Guest Column: Life is a journey; the same goes for recovery

Life is a journey best savored when we take it one day at a time, embracing our successes, and taking moments to rest or regroup when we hit a roadblock. Through the twists and turns, regardless of where life takes us, the most important factor is being able to look back and know the journey has been worthwhile.

Recovery from mental illness or addiction is like that.

Recovery has a life of its own that can begin when a person with an addiction or mental illness recognizes and admits there is a problem. From there, the road to recovery is one step at a time. All steps combined, it is a progressive journey filled with successes to celebrate and moments to regroup.

The most important first step for successful recovery is to obtain an assessment. This will help guide a person down the right path of empowerment to gain accurate information about the illness, facts and options about treatment, support from family and friends, and knowledge of how to best manage the illness.

In recent years, scientific breakthroughs have brought about a much better understanding of mental illness and addiction, chemicals and the mind. These discoveries have led to medicines and models of treatment that are bringing about outstanding results.

Although millions of Americans struggle with severe mental illness, it is of great significance today that 80 percent of those suffering from bipolar disorder and 65 percent of those with major depression respond well to treatment. At the same time, new medications are relieving severe symptoms for 60 percent of those living with schizophrenia.

Substance use and chemical dependency have become a widespread health and social problem that negatively affect as much as 69 percent of our population. Yet advancements have now made the diseases of dependency very treatable, with success rates of up to 70 percent for alcohol dependence, 60 percent for cocaine treatment, and up to 80 percent for opiates.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to reach or connect with many in need of treatment. Social stigmas and denial of mental illness and addiction still hinder progress, stopping many who struggle from stepping forward to seek help. Denial of problems, fear of repercussions at work or home, and concerns about being seen in a negative light are barriers to treatment.

Treatment is often essential to recovery efforts. Along with being healthy, and at times lifesaving, for the individual, it is also healthy and life-giving for families and society as a whole.

Recovery leads to a reduction in hospitalizations, incarceration and homelessness. It increases employment, decent housing and quality of life both emotionally and financially.

Step by step, recovery brings living back to life. It is a journey of help, healing and hope that is definitely worth taking.

Dr. James Perry is CEO of Mental Health Services for Clark and Madison Counties.

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