Prior to getting sober, and this isn’t something I usually advertise, I was given mental health diagnoses galore. Everything from Bipolar Disorder (I and II), to major depressive disorder, to personality disorders and even a disorder I won’t mention. My first round of medications consisted of Abilify, Depakote, Remeron, Zyprexa and Ativan. I gained approximately 80lbs, slept all day and was morbidly depressed. Didn’t help that I worked security at the airport. Other medications encountered down the road included Seroquel, Lexapro, Wellbutrin and Lithium.
As soon as I stopped taking the medication, weight gain and depression disappeared. As soon as I got sober and stayed sober, there was no need to take meds. Two and a half years later, I’m still sober solely through a 12 step program. There’s a time and a place for psychiatric evaluations and medication. But that time is not at 5 minutes sober, entering a detox facility, about to withdraw like the French from war.
The problem? I was not honest with a doctor or therapist. These professionals, though well-intentioned, lacked experience – the critical ingredient necessary to break down the walls of a substance abuser. You can’t learn how to work with people with chemical dependency in a textbook. It’s an art. And requires experience. It’s the same reason most good jobs require experience. Experience is the ultimate doctor.
Let’s forget for a minute that psychiatrists, for the most part, receive almost no training in the area of addiction. Let’s forget social workers and therapists also receive little training and often harbor prejudice against substance abusers.
Now I know everyone’s story isn’t mine. Some people do need medication. My beef with the white coats is the psychiatric evaluations that occur at ground zero of addiction recovery. Day 1: going through withdrawal symptoms like an Afghan poppy farmer. Did psychiatric evaluation. Doctor said I was crazy.
That pretty much sums up my experience at mental health facilities. Go in for substance abuse. Leave with a mental health condition. And thinking I’m crazy. Ok, maybe I was a little crazy. But it was mainly the drugs. Mainly.
There MUST be a stabilizing period, a time where the body can begin to heal, before the shrinks arrive armed with prescription pads and mental disorders. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen.
What is going to happen?
In the coming years, you will slowly see 12 step programming phased out of addiction treatment centers. The old saying, “He who makes the money makes the rules” fits this scenario perfect.
Health insurance providers say, “We want addiction medicine, harm reduction and that’s all we will cover.”
Addiction treatment responds, “Ok, that’s all we will offer.”
And it’s just that simple.
In the process, 12 step programs wither and die. Rehab centers provide the lifeblood of recovery fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous. Treatment facilities are to sober communities what the minor leagues are to Major League Baseball.