Dual Diagnosis Story
by Liz Walker
Theirs always a lot of debate about which comes first: the mental illness or
the substance abuse. For me I was definitely bipolar long before I ever
touched my first drink or drug. However I never drank like a normal person
would. Somehow it seem to be a medicating thing for me. It helped with panic
attacks. I didn't handle pot well because of the paranoia thing. I had enough
of that already. Even though it was the early '70s and everyone was doing it
I faked that one. Drinking was always my drug of choice.
For years it went on with alot legal prescription drugs to help the anxiety
that I had. Of coarse their were the manias that I didn't understand when I
went barhopping and drinking and dancing and all the other things that seem
to go along with typical behavior of a bipolar. I went to one therapist about
my depression and drinking. He said I was definitely depressed but thought if
I could stop drinking I might be alright. I went back a week later and he
said he thought a different person had walked into his office. Their I was in
short shorts, halter top. running my mouth and on top of the world. Of coarse
I hadn't stopped drinking. He seemed to think I was doing okay though and was
glad to see the depression had lifted. That was the start of a pretty wild
mania for me that involved alot of drinking and partying.
Over the years their was a 7 year period when I didn't drink because of the
problems I saw from drinking and the manias that I didn't understand yet. Of
coarse librium was prescribed freely during this time to keep the anxiety
down. During that time I found out about my family history and started to
read some about thing about manic depression. I really had never heard much
about it before and didn't want to believe that I might have a mental illness.
I finally went back to drinking and things got worse with both disease's. By
the time I was finally dx'd with Bipolar in '98 I was in pretty bad shape.
Cycling rapidly with alot of mixed states and drinking a fifth of vodka every
day. I was becoming very isolated and my health was getting very bad.
By the time I finally ended up in the hospital I was detoxing badly. Seizures
and the shakes. My liver was in terrible shape and they said I was about a
month away from liver failure.
This was the start of my attempt to stop drinking with many relapses and
hospitalizations for both illnesses. I didn't want to drink but somehow when
I got manic I would loose all sense of reason and be back on the vodka trail
of self destruction. One time I rode my bike 20 miles to get a bottle.
Another time I slipped on the ice and got a concussion while visiting my
family at Christmas in MI. I had just bought a bottle and made sure that it
stayed safe. Christmas Eve I was in the ER with 3.58 blood level, a
concussion, Every foul mouth. I ripped out the IV's and tried to escape.
Another time they took me to the hospital and my blood level was 4.2. They
gave me enough pheno barbital to knock out an elephant bit I couldn't stop. A
nurse took me down to the smoking hut at about 2:00am and said I was in a
very manic condition. She said her son had bipolar and she knew the symptoms.
Later I escaped and wandered around town and finally called my family. I felt
rotten. I had just finished 20 days at one of the best rehab hospitals in the
county and I had failed. They told me they could only treat the alcoholism
not the bipolar.
That started alot of my reading and researching in this area. I do hope to
someday work with teenage kids in this field. I went through alot of relapses
and work trying to get my meds right. I just got a year clean and sober. I
have finally found some meds that are helping with the mania. I take 1grn of
thyroid, .5mg klonopin in am, 100mgs topomax, 400mgs neurontin, and 1mg
klonopin at bedtime. This seems to be keeping me fairly stable. I still have
breakthroughs with mania and occasionally depression but have been able to
finally get a pretty good stability with the drinking. No matter how bad
things get I know a drink will only make the situation worse.