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Recovery Corner:

What is Recovery?
by Andrea Hercha Schmook

What is recovery? It's a process that takes place over time and regains or restores health. 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 and spiritually.

What most of us know about recovery is usually identified with a person who may be addicted to alcohol. Our focus, however, in the RECOVERY CORNER is mental illness. It has been widely accepted and promoted that mental illness is an incurable disease. Just as alcoholism has become accepted as a disease too. A disease is defined 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 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.

One area where people seem to have the biggest problem is in the spiritual part of recovery. Many people confuse this part 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 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 them. Additionally, one must realize that it's not necessary to have a college degree or a high school diploma to recover. This also 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 alcohol addiction that everyone gave up on and that person recovered. This same truth holds true for even a person 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 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 afflicted 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 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 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.

Recovery Corner is a column written by Andrea Schmook. She has recovered from mental illness. Anyone interested in contacting her for training/workshops can do so by e-mail to Ahschmook@ureach.com

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   Copyright 1998 Andrea Hercha Schmook.  All rights reserved