Local organizations prepare to celebrate recovery, combat stigma

Events aim to celebrate those in recovery, educate about substance use disorders

For those who are in recovery from a substance use disorder, a little bit of positivity can go a long way.

This month, in celebration of National Recovery Month, Juneau organizations are joining forces to praise those in recovery for their efforts and educate community members about substance abuse recovery resources in town. Carrie Amott, the peer support coordinator for JAMHI (Juneau Alliance for Mental Health, Inc.) Health and Wellness, said the events this month will all be very upbeat and positive.

“Essentially, we’re wanting to celebrate recovery in Juneau,” Amott said. “We want to recognize recovery in Juneau, celebrate it and bring community members together so that they can gain an awareness as to what’s going on within the community as far as treatment services go.”

The main event is Juneau Recovery Fest, which runs from 12:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at Centennial Hall. There will be food from various local vendors, bouncy houses for the younger crowd, live music, games and Alaska Native drumming. There will also be booths from various organizations such as JAMHI Health and Wellness where people can learn a little more about recovery and the work that is going on in the field locally.

The following Saturday is the annual Hands Across the Bridge event. People will join hands and stretch from end to end of the Douglas Bridge. Attendees will meet at the Federal Building at 1:30 p.m. before heading over to the bridge. It is expected to go until 2:30 p.m., and anybody regardless of age is welcome to join.

These inclusive and positive events aim to change the narrative and eliminate the stigma that surrounds the world of substance use. Amott, who is also in recovery, wrote in a My Turn for the Empire (in today’s edition) that many in the mental health community are using the term “substance use disorder” instead of “addiction.”

She explained in an interview Friday that language is vitally important when talking about these issues, and increasingly negative connotations have befallen terms such as “addiction” and “addict.”

“We realize there is a stigma attached to people that are struggling with substance abuse. We also recognize that language affects how we think and feel about things, and that the words addiction and other similar words have kind of a negative connotation,” Amott said.

Amott is also the chair of Great Bear Recovery Collective, a peer-to-peer group that organizes sober events and excursions and provides support for those struggling with substance use disorder. Events such as Juneau Recovery Fest can help support those in recovery instead of tearing them down, Amott said.

“Positive reinforcement, really acknowledging people’s efforts to change, I think that’s going to be a lot more effective than shaming and making somebody feel horrible,” Amott said, “really because that’s kind of the root cause of a lot of people’s addictions is a lack of self-worth, guilt, poor upbringing, so if you’re compounding that issue, it’s kind of adding to the fire.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 oramccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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