treatment. Below are a few ways to start moving forward and take the first step.  

Take the first step

Taking the first step into recovery can look different for every individual. Some people may opt into a 12-step program, whereas others might make a personal pact and work with medical professionals to develop a treatment plan. However, outlining your first step concretely can be beneficial. Consider the following methods of doing so: 

  • Signing a contract with yourself for recovery. 

  • Attending a support group or joining a proud recovery community and dedicating yourself to the first step within that program. 

  • Asking for a sponsor as you face recovery.

  • Telling those in your life, like your friends, family, and trusted co-workers, that you are ready to take the first step. 

  • Making an online pact or signing a pledge through a non-profit. 

  • Locking a non-substance-related reward inside a safe and giving someone whom you trust the key, allowing you to open it after a particular time of recovery is achieved. 

  • Signing up for inpatient treatment and recovery services or a rehabilitation program. 

  • Going to your doctor and asking how to start recovery. 

There are many ways you can take “the first step,” depending on who you are and what you feel is most effective. If you’re unsure how to do so, consider talking to a therapist for further guidance and advice. 

Meet with a support group 

Many support groups are available to those experiencing dependency or choosing recovery practices. A few of the most popular that you may find in your area include: 

  • (AA): Groups for those experiencing alcohol dependency.

  • Ala-Teen: Groups for teens experiencing the impact of the addiction or dependency of a parent. 

  • Al-Anon: Groups for family, friends, or partners looking for support when a loved one is experiencing addiction in all its forms. 

  • (NA): Groups for those experiencing narcotic dependency. 

  • SMART Recovery: Groups that offer secular recovery resources for those impacted by substance use disorders. 

  • Women for Sobriety: Secular support groups for women experiencing substance use disorders or concerns. 

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Talk to a counselor

Counseling is another popular substance use recovery resource. A licensed therapist can offer research-based guidance, support, and empathy to those ready to discuss the circumstances around their dependency, recovery process, or self-beliefs. Although in-person therapy can be expensive and potentially out-of-reach for many individuals choosing recovery, there are also internet-based interventions for those seeking available and affordable care. 

Studies have found that internet-based interventions for substance use counseling and recovery support are highly effective and have outcomes of high client satisfaction compared to in-person methods. In addition, online therapy can be done discreetly in many cases, with individuals having the right to use a nickname during treatment. Resources can be used at home or any location with an internet connection, offering availability to those in recovery. 

If you’re interested in meeting with a substance use counselor, consider signing up for a platform like BetterHelp, which offers reach to a growing database of counselors specializing in various topics, including substance use and recovery and other mental health conditions. 


National Recovery Month focuses on prevention, treatment, and recovery from substance use and showcases the vast number of resources available to those experiencing substance use disorders or dependency. It aims to bring awareness to the statistics on recovery and the possibility of hope while reducing stigma, shame, and fear. No matter where you are on your recovery journey, a healthy and rewarding life can be possible.  

If you’re considering stopping using a substance, it may be best to contact a doctor to discuss withdrawal and a treatment plan. You may also benefit from reaching out to a therapist for further guidance. If you don’t feel comfortable with in-person therapy, you might consider online therapy. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping people in various stages of their recovery journey. Take the first step toward getting support with recovery and contact BetterHelp today.

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