Other recovered alcoholics take little jabs at us.
“I never chewed my beer.”
“I have managed to stay sober without the big bottle or little bottle.”
“…and I have not taken any mood altering substances in my xx years of sobriety.”
My response: “Well, good for you.” But in my head I am thinking, “Maybe you should have.”
There persists – despite decades of peer-reviewed research, anecdotal proof and the admission of LSD use by AA founder Bill Wilson – ignorance in the recovery community about the use of antidepressants and mood stabilizers. They backhand us with their belief that we are not clean and sober because we take psychotropic medications for other mental illnesses.
I have listened to these recovered alcoholics – many with no more than a high school diploma – spew their self-righteous ignorance in rooms filled with silent, suffering, dual-diagnosed alcoholics. They puff themselves up with their pretentious proclamations, oblivious to the angst, shame and confusion they have inflicted. They do not make the connection between their words and the the gun in the mouth of an alcoholic who stopped taking his medications because of their ignorance. At his funeral they will say, “At least he died sober.”
This week I celebrate 12 years of sobriety. For nearly half of those years I have been on antidepressants and a mood stabilizer. I challenge anyone to tell me that I am not clean and sober. I am alive today because I kept and open mind and was willing to follow suggestions and seek outside help.
I found experts who have devoted their careers and countless hours of studying pharmacology to treating dual-diagnosed alcoholics and addicts. Would I like to get off my meds? Heck yeah, but not if it means risking my sobriety or daydreaming about tailpipes and hoses.
I know this is going to tick off a lot of people. But research has shown that about half of us are dual-diagnosed. God love you folks who have only one mental illness – alcoholism. But some of us will not be “happy, joyous and free” until we treat ALL our mental illnesses.
Please, don’t judge us and treat us like we are less than you. Stop with the snide remarks and give a second thought to how much you really know about depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses.
Just give us a chance.
Christine Stapleton has been a reporter for The Palm Beach Post for 23 years and in 2006, began writing a column entitled, Kicking Depression.
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9 Comments to
“My Depression. My Alcoholism. My Program.”Rose at 11:37 am on August 24th, 2010
WOW! I was unaware that this was happening. I knew there was some discussion about it from a different tack in the Buddhist community. But I wasn’t aware that AA people had a similar problem.
There’s always got to be the a**holes who need to feel better than in order to feel whole.
What an incredibly powerful post, Christine.
I don’t take antidepressants or any “mind altering medication” but I do enjoy a few glasses of wine. As I said to my son recently, if alcohol was invented today it would be illegal.
The sheer audacity of the redneck/bogan brain is a a thing of beauty to behold sometimes.
I admire your commitment to your sobriety and your ability to write in such a magnificent and succinct manner.
“Angst, shame and confusion…” For me, that’s the puzzling thing about orthodox steppers and medication. Instead of showing legitimate concern that medicated folks are missing out on the full joys of sobriety, the true believers go the route of ridicule. Love and tolerance of others, eh?
Neemer at 9:17 pm on August 24th, 2010
You make some good points in your post — those who rally against the use of psychotropic medications in all cases do a lot of damage. BUT, I do object to your statement that many such individuals possess “no more than a high school diploma”. We should all be more careful not to equate education with intelligence or rationality. There are many with advanced degrees who still object to the use of medication, and vice versa. By subtly hinting that level of education is to blame for such thinking, sad stereotypes are reinforced.
baseball55 at 9:37 pm on August 24th, 2010
I have been in AA for 5 years and have never had anyone criticize me for using psych meds or refer to my severe depression and multiple hospitalizations as “untreated alcoholism” that requires more step work. Maybe there are people who think that way, but here in Boston, people seem pretty enlightened about dual diagnosis
angiebombs at 1:48 am on August 25th, 2010
Thank you so much for this post. I have been sober over 6 years and I also have bipolar disorder. When I was new in AA, I was told several times that either I wasn’t sober if I was taking psych meds, or that someday I wouldn’t need them anymore if I worked the steps well enough. Heating this prompted me to stop my meds cold turkey at 30 days sober, which ultimately led to a relapse of both the bipolar and my drinking. I can’t help but wonder how many others have had similar (or worse) experiences.
Now that I know the program better, I know that even Bill W. talks about the importance of seeking outside help from “doctors and psychiatrists” when necessary (this is in the Family Afrerward in the Big Book). I am so glad that I got back on my meds when I did, and I truly thank you for sharing this message to other dialog diagnosed folks!
angiebombs at 2:07 am on August 25th, 2010
That was supposed to say “dually diagnosed.”
Bobbi at 11:20 am on August 25th, 2010
Clean and sober for 16 years ( only partially with AA help) Being put on antidepressant medication made me go out and drink again- I am one who responds badly to the medication( ‘black box’ warning on all anti-depressant medication) meanwhile I was fighting chronic pain- hooked onto narcotics. in three weeks it will be two years of my sobriety- detoxed in a hospital from drugs and alcohol; Yet, my pain has persisted and I have taken the narcotics on+ off for the entire time- I didn’t lose my sobriety- I used a medication to treat an illness!
I have heard ( mostly the old-timers) negative comments about medication- “take what you need and leave the rest”. I am grateful to have a dual diagnosis group that meets twice a month near to me- I have GREAT friendships with two of the women there; We openly discuss our medication and our urges. I have learned which meetings to go to where dual diagnosis is not put down.
I am an addict and an alcoholic- I can live without the alcohol- I can’t live without the potentially addictive drugs- both mental health wise and for my body. I keep connected and tell ALL my doctors ALL the medication any one has given me- keeps me honest!
You are so right. They key is to find supports who understand and to “tell ALL my doctors ALL the medication any one has given me – keeps me honest.”
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