ADDICTION AND MENTAL ILLNESS

If you ask a 100 Psychiatrists/Addiction Specialists which comes first addiction or mental illness, you will get 100 different complicated answers. It is complicated when you’re dealing with the brain. I can only say what I know and what I have witnessed.

There is addiction and mental illness on both sides of my family. Generations of it. This includes both of my parents. I never thought my father had any mental health problems until we started to talk about it in the last few years.

MY MENTAL ILLNESS AND ALCOHOLISM

I’ve said before that my memory isn’t the best so I’ll estimate and go by what my dad has told me and what I can remember.

When I was as young as 6 or 7 I felt out of place everywhere. My own Birthday parties filled my stomach with butterflies and I just wanted to hide. I shared these parties with my twin who I would watch as she laughed and enjoyed herself. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel the same as she did.

I have always been extremely sensitive to everything. I cried often and also had a quick temper that I took out on inanimate objects. I had a strong fear of abandonment and had a time with sleepovers or staying at another person’s house. I spent most of my time in my room reading.

At one point my mom talked to my dad about my behavior and suggested I see a doctor. He said that I would grow out of it and to leave me alone. I did spend time with my dad because we shared a passion for animals. I told my secrets to my mom.

Our family had a lot problems at one time. My brother was drinking and doing drugs. He had his own issues that my parents were not equipped to deal with. His father had been mentally ill and an alcoholic who committed suicide by driving his car into a cement barrier. My brother had a hard time accepting my dad and dealing with the secrets of his own father’s death.

My mother had several “nervous breakdowns” when I was younger and was hospitalized. She was never diagnosed or given medication. My father and mother both quit drinking when I was about 6. She would continue to have depressive episodes the rest of her life.

I started to dry heave before school everyday starting in Junior High. I never used the bathrooms and lunch was always difficult. My anxiety was out of control. I felt useless and invisible often. I had one friend. I was an observer of life. I started to sleep more and more.

In my later teens I would have times where I felt I had a thousand cups of coffee and I could do anything. I talked fast, started but never finished a million things, worked after school, and spent all the money I made.

At 16 I tried alcohol for the first time. My anxiety went away and I found I could talk to anyone and not care what they thought. I was funny and felt attractive. The pain on the inside was also gone. The feeling doesn’t last long so I had to keep drinking to feel normal.

My father admitted he drank because he had anxiety and a problem with being around groups of people. He still has anxiety.

I was diagnosed as Bipolar after 20 years of self medicating with alcohol. I’ve been sober 9 years. I wouldn’t have been able to stay sober without the help of anti-anxiety medication. No one should have to live with anxiety so bad they have ulcers at 17. Anxiety so bad it prevents them from doing normal activities. There was point I couldn’t go to the gas station by myself. That isn’t living.

As I’ve watched other people in my family it always seems like a mental health problem or a mental illness was the underlying factor in their drug or alcohol abuse.

When I did see doctors they only wanted to focus on the alcohol and never even thought there could be anything else going on. They had my family history of mental illness and still focused on the alcoholism. This needs to change. Both issues need to be treated together and doctors need to realize that the majority of addicts have a mental health issue. The ball is being dropped too many times and we are losing too many beautiful people.

TOUGH LOVE AND ADDICTION

I first heard of the concept “Tough Love” when my brother was a teenager. He had become someone else. He stole from my piggy bank, my grandfather’s coin collection, and my mom’s wallet to buy drugs and alcohol. He would come home when he wanted to. When he came home late at night he was usually bloody from a fight and usually it wasn’t his blood. The police were at our house often. He would physically fight with my father who by that time he was bigger than. I witnessed too much at a young age that stayed with me and still does.

My parents had heard from other people about a group that met to talk about their problem children and what to do about them. Their solution was to kick them out of the house and cut off communication with them. The idea was to not enable their behavior.

I can tell you from experience that this made my brother worse. He became bitter and his view of the world and the people in it changed from then on.

The majority of people with addictions have an underlying Mental Health issue. That is a proven fact. I honestly believe that my brother did and still does based on his behavior and what he endured when he was young.

I have always been against Tough Love and have never believed kicking your child out of the house solves anything. If my parents had taken the same approach with me I would’ve been dead by 25. I’m glad that they realized something more was going on than my alcoholism. None of us knew what or how to deal with it at the time though.

My brother’s oldest daughter began to self-harm and have bursts of rage at a very early age. My brother refused to allow her to see a psychiatrist. I think he didn’t want to be blamed for what was going on. She witnessed her parents constantly fighting, smoking pot and drinking. They would both push and shove each other or his wife would throw things at him and he would punch a wall. It wasn’t a great environment but they hid it well.

She started doing drugs her first year of High School. She graduated quickly from pot to cocaine to heroin and also drank. She could be violent when she thought someone was rude to her or didn’t like her. It would happen fast and be over in an instant. She was like this as a 4 year old. We would be eating dinner and next thing you knew she would throw a fork at your face and smile while doing it.

She was also a good liar and con. I was the only one that ever caught her and she didn’t like it. She had stolen half of my mom’s pain medication one night. I noticed she had stayed up until almost morning and I heard sniffling. When I got up in the morning I went right to her backpack, found her compact for make-up, lifted the bottom and saw about 50 pills in there. I went up to the extra room she was sleeping in and told her to get her ass out of bed because she was going home. She pretended she had no idea what I was talking about. You don’t steal a dying woman’s pain medication and everything she was doing I had already been there and done that so she wasn’t fooling me.

Eventually she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and was in and out of treatment centers.

She has a younger sister who witnessed her behavior and her parents. She started to self-harm and my brother’s wife was smart enough to get her help but she went overboard smothering the poor kid with a million appointments and doctors. She was divorced from my brother by this time. I asked if I could talk to her or have her spend some time with me and was told no. Year after year she became worse.

Today I talked to my Aunt who told me my brother’s ex kicked my niece out of the house and she’s been living on the streets using heroin.

I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. The girl I had always known was sweet, loved children and animals and always smiled. She could’ve been helped more if the right people had been there. Cutting her off and putting her out on the street solves nothing. She hurts herself because the pain on the inside is too much. She uses heroin to make the pain go away. I know this because the few times I was allowed to talk to her she said so. I know this pain well I live with this pain and I have lived with it most of my life.

I usually don’t feel rage unless it’s about a loved one. I’m pissed my ex sister in law did this. I have no way of finding my niece. She isn’t like her older sister, she doesn’t con or become violent or constantly lie, she’s just in pain.

Now I’m in more pain imagining what she’s going through and the people she’s surrounded herself with. It reminds me of my past and what I would do to change so much of it.

HOW DID YOU KNOW?

I know I’ve mentioned the importance of music to me in previous posts. At times music can lift my mood at least a little bit. Other times music can speak for me when I physically can’t. I use music for road rage and when I’m sad or overwhelmed. I have also tried to use it to explain Bipolar and Addiction to family members who have trouble understanding. So many people think that it’s just their loved one who thinks and acts the way they do.

This is one of the biggest problems. The other problem is when you think you are the only one who thinks and acts the way you do. This feeling leaves you isolated and confused.

I’ve mentioned a few songs that have helped me understand having Bipolar Disorder. There is only one that after I watched it and really listened to the words that I felt I might break.

I couldn’t comprehend how anyone could’ve put into words exactly what was in my head. How could this person seem to know conversations I had with my mother? How did they know the exact words she had said to me? How I felt, what I said in my head. How was this possible?

I had been recently diagnosed when I heard the song “Hate Me”. I knew about Bipolar Disorder because I had family members with Bipolar Disorder and other Mental Illness. Realizing the connection between Addiction and a missed diagnosis really messed with me. I was angry and sad doesn’t begin to cover it. The many, many, Doctors that I talked to along with Therapists, didn’t understand. All of them believed if I tried hard enough and took the right medications I would be fine. That just isn’t true. It isn’t true for a large percentage of Bipolar patients.

I don’t think I would be here if I hadn’t stumbled upon that song. As soon as I heard “Dropping little reels of tape to remind me that I am all alone” I was frozen. “Playing movies in my head”. “In my sick way I want to thank you for holding my head up late at night, while I was busy waging wars on myself you were trying to stop the fight.” “You made me compliment myself when it was way too hard to take”. “And then I fell down yelling MAKE IT GO AWAY! Just make a smile come back and shine just like it used to be. And then she whispered “How can you do this to me?”.

I have reels of tape or movies that play over and over. I would come home so drunk I could barely stand up, sometimes bleeding from a fight or myself. My mom would stay with me the entire night. She would listen while I told her to leave me alone, I wasn’t worth it. I would beg her to let me go. She never did. I did push it too far at last and that’s when she said “How could you do this to me?”.

There is a part in the song that I wish she could’ve seen “I’m sober now for 3 whole months it’s one accomplishment that you helped me with. The one thing that always tore us apart is the one thing I won’t touch again”.

She never saw me attain sobriety, certainly not for 9 years. I hope wherever she is that she knows how important she is. Not many parents would’ve put up with what mine did. I’m lucky to have had my mom and to have my dad now.

Thank you Blue October, not only for “Hate Me” but for the hope you give with your other music. “Fear” is another song that has made an impact. I don’t know how you reach that point of peace but it makes me feel better for a brief time just watching the progression and video.98d9b34114cb1f3bfa8eddb1ae41a4aa

 

 

IS A SOBRIETY DATE IMPORTANT?

I recently received a message from a Rehab on Twitter. It was the same Rehab that took a blog post of mine and put it on their Twitter page without asking. When I played the video I became annoyed and angry. I don’t agree with most of what this Rehab is about. I want to help people if I can but not through a third party that I don’t share the same opinions with.

The woman in video discussed the topic of a “sobriety date”. This is what she said.

“It’s important to celebrate your sobriety date, count out the days, make it a big deal, and I feel if you don’t think a sobriety date is important it’s probably because you don’t have one”.

I personally found the whole thing condescending.

“Sobriety Date” is term used in 12 step programs. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol reported that 75% of people with an alcohol dependency manage to get and stay sober without any kind of program at all. There are specific reasons for this.

  • Focusing on your successes and not dwelling on failures
  • All improvements count even small ones
  • Not passively going along with someone else’s approach
  • Having a support system
  • Learning the reason behind your drinking
  • Learning you have a serious health problem
  • Learning you have a mental health problem

I will be the first to admit that I have no clue what my sober date is. I can take a guess at the year and possibly be right. My best friend usually has to tell me.

In my twenties I was court ordered to a Rehab. They did 2 days of testing to see where I was physically, mentally, and how my cognitive skills were. (Again no one picked up on the Bipolar)

The Doctor came in and said “Your liver is enlarged and you have the brain of an 82 year old alcoholic man”. Then he left. What was I supposed to do with that information? What did he even mean? Who says that and leaves?

I’ll explain a few things. Celiac Disease causes problems your cognitive skills. Years of heavy drinking does too. Bipolar Disorder also causes cognitive problems. So do medications.

I have memories that are clear and vivid but I couldn’t tell you the exact day or year they happened. I have problems with my speech which is either related to the above or Conversion Disorder.

I will tell you that I am sober. I will tell you that I am alive. I will tell you that I don’t need a sober date to keep me that way.

What I don’t need is anyone trying to guilt or shame me for my choices that have worked for me.

My way might not be for everyone but I have been able to do it for about 9 years. My father has been able to do it for over 30 years. That’s enough for me.dollarphotoclub_99693865-500x300

I’M NOT MISSING ANYTHING AND THANK YOU DAD FOR NEVER GIVING UP

I have to face some facts that I have subconsciously ignoring.

Travel will not fix any of my problems. Things will never be like they were 10 or 15 years ago. And as much as I hate to admit it, my medications are not working and have not been working since I went into Kidney Failure. I have been cycling more than Lance Armstrong ever did. The constant pity party I have for myself has to stop. I did it because no one else around me showed an empathy or compassion.

I can’t blame them. They had developed a callous as far as I was concerned. Dealing with someone who always has a problem for well over 20 years makes you so used to it that you stop hearing it or stop paying attention. I get that.

I don’t understand how no Doctor can give me an answer about my medications. When I ask if having 1 kidney instead of 2 can cause my medications to break down differently, no one knows. I get another answer of “Your 1 kidney works at 70% which is like having 2 working kidneys so it shouldn’t interfere with anything”. How does that make sense. You have 2 kidneys that work at 100% per kidney. You lose complete function in one and 30% in the other. If my math is like the doctor’s 70% in one is as good as 200% total. To me that is idiotic. It makes no sense.

I don’t want to try new medications. I know what they are. I have tried 2 of the newer ones and they didn’t agree with me. Most of the newer medications are a variation of the 2 I tried already but my Psychiatrist will insist I try them anyway. Why? Because his hands are tied and he receives a million sample packs from Pharmaceutical Reps that visit him constantly.

Truth be told I don’t know how my dad handles everything. Never knowing what I’m thinking or if I’m going to do something irrational or hurt myself. He’s the only one that is always here for me. I love him. I love him more than anything. I apologize every single day to him. It will never be enough.

But I am lucky. So many people have no one. Not one person. I at least have that and need to be thankful.

HARD TIMES, HARD ROCK, ALCOHOL, NOSTALGIA (Nothing Stays The Same)

I’ve tried hard not to lie on my blog. I won’t start now. I haven’t felt well in awhile. Not physically or mentally. When I have an overwhelming feeling to relive past experiences I know I’m headed down the rabbit hole. I don’t mean relive them in my head, I mean actually do them again or something similar.

I can’t hop on a plane to L.A. and have drinks with Lars, I can’t hop on a plane and annoy Sebastian Bach, I can’t charm my way on to a bus filled with musicians. I miss those days. It isn’t so much the drinking I miss, it was the person I was able to be. No medication or therapy has ever made me feel like that person. In my head I was confident, funny, smart, pretty, and everyone wanted to be around me. In some cases that was true. But mostly it wasn’t. It was nice that I didn’t know or care what anyone thought at the time. Those were brief periods of drinking where the Worm didn’t come out to play.

When I drank no one knew who I would be at a certain point in my drinking. My best friend called it “The Turn of Worm”. That was when I would become reckless, mean, or on occasion violent. Sometimes I would hurt myself. I jumped off of the deck of a building one time. It wasn’t high up so I hadn’t done any real damage to myself. My best friend wasn’t happy. She rarely showed emotion except when it came to me. Now she doesn’t show me anything anymore. I can’t blame her. I just don’t understand why you would babysit someone for over 20 years and then wait until they’ve been sober almost 9 years before letting them go? She actually started to pull away sooner than that if I’m honest. This breaks something deep inside me that I can’t even name. She knew me better than my twin.

I care too much about everything and everyone since I stopped drinking. Emotional overload has made me weak and tired. I feel the way I did as a child only my mom isn’t here to comfort me. She always knew I was different. I would hear her talking to my Dad. She would tell him I was more sensitive than other children and to just “leave me be”. So that’s what they did for as long as I can remember. I went to my mom to cry. I missed school a lot of days sometimes when I said my “stomach hurt” and they didn’t question it. My father only recently said to me what he thought “I should’ve ignored your mother and taken you to a doctor when you were little. Maybe you wouldn’t be like this now”. It doesn’t do any good to try to blame anyone. I know he has blamed her side of the family many times. I personally have blamed my Grandmother. I think she was a rotten Mother and a horrible person in general.

I constantly feel an ache inside me. It never stops except when I sleep. I have been to countless Doctors and Therapists. I’ve done every different method suggested from visualizing a stop sign, writing a daily journal, changing my diet, ECT, so many different combinations of medications I’ve lost count. I’ve been asked if I can be videotaped for students to watch like a lab experiment, my dignity and pride lost a long time ago.

There is nothing that interests me anymore.

The Trouble With Addiction, Mental Health, And Spirituality.

I’m not really sure how to begin. These subjects are so important to me and I want to make sure I write in a way that isn’t boring or too one sided. I won’t lie, it will be hard for me given my own personal experiences. That’s why I will lean on research and statistics until it all comes together. This will probably be a two part post. There is so much to all of these subjects that it’s hard to for people to read a 1,ooo word post.

The reason I decided to write about these topics is due to a post I read stating that “Addiction is a disease of Spirituality”. When I read the post I found myself becoming angry and confused that so many could still think this way with all of the scientific research that’s been done. So I’ll go through a shortened version of their reasoning.(If possible)

Addiction as a Spiritual Disease

Addiction is explained as a thirst, hunger, or starvation for some type of fulfillment or wholeness in your life. Addicts have an initial void of spirituality, a higher drive for a spiritual connection.

When speaking of spirituality the author states it’s not a religion. Spirituality refers to finding purpose and meaning in life along with a connection to the Universe outside of our self.

Types of connections such as nature, love, friendships, understanding the Universe, meditation, and mindfulness are all connections we probably experience, but may not understand what they mean.

Specific Examples

  • Moment of clarity
  • Sense of inner peace or calmness
  • Euphoria
  • Feeling connected to the world around us
  • Being in the moment
  • Feeling like your true self
  • Unconditional love

The author of the post sites a Collegiate Study of 200 people focusing on the reasons why they use alcohol. They had a list of reasons and had to put a check next to the box that applied. 100% of the people checked the box for “I like the feeling”. Not surprising. The author of the post talked to people who were either actively using or in early recovery and came up with a list of their own feelings. The following is what they had for responses.

  • Everything makes sense (Moment of clarity)
  • I relax and don’t worry about life (Inner peace)
  • Everything is better, food, people, jokes (Euphoria)
  • I understand people better (Interconnection)
  • Content in the moment (Being present)
  • Freedom from self criticism (True self)
  • No judgement about anyone (Unconditional love)

This in turn leads us back to Spirituality.

The American Medical Association declared Alcoholism to be a disease in 1956. Years later the American Society of Addiction Medicine proclaimed all addiction as a disease.

WHY?

Scientific evidence showed that addiction is rooted in distinct brain changes, similar to mental illness. For 25-50% of people with an addiction problem it is a progressive relapsing disease.

People with addiction do make a choice whether or not to take a drug or drink, but they do not choose how their brain and body will respond to the drugs or alcohol.

Choice doesn’t determine a disease. A person with Heart Disease or Diabetes may sometimes choose a diet or lifestyle that has lead to these diseases. A disease is what happens in the body and/or brain as a result of those choices.

RISK FACTORS

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Specific brain characteristics
  • Psychological factors
  • Exposure to physical/emotional/sexual abuse or trauma

If one or more of these are present it doesn’t mean someone will be an addict it just means the odds are greater. 

MENTAL HEALTH

People with severe mental health problems are more likely to have addiction problems. Most likely due to many not getting a diagnosis for years or the incorrect diagnosis. Instead they self-medicate which can make psychiatric symptoms worse.

Some of us with what are considered “severe mental illnesses” and addiction tend to experience the same problems:

  • More severe psychiatric symptoms
  • Physical health problems
  • Increased stigma
  • Financial problems
  • Homelessness
  • Aggression or verbal hostility 
  • Some time spent in jail or trouble with the law
  • Increased suicidal feelings and behavior

Our brains also look similar when viewed by Neurologists or other Doctors in the same field of study. There is often a hyper-intensity on one side.

I personally do not think this has anything to do with Spirituality. I had two wonderful parents. I do come from a long line of alcoholics and mentally ill people. The amount of both is astonishing. You can’t chalk that up to Spirituality. FIFTEEN of us in my immediate family have addiction/mental illness problems. Sorry, make that fourteen. My Uncle Jimmy died after a long battle with HIV first (from a needle) then AIDS. He was Schizophrenic and homeless. He chose to live on the streets just like he chose not to take medication. He was well over six feet tall and very handsome when he was young. I don’t know where he’s buried. I do know that not many spiritual people showed him any kindness. My mother and I would bring him food and clothes while she was alive.

My cousin Rhonda has been missing for years. She took off one day from her real estate job and was living in the woods. No one can find her. She is also Schizophrenic like her mother. I tell a million stories, one sadder than the other but there is no point. Addiction is a disease/illness, just like Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder are illnesses. There is nothing to make me change my mind about that. When your brain wants you to die and you don’t even know why it isn’t a question of faith or spirituality. It’s a question of survival.thktpzxxqk