12 STEP PROGRAMS AND A LINK TO PTSD/TRAUMA

I recently read an article written by Dr. Marc Lewis. Don’t worry I did a thorough check on his credentials and if there were any complaints against him. Dr. Lewis is a Developmental Neuroscientist who did research at the University of Toronto from 1989 to 2010. He was also a Professor of Developmental Psychology there. He’s now at Radboud University in the Netherlands. He’s had 50 journal publications in Psychology and Neuroscience. His book Memoirs of an Addicted Brain garnered high praise from top experts in the Mental Health and Addiction community including Gabar Mate.

Dr. Lewis also knows firsthand what the struggle of addiction feels like. Addicted to opiates in his youth, it cost him his family, trouble with the police and almost his life. At 30 he was finally able to stay off drugs for good and reentered grad school where he received his Ph.D.

12 Step Programs appear to put a freeze on emotional development (active drinking/drug abuse does also). Groups are known for convincing members that even if they’ve been clean for awhile their addiction is like a bogeyman you thought was under your bed as a child. Keeping you in one place no matter how much you had to pee or how thirsty you were, you were frozen. This bogeyman is patient and will wait forever for that one slip up, 1 drink, 1 pill, that will lead to a full relapse. So to avoid this you need to “Keep coming back” and define yourself as an alcoholic/addict for life.

The way you live your life and your self image is frozen in place. If you change anything, don’t follow the steps, you’re warned that you’ll be back to where you started and out of control.

Many or most 12 step groups intentionally reinforce the terror of relapse. They keep the anxiety alive in order to embed traumatic memories of addiction by telling and retelling anecdotes about how bad it was when they were at their worst or the repercussions of their last relapse.

12 step practice is the opposite of trauma treatment. To plug yourself into a static state of PTSD where you’re with people who intentionally try to get you to relive emotions that have already done damage, it’s no surprise why so many leave the program or never enter one at all. The other issue is defining yourself as a lifetime addict/alcoholic because it sounds like a self fulfilling prophecy.

MY EXPERIENCE AND PERSONAL OPINION

I tortured myself recently by listening to a Dr. Drew podcast where he said there has never been an addict/alcoholic who has successfully maintained sobriety without a 12 step program. Of course this made me a little upset. This is a person who isn’t a licensed Psychiatrist/Psychologist or Neurologist, he’s a licensed Internist. Your everyday General Practitioner who thinks he knows about PTSD, Mental Illness and Addiction. He doesn’t. What he also doesn’t realize is the damage he’s doing by promoting these false beliefs.

I had been in AA for 2 years. They were the worst 2 years of my life. I had not been diagnosed yet but a Doctor had me on Prozac and Buspar (an anxiety medication that has to be in your system for 3-4 weeks before it starts to work, the level has to be maintained). The State I live in is an odd one. The group I went to had many old timers and a few younger people. They would go to different meetings around the state to speak to large groups. When they did this members were picked to tell their stories in front of up to 100 people. If you were picked you didn’t have a choice, you had to do it. When I was chosen it was a nightmare come true. All I remember is the sound of blood rushing in my ears. I have no idea what I said but I remember a guy my age taking my hand and helping me off the stage.

This didn’t go well with the group I was part of. I was told that I would never make it, I would be a drunk again if I didn’t get on my knees and ask God for guidance.

When people found out I was on medication it was suggested I go off it because it was a “crutch” and the same as alcohol.

I am not religious and didn’t appreciate being forced to say the Lord’s prayer after every meeting. If I refused comments were made and I was told that I would fail and be in the gutter drinking again. When I missed a meeting because I had Bronchitis someone told me I better “get on my knees and ask God to forgive me” or I would never make it. Me failing was a reoccurring theme. I went to meetings all around the state and they were all the same. I heard the same stories over and over. But if you tried to be too honest someone would stop you and say “Save that for your sponsor” because they thought it was too personal. I wanted to hear it! I wanted to hear that someone had done something as bad as I did but they stopped him.

There isn’t anyone in these programs equipped to deal with those of us who have a mental illness and began drinking to self medicate. The 12 steps are life saving for some people, a replacement for alcohol/drugs for a few and damaging for others.

My Dad has been sober over 36 years without a program. My mom was sober was 29 years at the time of her death without a program. I have been sober over 9 years without a program the longest I’ve ever been able to maintain sobriety.

12 step programs are not for everyone and they are not the only option. Depending on your location your experience can differ, some areas do rely on the older version which mentions God more often. There are some that don’t. Just remember it’s your choice and there are more options now than ever so do your research and choose wisely.

 

 

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INCOMPLETE

I have a difficult time finding words and putting them together to form a sentence. After that I have to try to say that sentence without stuttering and in a way the other person can understand me.

This is made harder when I’m on a roller coaster of highs and extreme lows. My brain will go from topic to topic and I will talk faster at times. I also feel like I’m being really loud. I always hated loud people and I’ve recently noticed that I’m now one of them.

My dad ignores everything I say or sometimes he will try to listen but by the time I get my first words out he’s left the room. It’s not a good feeling. Nothing really is these days.

Have I mentioned I’m tired? Or that I miss my Mom and think more and more about seeing her again. But if I believe in Heaven and Hell I’ll never see her. She had many faults but what was generous and loved her family something fierce. I’ve done too many things in my life that can’t be forgiven. This isn’t the reason I’m an Atheist because I have been before I started drinking, I was headed in that direction at an early age because I always needed to know the answer to everything. The answer had to make sense to me and some of the answers that Religion provided just didn’t.

I wanted to talk about the Phil Anselmo (Pantera) White Power controversy that I’ve been seeing lately. The guy has always been an ass and I love Pantera but he looked a little too comfortable doing and saying what he did to not mean it. For him to blame the media after is ridiculous. You’re not Trump, it wouldn’t be that surprising if you did lean towards White Supremacy don’t blame other people for your actions done under the influence of anger, ignorance, and probably drugs/alcohol. I’m guessing at the drugs/alcohol I know he’s had issues in the past and he has a definite beer belly, it was more his mannerisms that gave it away for me. Takes one to know one and I had met them many years ago (I don’t remember it but if they came to the place I hung out at they partied). I’m judging and I shouldn’t. I just have a problem with bullies and aggressive drunk or sober men I have good reasons.

I wanted to talk about how I’ve binge watched too much of The Originals and The Vampire Diaries (The Originals is better) that I now want to go to New Orleans and see if I can find any Vampires or Witches. My sister said she doesn’t have money to bail me out of jail if I bite anyone. lol That was actually funny but we didn’t actually talk it’s all done through texting. She figures it’s better that way. She doesn’t have to hear any emotion in my voice or feel bad.

It’s been a rough few weeks and I feel like I don’t have much purpose. Life is passing me by and it doesn’t really matter. In an hour I might feel a little different. Maybe I’ll go to Salem it’s closer and stay a few days. I can’t make a decision to save my life. Ridiculous.

WHY I’M TOO HONEST

I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I have in my 44 years on this Planet. I talk about my past and my diagnoses as honestly as I can remember in case someone reading recognizes some of these symptoms or behaviors in themselves. No one should have to wait over 20 years to receive a diagnosis. When you’ve had a mental illness that has gone undiagnosed for so long it’s almost impossible to treat.

The team of Doctors I have guess that I started showing signs as early as 10 years old. I wasn’t diagnosed as Bipolar until I was 35/36. They wonder about my earlier years because I started so early using soothing mechanisms. I would rock back and forth in my crib while standing, when I grew a little older I bounced my head on my pillow to fall asleep and bounced my head off of the car’s head rest whenever I was in the car.

I also couldn’t keep myself from bouncing one leg up and down while sitting. I always had to be doing some kind of repetitive motion to calm myself down.

The Doctors also found it odd that I had so many nosebleeds and had to have my nose cauterized 3 times. Finally they took out my adenoids and slowly the nosebleeds stopped. I started having them as a toddler and they didn’t stop until I was about 10 years old.

There are days where I want to donate myself to Science and tell them to scan my entire body and do every test available because I’m tired of living this way.

I have been leaving my sister alone. She eventually sent me a text saying she loved me. I sent her one saying I was frustrated because on good days when I don’t want to talk about mental or physical health but everyday stuff I have no one to talk to.

The response I received was that I should volunteer somewhere it would make me feel better.

Not “Why don’t we get together and talk?” or “I’ll call you and we’ll talk right now” nope I was told I should volunteer somewhere. I guess it’s better than before when she kept telling me to go to Group Therapy to make friends. It wasn’t until she actually attended a few Group meetings that she understood what I was talking about. They put everyone together in the Groups, low functioning, high functioning, Bipolar, Borderline Personality, Schizophrenic all together in the same groups. Some are not even coherent they are so medicated. It took almost 2 years to get my sister to stop with the Group thing.

I don’t know why I keep expecting a different outcome. My dad was sitting on the couch near me, I tried to talk to him and he either couldn’t hear me or was ignoring me. When I finally got his attention and started to talk he fell asleep. It’s hard not to take that personally. I start thinking everything must be true. I don’t belong here, I never did, I don’t belong anywhere. I asked my dad to tell me when he first felt butterflies in his stomach or anxiety or scared. He was having trouble answering. I said “How did you feel when you were told mom had twins?” He said ” I didn’t really care at that time it didn’t matter to me” I thought I would break. My mom didn’t know she was having twins until we came.

Then my dad said “Oh I know I felt butterflies when my Russian Tumblers were up against this other pair of Tumblers and I didn’t think they would win Best In Show”. I’m not sure why I was surprised that he would feel anxious about his birds they almost ruined his marriage, actually they pretty much did. They took his health, they’re the reason he’s on dialysis, and he spends more time with them than anyone or thing.

I really don’t think I can I spend another winter here with my dad and sister. The weather alone depresses me. I need to look for a place that’s affordable, sunny, and has museums or wildlife. I would love a pool too. But I’ll take what I can get. I just don’t think I can do it. I already feel the gloom and doom and it’s only September.

FLIGHTS OF FANCY

Being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder is difficult enough. When you have Mixed Episodes it’s what I imagine Hell would be like if I were religious.

Mixed Episodes are when a person with Bipolar Disorder has depressive and manic symptoms at the same time or close together. It’s usually called a Manic/Depressive episode with mixed features.

It’s more common in women and people who developed Bipolar at a young age. It can cause unpredictable behavior when feeling hopeless and suicidal but energized and agitated.

I love to do research but sometimes it might be better to not know some things about yourself.

The new college courses in Psychiatry give how many years are subtracted from a person’s lifespan with specific Psychiatric conditions. 25 years has been deducted from mine. This would mean I have less than 6 years left. I’m not really surprised at this. I should be but I’m not.

I try not to think about it because the brain and Psychiatric Disorders are never 100% accurate and everyone’s brain is so unique nothing is for sure.

I am restless and I feel I’ve wasted my life and now I don’t have enough time, money, energy to do anything I want to do.

It’s also hard being alone all the time. My Dad is either at dialysis or doing something outside. He used to like talking to me until I started to get worse day by day and he started dialysis. My twin sister never wanted to be close and still doesn’t. My one best friend works 60 hours a week and lives with her boyfriend so she doesn’t have a lot of time. I’ve tried to make new friends in the past but I would talk myself into thinking they didn’t really like me. I didn’t deserve to have friends and they just felt bad for me.

So many Doctors, Therapists, Neurologists who all didn’t have answers for me except that I’ll get worse. Thanks! Can I have a steady morphine drip please? Because everything hurts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on the outside and the inside. From my brain to my heart to my bones. I’m afraid I’ll never get to experience love or go on a date. I am my own problem. How can any of that happen if I only leave the house once every 3 weeks?

I still feel this need to try to drive cross country. The need is stronger at night but I don’t know why. I’m not an adult. I’m 44 and haven’t really had to do any of the things that adults do. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t tell anyone where or when I was buying my car. I wanted to do it myself and if I made mistakes at least they would be mine. My Dad acted like a 2 year old when I did it but has since admitted I made the right decision. He still has a problem if I am not home by the time it’s dark outside. By “problem” I mean dry heaving and chest pains. I can’t live with knowing I cause him to react like that so I stay home. Not much of a way to live.

I’m usually in my room by 3:30/4:00 p.m. because I’m bored and I can watch what I want in my room. I go to bed fairly early because there isn’t much else to do.

Do I want something to change? Sometimes. I really did want to try to drive from Rhode Island to California.

Childhood Reminiscing

My early years were spent in a duplex behind 7-Eleven on Wasp Road or Hornet Road, I don’t remember which they were next to each other. It was also a cul de sac. You don’t know how long it took me to remember the words “duplex” and “cul de sac”.

We lived there until I think I was 5. It’s odd because I have so many memories from that time period. I first thought they weren’t memories, then my sister said some of them were her memories, eventually when I was alone with my mom I asked her some things and my dad other things. My mom could make some events sound more interesting than they were or so I always thought.

I didn’t find out until after she passed away the stories she told me were true and some had actually been toned down. If there’s one thing my Dad does not do is lie. Don’t ask me about my Grandmother because I’ve shocked people with some of my responses. I think one was “You mean the Psychotic whore who abandoned her children and left them living in a chicken coop?”. That didn’t go over well but I refuse to sugar coat a thing for that woman.

My Grandfather (Papa) and his girlfriend lived in the duplex with us. Seven people in that duplex was kind of a lot but I don’t believe Papa Doyle was there the entire time. It wasn’t the best neighborhood even then. There were drugs, drinking and fights. It was low income and some unstable people lived there also.

It was cold outside when I saw the man on his bike, I didn’t know what he was dragging next to him as he rode until he got closer. It was a dog hanging on a stick attached to one of his handlebars. When he went by he told me we better keep our dog from barking or the same would happen.

I remember standing there, unable to move for a long time. My mom finally came to get me. She kept asking what was wrong. When I told her she went into Mama Bear mode. She did this well. No one messed with her babies no matter how old they got. She knew her limits though. She waited for my Dad to get home from work and told him. He left the house with a slam of the door. I didn’t see the man on the bike again.

My Grandfather had a habit of not locking doors and falling asleep with lit cigarettes or cigars. A large drunk man was coming home late one night but came into our duplex instead of his. He made it all the way to the room I shared with my twin sister when I screamed. My Dad came running, picked the man up by his shirt collar and it was like they both floated down the stairs and out the door.  On another day outside a man put his hand through his bedroom window, I just remember all the blood.

My brother was 12 and already smoking pot with the kids in the neighborhood. He didn’t realize the glass door was down and my mom had cleaned it. He smashed through it. My sister doesn’t remember these things only being stung by a bee on the bottom of her foot which isn’t correct. I stepped on a piece of glass it was in the arch of my foot but I ignored it until I got home. When my mom first looked at my foot she thought I stepped in something. When she realized there was glass embedded in it things changed.

We also had an odd shaped glass ashtray. It was kind of a triangle. Somehow I fell into the point of the ashtray and it went to the back of my throat cutting it. The problem was it cut close to an artery. My mom was in panic mode because blood kept gushing from my mouth. To the hospital we went. They stitched it but I had to be still for days so it wouldn’t rip and open the artery. This I don’t remember but I have a small scar under my chin from hitting the table with the ashtray.

The best thing my Dad did was work hard and sell everything he had to put a down payment on a house to get us out of that neighborhood. A man with an 8th grade education, an outcast, forced into the Navy, an alcoholic, never shown love, gave everything to protect his family.

The love he had for my mom was special. It wasn’t easy but they never gave up on each other.

My Dad set a high bar. For me a man should protect the people he loves, he can be strong but sensitive when needed, my Dad has never disrespected a woman sober that I know of, if he makes a comment it’s positive, he’s honorable, that’s the word that fits him most.

DRINKING: Why I Miss It And Why I Stay Sober

I like to remember when I was drinking sometimes. Once in awhile I miss it. The important thing is to remember the good times and the bad times. I have a habit of only reflecting on the good times. I also have to remind myself why I stay sober. My reasons won’t be the same as someone else’s reasons and that’s fine as long as it works for me.

I loved the excited feeling I would get inside as I prepared each day to drink. It was a ritual. I had to do my hair and make up and pick an outfit to wear. Even though I was over 200 pounds these things still mattered to me. I make myself sound disgusting but I guess I had a pretty face and there were men who were attracted to me.

When I drank there was a physical change in me. I stood up straight and held my head up looking people in the eye with a confidence only alcohol could give me. At times this did cause trouble. Other times it worked to my advantage. I never would’ve met as many bands as I have if I hadn’t been drinking. I never had to pay for a meet and greet, my best friend and I would somehow end up meeting them. I was the charming one and she was the beautiful one.

I regret the fact I don’t remember some of the people I’ve met. How could I forget an entire car ride and conversation that lasted over an hour? I didn’t blackout often but we had been in the pit during the concert so it’s possible I hit my head. Guys hated it when we went in the pit so I would make W. go in with me just to piss them off. Drinking with me was like a box of chocolates, you never knew who you were going to get.

Alcohol almost always acted like a stimulant with me until I reached a certain point. I just never knew when that point would be so I would drink until I got there. I wanted to feel normal inside, I wanted the pain I couldn’t name to go away, I wanted to be able to talk to people and not feel like I didn’t belong all the time. And alcohol did that for me.

Alcohol also made me say things I wouldn’t normally say, do things I wouldn’t normally do, spend time with people I wouldn’t normally spend time with. Did I love meeting Lars Ulrich, Zakk Wylde, Sebastian Bach, Stephen Pearcy, Pantera and being at The Rainbow? Yup. But some meetings didn’t go so well and all I can say is I’m glad they were as drunk as I was.

Never being in a relationship wasn’t exactly fun either. The police knowing my name in three towns was bad too. Pepper spray is never fun, twice is just cruel (both by accident I was caught in the crossfire). A DUI is something to be ashamed of not to mention what I put my family through.

I’m sober now because I know why I drank. It became clear when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It didn’t take me long to stop drinking after that. As I learned more about why I drank it made things a little easier. Treating addiction has to go hand in hand with mental health treatment or you are not going to get far. I know this firsthand.

If I drank now my body couldn’t handle it. My brain would think I could drink like I used to but I only have one kidney now. I have thought about it recently because my medications are not being absorbed and I feel like I did when I was younger. I have my dad to think about. If he wasn’t here I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have some kind of light fruity drink. Which I never ever would’ve had years ago but now it’s the only thing that sounds appealing. Kind of strange.

I’m tired, alone, trapped, isolated, filled with grief but for who? Maybe everyone and myself the life I could’ve had and now never will. The 20 years I wasted or my mom who I still miss ever single day or my best friend who I never see or my twin who would rather commit me than have a conversation with me.

I always told W. if things got bad I was going to Vegas and pulling a Nicolas Cage. She always laughed and said “No you won’t”. This last time I said it and she started crying. She said she wouldn’t blame me and she knew how bad it’s been for me but she loved me. First time ever someone said the right thing.

So I’ll stay sober and try to help my Dad celebrate his 74th Birthday tomorrow. Do they sell cakes shaped like pigeons?

Black Hole Sun~Until You’ve Been There

I was reprimanded today for crying over someone I did not know personally. The problem is in a way I did know him. I knew when I heard the news at 7:30 a.m. this morning what had most likely happened.

My sister sent me a text saying she had been crying all morning and we went back and forth a little. She has not talked to me in what for us is a long time. The communication stopped immediately when details were released later today. I knew she would discontinue communication when she learned what I already knew.

The life expectancy of someone with a severe mental illness like Bipolar Disorder is much shorter than the average person. If the person also has an alcohol/drug addiction you can take off a few more years even if they are now sober. I’ve done all the research there is do. I have a thing for statistics and research.

I cry over someone who writes lyrics that explain how I feel or have felt but could never put into words. Some lyricists write like they’ve been in my head or knew me at a specific time. It’s a tell like in poker.

Until you have stood on a roof looking down into a black abyss of pavement thinking “I can’t take this pain, this empty ache in my chest any longer” and you jump, I don’t want to hear your opinion. (I was closer to the ground than I thought and extremely drunk. I chipped a bone in my ankle and some cuts and bruises.)

Until you have had charcoal forced down your throat or your stomach pumped because you swallowed a bottle of painkillers while thinking “I never belonged here. I watch other people live but I don’t understand how. I don’t fit. I wasn’t meant to be.” I don’t want to hear your opinion.

Until you’ve been stitched up for you fourth time because you have no self respect and think you deserve to be treated like garbage I don’t want to hear your opinion.

Until you blow a .36 at the Police Station where you’ve been many times and the men in the room are wondering how you are still functioning and you hear the names they call you and are so humiliated it has gotten this bad you picture doing the unthinkable I don’t want to hear your opinion.

I hope I’ve made it clear that unless you have been in a person’s situation it isn’t gossip or fodder for the media it’s someone’s son, daughter, sister, brother, husband, wife. Remember that and the suffering that goes with it.

To the person who is no longer here. You had empathy, talent, a light inside of you that you probably couldn’t always see, and you made a difference to me. You will be missed.