Let’s talk about medication, or as I like to call mine, The Magic Beans.
I had to come to terms with a lot of different things when I initially decided to get sober. I had to recognize and own the damage I’d done to myself and to those I love, and I had to get out of denial and realize that while I’d never been fired from a job or been in legal trouble because of my drinking, it was still causing problems in my life.
It’s not an unrelated fact, for example, that I’ve been divorced twice. Relationship failures can be attributed, at least in part (large part, likely), to my drinking.
Another fact, common amongst we alcoholics, is that of mental illness. The folks over at dualdiagnosis.org say that those suffering mental health issues account for approximately 69% of total alcohol consumption.
In my experience, most of us suffering from addiction did not start over-indulging in our drugs/drinks of choice because we are bad people looking for a party. Many of us, myself included, started using as a means to self-medicate this thing, this something deep inside of us that we knew didn’t feel quite right, but we couldn’t put our fingers on.
I suffer from anxiety, for example. Rooms full of people scare me to death- I will literally lose sleep for days leading up to events that I know will force me into contact with lots of people. Especially if it’s people I don’t know.
I also historically suffer from bizarre mood swings. I’ll be utterly depressed, unable to get out of bed and perform even the most simple of tasks for weeks, only to wake up one day, without warning, full of energy and ideas, ready to take the world by storm.
I’ll obsess over a single idea ad nauseam, and am prone to fits of rage over the smallest, simplest of things.
The mood swings, anxiety and inexplicable rage made me miserable. I’d been miserable for as long as I can remember. I stopped trusting myself- my mood swings made me prone to making irrational decisions- and started loathing who I was.
I used alcohol to dull all of that stuff. It helped eliminate the anxiety and tempered my rage, because it made me care less about everything. It’s really hard to get worked up into a rage over something you honestly can’t be bothered to give two shits about.
When I got sober, after that “pink cloud” of gratitude that I was no longer drinking wore off, all those symptoms- the rage, the anxiety, the mood swings- came back with a vengeance. Before long, I knew I had two choices: get help, or relapse.
Nervous, but determined, I schlepped to my doctor’s office. I explained my symptoms – in tears – and begged for some relief.
As a result of that visit, and some accompanying psychological/psychiatric tests, I walked out of the room with a diagnosis:
I was terrified. I always suspected I was crazy, and now I have the proof. It took me a long time – months and months – to be able to say the name of my illness out loud. I couldn’t acknowledge that I suffer from this disease, even as I bravely scolded others whenever I felt they were being inconsiderate to those with mental illness.
The one and only thing that scared me more than a diagnosis of Bi-Polar disorder was my fear of relapsing.
Thankfully, that fear made me take the medications my doctor prescribed me. I was put on an anti-depressant to keep my moods from sinking too low, and an anti-psychotic to keep my moods from getting too high – thus, avoiding both depression and mania.
In a matter of weeks, I was a different person. The mood swings have dissipated, my anxiety is all-but gone, and I can function at a level I now know most people consider “normal”, but for me is nothing short of beautifully, miraculously high.
We had to do a little tweaking to get the right combinations at the right doses, and I’d be lying if I claimed to have no side effects. Indeed, the first two weeks on these new meds I had to go to bed a full 12 hours before I needed to wake up in the morning, due to the coma-like state the meds put me in.
Over time, however, the side-effects straightened themselves out, and what remained is the Real Me; the person I was always meant to be. The one who isn’t handicapped by crippling anxiety and mood swings. The one who can be funny and sarcastic and cute in a room full of strangers without having a drink to dull my fears.
Soon, others began to notice.
“You just seem different,” they’d say. “Something in your tone of voice… I’m just not sure what it is….”
They may not know what it is, but I definitely do.
It’s The Magic Beans.