September was pronounced as National Recovery Month 32 years ago, and it's an observance that aims to educate Americans on how to best support friends and family in recovery, newest treatment options, and offers reports on the success of current treatment programs.

It is also a month people celebrate their recovery and continue their journey towards a fulfilling life. Coping with mental illness and substance abuse is a daily struggle for an estimated 25 million people, and reaching out for help to begin treatment and head towards recovery is a scary first step.

Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety are common in people who suffer from substance abuse. Treatment for mental illness can help people successfully transform their lives.

New call-to-action

National Recovery Month's 2021 Theme

Each year Recovery Month selects a theme, and much like every topic discussed in the last year and a half, the pandemic plays a role in this year's theme for National Recovery Month.

President Biden determined the theme based on the enormous toll COVID-19 has taken on the American people. He stated that while many have continued on a path toward recovery, others have lacked the resources to get help even while facing additional hardships. Recovery is possible for all Americans.

On August 31, 2021, President Biden proclaimed this year's theme to be "Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community." He states that, "we will support those who are still struggling to achieve recovery and dedicate ourselves to overcoming these challenges together."

Additionally, the NAADAC, which is the Association for Addiction Professionals, reports that the 2021 Recovery Month observance "will work to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices." "The emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible, will continue its support."

Recovery – What the Research Tells Us

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) definition of recovery is, "a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential."

While some definitions include statements such as recovery is moving from drug use towards a drug-free life by abstaining from drugs. SAMHSA believes that is just a first step toward recovery. The rest of the recovery process includes making lifestyle changes that improve one's health while learning to live life with purpose and meaning.

Recent studies offer important information about how family and friends can best support their loved ones in recovery. The goal is to help them move toward the same quality of life as people who have never had a substance abuse problem. It is important to note that as you support your loved ones, they will not follow a steady course of improvement.

They may be happy and content for a week, followed by weeks of depression and low self-esteem. Research shows that depending on which drug is used, the gender and ethnicity, the person's fluctuations will be more significant than others of a different gender or race.

"Courage isn't having the strength to go on –
it is going on when you have no strength."
– Napoleon Bonaparte

Another study found that the needs of the addict differed according to what stage of recovery the person is in, early, middle or late recovery.

The stages of recovery are:
Early – Less than 6 months
Middle -6 months to 18 months
Late – 18 months+



HubSpot Video


The top priority for people in their first two stages of recovery was "Recovery from Substance Abuse," followed by Employment and then Family and Social Relationships.

During these first three years, recovery efforts and support are focused on achieving abstinence and establishing a supportive social and familial network. It will take time as these relationships are often very tense and close to the breaking point.

How Family and Friends Can Support Recovery


Here are some key points for family and friends to remember as they support the person in recovery:

1. Recovery is not just about abstinence. It's about improving the functioning and quality of life long-term. Keep in mind what stage of recovery the person is in within the process. Your role is to provide support as they learn to cope. Educate yourself about the stages of recovery, so you can be encouraging and offer helpful strategies.

2. Understand that things may get worse before they get better, especially in early recovery. The first six months of recovery are often when the person experiences low self-esteem and becomes depressed. This happens as they process the guilt and feel remorse about the impact substance abuse has had on their lives and their relationships. Reassure them that this is a normal stage of recovery and that things will get better over time.

3. Help them seek gender and culturally specific resources. Women and mixed-race people have greater challenges in recovery. Sometimes this is due to trauma or stigma. Other challenges include biological differences, psychosocial conditions, or cultural challenges. The person should be encouraged to seek additional support services specific to their needs.

Friends and family are in a unique position to provide support for a person in recovery. What you say and do can be empowering and healing as they explore their new life and strengthen relationships along the way.

When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program (a total Well-being Program)  OR a Student Assistance Program can help employees, students and employers come closer to a state of total well-being. To enhance employee well-being, we also offer a vast array of digital employee training classes as well as in person training. 

a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential. (2021). Retrieved from Mental Health America:

Biden, P. (2021, August 31). A Proclamation on National Recovery Month, 2021. Retrieved from The White House:

National Recovery Month – Updated for 2021: “Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community”. (2021). Retrieved from CASAT On Demand:
Recovery & Support. (2021). Retrieved from Mental Health America:

Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community. (2021). Retrieved from National Recovery Month:
The Science of Drug Use: A Resource for the Justice Sector. (2020, May). Retrieved from National Institute on Drug Abuse: