By Quinn Nystrom, MS

September is one of those months that just has a lot going on.

Of course, there are the common milestones that occur around this time every year like Labor Day and the first day of school; both of which indicate that summer is officially over.

Its’ also a month packed with important observances and campaigns. From National Suicide Prevention and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to the “Never Forget” mantra honoring 9/11, September is a month filled with reasons to remember while also acknowledging how fragile life can really be.

But the one that tends to get lost in the shuffle is one that is incredibly important to me and also many of my friends and colleagues. Created by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Recovery Month (also called Recovery Month) is an observance held every September; one that is designed to educate Americans how substance use treatment and mental health services are the keys to helping those who struggle with these issues rally and live a healthy life.

Now in its 29th year, this event is celebrated by individuals and organizations alike. As soon as the calendar shifts from August to September, thousands of prevention, treatment, and recovery programs and facilities around the country celebrate National Recovery Month by speaking publicly about the gains made by those in recovery. These success stories, along with stories of those who have stumbled, fallen, and gotten back up again, act as a beautiful and powerful way to increase awareness and further a greater understanding about the diseases of mental and substance use disorders.

My National Recovery Month is spent recognizing my journey to recovery from an eating disorder; something I’ve struggled with for many years. During this month, my “celebration” doesn’t include balloons or parties, but it does include time to reflect.

For me, the recovery from an eating disorder is making a daily decision to CHOOSE recovery. I don’t think of it as a past tense decision…..but a daily one.

Yes, I still have days when I struggle with things that trigger my eating disorder no matter what month it is. I still get thoughts that pop into my head that make me want to fall back on past unhealthy behaviors. Recently, I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid in a wedding and, despite the fact it was a beautiful day of happiness, joy and love, I still struggled with body image issues. So much so that I had to reach out to friends for support to help me get through the day. Even though I’m 4+ years symptom-free, the struggle is very real on a daily basis. But I embrace my progress and victories and keep moving forward in life.

I also highly encourage those who can relate to celebrate their victories and recognize National Recovery Month. Together we help build each other up and hold each other up because there is strength in numbers and because addiction-based thoughts are not cured the moment you leave treatment.

To learn more about SAMHSA and National Recovery Month, visit their website here.