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Depression, bipolar and trying to stay sober for richer or poorer

I think I would like to go to rehab.

I didn’t go to rehab when I got sober in 1998. I went to the local AA clubhouse, which was a former Shriner’s clubhouse with a spiffy wood bar (promptly converted to a coffee shop) and a meeting room that seemed large  enough to drive around in little cars. I love my AA clubhouse and have had some wonderful times there. It had a major overhaul a couple of years ago and now features a nice pool table, a flat, large screen television above a fireplace, pin ball machines, a public access computer, and a lovely little cafe. Did I mention the coffee? We have cappuccino, too.

Still, I think it might be kind of nice to go to rehab. I don’t need it but I hear other recovering alcoholics talk about their rehabs like they’re sororities or  spas and I think I could use 30 days to “work on myself” … and my tan. I got the idea while trying to plan a vacation. I wanted to find a resort or spa for recovered alcoholics. A place where we could go and continue and expand our programs with lectures and seminars and yoga and massages and pedicures and really great healthy food. Meetings morning, noon and night. Movies. Tennis. Group meditations and long walks on the beach. Wouldn’t that be great?

I couldn’t find anything like that — although I hear Eric Clapton’s place in Antigua is planning one. While I was searching I checked out the amenities for folks trying to get clean and sober. Holy cow!  I had no idea getting sober could be so … extravagant and lavish and comfortable and posh and relaxing and rejuvenating and exclusive and I am running out of adjectives. California has some really nice ones. I called a couple: $56,000 to $78,000 for a month-long stint in rehab. Of course, there are some cheaper rehabs, but they don’t have down comforters, tennis courts, massages, swimming pools with waterfalls and stunning ocean views.

I don’t think I could have hit my bottom while getting a massage. But, hey, whatever works. What I especially liked about many of the rehabs I checked out is that they offer screening and treatment for dual-diagnosis: alcoholism/addiction coupled with another mental illness such a depression or bipolar disorder. I am not dual-diagnosed. I hit the trifecta. I am actually triple diagnosed: alcoholism, depression and bipolar disorder.

I learned the hard way that if I do not treat all three, I will very likely relapse or get depressed and/or manic. They are like conjoined triplets. Can’t separate them. I consider my depression and bipolar the biggest threat to my sobriety today. Some research shows that as many as half the addicts and alcoholics out there are dual — or triple — diagnosed. So it is wonderful that treatment centers finally realize this and are treating all of an addict’s mental illnesses.

But what about the folks like me, who do not go to rehab? The dual-diagnosed who cannot afford treatment do not learn about their companion mental illnesses until they are in a very serious crisis. Often they never learn. Six years into my sobriety, I slipped into a major depression. Thanks to friends in recovery who are dual-diagnosed, I was able to get help.

Even though I got help — therapy and antidepressants and a mood stabilizer — I got little support from many other recovered alcoholics and addicts. To many, antidepressants and mood stabilizers are mood altering drugs. According to them, you are not clean and sober if you take these medications. They even encourage others to stop taking their medications. In fact, just talking about your other mental illnesses or medications around 12-steppers is risky.

I am happy that the insured and wealthy addicts and alcoholics who can afford rehab are getting screened and treated for dual-diagnosis. But most addicts and alcoholics do not go to treatment. They try a 12-step program, which means uninsured and poor, dual-diagnosed alcoholics are less likely to get help for their other mental illnesses. The few who manage to see a doctor and are honest about their alcoholism and addiction are often given prescriptions for drugs such as Xanax — which often triggers a  relapse.

I do not know how to help.

Any suggestions?

Depression, bipolar and trying to stay sober for richer or poorer

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2010). Depression, bipolar and trying to stay sober for richer or poorer. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 8, 2019, from


Last updated: 1 Mar 2010
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