Words are powerful.

For that reason, language can play an important role in the way people in recovery think about themselves and can help reduce the stigma often associated with recovery, said Mike Barry, former TV news anchor, recovery advocate and CEO of People Advocating Recovery-Kentucky.

Barry was the keynote speaker at Owensboro Recovery Project’s first event, a day-long workshop titled “The Language of Recovery.” The event took place Friday at Yellow Creek Baptist Church.

Owensboro Recovery Project is a new program that started forming in November.

The project’s board consists of people who are tireless champions of the local recovery community.

Owensboro Recovery Project officials hope to create a hub for services and a social network for people recovering from addiction and for those seeking recovery. According to the new program’s mission statement, it exists “to advocate for, invest in, and mentor all those whose lives have been touched by the various forms of addiction while providing a safe place to feel socially accepted and empowered through connection.”

About 35 people attended Friday’s workshop. That turnout was better than the officials with the fledgling group expected, said Chris Seaton, a founder and member.

The event exceeded other expectations as well, he said.

“Everyone who was there interacted well,” Seaton said. “It was good for networking. Overall, it was a great day.”

Changing language is a way to close one chapter in someone’s history and open another, Barry said at the workshop.

“It’s important for us to paint the correct picture,” he said.

The word addict, for example, can be judgmental and stigmatizing. Further, it defines a person by his or her substance use disease.

During a national study in 2010, more than 500 clinicians attending two mental health conferences read about and answered questions about “a substance abuser” vs. “a person with a substance use disorder.” The study’s founders were trying to determine if that subtle difference in language would change the clinicians’ perceptions and treatment options.

The study concluded: “Even among highly trained mental health professionals, exposure to these two commonly used terms evokes systematically different judgments. The commonly used ‘substance abuser’ term may perpetuate stigmatizing attitudes.”

In addition, the general public often talks about substance abuse and addiction. In the recovery community, however, advocates prefer substance use disorder.

“Language does matter,” Barry told those attending the local workshop.

For more information about the language of recovery, go to https://facesandvoicesofrecovery.org/language-matters-in-the-recov ery-movement/.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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