Hello, my name is Steve T. and Iím in dual recovery. My
diagnoses are bipolar disorder, obsessive/compulsive disorder and
alcoholism. Iím also a therapist in a mental health rehabilitation
facility. One of the best therapeutic tools I have at my disposal is my own
experience with 12-Step recovery. I am a grateful member of Dual Recovery
My first psychiatric prescription was at the age of nine. I
continued taking different psychiatric medications as needed and as were
made available by the drug industry into my twenties. It was in my early
twenties that I also discovered alcohol and street drugs.
I soon stopped taking my prescribed medication preferring to
self-medicate with substances that had euphoric side effects instead of the
lethargy, dry mouth, impotence, and muscle spasms of the legitimate drugs.
Unfortunately, the drugs and alcohol were not as effective in managing my
symptoms and eventually began to exacerbate them.
The worst outcome of self-medicating with alcohol was
becoming addicted to it. At first I was a binge drinker. I would drink on
the weekends to the point of unconsciousness or a black out (no memory). It
wasnít long before my weekends extended from Friday noon to Sunday night
and this began to make it more and more unlikely that I would attend school
or work on Mondays.
Incredibly, I was still able to attain a bachelor degree in
psychology, although it took me seven years to do the work of four. I got a
job in a day treatment program and worked at that until I decided to go back
to school for my master degree.
Graduate school was anxiety provoking for even the non-dual
disordered and I became a daily drinker. I remember carrying a liter of
tequila in my backpack and drinking in the restroom between classes. Only
one professor was on to me. He had an alcoholic daughter and knew the signs.
He told me he thought I had a problem and I dropped his course.
My first master level job was as a manager of a work
rehabilitation program. By that time, however, my drinking had progressed
from daily to all day long. Soon the pressure of trying to do the work
required in such a compromised state resulted in an inevitable draw between
leaving or being fired and I chose to leave.
For the next few years I was too ill to work, spending my
days in a drunken stupor. Alcohol would no longer have a sedating effect on
me so I couldnít even pass out and sleep. I remember, at this time I would
machine roll forty marijuana cigarettes in the morning and had them all
smoked by the end of the day. I grew my own indoors hydroponically and so
supply was never a problem. I became extremely paranoid and spent my time
inside with all doors locked and curtains drawn except when it was necessary
to run to the corner liquor store.
This extreme state of alcohol and marijuana dependent
disability lasted the better part of five years; during which time I relied
on relatives for financial support. Rent was always a secondary
consideration. Number one was staying in a stupor. I drank a liter of vodka
a day plus wine with dinner and often dessert drinks.
Between all the calories from alcohol, the increased
appetite from the marijuana and lack of energy to do any physical exercise,
I gained a lot of weight. Somehow I managed to start attending Overeaters
Anonymous. I was immediately enamored with the Twelve Steps. I had suffered
a loss of my childhood faith and had been shopping around for a religion or
philosophy on which to base my life and the Steps fitted my needs perfectly.
Even without admitting that I was powerless over alcohol and
other intoxicating drugs, my dependency for them began diminishing just by
working the Twelve Steps around my issues with compulsive overeating.
One day a fellow O.A. suggested that I attend an Alcoholics
Anonymous meeting "to further my understanding of the Twelve
Steps" and she gave me several pamphlets to read. (She later said that
she had often smelled alcohol and marijuana when she sat next to me.)
I took the A.A. pamphlets to my favorite bar and laid them
out to study as I drank! It still had not occurred to me that I had a
problem with alcohol and marijuana. One of the things she gave me was a
schedule of local A.A. meetings and I chose one to attend the next day.
The first meeting I attended was in the days before the end
of smoking meetings and one could just barely see the speaker for all the
smoke. His words were crystal clear, however, and I left the meeting knowing
I was an alcoholic. I drank and smoked marijuana one last time that evening
and the next day began my new life of sobriety!
I took a job in the mental health field that was below my
educational level because I had doubts about my ability to handle stress in
early sobriety. The further I got from my sobriety date the more
dysfunctional psychiatrically I became and it wasnít long before my
psychiatric symptoms started interfering with my work. It became evident
that I had been unconsciously self-medicating my symptoms with drugs and
Finally I could not deny my mental illness any longer and on
the advice of my family physician went to see a psychiatrist who prescribed
the first psychotropic medications I had taken in almost twenty years. I was
diagnosed with bipolar and obsessive/compulsive disorders.
My mood swings are from normal to manic; I rarely suffer
depression. My manic symptoms are very disrupting and in the last thirteen
years that I have been diagnosed, I have had four major episodes that
required time off from work.
I am fortunate to have found work as a Dual Recovery
Specialist at a major psychiatric rehabilitation center. The administration
is very understanding and works with me when I am symptomatic. As I said in
the beginning, my own experience with a dual disorder helps me relate to my
In late 1993 I started therapy groups based on the Twelve
Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous but we applied the Steps to our psychiatric
illnesses. In my search for resources, I found a book that had a suggested
format for a Dual Recovery Anonymous meeting. I recognized immediately that
this was the answer to what I had been looking for.
I contacted the DRA Central Service Office in Kansas and
received additional materials for personal and meeting use. In 1994 we held
the first Dual Recovery Anonymous Meeting in our city and five years later
we had grown to fourteen meetings a week. Personally, I am proud to say that
I am a grateful recovering member of Dual Recovery Anonymous.
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