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Old 04-24-2012, 06:48 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Bipolar And Alcohol abuse

I had a drug and alcohol treatment counsellor with 30 years experience in the field tell me that I was an alcohol abuser and not an alcoholic. In A.A. I identify myself as an alcoholic because I don't see the difference. When I drink, my addiction starts after the first one, I must have more and more...then I never know who I will be or what will happen. I engage in destructive and risky behaivor. To me, that is alcoholic. Never mind I never drank every day, never drank anything but beer, never had the shakes, never drank in the morning, never needed a drink. However, because when I do drink, the physical craving develops and there is a personality change with unpleasant consequences...I say I'm an alcoholic.

Now for the bipolar thing. I was dxed. Long before it became popular to have this illness. I was dxed. 17 years ago. It was called manic-depression then. There is a stigma attached to mental illness same as alcoholism. So I often wonder why so many of my sponsors and people in A.A. Don't believe it exists. I have been off and on meds. I hate taking meds but if I don't I wind up drinking to self-medicate. I have been to many drs. To make sure the dx is correct and it is always the same dx.

So why is it that so many A.A.er's can't accept having bipolar and alcoholism. When I drink, the meds are rendered useless...when I don't drink and stop meds I wind up drinking to self-medicate. I love A.A. but have found such a large degree of people who think I would be better off taking no meds. The meds I take are not addictive. I have never been a pill popper. So why the problem and how can I as a strong A.A. Member help to overcome this stigma in A.A.? The Big Book talks about the manic-depressive about whom a whole chapter could be written and is least understood by his friends. I have been reading the NA text and they have two stories about mental illness and addiction but both case deal with schizophrenia...not manic depression or bipolar.

I hate that there is a strong possibility that bipolar has been over diagnosed in the last few years. And I was told by a dr. That to get a proper diagnosis one had to be free and clear of alcohol and drugs for at least 30 days as the mood swings share a commonality to bipolar.

Anyway, I have had to accept both the mental illnesses of alcoholism and bipolar....the 12 steps and A.A. On the whole help me deal with both. There are others like me and sometimes they share. There is a lovely older lady that freely talks about her alcoholism and bipolar....they seem braided together for those of us who have both. She has 25 years and yet, people are afraid to ask her to sponsor them. Then I have people trying to tell me that bipolar is all made up and to use herbal remedies. I have tried this and it works for awhile. But why when there are meds to help someone with an illness readily available....such as cancer...should one not help themselves...when not taking them proves to make life unmanageable?
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:38 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Just as you wouldn't listen to people's opinion of what medication to take for treating cancer, you should do the same for any mental illness. It is just plain wrong for anyone to give any medical advise in AA. Also, the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. I have found over the years that few people come into AA by mistake.
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:53 AM   #3 (permalink)
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It is wrong to give medical advice without a PHD after your name. But I have found that the worst offenders are those with years of sobriety. The ones I look up to. There are people with gambling addictions and food addictions. I can sympathize with them but I can not empathize with them because I have never personally experienced this. I would certainly not be so bold as to give them advice on something I have no professional or personal experience with. It just floors me how some A.A.ers who know what it is like to have a disease with a stigma can be so dogmatic about other mental illness with an equally strong stigma. 60 pct. of those with bipolar/depression/schizophrenia have substance abuse problems. So that is over half! My current sponsor has less than two years and has been dxed. with depression and given a script for an anti-depressant. But she won't fill it because her boyfriend with 25 years sober tells her not too! This guy is nearly homeless, has no medical degree...but seems to know that she can treat it with herbs, or a better 4th step.. Now he has her trying different meetings as a solution. She told me to maybe try and go off my meds when I got more stable after a time in A.A. because of what He is telling her. It makes me frustrated!

I will talk to her about this...perhaps sure in a meeting...maybe even start a meeting.

My husband is also bipolar....dxed. 20 years ago and is a recovering addict. Some sponsors in Atlanta told him he wasn't really sober if he was taking any meds and to go off them. So he did and wound up trying to direct traffic on a 6 lane highway with a tennis racket...wound up in a horrible state facility for two weeks and refuses to go to A.A. But thank God, he goes to N.A. where they are much more accepting.
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:13 AM   #4 (permalink)
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So why is it that so many A.A.er's can't accept having bipolar and alcoholism. When I drink, the meds are rendered useless...when I don't drink and stop meds I wind up drinking to self-medicate. I love A.A. but have found such a large degree of people who think I would be better off taking no meds.
I suffer from depression and have learned to never talk about it in AA or with the majority of other alcoholics. The last thing I want is unsolicited advice from people who think they know everything. I go to a shrink for depression and AA for alcoholism and both are under control. I have a sponsee who is treated for bipolar disorder with the agreement that she will follow her doctor's advice.
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:36 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I call being clean and sober for a period of time so a doc can figure out what is going on a baseline of who we are. No medical advice here. For me how else is one able to figure out what is wrong. The longer the period the stronger the baseline. 2+2 equals 4, spill a drink on it and the writing is hard to make out. Now, the real issue is what other excuse can we come up with for not being clean and sober..
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Old 04-24-2012, 08:47 AM   #6 (permalink)
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good topic and valid points. the mind is a hard thing to figure out and it should be left up to the experts in that field.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:19 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Well Always Growing...I could say an alcoholic does not really have a disease....that it is just an excuse for drinking and acting like a jerk. But that is ignorant. I have read and reread the Big Book and educated myself through many years in A.A. Therefore I have come to believe alcoholism is a mental disease. If one has not educated themselves on other mental illness' then they are simply ignorant. Which is fine. But i don't give advice on something I know nothing about. Are you a PHD? Do you have bipolar? If not, why would you call it an excuse to drink. That is what I am talking about. Ignorance is simply not knowing. To remain teachable I have to keep an open mind and set aside everything I think I know about everything I think I know. It is called the Set Aside prayer. It really helps.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:29 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Live and Let Live

Take What You Like and Leave the Rest

Sorry guys, I am exhausted from being at the ER two days in a row with a recovering addict spouse who has had either a mild heart attack but more possibly an ulcer. Lack of sleep is detrimental to alcoholics and bipolars and I am exhausted. Don't even know why I am on this tirade. Please excuse my crankiness. I need to focus on my day. I have just prayed and am heading back to the hospital for day three. I should not have spent the night there as I was cold and kept getting awakened by nurses at all hours. I will do my best to be stable and calm and help others today. I wish you all contentment and peace today and I am thankful for all the responses and for all of you here.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:39 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Well Always Growing...I could say an alcoholic does not really have a disease....that it is just an excuse for drinking and acting like a jerk. But that is ignorant. I have read and reread the Big Book and educated myself through many years in A.A. Therefore I have come to believe alcoholism is a mental disease. If one has not educated themselves on other mental illness' then they are simply ignorant. Which is fine. But i don't give advice on something I know nothing about. Are you a PHD? Do you have bipolar? If not, why would you call it an excuse to drink. That is what I am talking about. Ignorance is simply not knowing. To remain teachable I have to keep an open mind and set aside everything I think I know about everything I think I know. It is called the Set Aside prayer. It really helps.
20 1/2 years sober and buried a wife who died at age 43 from addiction leaving behind 2 kids. So I kind of have some field time. I believe she was bio-polar.
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Old 04-24-2012, 11:32 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Great topic. This is one of my pet peeves. The idea that alcoholism is the “be all end all” to an alcoholics problems. Perhaps it is the only problem…for them, but claiming to know this about everyone else is dangerous. I speak up about this every time I hear it because this idea is destructive. It frequently comes from people who have been around longer and goes unchallenged. The newcomer is sometimes confused. They might come to AA from a very knowledgeable health care professional (with a diagnosis and a recommendation to go to AA to help with their alcoholism) only to have a vocal AA telling them all they need to worry about is their alcoholism.

That’s why I speak up every time this takes place. I do this as gently and as respectfully as I can, but I do it. It’s a bit more difficult when it happens in a meeting, so sometimes I need to wait till after the meeting to talk to the person(s). Because most people in AA have the motivation to be helpful, and they know I have a desire to do likewise, my opinions are typically considered. I have noticed I have changed a few minds on this issue.

Inaction supports the status quo. This applies as much to the dissemination of misinformation as it does to alcoholism itself.
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:11 PM   #11 (permalink)
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My View...
We are all made differently. Some of us have more chemical challenges than others and it pains me to not have a one stop shop answer and watch others really struggle. There isn't one. I do believe there are ways to 'improve' our way of life, our emotional and physical pain. BUT to figure that out we first need to remove all the outside elements that make us feel better (drugs/drink) ..so docs have a chance not just tossing out a quick fix.
Now that being said there are legit reasons for a few to NOT just stop all drugs as that can be very dangerous. Working with a Doc is the best thing. I see SOO many hid behind the quick fix or using something powerful to kill the baggage we carry. We are often some of the worse to recall from the idea of going clean because of fear. Let me say this again.. Because of fear..
Drugs are to be used to help ease not cause addition or to hide behind walls and not live life.
Just my 2 cents and no, I don't play a doc on TV or anything else. Just call it and (BS) as I see and read it.
Just like I ask my kids. How do you know? Have you tried it? And are you being honest?




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Great topic. This is one of my pet peeves. The idea that alcoholism is the “be all end all” to an alcoholics problems. Perhaps it is the only problem…for them, but claiming to know this about everyone else is dangerous. I speak up about this every time I hear it because this idea is destructive. It frequently comes from people who have been around longer and goes unchallenged. The newcomer is sometimes confused. They might come to AA from a very knowledgeable health care professional (with a diagnosis and a recommendation to go to AA to help with their alcoholism) only to have a vocal AA telling them all they need to worry about is their alcoholism.

That’s why I speak up every time this takes place. I do this as gently and as respectfully as I can, but I do it. It’s a bit more difficult when it happens in a meeting, so sometimes I need to wait till after the meeting to talk to the person(s). Because most people in AA have the motivation to be helpful, and they know I have a desire to do likewise, my opinions are typically considered. I have noticed I have changed a few minds on this issue.

Inaction supports the status quo. This applies as much to the dissemination of misinformation as it does to alcoholism itself.
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:29 PM   #12 (permalink)
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My ex hubby was bi polar, and I believe he drank to self medicate, and bring his moods up or down depending on whether he was on a high or low at the time.He went in rehab and they wouldn't acknowledge his illness so he relapsed twice.It's very sad that it's so hard to treat both conditions at the same time in the uk
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:30 PM   #13 (permalink)
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by polar mixed with alcohol creates and absolute "monster" out of control.

taking meds for bi polar in combination with alcohol is EVEN worse.
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:33 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I agree that is hard to honestly share in a meeting when you have to censor yourself because of the lack of understanding from some people who have no clue and are so closed minded they can't even entertain the idea that mental illness is real. I had to keep trying different groups until I found a meeting where it was common. So some meetings I kinda go as an alcoholic and leave the other stuff out and save the bp/adhd side of things for the meetings I know it is understood.

Take what you need, leave the rest.
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:40 PM   #15 (permalink)
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by polar mixed with alcohol creates and absolute "monster" out of control.

taking meds for bi polar in combination with alcohol is EVEN worse.
My exes doc gave him Seroxat, even though he knew he was an alcoholic manic depressive!!!The result wasn't very pretty
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:38 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I don't find it necessary to discuss my medical protocols in AA meetings.
And I don't ask my doctors how to work Steps.

As an AA recovered alcoholic....I feel no stigma about my diseases.

Forwward we go..side by side

Windblown....prayers coming your way for healing and peace ..
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:17 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Complex subject. I like to go to the literature for this one. For NA: NA Groups & Medications. For AA:The AA - Medications and Other Drugs.

When this subject comes up in a meeting I share on reading these pamphlets. I read them from time to time to remember what is important.

Love and tolerance of others is our code. (10th step BB pg)

All BB quotes are from the first addition of alcoholics anonymous.
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:06 AM   #18 (permalink)
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I had the courage to mention it in last nights meeting because that nice bipolar lady with 25 years sobriety brought it up. After the meeting I was told it was just my 'isms' and another person said...oh I wanted to think I had bipolar, depression...all these other things because I could not accept I was alcoholic. And on and on and so forth. So I think, the best for me, at this point, is just to leave it out of meetings. I do talk about it privately to my sponsor...who doesn't understand it but at least is intelligent enough not to tell me to go off the meds. And perhaps, I will meet others whom I can share with privately.
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:53 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Tell them to read the big book. It says some of us need medical help. Listen to a doctor for medical advice.
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:58 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I had the courage to mention it in last nights meeting because that nice bipolar lady with 25 years sobriety brought it up. After the meeting I was told it was just my 'isms' and another person said...oh I wanted to think I had bipolar, depression...all these other things because I could not accept I was alcoholic. And on and on and so forth. So I think, the best for me, at this point, is just to leave it out of meetings. I do talk about it privately to my sponsor...who doesn't understand it but at least is intelligent enough not to tell me to go off the meds. And perhaps, I will meet others whom I can share with privately.
How rude and unhelpful of them
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