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Marie Williams: Recovery means different things to different people

Marie Williams • Oct 5, 2018 at 7:51 PM

What does recovery mean to you? Does it mean sore muscles after an intense workout? Does it mean a moment’s peace after you put the children to bed? Does it mean finding something of value that you lost long ago?  

For Tennesseans living with mental health and substance abuse issues, recovery means that and so much more. It is the process through which people are able to live, learn, work, and fully participate in their communities.

As Recovery Month in Tennessee and across the country ended in September, it’s a special time to continue to celebrate the achievements of people who are in recovery living with mental illness and addiction, to encourage those in treatment that there is hope, and to remove the stigma for those living with untreated issues and encourage them to reach out for the help that they need.

No matter a how person connects to treatment resources through the community of behavioral health providers, whether it’s through private insurance, TennCare, veterans’ benefits, services funded by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, or another method, one thing is certain. There is hope for a life of recovery. The examples are all around us.  

People at work, in school, in the line at the grocery store, in the pew next to you at church, they’re all living lives of recovery every day. It’s no different from someone with diabetes managing his or her insulin levels. Behavioral health conditions are often chronic, but with proper assessment, intervention, medication, wraparound services and recovery supports, these conditions can be overcome for we all know that recovery is real. 

In a time when addiction and mental illness are touching more and more families, we join together with our neighbors to celebrate recovery and advocate for increased access to recovery pathways. One such attempt is through our Tennessee Together campaign. Led by Gov. Bill Haslam and supported by the Tennessee General Assembly, TN Together focuses on stories of recovery by featuring the stories of three families touched by opioid addiction.  

One is a young woman and her mother living with a multi-generational cycle of addiction. Another is a young man and his parents who are simply thankful for each new day. The third is a mother who overdosed and nearly died from the addiction she developed after taking prescription medication she received after her last pregnancy. 

They all have several things in common, good families, good homes, a lot of hard work and immense gratitude for their new life in recovery. You can view the videos at tn.gov/opioids/about-tn-together/tn-together-media-campaign.html.

If you want to take the first step to a life of recovery from addiction issues, call the Tennessee REDLINE at 800-889-9789. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and need help, please call our statewide crisis line at 855-CRISIS-1.  

It is through the partnership of our faith-based organizations, community behavioral health partners, peers with lived experience in recovery and family members that we will continue to make Tennessee a recovery-friendly state.

Marie Williams is commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.


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