A Consumer’s Story
I am sharing my story in the hopes that I will leave a lasting gift and that it will give hope of recovery to my brothers and sisters who come after me.
Let me start from the beginning. When I was about four years old, I became aware of feelings that I didn’t belong in my surroundings. It was at age seven, when I picked up my first drink, did I feel accepted. It was absolutely wonderful! It quieted my fears, my inferiority complex, and my wandering thoughts and helped me to think of myself as “Super-Human”. Oh yes, I liked it.
I was falling-down drunk by the age of ten and had been arrested twelve times. I was incarcerated at the age of ten for eighteen months and labeled as an incorrigible by the time I was seventeen. I ran away into the army, however, due to my drinking, I was released in nineteen months with a General Discharge under Honorable Condition.
I won’t bore my readers with all that happened in my life; the weekends spent at local jails, lost jobs, etc. I grew bored with jobs quickly. I married at nineteen and had three children.
I heard about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) when I was twenty-four, thus began the long journey of eighteen years of failed attempts to reach sobriety and never being able to complete a full year.
I was diagnosed as possible manic-depressive in 1975, but the professionals weren’t sure where alcohol left off and manic began. I was prescribed lithium for eleven months and was able to stay sober during that time. However, my dosage kept increasing until I was taking 3000 mg. of lithium and 3 Dilantin daily. Even at such a high dosage, the medication was not showing up in my system so the doctors dropped me off the medication out of concern. Again, I started drinking.
On Mother’s Day of 1987 I took my last drink. I divorced from my wife of twenty-three years. No longer could I deal with the sickness of a dysfunctional family and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop drinking there. She felt more comfortable with me drinking. She had control. I met another woman and remarried. Life was good. I was promoted in my job and went up the ranks of business, becoming vice-president. Money was coming in. We had a little girl, bought a new town house, and had an all-wheel SUV in the driveway. I was very active in AA and sponsored many people. So what was wrong’s
I lost all zest for living. Someone suggested I start another meeting. So, I decided to work with the wet-drunks in order to gain some gratitude. I called our local hospital, which was known for treating alcoholism. I was told that the position that I had volunteered for was filled and the only other option was to start a meeting for alcohol and drugs in their psychiatric ward. I exclaimed that I did not wish to work with crazy people. The woman there told me, “We are all God’s children.” I prayed about it, yet I still didn’t feel comfortable with the situation. Regardless of my reserve, a few friends and I started the meeting anyway and it lasted 4 1/2 years until they closed the meeting due to lack of staff. I found myself able to identify with a lot of those patients and their feelings. They too helped to keep me sober. Even though I was still not ready to admit that I had a mental illness, I thank God that he provided that meeting to plant the seed necessary because of my strong denial of my mental illness. Once those meetings closed, I slipped into a depression. My work, home life, and health all began to suffer. The sleepless nights, the black holes of depression, my wife pleading with me to see a doctor, all of which took its toll. When I finally agreed, it was then that I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder and later found to be bipolar II with rapid cycling. The doctors tried many medications to no avail, as I am medication-resistant. They also became very frustrated with me for I was constantly disregarding my appointments.
For me, I have found there to be a difference between a gray depression and what I call a black-hole. The gray is one where you can lift yourself up by the bootstraps and do the things that have to be done. The black hole, on the other hand, is that space you find yourself in where you can’t sleep, you don’t want to stand, you don’t want to sit, you don’t want to take a shower or shave, you won’t answer the phone, you don’t want to exist. To live is too painful and the only relief you get is in a fetal position. It was apparent that the second marriage was destroyed after nine years of walking on eggshells. I suppose she was burned-out.
I took on a third wife whom I had hoped to help me get on my feet. She was in NA and I thought she would understand my illness. I was nine years sober and still the doctors were unable to maintain any balance of my medications. This was in December of 1995. I was involved in a terrible automobile accident that year in which a woman received major injuries. I, myself, scathed injury but hit a deep black hole and was hospitalized.
I received thirteen shock treatments. A series of thirteen more were recommended, but I declined. Believe it or not, I still refused to believe that I had a mental disorder and that I wasn’t to blame.
It wasn’t because I wasn’t loved or had been sexually abused, or even that my whole life had been lived through an alcoholic haze. I was born with this. It is genetic.
After 13 1/2 years of sobriety and not taking any medications, in my third marriage, except taking St. John’ss Wort, it was later explained to me that this medication may have helped my depression but could not control my mood swings.
I always believed that I lacked common sense. Needless to say, my third marriage was on the rocks. All in my 13 1/2 years of sobriety. (What a shocker) I thought things were supposed to get better. As I write this, I will be divorcing for the third time. I am finally able to surrender to my mental illness and I’sm not willing to go to any lengths for help. I’sm no longer ashamed and keeping my disease in the closet. I celebrated fourteen years of sobriety in AA and I thank God for Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA). A very wise sponsor once told me never try to tell a one armed man that you know how he feels unless you are also missing a limb.
I lost the zeal for AA several years ago because they didn’t understand my bipolar condition. They felt meetings, a sponsor, and the big book along with a spiritual program were all you needed to obtain good sobriety. I can still recall the many DOA’ss that came through the hospital and were revived, only to tell me that someone in the program told them to throw their medication away. And those poor innocent souls believed them.
I’sve found a home at last in DRA. I’sm no longer ashamed and it feels wonderful. The DRA meetings that I now attend fulfill a certain comfort zone allowing me to share with people who I know truly understand.
This is a God inspired program for me. I will take my medications as prescribed, go to my DRA meetings and pass the message when called for. I’sm currently corresponding with an AA brother in WV who has sixteen years in another AA program. He has expressed to me that they desperately need DRA meetings; we’re working on opening new meeting places there and hopefully around the Pittsburgh area. An AA sister with twenty-five years sober has been inquiring about DRA. I’sve spoken to her and hope that she is willing to lend her story to the journal.
God bless all my brothers and sisters in recovery. And, please, don’t miss your appointments with your therapist or psychiatrist. Work with them closely. And, come and see us if you happen to be in the Pittsburgh area. We’ll take you in with open arms. God Bless
Integrated Treatment of Substance Abuse & Mental Illness