Dual Recoveries Anonymous has offered me what I had lost or been unable to find in my sobriety. It offers me believable hope and steps to apply to both my chemical dependency and my psychiatric illnesses. It also offers me a way to heal the emotional and psychic damage that I experienced as a result of my dual disorders. This is just as true for me today as it was when DRA first began to develop.
In 1973 I made a decision to seek professional help for my chemical dependency. I had started drinking and using drugs when I was 13. By the time I was 18, I was using every day. I drank, swallowed, snorted and shot as many drugs as I could try, and rarely met a drug that I did not like.
Gradually, I began to experience problems in every area of my life. There were times when I desperately wanted to stop. I was unable to stop or control my use. I didn’t know how. Eventually, I accepted the truth - that I needed the help of other people.
The plan was for me to go to a psychiatric program for evaluation and referral on to a treatment program. The problem was that they were trying to determine if I was chemically dependent, or if I was experiencing a psychiatric illness. They did not seem to consider the possibility that I was affected by both disorders. They neglected to recommend psychiatric follow-up as a part of their treatment referral.
I accepted the diagnosis and treatment because I desperately wanted to recover. It would be many more years before I would learn that my accurate diagnosis is both major depression and attention deficit disorder. At that time I followed my doctors’ recommendations.
I completed an inpatient treatment program and went on to live in a halfway house for additional support in my early recovery. I became active in practicing the 12 Steps. Later I went on to work in the field of chemical services, and enjoyed both my recovery and my work.
I eventually began experiencing symptoms of my psychiatric illness. For several years I didn’t recognize them as being psychiatric symptoms, nor did the doctors that I saw for my ‘health problems’. But they finally began causing problems and consequences in most areas of my life.
I was quick to become defensive and blame people and situations. As time went on, it became quite clear that something was seriously wrong with me. I eventually sought psychiatric help, and was diagnosed manic depressive, and began being treated with psychiatric medication. Instead of getting better, I grew worse, and began experiencing additional symptoms that made it impossible for me to keep working. I began to experience visual disturbances that were similar to the after-effects of LSD, that became chronic and continuous. I also experienced auditory hallucinations that came in the form of hearing music or a voice.
Numerous medical tests were conducted, but didn’t provide any clear explanations or directions for appropriate treatment. I became convinced that suicide was more attractive than the possibility of living a diminished quality of life - especially if the symptoms I was experiencing would grow steadily worse.
I made a suicide plan, wrote out goodbye letters; I had the means and a location picked out where I wouldn’t be interrupted. I was calm, and at peace with my decision.
My plan was interrupted because my vision became so disturbed that I was unable to drive my car to the designated location. I sat up all that night, sincerely hoping that by morning I would be able to drive my car and carry out my plan.
During the night, I experienced a change within me. I hadn’t wanted to change; I was not trying to change. It simply took place. The feelings of fear, shame, guilt, and hopelessness faded out. The desire to die and be in the company of accepting loved ones faded.
Instead, I became filled with believable hope. I felt a sense of positive energy and motivation. I came to know that on the inside I was still the perfect person that I was when I was born. I came to know that I still have creative abilities. I came to know that I was a part of something, though I did not know what that something was, at that time. Morning came. The changes that I had experienced during the night were still a part of me. I felt that something new and fresh was happening already.
I arrived in Kansas City and arranged for medical care. The neurologist and psychiatrists who helped me still do not fully understand my symptoms of chronic visual disturbance or periods of auditory hallucinations. Perhaps shooting LSD and other psychedelic drugs caused some damage, and as I grow older, the damage is catching up with me. While they have no clear answers or cures, my doctors can help me manage the symptoms with appropriate medications.
My next task was to locate a 12-Step program for people who experienced dual disorders. I was unable to locate any such group. The only reasonable next step would be to start one. I arranged to use a room in the church that my parents attend, and on June 27, 1989, the first meeting was held that was to gradually evolve into DRA.
The growth of DRA was slow, but we were guided by a vision of a program - one that is based on the Principles of the 12 Steps, the personal experiences of men and women in dual recovery, and the principle of freedom and choice. Eventually, the blueprint and the meeting format that included the 12 Steps were written and published. Gradually, people in other states began requesting information about DRA and began forming their own groups.
DRA continues to offer me believable hope, direction to follow, the support of other people, and a way to continue the process of inner healing and growth. For me, dual recovery is ongoing. I have found that over time my symptoms have changed. Today, I continue to apply the Steps and to use the support of other members, for which I am truly grateful.
By Tim H., Founder of D.R.A.