I Did Well… For A While – My Life: Part 5

I Did Well… For A While – My Life: Part 5

After working at the rehab for 9 months, I decided I wanted to move forward with my life. I applied for many jobs in Phoenix. I got a job as a receptionist for a legal compliance and ethics e-learning company. I found an apartment in Phoenix and moved there with a guy I was dating from the rehab, but that relationship didn’t last. I don’t know when our relationship ended, but I think we lived together for about a year. I adopted a dog and named him Cash (after Johnny Cash). He was awfully energetic and liked to chew on everything. I learned how to train him, and he started to behave properly. Cash came with me to AA camping events, which was a blast. At some point, I found a great AA club where I would go to the same meeting every day at 6pm. I don’t like change, so moving was scary. I like to keep a regular schedule. I made a lot of friends at the meeting, but I would only go to that one meeting every day. One of the guys I met was Brandon, who became my best friend. He had the same sarcastic attitude that I have and we got along wonderfully.

I was doing really well at this time in my life. I got a promotion at work, I was able to live on my own, make friends, and maintain my sobriety and my mental health. I took my medication and saw my doctors regularly. I was seeing the psychiatrist that was treating me while I was in rehab. Brandon asked me to workout with him. I told him no for months, and then I ultimately caved and decided to go with him. I was terrified because it was something new, but Brandon made me feel safe. After working out with him once, I was hooked. I loved it. We started working out together 5 days a week. It helped me get through my days at work. I would go to work, then workout with Brandon, and then go to my meeting (often with Brandon). I was happy with this new schedule; it was working well for me.

In the beginning, I wasn’t open about my mental health when it came to my AA meetings. My close friends knew, but that was all. Eventually, I ended up talking about my bipolar disorder in a meeting. I felt as if it wasn’t accepted. Several times, I was told that I didn’t have a mental health problem. It was just an issue to work on through step work. That was a problem for me. I didn’t feel accepted. My mental health was a huge part of my life. Even when I’m doing well, it’s still a large piece of my life. I was stable for years. That had never happened to me before.

My psychiatrist decided to wean me off my meds slowly because I had been stable for such a long period. It was possible that my mental health issues were drug related, so we thought it was worth a try to get off medication. I was down to two medications, and then she took me off the Seroquel. About 4 months later, I started to fall apart. I thought it would be a good idea to go to therapy again because I started to remember things that I hadn’t previously remembered. These memories triggered what was eventually diagnosed as PTSD. With the PTSD coming up and the med changes occurring, it was like the perfect storm. I started having hallucinations and was shaking uncontrollably. My psychiatrist put me on Abilify, but that made it worse. I barely slept for 3 weeks.

My job let me work from home, but after a little while, I couldn’t even manage that any more. I went on short-term disability, which then turned into long-term disability. There were times that I struggled to feed the dog. My mom came out to stay with me for a little while, but she couldn’t be there all the time. I decided to move back to Connecticut because I couldn’t be on my own anymore. I’m lucky that she was able and willing to let me and my dog move in with her. My long-term disability turned in to Social Security Disability.

I thought writing my story would help my memory, and it has; but it has also become difficult for me. There’s a lot that I struggle to remember, and a lot of other things I wish I didn’t remember. I think I’m going to take a break from writing my story for a little while.

Getting Sober And Starting A Life – My Life: Part 4

Getting Sober And Starting A Life – My Life: Part 4

I flew across the country at the end of April in 2004. On April 29th, 2004 I was admitted to a year-long in-patient rehab. I was excited to go until I got there. Once I arrived, my fears kicked in and I told my mom that I changed my mind about going to rehab. She ensured me that I could do it. I trusted her; I always trust my mom because she has never given me a reason not to.

Rehab was very tough. I couldn’t talk to my family for the first 6 weeks. Then I could only talk to them once a week on Sundays for 15 minutes. There was a strict schedule that had to be followed. On Sundays we had to clean our living areas and everything had to pass inspection. I think that may be why I am so obsessive about cleaning my house. We had to make dinner every night for our houses. This required making a menu, grocery list, and assigning specific tasks. I had a therapist and a psychiatrist that I saw weekly. They managed my medication so I never missed a dose.

We were required to go to AA meetings that were put on by the staff members. A couple times a week we were allowed to go to outside meetings that were supervised by staff members. We were also required to have a sponsor and do step work. In the beginning, it was tough. However, as time went on, it became normal. The step work brought up a lot of issues that I was able to work on. The hardest part for me was believing in a Higher Power. I’m Jewish by blood, but I was raised Catholic. I never believed in what I was taught in Sunday school and I never related to anything I heard in church. I don’t like the word God for many reasons. Overall, I just don’t believe in God. Some people may not like to hear that, but I’m just being honest. The great part about belief according to AA is that you just have to believe in a power greater than yourself. I can admit that. I know that I’m not the most powerful thing out there. I’m not sure what it is, but I know it’s not me. I do believe in science and Mother Nature, which then became my Higher Power.

Family was invited to visit every 3 months for workshops, which helped to work through some family problems. My mom came every time. My brother, sister, and aunt each came for one of the workshops as well as my graduation. I was so amazed at how much my family supported me; especially after all of the crap I put them through over the years. Once I completed the year-long program (which felt like forever), I worked at the rehab for 9 months helping others get sober.

I made some friends from the rehab, but most of those relationships faded off. I did date one of the guys that I met there, and we ended up living together for a while. The school teacher from the rehab became a close friend of mine and we spent time together after I left. His wife ended up being my sponsor when I lived on my own. I even became close with their family.

The First Downfall – My Life: Part 3

The First Downfall – My Life: Part 3

Just before I turned 17, I met a guy and was immediately attracted to him. Jared had a personality that was appealing to many. He made friends with people easily, but he only let them see the side of his personality that he wanted them to see. For the first couple months of our relationship, he only let me see positive traits. Once we moved in together, everything changed. He became physically and emotionally abusive. He would tell me when I could see my friends. I had to have dinner on the table when he got home, or else. We did a lot of drugs together. I fell for every trick he played and didn’t stand up for myself at all. He had me convinced that I was lucky to have him; he made me believe that no one else would want me. The worst part of it all is that he broke up with me. He said I wasn’t happy anymore. I remember telling him he would regret it. I was devastated. I don’t know why I was so hung up on a guy that treated me like crap, but I was.

At a party, I met a guy who was so sweet. Chris was the exact opposite of Jared, except for the drug use. I started smoking crack when I met Chris. Jared tried to get back together with me, but I finally stood up for myself and told him no. Jared started stalking me at that point, so I became terrified for my safety even more than I already was. Chris and I dated for several months. He kept talking about getting sober, but I wasn’t ready for that. I was completely addicted to crack that it came before everything. I was even with Chris getting high instead of being at the hospital when my dad died. That is one of the biggest regrets I have. Chris ended up getting killed only a few months after we met.

The loss of my father was exceedingly difficult, even though I knew for years that it was coming. He had been sick for many years with cancer and kidney failure. He ended up dying from an infection on October 10th, 2003. He was in the ICU for a while before his death. I miss my father and think of him every day. Losing him was like losing a part of myself. I wish I had been there to support my family, but I was too far into my addiction. I wish he could have seen me get sober.

My drug use was insane, I was almost always drunk or high on something. All of this made my mental health even worse. I was dealing with rapid cycling; I was either manic or depressed at all times. I didn’t want to spend much time with my friends, the few that I had left. All I wanted to do was die. This was probably my lowest point in life. I finally decided I wanted to quit drinking and using, but I couldn’t do it. I wished I was dead every day. I had lost so much in life, but the worst thing I lost was my self-respect.

One day, I had finally had enough. I went to my mom and told her I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her I needed to go back into the hospital. She told me that a behavioral health hospital would not fix things. I needed more than that; I needed to get sober. Apparently, she had already been looking at places to send me. She showed me some of the places she found. I was interested in this one place in Arizona; it was a year-long in-patient treatment center. It treated drug and alcohol abuse as well as mental health. I actually became excited; I finally felt a glimmer of hope. I was scared, but so enthused about the possibility of feeling better, that it actually lessened the fear. Most people don’t go to rehab willingly. I went not only willingly, but eagerly. I was also terrified; the thought of something new scared me, but the depression was so horrible that I felt my only other option was death.

Bipolar and Addiction: There Is Hope

Bipolar and Addiction: There Is Hope

There are various statistics, but it seems that more than 50% of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder also struggle with addiction in some form, such as drugs or alcohol. When a person is diagnosed with bipolar disorder or another mood disorder, and also has a problem with drugs and/or alcohol, it is called dual diagnosis. I was diagnosed with dual diagnosis when I was 14 years old. My drug of choice was crack, but I would do whatever I could find; I also had a problem with alcohol. If anyone is thinking about a rehab, it’s important to research each treatment center you are looking at for yourself or your loved ones to make sure it can properly treat both your mental health disorder and your drug/alcohol addiction.

Dual diagnosis can make it more difficult to treat either disorder, but it’s not impossible. I’ve heard some people say that drugs and alcohol can bring on mental health episodes; and mental health episodes often lead individuals towards drug/alcohol use; both are true based on my own experience.

I know it’s possible to recover from dual diagnosis. I am 11 years sober, which is something I never thought I could say. On April 29, 2004, I went willingly to a yearlong rehab that also helped treat my bipolar disorder, and I have been sober ever since. I even worked there for 9 months after I completed the program. There is always hope, recovery from addiction is always possible. There is no single way to recover from addiction, every person is different. I got sober through the help of a 12 step program. What worked for me may not work for another person.

I feel the same way about treating bipolar disorder. I have tried so many different medications but I have not found the right combination of meds that works for this episode. Even though the meds may have previously worked, or are currently working for many others, it doesn’t mean they will definitely work for me. It’s basically a trial and error situation when treating mental health. That is really hard for me to accept, especially since I’ve been through so many meds. I want a fix, I want to feel better again; I’m not sure how much more patience I have. However, if I could recover from a severe drug and alcohol addiction at 19 years old, then I can hold on to hope for bipolar ‘remission’. I’ve had times in my life when I was not manic, depressed, hypomanic, or mixed. If it’s happened before, it can happen again. Anything is possible.