Recovery is Possible, An Event to Celebrate National Recovery Month

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On Thursday September 27, Gateway Community College’s Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor (DARC)Club  held its first annual Recovery Month Celebration Event. The message: recovery in all its forms is possible.

More than 75 people turned out to hear keynote speaker Ken Aligata, a Community Educator from the Connecticut Community for Addiction and Recovery, who spoke about his own long-term recovery of over 23 years from alcohol and other drug addiction. He also spoke about recovery coaching, telephone support for recovery and how people can find sober housing – just some of the services available to people in the community who battle substance abuse, have a mental illness or whose lives touched by someone who does. Representatives from treatment centers, agencies and self-help groups were on hand to provide information about their services.

GCC President Dr. Dorsey L. Kendrick and Patricia Rehmer, the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Anne Thompson, a graduate assistant in the Department of Wellness and Prevention Services at the University of Connecticut all addressed the crowd.  Rehmer commended GCC for being a part of the Healthy Campus Initiative and Ms. Thompson shared her insights about her own journey of recovery, which began when she was 19-years-old. Vinnie G., another young person, shared his story of recovery as well.

Justine Kovacs, president of the DARC Club, said it was important for students in the crowd to hear each of those stories. “We want people to understand that you can go through this journey and go on to be very accomplished and to have fun and enjoy life,” Kovacs said.

Eileen Russo, an assistant professor in GCC’s Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor Program and the DARC Club faculty advisor, said that she and the club members hope that the event can help to erase some of the stigma attached to substance abuse and to mental illness. “I think there is a lot of stigma. We also don’t have enough treatment programs for people in the state and across the country. When budget cuts happen, addiction services and mental health treatment are often the first cut,” she said. “People just assume that addiction is a choice. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) issued an updated definition of addiction last year that reiterated thataddiction is not about bad behavior; it’s a chronic brain disorder. I don’t think people get that. A program like this can help to spread the message.”

Hearing people’s personal stories can break down such stigmas, Russo added. “Their stories are very moving and powerful,” Russo said.

National Recovery Month, held through the month of September, promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment and recovery. Events were held around the country to promote awareness of prevention and recovery programs, to celebrate people in recovery as well as the contributions of treatment and service providers.  “We wanted to share the hope and strength that comes from recovery,” Kovacs said. “We especially want young people to know that recovery is possible for them.”