The Art of Self Medicating

What do you call a meeting for people with Bipolar Disorder?

A.A.

It’s my joke, and I’ve earned the right to tell it, it’s both funny and sad.

I struggle with both Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder and according to statistics I’m not alone. Apparently, alcohol is the self-medicating drug of bipolar disorder choice, it’s reported that 60 % struggle from both.

I was Bipolar first, but didn’t have a diagnosis. The alcoholism diagnosis came in the form of an ultimatum from my husband, it was my family or the drink. In hindsight, when someone gives you this scenario and you need time to think about it, it’s pretty evident there’s a problem.

However, in my mind it wasn’t that simple or obvious. Drinking was when I felt ok, I laughed, I socialized, I had something to contribute and I had a lot to forget. I felt like I was being asked to choose between my sanity and my overwhelming daily reality and frankly that was no choice I wanted to make.

I want to say that I graciously made the right choice immediately, but I did not. When you are drowning, it is hard to let go of an imagined life preserver. I struggled with this dilemma for a few years, not all of it bad mind you. I wasn’t an all-out drunk, I was more of a binge drinker (AKA …following the cyclical torments of Bipolar Disorder) so I could handle myself for months at a time, drink occasionally and at times responsibly. But over time drinking was no longer fixing my problem, it was complicating my life to the point that I could no longer deny it.

Self-medicating, unfortunately causes as much if not more damage to ourselves and our families. We do it, unknowingly and knowingly. We realize that something within us is broken and need/want to fix it but aren’t sure how and why.

I’d like to interject at this point about my children. They have been such a paradox in my life, their existence has caused me the greatest amount of anxiety, and stress both personally and in my marriage.  But without their existence I don’t know that I would have chosen sobriety and even life for that matter. I want things for them that I feel I don’t deserve, so I push ahead for them.

I want to say just not drinking helped me, but A.A. touched me, it’s an incredibly beautiful example of courage. I needed to hear REAL, BOLD HONESTY. A.A. was no bullshit, no pretenses, it was people being real publicly. It’s uncomfortable at first to hear people openly talk about their lives and I cringed every time someone raised their hand to share. But after a few meetings it became my salvation. I felt so fortunate to be able to hear peoples’ stories, their grief, heartache, self-discovery, and second chances. In this one room, for this one hour, once a week, I didn’t feel alone, I felt connected to something tangible. Maybe it’s something you can only comprehend and appreciate after having desperation eat away at your heart and mind for years.

After 40 days of sobriety things began to become clear. I had developed some healthy habits in place of drinking; exercising, writing, reading my Bible but I was still just the shell of a person looking to fix within me that which was broken. Time went by. I prayed, I cried, I annoyed the hell out of my husband, pastor and friends and finally I was given an answer. Three individuals/professionals in my life approached me separately within a seven day time period and told me/diagnosed me as having Bipolar Disorder II. And I’m now beginning the next phase of this journey.

I want to say to you, that no matter which side of the bar stool you’re on, no matter where you’re at in your life… there is hope for this illness. Sometimes it comes in the way of blatant honesty around a table with strangers. Sometimes it’s the courage you find for the ones you love. I implore you to take that first step and begin your journey of wellness

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