First Lady Donna Walker

First Lady Donna Walker

Opinion: Recovery is possible

When we talk about the behavioral health challenges facing our state – whether it’s alcohol addition, opioids or suicide – most of us think of individuals whom we love. In my family, and in too many Alaska families, we have seen first-hand the devastating impacts of addiction. We have also seen the beauty and grace of recovery.

I truly believe Alaskans are a more resilient people than most. And when confronted with the enormity of the challenges we face as a state, I draw hope and inspiration from the thousands of Alaskans who are living proof that recovery is possible. During our hardest moments, let us not forget that. Recovery is possible.

As we approach the end of this Recovery Month, a national observance dedicated to increasing understanding of mental health and substance misuse and celebrating those Alaskans who have chosen the path to recovery, let us continuously celebrate those who have struggled and come out the other side stronger. They are sitting next you in the office, they are raising successful children, they are children returning home.

More investment in prevention and treatment is critical. I was pleased to see the Legislature fund the administration’s request for more behavioral health grants. But if we’re going to turn the tide, every Alaskan must step up.

First, we must change the way we talk about addiction. People choose to use drugs, but nobody chooses addiction. It’s a disease, a disease that we cannot effectively treat through the barricade of stigma.

Second, we must change how we talk about recovery. Nobody can be forced to recover. But that doesn’t mean everyone else if off the hook. Whether someone is battling alcohol addiction or misuse of another substance, each of us has the ability to be a positive influence on their journey to sobriety, whether it’s directly as a friend or family member, or indirectly by offering support services and resources as an employer.

Third, and crucially, we must celebrate recovery. Recovery is a lifelong process and a daily commitment, and support is helpful through every step of that journey.

I am encouraged to see strides being made every day to help Alaskans choose sobriety. There is a larger conversation happening about substance misuse, sobriety and recovery — both nationwide and here in our state — which is helping to reduce the stigma that exists around this topic. Recently, Cook Inlet Tribal Council opened a brand new residential treatment center in Eklutna, dedicated to helping Alaskans overcome drug and alcohol addiction. Our state is also fortunate to have organizations like Recover Alaska and Alaska 2-1-1, which are committed to connecting Alaskans with life-saving resources throughout every step toward sobriety.

To those who feel overwhelmed by the challenge before us, remember this: while our state’s recovery will be built one Alaskan at a time, none of us are going through it alone. Offer love and support to the people in your life. Be brave enough to accept it when you need it. Together, we can create a support system that stretches from coast to coast.

• Donna Walker is Alaska’s First Lady, the Honorary Chair of the Alaska Children’s Trust, a former caseworker for the Office of Children’s Services, an attorney, mother and grandmother. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

More in Opinion

Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

Alaska Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens, prime sponsor of a civics education bill that passed the Senate last year. (Photo courtesy Alaska Senate Majority Press Office)
Opinion: A return to civility today to lieu of passing a flamed out torch

It’s almost been a year since the state Senate unanimously passed a… Continue reading

Eric Cordingley looks at his records while searching for the graves of those who died at Morningside Hospital at Multnomah Park Cemetery on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, in Portland, Ore. Cordingley has volunteered at his neighborhood cemetery for about 15 years. He’s done everything from cleaning headstones to trying to decipher obscure burial records. He has documented Portland burial sites — Multnomah Park and Greenwood Hills cemeteries — have the most Lost Alaskans, and obtained about 1,200 death certificates. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
My Turn: Decades of Psychiatric patient mistreatment deserves a state investigation and report

On March 29, Mark Thiessen’s story for the Associated Press was picked… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Alaska House makes the right decision on constitutionally guaranteed PFD

The Permanent Fund dividend is important to a lot of Alaska households,… Continue reading

Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor in a profile picture at the Department of Law’s website. (Alaska Department of Law photo)
Dunleavy wants a state sponsored legal defense fund

On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its second hearing on a… Continue reading

Juneau School District administrators and board members listen to a presentation about the district’s multi-million deficit during a Jan. 9 meeting. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The twisted logic of the Juneau School Board recall petition

The ink was hardly dry on the Juneau School District (JSD) FY… Continue reading

A crowd overflows the library at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé on Feb. 22 as school board members meet to consider proposals to address the Juneau School District’s budget crisis. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: The last thing Juneau needs now is a divisive school board recall campaign

The long-postponed and necessary closure and consolidation of Juneau schools had to… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, delivers her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 15 as Senate President Gary Stevens and House Speaker Cathy Tilton watch. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Sen. Lisa Murkowski has a job to finish

A few weeks ago, Sen. Lisa Murkowski told CNN’s Manu Raju she… Continue reading