There’s a lot of talk about the need to make communities “recovery-friendly.” This term means that if a person is in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, the community makes it easier for that person to maintain their sobriety.
What makes a community friendly to those in recovery? There’s several factors.
1. Access to treatment facilities. The city, county or state makes it relatively easy for a person to find a rehab program. The city and county can reach out to encourage churches and community groups to offer support and help, even offer financial support or at least tax advantages to those who help.
2. There are drug and alcohol-free entertainments. This could include stadiums with no-drinking sections and drug-free concerts in the park. What also helps is a limit on the number of alcohol-selling establishments in the town.
3. Discouraging stigma: If a community takes a “head-in-the-sand” attitude toward addiction, then it’s quite possible for old addiction-related stigmas to remain in place. A local politician who goes to rehab may be slammed in the local media for “being a drunk” instead of that media supporting him and encouraging others to find help.
4. Law enforcement and drug courts: By focusing on prosecuting drug dealers and channeling users to drug courts or rehabs, the community endorses sobriety but can still take a hard line toward those who bring drugs into the community.
5. Leadership: Community leaders can certainly promote the benefits of being sober and tolerant toward those who are in recovery. These messages do trickle their way down through the community. Some people will always maintain their fixed opinions – that’s never going to change. Others will get the message, however.
These factors are mostly being discussed with reference to those in recovery but in fact, many of these actions also influence young people and their ability to grow up sober. Young people need to have drug- and alcohol-free events and influences if they are to make it all the way to adulthood sober. And according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, if a young person can make it to 21 without using drugs and alcohol, he’s (or she’s) almost certain never to do so.
This is the most compelling reason I know to make a community sobriety-friendly as well as recovery-friendly. In addition to the above, what else can communities do to make their environments sobriety-friendly for young people?
Athletic leagues, art lessons, swim clubs, field trips, museums and libraries with public classes, health and career fairs, leadership that’s sober and open about the benefits of being so, good drug prevention classes in schools, after-school programs to help with homework and sports, and a million other ideas. And of course, insisting on drug-free schools. Our kids have the right to attend schools without drug and alcohol criminality on all sides, just like healthy adults expect to be able to work in drug-free workplaces.
Every parent can spread the message in PTA, school board, town hall, city council and city planning meetings. By taking a stand for zero-tolerance toward drugs and a high support for recovery and sobriety, parents can make a difference for every member of their families.
To learn about the drug education programs offered by Narconon International, visit our website here: http://www.narconon.org/drug-education/.