September is Recovery Month

By Kathy Sandberg. Robin Williams was an American actor, stand-up comedian, screen writer and movie producer.  His career began in the TV role of Mork (from sitcom Mork and Mindy), an extraterrestrial alien from the planet Ork.  Williams went on to star in TV shows, Broadway performances and in films.  From the early days of a starring role in Good Morning, Vietnam to more than 80 feature films, Williams entertained by drawing laughter from his audiences while also supplying a tender humanness to every story he offered. I am a long-time fan of Williams and in reflecting on the struggles he had, my admiration for him has grown.  I am going to miss Robin Williams.

If we think that those who suffer from substance abuse (alcoholism, drug dependency) and mental illness are somehow “less than”, maybe Robin Williams still has a story to tell.  If we think that mental illness and chemical dependency are interconnected with character weakness, Robin Williams still has a story to tell.  If we think that people who are _______-enough (fill in the blank….smart, rich, famous, funny, tender….whatever) don’t have to struggle with addiction or mental illness, Robin Williams still has a story to tell.

By now, the attention to and interest in Williams has waned.  Even Robin Williams becomes yesterday’s news as we move on with our hurried lives.  I am inclined to think his family is probably glad for the peace that brings.  But, I also think moving on too quickly, as we do these days, causes us to miss some lessons from a famous actor and from lots of regular people more like most of us.  This very day in our own community, there are people who wonder if life is worth living, if sobriety is even possible, why life seems always to be an uphill climb.  They will wonder if, with alcohol, drugs or in some other way, it would be easier to just stop trying.  Mental illness and addiction will be the health issue that steals these precious people from our families, our neighborhoods and our community.

When “health” and “illness” are diminished by referring exclusively to our bodies, our physical selves, we lose sight of the significance of the mental and emotional parts of who we are.  Mental illness and addiction are as real as physical ailments and the extraordinary pain associated with them drives people to give up.   As members of a community who care and understand that mental illness and addiction are legitimate illnesses not character failings, we can help our friends and neighbors who struggle.

Again this year, we set aside September to celebrate Recovery month…..recovery from mental illness and substance abuse.  We recognize the struggle that folks in recovery have faced and continue to face.  We take time to recommit to understanding these very real illnesses and to supporting recovery from them in any way we can from our own place in life.  Rest in peace, Robin Williams.  Live in peace all those pursuing recovery and all those who love them.