My name is Ed. When I first got sober, the manic-depressive disorder appeared even more pronounced than it had before. It was no longer hidden by alcohol and drugs. The stress of withdrawal in my early recovery triggered wild mood swings for me.
I was constantly on edge. No one told me I was bipolar in those first months of recovery. I went from mania (excited) to depressed, sometimes in a fast cycle. These mood swings were much more extreme than those of other people whom I had met in my 12-Step support groups.
During the first time I was under stress in recovery, my bipolar disorder became detectable to others. My 12-Step peers and my family thought I was high on drugs. I thought I was doing well, not knowing I was manic.
When mania peaks, the impulse to drink or use is almost overwhelming for me. When I relapsed in response to this upswing mood, I had reached such an advanced stage of addiction that I could no longer safely drink for even a day.
I consulted a psychiatrist who saw something else behind the alcoholism. He prescribed the medication that would bring down the tendency to “cycle up”.
Once I started taking medication for my bipolar disease, I became balanced; my mood swings were less severe. Medication management is critical for me, because any fluctuation of time or dosage can affect the purpose of the medication.
For over a year I was taking my medication faithfully and feeling balanced and “normal”. As with substance abuse, “stinking thinking” started to set in, for my mental illness. I believed that I was “well”, so I slowly stopped taking my meds.
In the early stages of mania, I began to feel “good”; this played into the idea that I didn’t need my meds. This stage is referred to as “hypomania”. It is euphoric, and afterwards, I slowly spiraled downward.
Suffering from the diseases of chemical dependency and bipolar has been stressful to me. In recovery I have to deal with many problems that arose from my dual disorder. Straightening out the chaos that was created during my addiction and from manic episodes proves to be a challenge.
I had to work through a lot of anger, accepting the fact that I had not one, but two disorders, and that my bipolar disease was misdiagnosed earlier.
But recovery from both diseases is possible. When I understood for the first time that each disease needs to be paid attention to equally, but differently, I was now on a journey to recovery.
Recovery from chemical dependency requires that I accept my addiction and abstain from mood-altering chemicals. It involves attending 12-Step meetings, working with my sponsor, working the 12 Steps and improving my physical health.
Recovery from bipolar disorder also requires that I accept the disease. Attend dual disorder meetings; increase my activity when I’m depressed and decrease my activity when I’m manic, or slow down and think constructively.
I believe I’ve had bipolar all my life to some degree. I believe that as my addiction became worse and the addictive behavior I displayed created a lot of stress in my life, my full-blown bipolar disease was activated.
There is no quick fix for problems that my dual disorder creates. I must work hard to change. This includes how I deal with my thoughts; perception of those thoughts and my feelings. Most importantly, I must take my medication when I don’t want to. I must make it a habit. Currently, I have two years clean and sober, and am looking forward to many more sober years.