Addiction is a twisting, turning tornado that destroys everything in its path. Now make it worse by adding in mental disorders and you have the perfect storm. In fact, around 60% of people with mental disorders end with addictions of some sort. It goes along with the old adage of self-medicating and it makes thing exponentially worse. Note I am making light of addicts who don’t have mental disorders, it is all a living hell, but the struggle of mental disorders adds a whole new angle to deal with (they call this dual diagnosis FYI and there are meetings just for this). Even the venerable Big Book (of AA) doesn’t seem to offer much hope as it says: “There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.” (pg 58).
Doesn’t sound to optimistic does it? Fortunately this was written in 1939 and we’ve come a long way since then, but it may still leave people with mental disorders feeling a little hopeless. Considering the large number of addicts with disorders you would think this would create more open dialogue about this issue. So it may seem hopeless but fear not for it can be done! I have OCD and Bipolar disorder and 16 months of sobriety and I have met many who are dual diagnosis with years of sobriety.
Rather then bashing the system though I want to raise another point instead regarding the responsibility of those who are dual diagnosis. In treatment your sobriety is your responsibility and it’s the same with mental disorders. I must take ownership of it. Specifically, it is my responsibility to stay on my medication.
We mental disorder types LOVE not taking our medication and it is one of the worst things we can do. Simply put, I consider staying med compliant to be a crucial part of my sobriety. If I stop taking my meds I sink into depression and despair. In the HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) analogy I get angry, lonely, tired and sometimes hungry. All of this leads to isolation and increases the temptation to drink. The fact of the matter is that my best chance at staying sober requires me to stay on medication.
I see so many people who suffer dual diagnosis get off their meds and the next thing you know they are using again. This doesn’t mean if you aren’t on meds you will relapse, but the temptation is much, much stronger.
This also requires you to go to your doctor (shocking I know)! Make and keep appointments and if you don’t have insurance, then sign up for public health services. Yeah they can be frustrating (I have been there myself) but getting depressed and drinking is even more frustrating.
Look, I get it, meds don’t solve everything. I still have bad days and get depressed at times and some medications have horrible side effects (ahem, Abilify). In addition to this you may need therapy or counseling of some sort, and let’s not forget the importance of exercise. (Something else I consider crucial to mental health.)
But part of accepting life on life’s terms means dealing with the fact you may need medication. After all, your sobriety could be at stake and proper medicating beats self-medicating any day.