14 thoughts on “The Secret Lives of Recovered, Dual-Diagnosed Alcoholics

  • August 11, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I have been sober six years and go to AA meetings regularly. I have also suffered severe depression since I got sober and have been hospitalized numerous times. I never hide this at AA. The last time I was hospitalized, an AA friend announced it at a meeting and I had more visitors than I could handle. Never has anyone suggested that being depressed and taking medication for that is somehow not okay in AA. I have heard tales of people saying if you’re depressed, bi-polar, whatever, you aren’t really sober and haven’t worked the steps hard enough. But I’ve never actually known anyone who said this. I point out to people that Bill W suffered from such depression when he got sober, that he would sometimes sit in his AA office for days on end and refuse to talk and weep. (see Susan Cheever’s bio – My Name is Bill W.)

    So stop hiding. Bring it up in meetings. I have never had anyone respond with anything but concern and gratitude.

  • August 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    I have been very active in AA/NA for 14 years and have *never* heard anyone say “you’re not clean if you’re taking meds”, nor have I ever met anyone who has been told that.

    I have heard complaints that a meeting addressed depression, etc more than they would like, and have had many people ask if it’s ok to take prescribed meds (usually psychotropic and/or pain meds).

    For those questioning the use of medically prescribed and monitored meds:
    — Read (or re-read) page 133 of the AA big book.
    — Review the current stats. Fact is, the majority of people presenting for CD have a co-morbid psych condition (depression, anxiety, bi-polar etc) and a large percentage of people presenting for psych conditions have a chemical abuse or dependency problem.
    — Ask if the group’s primary purpose is to help the newcomer, or to stroke those who have recovered. The “singleness of purpose police” have killed enough people already…
    — Do a quick poll of attendees: “How many people are currently taking meds for depression, bi-polar or similar conditions?”. I have done this more than a few times to calm the concerns of a newcomer.

    If reason fails, ask “Where did you do your residency?” It is illegal to practice medicine without a license.

    Rochester, MN

  • August 15, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I am dual-diagnosed and was going to kill myself in my first year of sobriety. When I shared at a meeting that I felt like a failure if I took anti-depressants, many, many people came up to me and told me that they take ant-depressants; that I need to save my life!! 15 years later, I am very alive & sober. For the anxiety that comes with PTSD, I cannot take benzodiazepines. I will abuse them. So, I do acupuncture instead. It works!

    I live in a large East coast city, so maybe I have more people to pick from. My belief is, if someone is shaming me, I move on to someone else. Having to keep secrets in Recovry is just not healthy. I hope you find some supportive friends….

  • August 17, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I can understand the frustration Christine expresses. My question is how do you force the treatment paradigm to even dual-diagnose to begin with, particularly when dealing with public health funding? I have a friend that deals with continuing mental health issues that have persisted since childhood. He also is addicted to both alcohol and other substances. He has been unable to get help from the mental health establishment due to an addiction diagnosis, and has been in in-patient treatment for substance abuse well over 20 times-all unsuccessful. In fact, it appears that the typical 12-Step program actually re-enforces his abusing due to his particular mental health issues. The mental health establishment of course, simply refers him once again to the same substance abuse treatment centers. Because he has NOT been repeatedly hospitalized for mental health issues (ie: neither homicidal or suicidal and not totally bizarre behavior in public), he apparently fails to meet their requirement for dual-diagnosis and can get no mental health treatment services-which he desperately wants. Substance abuse treatment invariably tells him his entire problem is substance abuse . . .but his mental health issues date to early elementary school and include severe ADHD (diagnosed) and possibly mild schizophrenia. I can well believe Christine’s claim that she is discriminated against because of her medications for depression: many 12-Step programs dont even want their clients ‘addicted to coffee’ . . . cigarettes is an even bigger prohibition. The issue is particularly bad when Medicaid is involved because these mental health contractors have a vested interest in not getting into treatment situations where the outcome is shaky-and they cannot violate arbitrary rules imposed by bureaucracy.

    Mental health as a whole (including substance abuse treatment) needs to look closely at the the failures occurring because of the way they are structured and their inability to influence bureaucratic decision-making. They are aware that huge numbers of their prospective clients are slipping thru the cracks they themselves have open up. Until treatment providers are willing to confront the fact that underlying mental health issues often cause, perpetuate and re-enforce substance abuse issues, few will gain and maintain sobriety and good mental health at the same time. Solve that problem and you just might have a start on solving the long-term homelessness of a great many street people!

    Strangely, these same agencies are awarded grant monies specifically to deal with dual diagnosis. I have no idea what they put on the reports to justify the expenditure of the funds, but they are turning away a large number of those for whom the funding was supposedly awarded. The same goes for 12-Step treatment programs. When they cant even accept the need for some substance abusers to be medicated, they will certainly never be able to understand the ‘self-medication’ component of substance abuse.

  • August 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    In the area where I live, there are “dual diagnosis” AA/NA meetings (the one I go to is called “Double Trouble’, ha, ha)but they are not the “real” AA/NA, according to the group aligned with the local re-hab (after meeting most of the people in that group, you’d likely call it a “cult” instead of a “re-hab” the way they’re all in a clique, and wouldn’t even give you the time of day if you didn’t get sober in that re-hab,the founder of the re-hab is their Higher Power, etc)If you take ANY drugs (OTC or the ones prescribed by your doctor) and they find out about it,they’re all like “you’re not working the steps”, “you’re not going to enough meetings”, etc…I go 20 miles one way to my “dual diagnosis” group 3 times a week (thank GOD for rides!!)just to escape their judgement… if I was more sure of my sobriety, I’d start my own group!!

    • August 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      Can’t wait till you are more sure of your sobriety and start your own group. Sounds like you’re about ready…

  • August 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    After being sober for 5 years and still going to meetings on a regular basis, helping the newcomer, going to instutional commitments, active in my homegroup, having a sponsor and being a sponsor, intergroup rep, improving my conscious contact with God, reading everything I could on recovery, going on retreats, living my life by the spiritual principles of the 12 steps etc. etc. I still had, on a regular basis, dark days where I didn’t think I could make it through the day. Eventually I ended up in a psychiatrist’s office. He diagnosed me with depression. I’ll never forget what he said, “alcoholism and depression go hand in hand”. For years I would never share about my depression. There are people in recovery who believe that you shouldn’t have to take medication. There are also people in recovery that should be taking medication. I was told by an “old timer” that by sharing about having depression I could be helping someone who was struggling with what I had gone through. I have been sober for 21 years, and in my experience, there are alot more people in recovery on medication for mental illness than people realize. For me, medication alone doesn’t keep me sober. I also must live by the spiritual principles of the 12 steps and continue to be an active member of AA. When I am asked to talk at a speakers meeting I briefly share about my depression. More times than not someone comes up to me after the meeting to talk to me about it. If anyone challenges me that I shouldn’t have to take medication that all I need is the 12 steps I reply “Thanks, I’ll pray for you”.

  • December 31, 2011 at 3:11 am

    George, the “singleness of purpose police??”

    You mean Bill Wilson, the writer of the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous.

    You have it wrong sir—YOU are the murderer.

    Read the literature Georgey Porgey—quit killing people by not qualifying them.

  • December 31, 2011 at 3:49 am

    Here is the issue that NO ONE on this thread understands or for some reason CANNOT comprehend.

    All the yak yak psychobabble rehab medication talk is an “OUTSIDE ISSUE.”

    Alcoholics Anonymous HAS NO OPINIONS ON OUTSIDE ISSUES!!!!!!

    So do not think for a nano second that AA or whatever 12 step program you attend CARES about your “dual diagnosis.” Quit trying to make it apart of or weave it into the fabric of your 12 step recovery program….GET IT!!!

    If I have a problem with shoving bananas into my rectum, is it okay for me to talk about that at my meetings? Of course not, it is an outside issue so I would refrain.

    WE don’t CARE about your outside issues. AA cannot DO ANYTHING for your outside issues.

    Read the AA literature and quit trying to change it. If I went to a plumbers meeting would it make sense to talk about tile work?

    It’s really quite a simple concept that many cannot digest.

    My OPINION now on “dual diagnosis” is just this: If you go to Midas Muffler they are going to sell you a muffler.

    If you go to a shrink they are going to sell you depression, panic disorder, paranoid dillusional tendencies, sociopathy, etc etc etc. Then they will sell you the pills to fix it.

    Yes, there are clinically depressed people lacking the proper dopamine and serotonin production and salt(lithium) in their brain fluid chemicals.My opinion is they are rare..or rarer than you think.

    There are two AA pamphlets I would suggest reading.One is “Problems Other Than Alcohol” the other is “AA and Other Medications.”

    READ THEM BOTH so you can become informed and become less ignorant of the programs position on these OUTSIDE ISSUES.

    The AA and other medications pahphlet simply says if you take these drugs you will be prone to become ADDICTED to them. Then what happens. You become TOLERATED to the “medicine” and down down down the rabbit hole you go.

    You now need bigger doses, different meds, meds to counteract the meds…its a rabbit hole indeed. You never ever get better.

    The “CURE” is always worse than the “SYMPTOMS.”

    As a society the second we feel off or depressed or whatever we run to the quacks and get the pills and down we go.

    Call me ANYTHING but an alcoholic. Call me a paranoid delusional psychopath with sociopathic tendencies but DON’T call me a garden variety Heinz 57 alcoholic. I am special, I am unique, my case is different and this kind of thinking is the very thing that will kill any addict or alcoholic. I am special!!! LOL

    My opinion also on many of these cases is that these individuals ARE NOT ALCOHOLICS OR ADDICTS TO BEGIN WITH but that’s another essay for a different day. These are people looking for a chummy support group or a friend or 2.

    I am NOT saying don’t take the meds. I AM saying be very careful with how you tread.

    Medical school provides less than a half a day on alcoholism—the doctors are not informed. The good ones are…they are in the minority.

    SO, Alcoholism is for AA- Drug addiction is for NA- depression or whatever is for you and the quack doctor you see…it does not belong in the rooms.

    Singleness of Purpose–AA is not all things to all people. The ONLY REQUIREMENT for membership is a desire to stop DRINKING.

    Yes, I know I can make my points in a better way. A not so harsh way but this is how I talk. I apologize if I have offended anyone but obviously I am passionate on the subject matter.

    Please read more literature on what the 12 step programs are really for and perhaps you will reconsider your “Spencerian” thought process.

    • December 31, 2011 at 11:05 am

      Are you saying it is not appropriate to share with others in recovery your experience with triggers? People, places or things that threaten our recovery?

  • April 12, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I have 11 years of recovery from alcoholism and addiction. I have a dual diagnosis severe depression. Depression so bad. It borders on catatonic. I out myself any time. I think it would help another human being. I do not carry a sign. The truth is AA is for alcoholics and addicts. I go there to stay in recovery. I see a psychiatrist for my depression. The big book clearly states seek outside help when needed.my doctor told me he could not help me with my alcoholism. I needed to go to AA. He said he could help me with my depression, and he has. So AA has clearly drawn boundaries. If my depression is out of control. I do not attend AA meetings and discuss it. I call my doctor. I go to AA stay sober.

    • April 16, 2012 at 5:34 am

      Wonderful to hear of a doctor who are so smart – who get it!

  • April 25, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Hi christine

    I applaud your courage. I am in orange county ca and I do not broadcast about dual diagnosis but do often talk of violence and ptsd as contributing factors in my getting addicted to booze and drugs.

    Its funny out here I hear rumblings of ppl up north telling people not to take meds. Larry is a prime example of singleness of purpose police.funny he does not even know it. All the while insulting docs by calling them quacks and insulting people who get treatment.

    I have been off antidepressants for six months and

    have become extremely suicidal. Thank god I have a dr
    appt in two days to get back on.I have been sober since 8 31 08 and it is a tough pill to swallow that my brain is not firing on all cylinders.
    Thankfully the larrys are in the minority in the fellowship. It always amazes and saddens me when someone shares a diatribe like that in a meeting. Who

    is being helped by that type of talk.

    Kudos to you for writing about mental illness lotta folks still dying even with all todays resources.people need to know they are not alone.


Join the Conversation!

We invite you to share your thoughts and tell us what you think in this public forum. Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. A first name or pseudonym is required and will be displayed with your comment. Your email address is also required, but will be kept private. (Please note that we use gravatars here, which are tied to your email address.) A website/blog/twitter address is optional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *