Gift of love: The role of love in recovery
Motivation is important for recovery from addiction or other mental illnesses. The will to get better does not appear from a vacuum, but can come from many sources. One vital source is the supportive and nurturing love provided by friends and family.
The foundations of recovery
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defined four aspects of a successful recovery. Combined, these pillars can turn a person’s life around, and love plays an important role in all of them:
- Home – Individuals with mental illness benefit from a stable living environment. The support of loved ones that can provide a calm presence that aids in recovery.
- Community – Even outside of the household, patients in recovery need active, positive influences in their lives. Support from friends, neighbors and others can provide warmth in dark times. Hope, loyalty and other positive emotions can alleviate some of the burden during the recovery process.
- Purpose – The mentally ill may feel useless in their daily life and need a new direction in their day-to-day routines. Some of the most useful pursuits, such as volunteering with a charitable organization or finding new friends, harness the power of love to motivate those in recovery.
- Health – Treating an addiction is critical for recovery from underlying mental illnesses. Poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to psychological distress (or vice versa). Mental distress can hurt motivation to self-care, but those in recovery must treat themselves with as much love as others do.
While love alone will not suffice to make a person healthy, it is a vital component of recovery and can help convince a person to seek the necessary treatment. SAMHSA recommends psychiatric care for many patients with mental illnesses, whether it’s through admission in a facility or regular visits with a counselor.
Providing support in recovery
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) laid out several recommendations for the loved ones of people with mental illness, such as remaining patient and understanding. Telling the person to “try harder” is not helpful for the mentally or physically sick.
“Mental illnesses are scientific, physiological illnesses and need to be treated as such in order for wellness to be achieved,” NAMI stated in their literature.
NAMI also found that patients benefit from empathy and validation rather than the “it could be worse” attitude. These components involve the search to understand a person’s feelings rather than trying to force alternate views on the patient.
Mental health professionals are critical resources for both patients and their loved ones. They can help guide all parties in handling the mental illness and providing the best chance at a permanent recovery.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer