Arnold: Understanding Recovery and Maintaining Wellness

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By Hank Arnold, Special to The Paper

Hank Arnold is the Founder and Director of Coweta FORCE, a peer-founded, led, and governed nonprofit Recovery Community Organization located in Newnan. With the focus of many turned to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, now is a critical time for folks who are or have battled addiction to maintain wellness.

Why is recovery important?

Currently in our culture and communities the need for recovery is at an all-time high.

From 1999 to 2017 more than 700,000 Americans lost their lives to addiction. In 2017 alone more than 70,000 people died as a result of substance use, making addiction the leading cause of injury-related death in the US. Sixty-eight percent of these deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid.

On average 130 Americans die every day from opioids alone. There is a real sense of urgency for us to fundamentally change the way we support those in recovery from a substance use challenge.

What is recovery?

Recovery is more than not putting a drink or a drug into your body.  Recovery is a lifestyle and is typically not something that happens alone.  Recovery is a choice and happens in a community that leads with love, grace, and compassion.

The foundation of most individual’s recovery is a strong connection and sense of purpose to a community of individuals who accept them just as they are. These connections become a lifeline even as one moves into stability and maturity in their recovery journey.

One of the first suggestions you are likely to hear within the recovery community is changing people, places, and things.  You’re encouraged to immerse yourself in some of the most uncomfortable and intimidating changes you have ever encountered.

What’s the challenge during the current pandemic?

As we embark on uncharted territories with the Coronavirus impacting our world, we have a responsibility to “physically distance” (not social distance) for the safety and well-being of ourselves, our families and our community. This could be a life-threatening challenge for those who have built the foundation of their recovery on this sense of community and the value of the relationships built for emotional sobriety.

I would like to share some of the ways our local recovery community here in Coweta are coming together to be both responsible for our personal recovery as well staying informed and abiding by the guidelines to reduce the transmission of this highly contagious virus.

Tips to maintain mental health and recovery wellness

  • Many support platforms, fellowships and service providers are offering virtual support meetings via “Zoom.”  This is a way to find daily support and engage with others in recovery to hear how they’re coping with the challenges of this altered lifestyle. Remain open to new ways to stay connected to positivity. Often knowing we’re not alone is comforting in situations we can’t control. For more information regarding recovery local resources visit https://www.cowetaforce.org/zoom or like Coweta FORCE’s Facebook page to stay in the know.
  • Go straight to trusted news platforms for the most accurate and updated information such as Centers for Disease Control (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/.  Stay informed but not in ways that are obsessive, avoid getting all your updates from social media.
  • With the additional time on your hands it may be helpful to create a daily schedule with the input from people that support you and stick to it.  As people in recovery we thrive in structure. Too much nonproductive time often sets our minds into old patterns of thinking which ultimately drives our behavior.
  • Use this time to connect with activities that you’d like to try or used to find pleasure in, such as reading something in print that’s not news related, bike riding, walks around the neighborhood, painting, writing, physical fitness, cooking healthy meals, no cost virtual yoga class or any other activity.  These sorts of things are simple, low cost impact and will improve your overall wellness and mental health.
  • Remember, you have survived 100% of the negative emotions and difficult situations you have experienced in your lifetime so far, we are resilient, and the odds are in our favor.

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Hank Arnold is a Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor  (CADCI) Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist (CARES) Forensic Peer Mentor (FPM) Medication Assisted Treatment Specialist (MATS).  He is a Coweta County resident, devoted husband, and father of 5 whose personal and professional mission is to assist and support community members that have been impacted by addiction. He is also a person living in long-term recovery from a substance use and mental health challenge with over 10 years of freedom from the despair of addiction now living a fulfilled life in RECOVERY. 

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