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Children's Voice Article, September/October 2002

What You Can Do to Promote Recovery from Alcohol and Drug Addiction in Your Community

By Norah Lovato

Each year, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), along with its national planning partners, urges communities nationwide to promote the message that recovery from substance abuse is possible. The campaign raises awareness of the benefits of treatment, the process of recovery, and the impact of addiction and recovery on family, friends, and communities. The campaign also aims to reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse treatment.

Although the annual observance is in September, CWLA urges communities to make recovery from alcohol and other drug (AOD) addiction a yearlong commitment to healthier living and improved well-being for children and families.

What can you do to promote recovery?

[U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, CSAT. (2001, 2002). National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month Kit. Retrieved April 5, 2002, from]

Agency Leaders

Get real. Even if it's not readily apparent, odds are someone who works for you is abusing AODs or trying to cope with substance abuse at home. Provide employees with information about AOD abuse and the programs, policies, and procedures in place to assist them.

Get educated. Learn about addiction, treatment, and recovery and their impact on family, friends, and community. Invite a speaker to discuss AOD issues and to provide information on treatment and recovery resources in your community. Commit to providing frequent training to staff on AOD issues.

Be vocal. Keep raising awareness that AOD abuse is one of the most critical issues impacting the child welfare system. Make prevention, treatment, and recovery issues a part of your organization's evaluation of child and family well-being. Contact local AOD treatment providers to engage in discussions to work together to overcome system challenges.

Direct Care Providers

Address issues related to AOD problems. Share with your supervisor and colleagues your concerns and feelings about working with families affected by AOD abuse, and request frequent training on AOD issues.

Identify available resources. Learn about prevention, treatment, and self-help programs in your community, especially those designed to meet the specific needs of the populations you serve. Give this information to every client.

Advocate against stigma. Educate clients on the long-term effects of drug use, resulting in significant changes in brain function that persist long after a person stops using drugs. Share with clients that AOD addiction is a chronic health condition, like diabetes and asthma; that treatment is effective; and that there's no shame in seeking help or being in recovery.

Parents, Caregivers, Families, and Friends

Set the example. If you think you have an abuse problem, seek the help of family, friends, or community programs. Teach your family it's okay to get help. Explain that supportive family and friends can play critical roles in motivating a person with an AOD problem to enter treatment and maintain sobriety and that support programs for families affected by addiction can improve their own mental health and well-being.

Send a clear message. Talk with children early and often about the dangers of AOD use, and ask them their opinions about AOD. Show a willingness to listen, and don't react in a way that cuts off further discussion.

Know the warning signs of abuse, including changes in health status or in sleeping, eating, or grooming habits; unexplained absences from work or school; and loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed. Educate yourself about popular drugs--especially marijuana, steroids, club drugs, and inhalants--and be able to identify the paraphernalia associated with using these drugs.

Faith Community

Educate your staff and ministry on addiction, treatment, and recovery issues. Arrange for speakers to train staff on AOD issues and to provide information on local resources to help congregation members affected by AOD.

Prepare a message highlighting AOD issues in your weekly services and bulletins. Discuss the physical, mental, and spiritual erosion that affects individuals, families, and communities as a result of addiction. Provide information and encouragement to members who may need treatment, support, and local resources.

Public Officials and Civic Leaders

Support prevention and treatment. These opportunities represent the most significant chances to reduce the burden of AOD problems on the public and private sectors and the community at large.

Speak out. Talk about the benefits of AOD treatment in public presentations. Educate the public on AOD addiction as a chronic health condition for which treatment can be effective.

Address the bottom line. In 1998, 13% of all state budgets--$81 billion--was spent on AOD-related expenditures. For each state dollar, 96 went to "shoveling up" the consequences of untreated AOD abuse, and only 4 on prevention, treatment, and research. State and local governments control a range of legislative, regulatory, and tax powers that can reduce the impact of addiction.

Facilitate partnerships. Reach out to other stakeholders and the media in your community to improve cross-system knowledge and collaboration. Include outreach to both public and private sectors and nontraditional and informal systems. Create opportunities to discuss issues through public forums, meetings, and informal community gatherings. Open your doors to recovery by offering your facilities to local recovery groups for meetings, fundraisers, and other activities.

Norah Lovato is Program Manager for CWLA's Behavioral Health Division.

For More Information

Al-Anon/Alateen Family Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous

Child Welfare League of America

Narcotics Anonymous

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign (Resources for children) (Resources for adults)

SAMHSA/Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Workplace Resource Center

SAMHSA/Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Substance Abuse Treatment Hotline

Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace

The Seven Cs

Children often blame themselves for their parents' or caregivers' addictions. Teach children affected by AOD abuse the Seven Cs:

I didn't...
I can't...
I can't...
I can...
making healthy...
Cause it.
Cure it.
Control it.
Care for myself.
Communicating my feelings,
Celebrating myself.

[From the brochure, It's Not Your Fault, published by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. Available online at]

Know Where to Get Help

Each community has its own resources. Some common referral sources often listed in the phone book include
  • Community drug hotlines
  • Local emergency health clinics or community treatment services
  • Local health departments
  • Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Al-Anon/Alateen Family Groups
  • Hospitals

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