Community

Community

community“Substance use disorder can happen to your teacher, your doctor, your lawyer. Anyone can suffer from this disease.”

There is still lingering stigma in some of our communities against those who struggle with substance use disorder.

But, it’s also in our communities that we can finally come together and learn, understand, become more empathetic—and ultimately end the stigma.

How can you help support members of the community who have substance use disorder?

Every person in our life can help support us through our addiction and in our recovery. As a member of the community you can:

  • Use stigma-free words.
  • Be welcoming and inclusive of people in recovery and have substance-free events that help everyone stay connected to their community.
  • Support treatment and recovery opportunities in your community, like recovery centers, medication distribution locations, harm reduction services and meeting spaces for peer-recovery groups.
     
What is addiction?

Addiction is a chronic illness that can be activated by genes, upbringing, social groups, and living environments. Addiction can change the way people behave. People may continue to use even after experiencing how it has harmed physical health, mental wellbeing and relationships. Cravings can be so overpowering that it’s hard to think about anything else—including how a person’s behavior can be harmful to them and others.

The good news is that addiction can be treated, treatment can be effective, and people can recover.

What is treatment?

Because everyone experiences addiction differently, there are many different types of treatment options available to help meet a person’s needs and situation.

All treatment options include counseling with a caring professional. There are one-on-one as well as group counseling options. Some people have the best success with the personal attention and closeness of one-on-one support, while others do best when experiences are shared with others who are, or have been, in the same situation.

Some treatment programs include holistic services, like yoga, meditation, and even performing arts (art, music, dance and writing). This can help people explore and express feelings, and even find out why they have experienced addiction.

Some people have the best success when addiction is treated with medication, just like for other illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and depression. These medications are prescribed by a doctor after discussing care options. Medications are a tool that can be used in addition to counseling, because medication-assisted treatment can help people deal with withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and even make it less likely a person will use the drug again in the future.

“This isn’t a character flaw. This isn’t a broken moral compass.
This is a disease like diabetes or cancer.”

Some people have the best success when continuing to live at home and going about their daily routines. Other people do best when living somewhere where there are opportunities to fully focus on treatment for a short period of time.

People who are experiencing a crisis, are pregnant, or parenting are provided priority for treatment services.

The best way to learn about treatment options in Vermont, and to find out what type of treatment is right for your family member or friend, is to talk to a caring professional.

For free and confidential alcohol and drug support and referral services, call 802-565-LINK (5465) or visit VTHelplink.org.

What is recovery?

Recovery begins the minute someone seeks help for addiction, but it is a lifelong journey that may have many paths and bumps.   

This journey to recovery often starts with treatment, because this helps a person break the hold that addiction has on mental and physical health. 

Continued support by others who are or have been in a similar situation can help people recover. These programs are called “peer support groups.” Some may be based on the “twelve-step program,” such as Alcohol or Narcotics Anonymous. 

Another source for peer-support in Vermont is Recovery Coaches who are in recovery for their own addiction and who have been trained to help support and guide others through the recovery journey. Recovery Coaches do not replace counseling or other recovery services, but can help people improve and sustain recovery and wellness in all life areas—like health, living and working situations, and relationships. Recovery coaches work with recovery centers and even emergency departments to provide support when people may need it most.

“I was once a very sick person, but I have recovered. 
And now I in turn am trying to help people.”

Recovery Centers are places where people can find recovery programs within communities. These centers can help us establish connections, employment, and stable housing. There are even programs for families to help get through the toll addiction takes.

Many recovery centers have employment programs to help people find meaningful employment. They assist with resumes, interview skills, identify job openings, and work with recovery-friendly employers. 

Some recovery centers have programs to support Moms in Recovery through safe, judgment- free spaces where moms can connect with each other and to additional services for mothers and children.

Recovery housing creates a substance-free living environment to help people transition from treatment programs and help establish a new routine without alcohol or other drugs. Here people support each other until there is readiness and stability to move back home or to a new home.

Since addiction can be influenced by genes, upbringing, social groups, and living environments, it’s important to focus on wellbeing in all of these areas during the recovery journey. This can sometimes be difficult, which is why support and understanding can be so helpful.

“I am a new creation. I am a new person.
I am not who I used to be.”

The best way to learn about recovery options in Vermont and to find the recovery services that are right for you, your family or friend, is to talk to a caring professional. 

For free and confidential alcohol and drug support and referral services, call 802-565-LINK (5465) or visit VTHelplink.org

You can also call the Vermont Recovery Network at (802) 738-8998 or visit VTRecoveryNetwork.org.

If you are interested in becoming a Recovery Coach and helping others through their recovery, contact Recovery Vermont at (802) 223-6263 or visit RecoveryVermont.org and learn about the Recovery Coach Academy

What about relapse?

Relapse, or more accurately, recurrence, is a part of many people’s recovery journey. Recurrence does not mean that someone has failed because recovery is on-going and lifelong. Being supportive of your family member or friend during a time of recurrence will help continue the work and progress toward recovery.

Why does language matter?

Language influences how people feel about addiction, about those who are experiencing addiction, and about the treatment and recovery process. Language also influences how people feel about themselves—to the point of impacting whether they will seek help and whether recovery will be successful. Language is powerful.

Words can contribute to stigma, and stigma is one of the biggest reasons why people don’t seek treatment for addiction. Stigma-free language reminds people that addiction is an illness, and helps support people in seeking and receiving better care and treatment.

“Person-first language” is non-judgmental and puts the person first, rather than defining a person based on their illness. Instead of saying “addict,” the person-first way to say it would be “a person experiencing addiction” or “a person with substance use disorder.”

“Words have power. They can hurt. 
But they can also heal.”

Here are some words to avoid and words to use in their place.

Words to avoid words to use Instead
Addict/abuser/junkie Person with substance use disorder
Alcoholic Person with alcohol use disorder
Abuse Misuse, harmful use
Drug problem, drug habit Substance use disorder
Drug abuse Misuse, harmful use
Drug abuser/user Person with substance use disorder
Clean Abstinent, not actively using
Dirty Actively using
A clean drug screen Testing negative for substance use
A dirty drug screen Testing positive for substance use
Former/reformed addict/alcoholic Person in recovery, person in long-term recovery
Opioid replacement, methadone maintenance Medications for addiction treatment

Changing language can be challenging and take time to get used to, but it can make a real difference in helping to reduce stigma and make recovery successful.

Support Resources
VT Helplink logo
A statewide, public resource for finding substance use treatment and recovery services in Vermont. VT Helplink services are free and confidential. Our caring, trained Specialists will help you or your loved one take a step toward recovery. Services are also available to provide support to family members of people with addiction. 
VTHelplink.org · (802) 565-LINK

VT Recovery Network
A statewide non-profit that helps people who have experienced problems as a result of alcohol and other drugs to find, maintain, and enhance their recovery through peer supports, sober recreation, and educational opportunities. Vermont Recovery Network has 9 member centers and three affiliate centers in Vermont. 
VTRecoveryNetwork.org

Recovery Vermont
A signature program of the Vermont Association of Mental Health and Addiction Recovery, Recovery Vermont has served as the center for all things recovery in Vermont, from establishing the nationally renowned statewide network of Recovery Centers, to creating one of the country’s first Recovery Coach Training and Certification programs, working with Vermont’s leadership community on establishing the Vermont Alliance for Recovery Residency for over 22 years.
RecoveryVermont.org

Recovery Research Institute
A leading non-profit research institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, dedicated to the advancement of addiction treatment and recovery. Their website features the Addictionary® – a list and descriptions of words related to addiction and suggestions for stigma-free wording, as well as Fast Facts about recovery, and the Stages of Coping when a loved one has an addiction.
RecoveryAnswers.org