Recovery is a process that takes place over time by regaining or restoring one’s life to healthy living and well-being. Recovery involves changing thinking and attitudes. It means action. It promotes emotional and spiritual growth. It begins with self-acceptance and self-change–mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s holistic in nature, involving the whole person and his/her life.
What most of us know about recovery is usually identified with a person who may be addicted to alcohol. Our focus, however, is mental illness. It has been widely accepted and promoted that mental illness is an incurable brain disease. Just as alcoholism has become accepted as a disease too. A disease is defined in the dictionary as any departure from health, whether mental or physical. If disease is a departure from health, then recovery is the act of restoration to health.
As stated above, mental illness has been accepted as an incurable disease. When we think of “incurable”, we find it defined in the dictionary as “a person diseased beyond hope of recovery and possibility of cure”. When we talk about “cure”, exactly what do we mean? The dictionary defines it as “to heal for that which is broken.” It states further that “diseases are cured, wounds are healed.” Additionally, when we think of “cure”, we think in terms of a health professional or doctor providing some medication or treatment that will affect healing or in this context “cure”.
Cure leads us to look outside ourselves for a treatment or medication. On the other hand, recovery leads us to look within ourselves to attitudes and thinking, and it requires action. Recovery promotes growth–emotional and spiritual, equally requiring action on the part of the “diseased” person. “Cure” usually applies to symptoms. Whereas, recovery applies to the entire person: thinking, attitudes, physical, emotional, spiritual, social, lifestyle, intimate relationships, career, employment and financial.
One area where people seem to have the biggest problem is in the spiritual area of recovery. Many people confuse this area with religion. It really doesn’t have anything to do with religion. Spirituality is simply a way of living. It’s the basis of moving from the negative to the positive. This means moving from fear to trust; self-pity to gratitude; resentment to acceptance; dishonesty to honesty. It helps us define the patterns in how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world we live in. These patterns guide our lives to be positive, healthy, fulfilling and life-giving or negative, self-defeating, and destructive.
Promoting a view of mental illness as incurable tends to promote the idea of disease and it becomes a process of negativity, self-defeating and destructive. For recovery to begin, people must hear and know that other people diagnosed with mental illness recovered. They must understand that one does not start with even a profound desire to recover, that others first began to nurture the recovery process within themselves. Additionally, one must realize that it’s not necessary to have a college degree or a high school diploma to recover. It includes knowing that if others have done it then it’s possible for anyone to do it.
We have all heard of the person with an alcohol addiction that everyone gave up on and that person recovered. This same truth holds true for even a person considered most severely mentally ill that everyone believes is beyond hope of recovery. Anyone given an opportunity to recover and who acts on it stands a good chance of recovering. The recovery process includes the encouragement of others who have been through it and recovered and supporting those who are trying. Additionally, families and professionals need to provide support whenever a person diagnosed with mental illness falls short in the process.
There’s nothing magical in recovery. It takes commitment, work, perseverance, inspiration, and perspiration. Additionally, as stated above, it takes encouragement and support by a lot of people for anyone diagnosed with mental illness to succeed in the recovery process. Most of all, it takes time. It takes application and practice. It gives way to self-understanding, knowledge, and participation in life. The end result of recovery from the consequences of mental illness is no longer seen with shame and stigma. It is viewed with a grateful and humble heart for having experienced it.
Recovery is a process that brings with it pain and healing. It can’t be forced. It needs to be directed and influenced with the truth. It must be nurtured as you would nurture and care for a tiny seed that has been planted. It must be watered with understanding and love. It must be given the sunshine of kind words and enthusiasm. It must be allowed to grow and develop as a beautiful flower.