Wednesday 27 November 2019

Managing My Dual Diagnosis on a Day to Day Basis

By Kailey Fitzgerald

Being in recovery from drug addiction and having a mental illness concurrently can be extremely mentally taxing. On my off days, when I am not keeping up with my daily routines and neglect my self-care mechanisms, my life can seem chaotic and unmanageable. I often say it feels like I am just constantly putting out one fire after another. On the other hand, when I do manage my dual diagnosis well, I am truly happy.

Finding coping mechanisms and a healthy daily routine that worked for me took a lot of time and effort through trial and error. What may work for one person, may not work for another. It wasn’t until I went to an addiction treatment center and began true, honest, and rigorous therapy that I finally found what worked for me.

Go to Therapy Regularly

Going to therapy and giving it a real, honest shot is what saved my life. For years I was repulsed by laying down on some brown over-sized couch and telling some stranger with a medical degree all of the reasons my life sucked. To my surprise, I learned that real therapy is not like what you see on TV. My therapist treated me like a human and really allowed me the time and pace I needed to begin to open up to him.

In therapy, I learned many valuable coping mechanisms that I incorporate into my day to day life. For example, I suffer from a couple of anxiety disorders. When I begin to have a PTSD flashback or an anxiety attack, my therapist recommended I ground myself through breathing techniques. I try to apply this and when I do, it typically helps in centering my body and mind enough to get through the flashbacks and anxiety attacks.

That being said, after a few therapy sessions I began to feel better. In my own naivety, I thought that meant I was recovered and could stop attending therapy. The first few weeks were great, I had more financial freedom and more free time on my hands. Quickly I realized I had made a mistake when I ran into one of my PTSD triggers and had a complete meltdown. Luckily, I was able to make the conscious decision to admit my wrongs and call my therapist to resume our biweekly appointments.

Maintain the Sobriety Aspect of My Recovery

It is extremely important for me to maintain my sobriety in concurrence with the treatment of my secondary mental illnesses. This means continuing to participate in the fellowship I chose, utilizing my meditation practices, keeping in contact with my sober support, and remaining diligent in monitoring whether I begin to romanticize drug use or old habits. The combination of all of these practices is what allows me to remain sober without becoming a “dry drunk”. Dry drunks are defined as people who are chemically sober but behave in the same manner that they did while they were using. For example, if I stopped maintaining my sobriety I would begin to become easily agitated and unable to control my emotions — causing me to resort to fantasizing about using a substance to numb my feelings.

For all intents and purposes, let’s just say I let the maintenance of my sobriety slip. I become discontented with my life, the people around me, and the fact that I have to abstain from using drugs. This would begin to affect my secondary mental illness because I am already slipping into a dark place. With the combination of my unmanaged sobriety and the symptoms of my anxiety disorders beginning to intensify, it would be extremely hard and maybe even impossible for me to remain sober. So, keeping that in mind, I do the best that I can in order to maintain my sobriety every day.

Remember That Recovery Is Not Linear

Recovery from any ailment takes time. Some days you will progress, while some days you may backslide. It is important to remember not to beat yourself up when you have an off day. When recovering from dual-diagnosis mental illnesses, these off days may happen more often than you’d like. I remember at the beginning of my recovery, everything was seemingly perfect. I had the desperation and time to do everything in my power to maintain my substance abuse recovery and my anxiety disorder recovery. As time went on, I regained responsibilities that left me with less time to pursue my recovery. This meant that life began to become increasingly difficult.

In order to balance my recovery, work, family and my social life I had to readjust my expectations. In addition, I needed to gain confidence in my recovery. I had built a strong foundation of life skills, coping mechanisms, and a support network that could carry me on my “off days”. When I had less time to make meetings or therapy sessions, I would call a sober friend to give me advice or just lend a listening ear. Initially, I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing as much as I had been in early recovery. But, despite my guilt, the truth was that I was still doing everything in my power to maintain my recovery. We get sober and recover from our mental illnesses in order to build a life worth living. Once I realized that my guilt dissipated. All of these responsibilities that I thought were taking away from my recovery were, in fact, the gifts of recovery.

About the Author

Kailey Fitzgerald is a young writer in the recovery community. She has found passion in writing for websites like Discovery Transitions, who work to spread awareness and break stigmas in relation to recovery from addiction and mental illness. She has found this passion through recovering from her own dual-diagnosis and attempting to help others do the same.


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