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 Personal Stories - Andy S.

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Remembering to focus on the Principles and Concepts of the

12 Steps of DRA

I focus on solutions today.  The 12 Steps, principles, and concepts of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Dual Recovery Anonymous have evidenced my genuine, inner and true self.  I attempt to the best of my ability to be concerned about only this moment, this second as it is unfolding in front of me.  I acknowledge how much I have focused on problems in the past.  I acknowledge how much I have dreaded the past and feared the future.  I acknowledge the reality of the damage this does to my internal quality of life as I actively pursue my journey of dual recovery and participate in life.

Dual Recovery Anonymous is a major resource to help me to help focus on solutions.  Today, I utilize skills and tools learned through attending DRA meetings.  I utilize skills and tools learned through working the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of DRA.  I utilize the skills and tools learned through working with sponsors and developing relationships in the DRA fellowship.  Other tools and skills have been learned from such resources as case management, therapy, psychiatry, mediations and other forms of outside support, and I make a strong distinction between those resources outside my involvement with a 12 Step fellowship focusing on the solution to my dual disorder, Dual Recovery Anonymous.

Today, I recognize how setbacks in my life held me back for too long from feeling fully alive, fully at peace, and fully able to be spontaneous, free of alcohol and other intoxicating drugs.  Today, I recognize how the interaction of my use of alcohol and other intoxicating drugs and my psychiatric illness was a self-defeating pattern.  Today, I acknowledge I can do nothing to get back the years devoted to active addiction and, as a result, active unmanageability of symptoms of my psychiatric illness during times of use.. 

However, today, in this moment, I accept one hundred percent that I have opportunity to seek wisdom to know the difference of what I can change and what I can’t change.  I have this opportunity to know the difference by remaining open-minded, honest, and willing, and I achieve one-hundred percent acceptance through recognition that I am a good person with two no-fault disorders. 

Gratefully, with the help of DRA, I feel I am recovering today.  I feel stable today.  I feel humble, truly aware of my assets and limitations.  With humility, I am reminded I need to do whatever I can to protect my dual recovery.  In protecting dual recovery with the help of DRA, I know how to attend to self-care and be selfish as needed about my program.  In placing my dual recovery first, I am better able to carry the message of hope to men and women who experience dual illnesses.

College involved continuation of active addiction developed as an adolescent.  However, I was able to graduate with a bachelor degree in social work.  I decided I wanted to be a high school counselor.

Sliding through the bachelor program with my addiction very active, I was accepted in the master of social work program.  There, I limited my acting out on active addiction by attempting to control my use from what had been a variety of drug to only drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.  As I progressed in my first year internship for my master degree, I began to have perceptions which affected my ability to function and relate to myself and others effectively.  These perceptions included hearing a running commentary, so to say, of voices.  I felt these voices were being transmitted from my perception of Heaven.  As I was smoking marijuana regularly, these voices grew more intense, more profound, and these voices became more real to me.  I continued to drink alcohol to the point of intoxication, and I sensed an exaggerated sense of greatness about my power as a human being.  It was not too long into this first experience of active symptoms that I was hospitalized on a mental health unit.  I was prescribed a major tranquilizer, and I was diagnosed as experiencing depression with psychotic features.

After the hospital, I quickly returned to my marijuana dealer’s home to replenish my supply.  After a small amount of time, I convinced the psychiatric nurse following me that I could go off of my medication.  I felt it was a fluke experience, and I would be okay.  The medication made me too sedated, and I complained I felt like I couldn’t think as deeply as I once did on it.  Aside from all of that, the medications were just too expensive as I didn’t have insurance which covered their cost.

After I went to work for a state social service agency utilizing my bachelor degree, I returned to the master of social work program.  I had already begun to communicate with the voices making up a running commentary by the time I resumed the internship.  However, the illusion, or delusion, which began in the previous year intensified and developed more momentum.  I began to feel as I was supposed to rescue the disenfranchised and disadvantaged of the world, those with poverty, those with past and current abusive environments, those who suffer from discrimination and stigma of all sorts, and every other individual of our society which experienced inequality.  I had thoughts I was to create a plan for the media to carry out.  I was to bring together all individuals in our society in order to create equality.  The plan was titled “72 Hours of Cries” and became a paper I turned in for a final project for two classes.  I was continuing to smoke marijuana and drink alcoholically, exacerbating the experience of my distorted thoughts. 

I somehow went on for about a total of four to six months experiencing these intense, very real perceptions to me.  I convinced others who questioned my state of mind that they were the ones with the problem, not me.  I had done the same thing with my alcohol and drug problem in convincing others I wasn’t the one with the problem. So, I was pretty skilled at defending myself.

However, my parents soon intervened by establishing an intake appointment at a local hospital with a mental health unit.  I remember the doctor asking me some question to which I responded, “Oh, you mean the messages from Heaven.”  She looked at my family and simply responded, “Schizophrenia.” 

Shortly, I recall spitting oral Haldol out at the nurse attempting to medicate me.  After two rounds of this, the next day I was bent over a hospital bed where I was administered an involuntary injection of Haldol.  Very quickly in the next couple of days, I felt as if someone had unplugged the electrical chord from my reality, and I found myself in the midst of the reality for schizophrenia taking place.

It took a long time to get to where I am today.  The hospitalization in which I was diagnosed with schizophrenia took place in 1994.  In 1997, I was hospitalized for depression and suicidal thoughts, leading to my exposure to the addiction recovery unit where I was to focus on marijuana use, alcohol use, and a gambling problem.  I was successful in completing the program, but by the time I reached aftercare I was gambling again.  I attended some 12 Steps groups, and I began to work with a sponsor. But, soon I relapsed on alcohol and went on to regularly use marijuana.  This last drinking binge took place July 11th, 1998, at a wedding reception where I was free to drink all the beer I desired.  I not only drank, but I got into the purse of my significant other and took some of her pills, which included sedatives.  I almost killed us on the drive to the hotel.  Somehow, I was graced to find us waken the next morning still alive with yet another chance.

During the hospitalization in 1997, I was offered a new diagnosis for my cluster of symptoms called schizoaffective disorder, and my medications were rearranged.  I had found these new medications to be helpful in the long run.  I did graduate from the master of social work program in December of 1998, after 6 and one-half long years of persevering.  I began to work with a new doctor, and when I told him about my continued marijuana smoking, he stated simply, “Do you know marijuana is bad for your mental health?”  It was a non-judgmental statement.  But, somehow it reverberated in me.  I do not believe he judged me as good or bad for the choices I was making, but he just wanted to empower me by allowing me insight into what I was doing to myself. 

On January 12, 2000, I was attending a 12 Step meeting and the topic was gratitude.  I had been attending this meeting despite continuing to gamble and use marijuana.  I had the desire to not drink alcohol, so I felt I had a right to be there.  However, at this meeting someone spoke about a sponsee asking if it was alright if they smoked marijuana from a peace pipe while they talked with the sponsor, the individual who was sharing.  Everyone broke out into laughter and the room was filled with joy.  The seriousness of what I had been doing was apparent, but the seriousness which kept me from reaching out, or the fear of the severity of what I had been doing, dissipated.  I told the group I had been smoking marijuana and gambling, and I stated my desire to live an honest program based on the 12 Steps. 

After committing to 90 meetings in 90 days, after developing a relationship with a sponsor and working the steps, and after 2 plus years of hard work, I was ready to put my master degree to use.  I went to work as a detoxification counselor where I assisted others in the recovery process.  I met individuals with dual disorders, and I had a common connection with them.  I soon learned of a job opportunity with the local mental health community center, and the job involved working with those with dual disorders.  I applied, and I was accepted for the position.  Though I had attended a few DRA meetings back around 1994, always with a 12 pack of beer waiting for me in the car, I had not learned to apply the 12 Steps to my dual disorder.  I was re-introduced to the DRA literature and the DRA meeting format.  I began a DRA meeting in my community, and I dedicated myself to being there on time with the readings and literature.  At the start of the meeting’s history, there were only two of us.  Since that time, the group has gone through many changes, including trying new meetings in various locations.  The core group has grown, and currently we have approximately 15 members who come regularly and many members who come irregularly but keep coming back.  We have newcomers quite often, and we discuss how to best to reach out to newcomers in the Service Committee Meetings.  We have an infrastructure to the group made up of trusted servants including a chairperson, groups service representative, treasurer, secretary and activities chair. We meet as a service committee once a month to problem-solve as to how to better carry the message of dual recovery.

I believe the message of dual recovery in my life today is that through working the 12 Steps, I am empowered to make healthy choices in this moment, as it is unfolding, in order to build a new life for myself, starting from where I am in this present moment.  I was not able to make these healthy choices in my life when I was active in addiction and did not manage symptoms of my psychiatric illness in a healthy and constructive manner.   My life is peaceful today.  However, I started my clean date over on December 31, 2006, as I had gone through surgery and ensuing complications, and the chemically dependent part of myself became addicted to the pain pills I was prescribed.  I acknowledged I was manufacturing pain in order to remain in active addiction, taking the pain pills much longer than I needed to.  Though my clean date has changed, the inner-peace and calm I feel from practicing the principles and concepts of the 12 Steps of Dual Recovery Anonymous remains. I may go through life with many storms surrounding me, but I mostly know I am at peace today, in the center, at the core of the person I am, on the inside. 

There are times in the preset moments in which I find myself where life is not easy.  The steps and the solution are simple to find if I remember to keep my program simple by going to 90 meetings in 90 days, reaching out to others, which I call sticking with the winners, reading the literature, and maintaining my contact with my Higher Power. The emotional turmoil created from acting out on my obsessive-compulsive self-centeredness has left me with a dam of tears waiting to come out.  I have compassion for myself, though, in this moment.  My Higher Power is loving and caring, and I know in being loving and caring, my Higher Power does not have to forgive me.  My higher power already loves and cares for me.  What does she have to forgive me?

I find as long as I focus on the solution found in the 12 Steps of DRA to keep me on track of managing my emotional and psychiatric illness.  I know as long I remain honest, open-minded, and willing, my higher power’s grace will see me through this difficult time.  I will continue to cope with and manage symptoms of my dual disorder.

My continuous abstinence time may have broken from my relapse, but my knowledge of and ability to apply the principles of the 12 Steps remains.   I will start with a fresh Step One every day, asking my Higher Power for help to get through this challenging time.  I know with inner-peace and calm, I can live today to do just one thing, and for me today I focus on the solution every day to my dual disorder.  Dual Recovery Anonymous helps keep my whole self together so I have a chance to hope, cope and heal from the impact a dual disorder has had on my life.

Andy S.


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