Dual-Diagnosis in Recovery from Addiction
Dual-diagnosis is defined as having a substance use disorder like drug addiction or Alcoholism that is accompanied by one or more mental health disorders. In the United States, I am one out of 7.9 million people that live with a dual-diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders (SAMHSA, 2014).
You may be wondering what has enticed me to disclose my personal experience and I feel obliged to do so. To start, you should know that diagnosing a person with dual disorders is often elusive due to the intricacy and the severity of different symptoms one may be exposed to.
When I committed myself to recovery, I had quite a difficult time understanding how my addiction has anything to do with the other mental health issues I live with. Furthermore, it’s important to understand that being in recovery from drug addiction while living with additional mental health disorders, simultaneously, may at first feel impossible.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders
When beginning on the road to recovery, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was living with a handful of mental health disorders and addiction. Being diagnosed with chronic depression, attention deficit disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, I felt isolated, misunderstood and alone.
Often, I felt too nervous or exhausted to empower myself, so having integral support helped a tremendous amount. I also discovered that stabilizing my recovery while juggling dual-diagnoses was too complex and challenging to do on my own.
In truth, treating one disorder without the other does zero good for an individual’s recovery. As a result of my confusion and the seeming impossibility of it all, I felt defeated and beyond hopeless. As I saw it – there was no way to balance each disorder at the same time and I was bound to fail.
Treating overlapping disorders as one is undoubtedly complicated, but like all things, it is possible. If I was to have success in getting clean and sober and staying that way, I had to receive proper substance abuse treatment while receiving at the same time an adequate level of care for my mental health.
Learning about the consequences of untreated mental health disorders, such as the inability to maintain recovery from Alcohol and drug abuse was terrifying. On the bright side, having a dual-diagnosis gently enforced my need for a long-term inpatient treatment.
Despite an utter lack of understanding in the process, an inability to fix the problem and not knowing the answers which caused me to panic and shut down on a regular basis, I knew I couldn’t throw in the towel.
The mental and emotional distress of drug and Alcohol treatment alongside managing mental health symptoms was certainly taxing, but I knew I could not give up; I needed to heal.
In light of my endless search for healing, I often felt that the progress I made in recovery from drug and Alcohol addiction came to a screeching halt. I frequently found myself frustrated, feeling as if I had taken large steps backward.
In hindsight, the steps backward are not what they seemed to be at that time. Rather, every day I spent in treatment, I was healing and learning how to find balance in living with a dual-diagnosis.
Does Substance Abuse Link to Dual Disorders?
Drug addiction and alcoholism are known to be in close relation with psychiatric issues, such as mood disorders. Alongside mood disorders, anxiety and personality disorders are also shown to be problematic for individuals who are fighting against substance abuse and addiction.
The most common mental health disorders known to walk hand in hand with addiction are depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, to name a few.
The amount of wreckage resulting from untreated and un-diagnosed dual-disorders is troubling. Without concurrent treatment, individuals who are lacking wellness in their mental health as well as the resources to receive proper treatment often end up homeless, locked up or actively suicidal.
Fortunately, in today’s addiction research and science, having a substance use disorder alongside a mental health disorder is practically expected. If you are living with a mental health disorder along with an addiction, you are certainly not alone.
Some mental health disorders are more likely to occur with the presence of a substance use disorder than others. However, dual-diagnosis does not exclude any mental health disorder.
Mental Health Awareness
With immense appreciation to mental health awareness, I was able to receive the help and services I needed to tend to my mental health and my drug addiction. Although at first, I did not know it, the recognition of dual-diagnosis presented me with the opportunity to live a full life.
Today, thanks to substance abuse treatment and mental health awareness, I can confidently say I know my worth and I am a strong individual in recovery. Even though I am healthier and significantly more stable than I was my first day of treatment, I have come to understand that living with a dual-diagnosis, requires considerable maintenance on my part.
Feeling run down from your mental health does not have to dictate every second of your life. Personally, I’ve come to find that daily practice of self-care and learning how to advocate for yourself is the corner stone of recovery and can make all the difference you are looking for in your life.
If you are looking for recovery from substance abuse, addiction and mental illness, getting adequate treatment that is individualized and tailored to your needs is the first step.
Finding Recovery for Addiction and Mental Illness
For me, getting into recovery for addiction and mental illness was by no means an easy journey. However, recovery continues to prove far greater than any challenge it took to get here.
Reflecting back on my life — the good, the bad, the sad and the joy, I am able to lay my head down at night with peace. For the first time in my life I understand what it feels like to live with a grateful heart and I hope that you get to experience the same.
Anyone can develop a drug or Alcohol addiction as well as a mental illness at any point in his or her life. If you or someone you love is distressed by addiction or a dual-diagnosis, it is important to seek treatment and support.
Do not give up hope, take action and get help for yourself or for your loved one in need.
by Madison Kimberlin
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