One of the biggest weaknesses of Alcoholics Anonymous(AA) is that mental health isn’t covered in more depth. Millions of people suffering from addiction, too suffer from untreated mental health issues which originally lead them to their addiction/alcoholism. Their consumption coping strategy was often their only way to making life manageable and somewhat balanced, that is, until the pills and potions stopped. What was initially introduced as a method to escape mental torture became habitual with no signs of letting up.
I fell into this death spiral once upon a time. The only remedy to my unbalanced mind was alcohol, well that is until the last year of me living la vida loca, when I upped the ante of things and added cocaine into the mix of things. While I found the pairing was sensational, I must admit to feeling terribly guilty about that. On nights where Crown Royale was flowing a tad too quickly, and all familiar signs were pointing towards a blackout, I reach into my pant pocket and drawl upon the leveling up power of nose candy to straighten things out. As the “rocket-man” within was activated, the once fading light of my consciousness was now beautifully lit. I would return to social interactions with fully charged spirits that I could never possibly summon on my own. I felt powerful. I felt well again.
As Elton John reminisces of his highly dosed days in the song Rocket Man, “I’m not the man they think I am at home. Oh no, no, no. I’m a rocket man”. How closely I can relate to living this exact lie. What my peers usually witnessed was so distant from what I truly was. Blaring feelings of inferiority wrapped its choking grip around me since I was a young timid boy. This highly developed exuberant character was fictitious to its core. My every move and word calculated. While I surely lacked courage, I had been abundantly supplied with a vivid imagination.
In hindsight this depiction of my past as a dually diagnosed individual sounds so cruel and malicious, all I was striving for was to feel accepted, normal, and whole. This world doesn’t celebrate the recluse that I had become, and if I went back to try and change things I’m sure I would have been chewed up and spat out from alcohol and drugs either way. I found that alcohol checked all the mandatory boxes when it came character development, and even though the feelings were quite fleeting, I really did feel alive and thriving. My mind was at peace. The sickness of my mind was still a few years away from revealing itself to itself. The power of denial turned out to be far more intoxicating than any drug I have ever consumed.
Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body. p.23 Big Book
The plight of addiction is something nobody should have to go through, but if you add in a dash of mental illness to the mix you can really feel like you been placed up shit creek without a paddle in recovery. Without the guidance of a seasoned, well educated sponsor to guide you through the paces, you can start feeling desperately hopeless. You may even have the notion that your only focus needs to be placed on completing the 12 steps, seeking God, and being of service to cure you. These are most certainly pillars of success, however they are not the saving grace for people who haven’t yet addressed their mental illness. What often happens is people work a solid set of steps and do everything that is asked of them, only to be left feeling lower than a snakes belly in a wagon rut. While agonizing through mental turmoil they throw it all away again and return to the bottle. The promise of a spiritual awakening never comes to light because they simply haven’t addressed the thorn in their side.
There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest. p.58 Big Book
The above passage taken from “How It Works”, must be further elaborated upon. The word “honesty” is not just used in reference to your step work. The word needs to ruminate through every cell of your being. Accepting that your mind doesn’t work like “normal” people is a huge admission about yourself. Once this point is reached, you can then start seeking help. What “help” exactly looks like, can quite often be a pharmaceutical intervention. At first, this is absolutely terrifying idea your whole being might reject. The thoughts associated with having to take some form of antidepressant are usually unpleasant, and often hammered home with feelings of shame and embarrassment. You might note that you won’t find shame highlighted as a path to take to healing in any mental health text book or medical journal. I saturated myself with shame for years, and the only thing it did for me was lead me to discontentment and misery. A wise word should have sufficed for me, but it didn’t. Chances it won’t for you either. That is precisely why I’m writing this message, to give you a little bit more hope and understanding for you to work with on your own journey.
Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward. p.133 Big Book
The writers of the Big Book used the word “indispensable” to describe the importance of the Alcoholic working a doctor and/or psychiatrist. According to the dictionary, the word indispensable means “absolutely necessary”. They state in no uncertain terms, that it is vital that you stick close to your doctor after completing your set of steps, and that you are to remain in close contact to your doctor indefinitely in recovery. You’ll also notice that the page covering the topic of mental health is not covered until after the 12 step process is clearly outlined in early chapters. The founders of AA (one being a doctor) knew that Science and Spirituality were part in parcel for a recovered alcoholic. For anyone to suggest that the 12 step process isn’t to involve medical intervention is either ignorant and/or illiterate.
God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons. p.133 Big Book
Having spoken to many people who have encountered a similar bout of ignorance in recovery, I’m deeply saddened to think about just how many people have needlessly suffered as a result. Some even to the point of death.