Categories
Recovery Service Treatment

Being of Service and Finding a Sponsor in Recovery

Being of service, requires a commitment to compassion and an ability to have firm dual-diagnosis-treatment-caboundaries.  Within the realm of the 12 steps, service work is imperative.  The formula, if you will, is Unity, Service, and Recovery. All three of these support each other. Without unity (fellowship), one is apt to isolate; without being of service, the tendency is toward selfishness. That said, without fellowship, and service work, your recovery becomes less stable. We need to support each other during this endeavor of healing and remember that recovery is not a lone-wolf venture. This is where sponsorship and mentorship come in.

 

Sponsors or mentors are there to guide you on your recovery path and they will always encourage you to be of service. They are there to take you through the 12 steps (or 4 noble truths of recovery if you are using the Refuge Recovery model), and to support your recovery. This also means they will hold the line when there’s resistance. Sometimes, this means hearing something you don’t want to hear, but the intention of a sponsor is to facilitate awareness around your recovery, not to co-sign negative behaviors.

 

Keep these things in mind when you are looking for someone to sponsor you and make sure they are:

 

  • An individual of the same sex. Yes, you can have a sponsor of the opposite sex, but it’s more beneficial to you and has less potential for complications if sponsorship is gender specific.
  • Someone who has what you want. I’m not talking cars, finances or partner, but someone whose spiritual life and sense of self is something you can strive toward or which you admire.
  • An individual whom you can trust. If there’s any reluctance, look to someone else.
  • Find someone whose actions reflect his or her words. A sponsor who functions under the guise of “do as I say, not as I do,” is not the one for you.
  • Someone whose recovery inspires you.

 

When you find someone you want to work with:

 

  • Call them, even when you don’t need anything. If you don’t have that relationship developed, you won’t call them when things are tough.
  • Be consistent. Remember the lengths you would take to use? Apply that same sense of urgency to your recovery.
  • If you think you made the wrong choice, realize it’s ok to move on. It’s your recovery, not theirs.

It’s helpful to remember what y our sponsor/mentor is and what your sponsor/mentor is not:

 

Your sponsor (is):

  • A guide
  • Spiritual
  • Kind
  • Honest
  • Tough when necessary
  • Works a program

 

Your sponsor is not:

  • An ATM
  • Your therapist
  • Your parent
  • Your best friend
  • A guru
  • Your lawyer
  • Your higher power
  • Perfect

 

If you are looking for a sponsor or mentor, keep this in mind: Finding the “right” sponsor/mentor may take time. If you are struggling with untreated mental illness, your sponsor should ultimately ask that you seek professional help.  They are morally obligated to do so. The relationship of sponsor/sponsee is one that will follow you through your sobriety and recovery.

 

Sometimes, you may come across someone who needs a recovery program but sincerely struggles to relate to the theistic practices of the 12 steps. I’ve had the honor of working with a couple of women who required the use of alternative language and while the steps are still applied and used to create a foundation of recovery, the use of intentions and meditation, breath and body awareness is also used to enhance recovery support.  Being of service is the one thing that is a through-line, regardless of program.

 

Over the last several years, there has been a groundswell of people in recovery seeking alternative recovery tools. Noah Levine, founder of Against the Stream aptly responded to this with Refuge Recovery.  This particular model “is a community of people who are using the practices of mindfulness, compassion, forgiveness and generosity to heal the pain and suffering that addiction has caused in their (sic) lives and the lives of their loved ones.” In essence, they have embedded service work into their recovery model in an influential way.

 

The act of looking at ourselves honestly and learning to sit in the discomfort of our feelings and emotions is transformative. Being of service allows us to get out of ourselves and into action. One thing that transcends all modalities of healing is this service work. There is always a way to recover and to be of service; sometimes it’s easier than others, but the key is not to give up. Reaching our hands out to help others demonstrates that our suffering is not unique to us–we all suffer, so why not help each other out?

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery

Can Contemplative Practices Foster Recovery?

In addition to our therapeutic programs, Visions offers contemplative practices to our teens that teach and encourage skills for self-regulation and self-care. We have regular yoga classes and a weekly meditation group.

 

Jessica Rosen, founder of One Down Dog in Silverlake, heads up our yoga program. She brings in a playful element to yoga that the kids love. This allows them to reconnect with themselves in a profound way. I spoke to Jessica and asked her what she feels she brings to the clients, and how contemplative practices are helpful in recovery. She said, “Through the practice of yoga I hope to offer students the tools to get comfortable in discomfort. Through yoga and meditation we explore our challenges, we confront our inner critic, we gain clarity and find acceptance. For example, the ability to sit in a hip opener may help us sit through a tough breakup, or better handle confrontation and fights with our friends/parents, and gain confidence in ourselves and our appearance.”

 

I also asked Joseph Rogers, Visions Education Coordinator at the Visions Day School, Chaplain and meditation facilitator, how he feels meditation is helping the clients.  Joseph said, “The most immediate and greatest benefit is that the clients learn how to, as the Big Book says, ‘stop and pause when agitated.’ Additionally, I try to make a great deal of effort to put these kids on the path of compassion for themselves and others.”

 

The contemplative practices can have a profound effect on one’s ability to self-regulate, self-soothe, and connect with the present moment. Both offer a chance to pause, to look inward, and to come to a place of equanimity (mental calmness and composure) when faced with difficulty.

 

I too teach yoga to youth, and one thing I notice are the high levels of stress these kids face. The pressures of being cool, getting good grades, and the discomfort of the rapid physical changes can be overwhelming. This is where contemplative practices are useful. I’ve found that teaching kids the ability to take a deep breath and pause before responding or reacting to difficulty is hugely beneficial. Developing a sense of self-awareness helps eliminate the sense of perpetual urgency to respond or act on an impulse. The contemplative practices also engage the parasympathetic nervous system—the area within our nervous system that quiets the fight or flight response, quells anxiety, and brings things back into harmony.

 

There are three key tools for self-regulation, and the contemplative practices are the perfect conduit for them:

 

Grounding, Resourcing, and Orienting.

 

Grounding: Reconnecting to the present moment, your emotions and physical sensations. One grounds themselves by noticing their feet on the floor, or placing your hands on something solid in order to help themselves get back into the body. Taking deep breaths while you are doing this can help you track the sensations mindfully. Taking a time out when you are dysregulated is the first step to getting grounded.

 

Resourcing:  We all have resources within us or outside of ourselves. Resources are tools we can easily access that make us reconnect with calm. For example, breath can be a resource. Your hands on your belly or lap can be a resource. Your pet can be a resource. A resource is something that helps you feel good when everything around you is dismal.

 

Orienting:  Checking in with your surroundings. When we are not self-regulated, we check out. This is a disembodying experience–one that feels determinedly unsafe and out of control.  So when we orient, we do so by consciously noticing our surroundings and we do this by looking around the room, noticing where we are, where we are sitting or standing—Orienting is acute observation or present-time awareness.

 

The contemplatice practices of yoga and meditation provide a means of engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. They create a sense of awareness, and allow the practitioner to be ok with not being ok, and to accept where they are emotionally and physically in that particular moment in space and time.  Addiction and mental illness are dysregulating, but the use of contemplative practices opens the door to self-regulation, which does foster recovery.

Categories
Addiction

Looking at the Roots of Addiction

Addiction is an effect of human unhappiness and human suffering. When people are distressed, they want to soothe their distress; when people are in pain, they want to soothe their pain. So the real question is not “why the addiction,” but “why the pain.”  Gabor Maté

 

This is a profound statement from Gabor Maté about addiction. In his work, Maté focuses on the link to childhood attachment and trauma as the source of addiction.  Similarly, Terra Holbrook, MSW, LCSW, CADC, utilizes the lens of codependency to explore the ways in which deficits in early childhood development shape our thinking, feelings and behavior, which often leads to codependency traits and addiction. According to Terra, “Codependency is a child in an adult body.” She goes on to say that codependency  “is the disease of immaturity; the developmental arrest that leads to immature thinking, feeling and behavior that generates aversive relationships with the self, which the codependent acts out through self destructive or unduly sacrificial behavior.”  Thusly, it’s appropriate and necessary to view codependency as a facet of trauma work, because it addresses the adverse responses one may exhibit as a result of a deficit of early attachment, abuse, neglect, and physical and emotional abandonment.  The underlying wounds and their effects on one’s worldview and personal expression of unaddressed traumas must be addressed as part of addiction treatment, and as a part of family treatment.

 

Alcohol and drug abuse as well as addiction are a response to a larger issue, and that’s where treatment comes in. That’s where skilled clinicians and systems of support become imperative to excavating the causative factors of addiction itself. A kid coming form a supportive, loving home where they are regularly seen and heard is less likely to use drugs and alcohol than a kid who comes from a home where they are neglected, ignored, pawned off, and unseen. If you add in the factors of poverty, then you add another layer of trauma as result of being forced to take often-detrimental measures to make ends meet and having multiple layers of unmet needs. Likewise, privilege can produce factors of emotional neglect and abuse not always recognized as problematic at the fore. For example, a kid can seem to have everything when you look from the outside, in, but inside, it may be a different landscape. Perhaps parents aren’t readily emotionally available or the child is left to their own devices while parents are busy doing other things. Neglect may have many faces but it always has the same result.

 

Addiction and codependency affect everyone. The way in which it presents in each individual may differ, but the essence is always the same: a “developmental arrest that leads to immature thinking, feeling and behavior” which leads to “self-destructive” behavior. Treatment and therapeutic support are a necessary factor that will foster healing and recovery. Doing it without support denies one the ability to break free from the habitual nature of repeating history and perpetuating dysfunction.  Delving into the roots of addiction allows one to reconstruct their lives to create one that is healthy and thriving. Recovery is possible.

 

Categories
Recovery

The Tween Years: Visions Adolescent Treatment is 12!

Visions Adolescent Treatment just celebrated its 12th birthday and we entered our tweens with a bang!  So much has happened in the last 12 years of providing exemplary care for teens and their families, we really wanted to celebrate. Since our beginning in 2002, Visions has expanded our programs to include:

 

NeXT Extended Care Program. Located in Santa Monica, NeXT is a gender specific program for individuals ages 15-18 years old. At NeXt, teens work in conjunction with therapists and receive therapeutic services as well as support in outside educational environments.

 

LAUNCH, our outpatient lifestyles program for young adults, which focuses on teaching young adults necessary life skills as they enter adulthood, i.e., vocational, educational and social needs all under the supervision and encouragement of a therapeutic staff.

 

And over the last 18 months, our entire staff, starting from the top down, has been educated in DBT and is now DBT informed.

 

Visions has a lot to celebrate and an incredible community to celebrate with and we are extremely grateful. We had a packed house at the Victorian in Santa Monica, which included recovery professionals from all over Los Angeles and Orange County.  There was an amazing tower of cronuts from Nobelle Cakes  that were divine!

 

In addition to the wonderful company and food, Terra Hollbrook, MSW, LCSW, CADC, did a fantastic presentation during lunch, talking about our Three-Day Family Intensive program, which launches in June. Terra spoke about the importance of treating the entire family, which includes looking at the varying degrees of codependence and trauma within the family root system.

 

While we have a lot to be proud of, we still maintain our foundation of being a founder driven, family oriented company. We are a team, plain and simple, and we nourish and care for our families as well as our staff. We are always seeking ways in which to broaden our horizons in order to maintain a clinical culture of excellence. Visions Adolescent Treatment is excited to continue to grow and continue to provide families with well-rounded and compassionate treatment. Onward to lucky 13! Thank you all for celebrating with us. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Check out the gallery of pics from the event! [slideshow id=7]

 

Categories
Adolescence Recovery Safety

Coachella: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Coachella is happening and there are tons of opportunities for sober fun!

MusicCares is in the house, representing artists in recovery. There are organizations like Soberchella who host 12-step meetings every day of the 3-day festival. Aside from listening to the varied array of musical acts (seriously, there is more variety at Coachella than at the 99-cent store!), you can enter a “Bad Dancing Competition,” or you can Hula Hoop, participate in a “Not-So-Silent Dance Party,” a Three-Legged Race, play Dodgeball, participate in a Joke Contest, or a Pinball Competition. The opportunities for sober fun are many!

 

There are tons of things to do at Coachella that don’t involve drunk and disorderly behavior.

 

Still, you should have an out, or a way to take care of yourself in the event that you get overwhelmed or someone in your party relapses or does something unwise. Know that your recovery isn’t contingent on being liked, popular, or the life of the party. It is contingent on self-care, healthy boundaries and a system of solid support. If you go, make sure you have:

1: Your sponsor’s number

2: Your parent(s’) number

3: A safe place to go if you want to leave early

 

Know your boundaries: Maybe this year, Coachella isn’t for you. Maybe you’re not in a place to be able to maintain healthy boundaries. Maybe “No” frightens you and is connected with your perception of being liked. Maybe your best friend is pressuring you to go but your gut tells you you aren’t ready. That’s tough, especially as a teen. It’s normal to think you will miss something or be left out of something über cool. The interesting thing about this: it will pass and you will begin to recognize that taking care of yourself and your recovery is far more important than being in the midst of temptation.

 

So, whether you go to Coachella or if you decide to skip it this year, remember to treat yourself the way you want to be treated. Everyone deserves to be loved, respected, and heard. Can you provide those things for yourself? I believe you can!

 

Categories
Addiction Alcoholism Mental Health Recovery Spirituality

What is Refuge Recovery?

Noah Levine’s Refuge Recovery provides another approach to recovery–one seeped in Buddhist practice. We were inspired by his talk at this year’s Innovations in Recovery conference. Since 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has been a foundational component of recovery for millions of alcoholics and addicts. It is free, it is available for all ages, it is simple in the way it’s shared and processed, and it also hasn’t really changed. When I take sponsees through the steps, they often comment on my old, tattered copies of the Twelve and Twelve and Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Over the years, however, my perception and process around the steps has shifted. It has evolved, if you will, to include another path, one that I share with those willing to begin the process of uncovering, discovering, and discarding old behaviors in a new, approachable way.

 

Several years ago, Noah Levine, author of Dharma Punx, Against the Stream, Heart of the Revolution and founder of Against the Stream Meditation Society, started formulating the ideas behind his program called Refuge Recovery – a way of approaching recovery from addiction via the Buddhist path. This is a path fraught with self-inquiry, curiosity, dedication, and a call to put these actions into practice. Refuge Recovery views recovery as a process that heals the underlying causal factors that led to addiction in the first place.  His latest book, Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction, outlines his adaptation of the Buddhist 4 Noble Truths and Eightfold Path to use as an approach to recovery.

 

Refuge Recovery requires that practitioners practice renunciation: a formal rejection and abstinence from harmful behavior, including using drugs and alcohol. One is required to start with an in-depth personal inventory: a thorough, inquisitive investigation of one’s behavior, traumas, and resulting consequences and how they have manifested in one’s life. One is asked to take refuge in their community, and in the practices of meditation and renunciation. Here, taking refuge means we are taking shelter or finding safety and protection in recovery and community. In many ways, addicts and alcoholics have been attempting to take refuge via substances for years, only to find there is no real sanctuary there.

 

Refuge Recovery is based on Buddhist principles, which integrate scientific, non-theistic, and psychological insight.  Addictions are viewed as cravings in the body and mind; using meditation to create awareness can alleviate those cravings and ease one’s suffering.  It is done through this adaptation of the 4 Noble Truths:

 

1. Take inventory of our suffering: that which we have experienced and that which we have caused. (Uncover)

2. Investigate the cause and conditions of our suffering. (Discover) Begin the process of letting go. (Discard)

3.  Come to understand that recovery is possible, taking refuge in the path that leads to the end of addiction and suffering.

4. Engage in the Buddhist Eightfold Path that leads to recovery.

 

What follows is the Buddhist Eightfold Path.

 

The first two address the development of Wisdom.

 1. Wise understanding

2. Wise intentions

These three address Moral Conduct:

 3. Wise speech/community

 4. Wise actions

 5. Wise livelihood/service

These three address Mental Discipline

6. Wise effort

7. Mindfulness

8. Concentration

 

Another difference between Refuge Recovery and the 12 Steps is there is not a specific order: this is not a linear path. Through this process, one develops compassion and wisdom: two sides of the same coin, if you will. Compassion is equated with love, charity, kindness, and tolerance—qualities of the heart; Wisdom represents the quality of the mind: our ability to concentrate, make wise choices, and to critically think. However, compassion without wisdom, leads to foolishness, and wisdom without compassion leads to stoicism. The two must interweave.

 

I share this with you not to berate AA, but to provide a view outside of what we are familiar with and to open the doors of the mind and heart to see a way of broadening one’s path.  Bill W encouraged a broadening of the spiritual path: Refuge Recovery is that broadening. This is an opportunity to really look deeply into ingrained habits and patterns that prevent us from being truly free from our suffering. Visions began taking our teens that are on our mental health track to Refuge Recovery meetings with much success. Of late, our teens that usually go to AA meetings are also enjoying Refuge Recovery meetings.  It’s important to note that one is not better than the other: AA and Refuge Recovery can complement each other, leaving space for curiosity and introspection from a theistic or non-theistic path.

We leave no stone unturned in treatment: we provide what is necessary to recovery and we are grateful that the options for support are expanding.

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health Recovery

Willingness: A Condition of Recovery

Willingness means: “The quality or state of being prepared to do something.” 

 

Finding willingness to take a leap into the unknown is a feat that is often met with great resistance. Early on, one is asked how willing they are to change their behaviors, their circle of friends, or their reactions to difficulty. They are asked to find the willingness to take that first step toward healing, because the truth is, no one can make you take that step—you have to do it yourself. It takes the willingness of the person seeking change. And it’s scary. There is a perceived safety in our dysfunction but what that really is, is familiarity.

 

How often have we found ourselves doing the same thing over and over again even though we know we shouldn’t? Where is our resolve? For starters, that resolve is wrapped up in the dysfunction of addiction and untreated mental health. However, it is our willingness to seek out our resolve, which ultimately invites real change to occur.

 

Someone who shows a lack of willingness does so by perpetually making excuses, redirecting themselves to something more familiar and less uncomfortable, and fundamentally getting in their own way. Often, the message received is that one needs to be ready to recover, but readiness is not synonymous with willingness.  For example, imagine your family member has just completed detox, and they are now clear headed enough to begin the healing process. Essentially, they are ready. But instead of taking action, they start making excuses: “I’m good now. I will go to a meeting tomorrow,” or “What do you mean you don’t trust me, I’m clean now!” And in cases where mental health is the issue, we hear,” I feel fine. I’m taking my meds. I can see my therapist next week.” Or, “I am good! I don’t need my meds today.” Readiness is a moot point; in these scenarios, its willingness that is absent.

 

What does it take?

 

  • Take contrary action – Go to a meeting, even when you don’t want to. Take a commitment. No one wants to clean up after a meeting, but we do it anyway.
  • Ask for help – Feeling overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated? Call someone! Reach out. And keep those therapy appointments. They are there to help you, regardless of how uncomfortable they can be at times.
  • It is ok not to be ok – At some point, we learn that feeling our feelings is part of the recovery process – accepting that is another story. However, when we move against our feelings in an attempt to run away from them, we suffer more.

Willingness is action, and it is the key to the door of recovery. What are you waiting for?

Categories
Family Mental Health Recovery

Ways A Family CAN Pick up the Pieces and Recover

Healing a family from addictive behaviors and emotional dysregulation takes work.


It takes willingness from all parties involved and a moment of clarity from the addict as well as the family in order to get the ball rolling. It takes dedication and a commitment from the entire family system. When someone says, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” it helps us to recognize that this is the brain’s way of taking a breath of fresh air. That “breath of fresh air” is the internal shift an addict or alcoholic needs to embrace and encourage them to move toward the next level. In our last blog, we noted the following 4 things a family needs for recovery. I thought it wise to break it down further:

 

1. A healthy home

2. Mental and physical health

3. Sense of purpose

4. To have and build a sense of community

 

What does a healthy home look like?

When when Visions’ Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D. is working with families and helping them heal broken or disrupted family systems, she stresses the importance of “having an intentional culture in the home that supports open communication, boundaries that are well defined, and have mutual respect.” In this way, home can become a refuge instead of a place of commotion.

 

Mental and Physical Health:

If a mental health diagnosis has been made, it is imperative that there is consistency with medication, consistent medical and psychological follow-ups, and that the family as whole is on the same page. Recovery requires a broadening net of support. It often begins with the clinical support in treatment, and expands to include a network of sober, healthy peers, and often reparation of the family system.

 

Sense of Purpose:

Find something that inspires you:  Something that is positive and supports your path on recovery. Remember, purpose is another word for motivation: take commitments at meetings, be of service, volunteer somewhere that you love, take a morning walk. Joseph Rogers, Assistant Education Director at Visions’ IOP says, “If students/clients don’t have a light at the end of the tunnel, something to look forward to, it is hard for them to see why they should continue making an effort.”

 

To have and build a sense of community:

One of the most amazing things about treatment and the path to recovery is fellowship (community). Knowing that you have a net of like-minded people in your corner is a powerful salve. How often do we hear the John Burroughs quote, “Leap and the net will appear”? I have to tell you from my own recovery experience, building and sustaining a healthy community of support and care has shown me truth in that very quote. I have leapt often and each time, I have been met with an incredible “net” that I call community. Your community will tell you the truth, love you when you can’t love yourself, and hold you accountable when you make a fool of yourself. Community aka fellowship is a glorious thing.

 

I recently heard something I found revolutionary from an addiction psychiatrist about hitting bottom, saying that it’s important that we as professionals and families “eliminate rock bottom as a condition of recovery and find the right conditions for recovery.” This moved me because it encourages taking action sooner, it encourages destigmatizing what recovery can look like, and it provides a sense of hope. Families need hope. They need to believe that recovery is possible. They need to know and understand in the fiber of their being that there is light at the end of the tunnel. UCLA’s Dr. Tim Fong said, “Addiction and mental health are not necessarily curable conditions, but they are controllable conditions.” In other words, recovery is attainable.

 

Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Events Mental Health Recovery Teen Activism

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Visions’ Stefanie Boone, MS, RD Shares Insight

It’s National Eating Disorder Association‘s Eating Disorder Awareness Week

often referred to as EDAW. I asked Stefanie Boone, MS, RD, to provide some insights and tips on what an eating disorder is, what is is not, and ways in which you can be supportive. This year’s EDAW theme is “I had no idea.” We are grateful to have Stefanie as part of the Visions family:

When I see parents, friends, or significant others trying to support their loved one with an eating disorder, my heart goes out to them. Besides feeling guilty (is this my fault?), worried (will he or she be OK?), and overwhelmed, they are often at loss around how to be helpful. Friends, family, and community need education around the following concepts:

–       That an eating disorder is really a symptom of deeper underlying issues;

–       That their loved one cannot just simply stop the behavior;

–       Certain things you may think would be supportive can actually make things worse;

–       That their own talk and behavior around food, diet, and being dissatisfied with their own bodies have and will continue to affect  their children or loved one;

–       That the sports team their child is a part of may actually be feeding into their ED.

My top five tips for those who want to be supportive are:

1. If you are trying to get your loved one to seek help, take a loving and non-judgmental stance with your loved one. An eating disorder is a mental illness, and requires professional help. Express your concern from a loving place.  Share how the ED is impacting you and your family.

2. If you are supporting an adult (spouse, parent, adult child) – do not be the food police. This is usually not helpful. With children and teens parents may need to be more involved – your child’s treatment team will guide you.

3. Be a positive role model – even if you do have your own opinions about food and even if you think you are “fat”, you need to stop sharing these thoughts and comments with your loved one.
And NEVER comment on how your loved looks – this is a very sensitive area and often a completely innocent comment such as “you look great” can be twisted into “is she saying I look fat?”

4. If your child is on a team sport, contact the coach – get more information as to what he/she is advising your children around food and exercise. Your child will most likely need to discontinue this sport at least temporarily while in recovery.

5. If you are a teen and have a friend you are worried about, talk to an adult about it immediately– teacher, school counselor, parents. I know this may be hard, but you may be saving your friend’s life.

 

Eating Disorder Awareness Week begins TODAY: 2/23-3/1. Please share your experience, strength and hope this week, using the hashtag #EDAW14. You never know who you’re helping or who might “hear” you for the first time.

Links to Check out:

How much DO you know? Take the NEDA QUIZ.

Proud2BMe Teen activist guide

Download NEDA’s Key Messages HERE and let others know why you’re participating.

 

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alumni Guest Posts Bipolar Disorder Mental Health Recovery

Alumni Voices: “I’m 17, Bipolar and In Recovery”

I’m pleased to share a guest post from one of our Alumni, bravely sharing about her experience as a bipolar teen in recovery. She is not only inspiring and courageous, her post is a testament to the clarity and hope willingness and recovery brings.

 

“I’m 17, Bipolar and in Recovery”

How old are you when you are in the 5th grade? Ten, maybe 11 years old? I was probably closer to 11 given that I was held back in preschool. Now, who exactly gets held back in preschool? I didn’t really pay it any mind when I was in preschool, yet I still struggle with the shame of having repeated a grade so early on in my education. I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable in the 3rd grade for having to be pulled out of class to learn to read in a private room with Mrs. A, the learning specialist teacher. Learning to read had come so easily to my older sister, C; it was not the same case for me.

So back to my original question: I was 11, and I had already been diagnosed with ADHD. By the time I was in the 8th grade, I was prescribed 100 mg of Adderall per day. Well, it turns out that I did have a mild case of ADHD, yet it also turns out that ADHD is commonly misdiagnosed and mistaken for bipolar Disorder. No one found out that I had a mood disorder until I came to Visions.

 

It is not uncommon for a person who is bipolar to not want to take their medication. The first time I went through Visions treatment I was diagnosed as having mood instability and not full-blown bipolar Disorder. This mood disorder accounts for a lot of the feelings I was having before and even after I came through Visions. Before I reached the point of needing inpatient care for the first time, which far preceded the time in which it took for me to ask for it, I had experienced quite a bit of depression. I have also dealt with my fair share of manic episodes.

 

For someone with a mood instability disorder, drugs of any kind will make for a much more painful and deep depression, a much more insane manic high, and will far from help the situation. This is not to say that abusing any kind of drugs or medication, illicit or otherwise, will help anyone. Yet, when your brain chemistry is already messed up and you continue to pile any kind of chemically enhanced drugs on top of that, it makes for a manic-depressive individual.

 

It is not uncommon for a person who is bipolar to not want to take their medication. The first time I left treatment, I wasn’t taking my medication as prescribed. I missed many days in a row, I took it at different times throughout the day, and I even flushed a whole handful of my pills down the toilet. This definitely didn’t help my condition. The combination of illicit drug use, consistently missing my meds, and a variety of other unpleasant behaviors can only lead to a few options. Those of us in recovery know what those options are.

 

Given that I had already been locked up in a psych ward at the age of 14, had not yet been to Juvi, and was still breathing, the last option would be recovery.

 

I haven’t discussed my recovery much because it is not only something I deal with on a daily basis, but it is also something that I am quite insecure about. As I have already shared, I have been through Visions Adolescent Treatment twice. I once had almost a year and a half of sobriety. I had gotten sober at 15, yet I prided myself on the time I had sober, and not the work I was doing. How could I? I wasn’t actually working a program.

 

I had struggled with the idea of sobriety the moment I found out what the other residents were using in my inpatient program. I had only been smoking weed, while the other residents were in treatment for much harder drugs. I knew that I deserved to be there; my story was pretty intense, yet I still felt insecure about my drug use.

 

That statement alone is what reminds me on a daily basis that I need to be sober. Only an addict-alcoholic would feel the need to go further and to use harder. I guess that wasn’t enough for me, because after about a year and four months of sobriety, I relapsed. This time, it did not take long for me to realize how utterly unmanageable my life was.

 

I did not need to prove to anyone else that it was a good idea for me to be sober, especially not my mother. That’s another good point: Only someone who is extremely sick and in their illness would put someone they love in that much pain. I guess I still had to prove it to myself.

 

Today, when I have a moment where I think of using, I think of my family. I say to myself, “Even if I’m not an addict, I couldn’t put them through what I used to.” I believe that the “issues” I deal with are not only related to one another, but they are also a gift: Not only is my recovery a gift, but I see my bipolar disorder as a gift as well. I feel lucky to have the ability to feel things as intensely as I do. I hope that this will be that last time I am getting sober. I will take one day at a time in keeping it that way.