Hello, my name is Mandy T. I am a person with a dual illness of major depression and addiction. I have been an active user of drugs since I was 13, and can remember showing signs of depression as early as the third grade. I always thought there was no hope of a fulfilling life for me.
The first time I got sober was when I was 17, through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This helped my addiction tremendously; I was able to stay sober a year and two months. During this time I started to care about myself again. Yet there was an ever-present feeling of hopelessness inside. Despite all the positive changes I had installed in my life I still wanted to die. I knew I was deeply depressed, but I didn’t know that I had a mental illness. I kept telling myself that it was normal to feel the way I did.
My emotions were out of hand. I would cry when called upon by teachers. I slept for days at a time, not caring about school, avoiding people because I didn’t want them to know that anything was wrong with me. My smile has always been my mask; it felt too vulnerable to show anyone how I felt. I thought it was my fault that I was out of control. Denial runs deep, especially when I was able to talk myself right out of feeling; I denied all of my shame and pain, and locked it up tight inside of me.
My life started to get worse. I wet the bed at 17. I couldn’t concentrate or speak coherently sometimes. I turned back to the only solution I knew of that had worked before – drugs. My addiction told me that I didn’t need AA anymore, and I listened. I forgot how much worse my life was before AA.
For a year and a half I tried to escape from this pain and fear that I felt. Moving in and out of nine places in 18 months, I couldn’t shake it. Going to college, changing jobs, doing volunteer work, sleeping – nothing worked because the problem was me. Not to mention the drugs I used that started me back down the spiral to Hades. I would get really high and act insane, promise, to never do that again, get so miserable I wanted to die, so then I’d do drugs just to keep myself numb enough to survive. Finally, it got so bad that I literally couldn’t function. I couldn’t take a bath or swum without thinking of drowning myself; everything I touched I contemplated its use for my demise. I’m not sure how I survived when my major thought content was about killing myself. Thank goodness I had enough sense to tell my counselor at the treatment center. She escorted me to the psychiatric unit at the Hospital on July 26, 1996. After two days, I was transferred to the dual treatment program. Here I met other people like myself. That was incredible for me. I realized I’m not alone, and never have to be again.
There, I was educated about my illness. I learned how drugs and mental illnesses fester together, when not managed in a healthy way. I remembered that years before, when I was in college, I had once picked up a pamphlet that said, if you answer ‘yes’ to one or more of the of the following questions, you may have a mental illness. I said yes to all of them. Terrified, I threw it away, and tried to forget. Now, it is such a relief to know about my mental illness, because that means I can get help. Dual Recovery Anonymous has been of tremendous support, and aids in my recovery.
I first attended a DRA meeting at the treatment center. That was even more amazing to meet people who were just like me, and successfully recovering. HOPE – I finally had HOPE. I am a member of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) AA, and DRA.
DRA feels like home to me because it addresses issues that other fellowships do not. I feel a freedom to discuss my medications, share when I don’t feel emotionally stable, and talk about other things that members in other fellowships may not understand or relate to. The support and understanding present at DRA meetings is truly impressive and therapeutic. When I hear someone describe me when they are speaking of themselves, I fed a connection to the group that I don’t feel anywhere else. I am truly grateful for, and proud to be, a part of the program of Dual Recovery Anonymous.