Recovery, Inc., may be to the overly nervous what Alcoholics Anonymous is to the problem drinker. Gathering in churches, libraries, schools - anywhere the rent is free - group members help each other through shared experiences overcome the myriad physical symptoms accompanying anxiety and depression, said Nancy Downes, a local leader of Recovery. Nearly a thousand Recovery groups meet weekly in the United States and abroad, with approximately 20 groups meeting in the Washington area.
At a recent meeting in Arlington, nine persons sat talking before beginning their meeting. A newcomer was introduced by first name only, in keeping with the organization's policy on anonymity. Taking turns, they read from "Mental Health Through Will Training," written by Recovery's founder, Dr. Abraham Low.
Dr. Low, an immigrant Polish psychiatrist, prescribes that a person become "group-minded," or "lower standards" or do the things he fears to do. His prescription encourages averageness, probably the disturbed person's greatest fear, Downes said.
After the reading, members offered examples of how they had used the Recovery method in stressful situations.
"I was driving on the turnpike and discovered I had missed my exit," said a woman. "When I realized I would have to go 30 miles out of my way to correct my mistake I immediately felt intense head pressure and chest pain. My thoughts raced and I feared being lost."
In Recovery jargon, the woman "spotted" within seconds the fact that her symptoms were unrealistic - "they were distressing but not dangerous." She dismissed her anger which triggered the symptoms as something the average person would feel. She then took the next exit and went on her way, the symptoms subsiding.
Before attending Recovery, the woman concluded, the symptoms would have been much worse.
After the meeting, members chatted over offee.
"There's real warmth and support here," said a grandmotherly woman. "When I first became sick I did nothing but stay home. I was so ashamed of my condition. But I found friends in Recovery who understood."
Dr. Nicolas Camara-Peon, a Washington psychiatrist, has sent his patients to Recovery for many years.
"Recovery gives the patient an opportunity to do something for himself and work his own way out of his problems," he said. "It teaches the patient to recognize and control his anger."
"Excessive demonstrations of anger only complicate family situations," he added. "What patients want to do is improve relationships." He points out that for those who can maintain stability only with the support of a therapist, Recovery can be a considerable financial saving.