No one dreams of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. But the reality is one in seven Americans will face a substance addiction, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

The disease of addiction has destroyed families and impacted businesses and communities across North Dakota. By working together, we can make a difference by saving lives, preventing addiction and supporting those in recovery.

On Sept. 26, Gov. Doug Burgum and I hosted Recovery Reinvented, an initiative to eliminate the shame and stigma of addiction in North Dakota. The shame and the stigma of being an alcoholic influenced my own decision to not seek treatment and to keep my disease hidden, and I am not alone. Sadly, only one in 10 people who need treatment for addiction actually seek treatment. But treatment can and does work.

There is hope, and we are committed to finding solutions and making a positive impact. We are uniting to find solutions to help people in our state affected by the disease of addiction. There is inspiring proof all around us that recovery is possible.

We all play a part in reinventing recovery in North Dakota. Advocacy is key when elected officials are prioritizing resources to address addiction. We can advance policy by coming together and lending our faces and voices to this cause. Communities can develop recovery organizations to spread the message that addiction is a disease, eliminate the shame and stigma of addiction and communicate that treatment can be effective and recovery is possible.

The governor and I were honored to have so many incredible speakers join us at Recovery Reinvented and share their expertise, passion and support for the state’s efforts to reinvent recovery. We are grateful for the opportunity to build on the work of those who have been supporting recovery as we work together as a community to reinvent recovery.

The governor and I presented awards at Recovery Reinvented to individuals who have made a significant impact in their communities by implementing effective and innovative solutions for addiction and recovery. We are grateful for their lasting contributions and commitment to finding solutions for the disease of addiction and giving hope to so many!

Through Recovery Reinvented, nine actions have been announced, providing opportunities for individuals, businesses, faith- or cultural-based organizations, and communities to become active participants in reinventing recovery. Visit recoveryreinvented.com to learn more about opportunities to be part of the solution. Sign up for free peer support training, compete in the recovery innovation competition, start a recovery community organization or become a Free Through Recovery provider.

Addiction needs to be embraced in our society like any other chronic, progressively fatal illness or disease before real changes can be made in our communities and before the shame and stigma can be eliminated. The governor and I are working to reinvent recovery by taking our advocacy to the streets and asking North Dakotans to start talking about addiction.

Now is the time to put aside stereotypes and stop intolerance. Now is the time to come together to support those suffering from the disease of addiction. There is no shame in addiction and there is so much hope in recovery.

Kathryn Helgaas Burgum is North Dakota's first lady.

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