In the stories below, our members share their experience, strength and believable hope. You may relate to one or more of our members’ stories of recovery.
A New Approach
I came to Dual Anon because my daughter was addicted to crystal methamphetamine, totally dysfunctional, and had disappeared—we thought she was probably still in the city, but had no idea if she was dead, alive and on the streets, or in jail. I was obsessing about her, couldn’t sleep, was barely functioning myself—trying to put on a good face for friends and family, but violently churning inside. This was not what I had planned for my family!!
One sleepless night it occurred to me from somewhere: “You don’t have to do this; it’s going to be okay.” At that moment I relaxed and realized—I have to let her find her own road to recovery; I cannot travel it for her. All I can do is heal myself. So I began attending Dual Anon regularly.
As I attended meetings over the weeks and months I realized that I needed to cleanse myself of the toxins of co-dependence: worry, panic, manipulation, withdrawal, etc. By talking with other Dual Anon members every week I began to heal, and find a sense of peace.
I still wanted to be there for my daughter, but had to find another approach—what I had been doing wasn’t working, and I wanted to do what worked! I had no phone number or address for her, so I began e-mailing her, hoping that this was the one way she might respond—and was thrilled when she did! I kept conversations light, non-judgmental, and hopeful that we would see her. Soon she was willing to come by the house and visit for an hour or so. Clearly she was still in distress. I was still worried.
I decided that I needed to investigate the resources available…….hoping that one day she would come to me and say “Mom, I’m ready for treatment….will you help me?” I wanted to be ready. Dual Anon members helped me list the possibilities and I looked into treatment centers. And I waited and worried some more.
On her birthday I asked her if I could take her to dinner. She met me, and she was obviously not well. Afterwards I took her to our house for her presents. She broke down into tears, and I hugged her. When she didn’t let go, I knew she was ready for treatment—and that was the beginning of her real recovery from addiction and depression. She went to treatment, then to an Oxford House, and now is working in an agency helping others in recovery. I AM SO PROUD OF HER!!!
But I’m proud of myself, too. Throughout my recovery from co-dependence, mostly because of the support and kindness of other Dual Anon members in our weekly discussions, I have experienced a new spiritual awakening. I have discovered that I want to lead a kinder, gentler life. My Higher Power guides me now—I focus on the positive, stay in the present, and avoid the “what if’s” and “If only’s”. I’m far from perfect, and still learning, but I try to apply the principles learned in Dual Anon to all aspects of my life.
I continue to attend Dual Anon meetings because I want this group to be there for families who continue to struggle with the devastating effects of dual diagnosis of chemical addiction and emotional or psychiatric illness. Perhaps my family’s experiences will provide hope to others that life can get better and serenity is possible.
Lightning Struck My Family Twice
It never occurred to me that my husband, a successful attorney who employed a staff of close to a dozen in his own law firm, had bipolar disorder. When he had an affair with a woman who was so bizarre she made the movie “Fatal Attraction” look like “Cinderella” I thought I was losing my mind. My husband’s excuses, i.e., “you don’t fold my pants” or “you don’t have a list on the refrigerator” were irrational and outrageous. As I tried desperately to reason with my husband I was sucked into his illogical, irrational, mentally ill world. It was as if a tornado had demolished our home and I, alone, was trying to put the pieces back together one at a time.
My husband was a loving, intelligent, creative, and ambitious man and we had a wonderful life together. I was completely unprepared and never in a million years would guess that he would go off the deep end. While we put our estates together, had life and health insurance, we did not prepare for mental illness or drug addiction.
Not only did I lose my husband to untreated bipolar disorder and addiction to marijuana but soon after, I had to fight for my son’s life. My son was becoming increasingly paranoid, delusional, and was not able to work or go to school. Getting my son the help he needed was the most exhausting and challenging feat of my life. After over 80 calls to the police department, God only knows how many to the mental health center, hospitalizations, and jail time because he was having a manic rage, my son is finally trying to rebuild his life.
The last several years have literally been a nightmare but Dual Anon has been a godsend. The wisdom and comfort that I receive from this group has been truly priceless. I am very grateful for Dual Anon and I feel they have been instrumental in my personal healing and awakening.
When My World Became Unbalanced
When we were confronted with our young adult son having a marijuana addiction, and the possibility of his also having a mental/emotional illness, we quickly began learning about both issues and how they intercept. At our medical center we were told about Dual Recovery Anonymous meetings for our son, and chose to attend. At that meeting, we were invited to attend a separate group for family members of those with a dual diagnosis: Dual Anon.
Weekly Dual Anon meetings give me an opportunity to share my story. Others can empathize since they have similar situations, even though each person’s situation is unique. I feel included rather than isolated. I feel supported, as these members are willing to listen and spend time with me. I notice that all members encourage one another to care for themselves and be cognizant of their journey in life.
I continue to be part of this group because honest emotions and feelings can be acknowledged and discussed without guilt or judgment. Members of the group, through weekly topics and the sharing of experiences work toward positive purposes and outcomes and inner emotional health. This aids me in dealing with my loved ones and offers me strength to meet what I may encounter each day.
My life as I knew it totally collapsed 3 months prior to 9/11/2001. Everything–my private practice, marriage, parents’ health, daughter’s mental health, and my own physical health.
My marriage was a sham in that I discovered that not only was he having an affair, but he had lived a life of duplicity for 18 years. My office manager had embezzled funds, hadn’t paid taxes, and I was financially ruined. I developed hypertension and severe fatigue. My doctor advised that I stop practicing.
The next few years, my daughter’s father died of lung cancer, and she became worse than ever. At one point, she was homeless, looking for important papers underground in the gutter. A policeman picked her up. This was the third time. The psychiatric hospital would not take her, so she was dropped off at jail. She had two DUI and assault charges, along with this charge. She was psychotic, and totally out of control.
There were times that she despised me and would call me up, cursing violently. I was lost, heartbroken, and utterly hopeless. I am a psychiatrist, so I should know better. I’ve treated people for over 18 years, but I could not treat my own daughter. I felt helpless and angry. I came to Dual Anon because I was concerned with my daughter’s alcohol addiction, and psychiatric symptoms. I came because I felt desperate.
The truth is, I have been in therapy most of my life since I came from a dysfunctional, “rage-aholic” mother. With all my qualifications and treatment, I should be able to handle my own daughter’s illness. But I could not. On top of that, I had an aversion to the 12 Steps. They sounded pedantic and were built from a 1930′s male-oriented framework. I viewed it as a cult, rather than a treatment plan.
At Dual Anon, the Steps are not rigid limits; rather they are a framework for personal growth and healing. Your Higher Power is your own idea of a Higher Power, not some god in the clouds. Dual Anon is far more than Steps. It is about the loving members who support you unconditionally. It is about knowing each and every member, learning to love and respect them, and accepting their love and support.
I’ve been a member for 5 years. My life is far better. My daughter is better. I am grateful for every minute I spent in Dual Anon and for the members, whose love and support brought me to a place of gratefulness, peace, and loving kindness.
My Spiritual Journey
I first came to Dual Anon because my sister said, “You have to meet the leader; she is an amazing person!” When I attended my first meeting, sure enough, her positive energy, heartfelt kindness and beautiful smile just lit up the room, making anyone feel right at home.
Fairly quickly, I realized that perhaps I had some other reasons to continue with Dual Anon: to support my sister, whose daughter was in a prolonged psychiatric struggle and crisis, and for me to gain insight and support in dealing with my mother, who for many years has been critical and non-supportive of me.
Going through the process of weekly one hour confidential group sharings, I have acquired wonderful help and support, benefitted from loving friendships, and been introduced to many new skills and resources. I am uplifted by the many strong, loving and understanding people at Dual Anon, and I have grown immensely in my spiritual journey.
I Had to Get Out of the Way
I was desperate and could not possibly believe that my loved one could become a productive, “normal” person. It sounded too good to be true. I had no trouble believing in Step 1 that I was helpless, as it was obvious. I had been living in response to all the problems we’d been through, and my attempts to make it all better for my loved one had failed.
With Dual Anon I found a group that had been and were experiencing the same things. Our family members are battling both a mental health diagnosis and one or more addictions. It did not happen overnight, but I found I was not required to ‘control’ or ‘run’ her life. When I learned to detach and let her figure it out, an amazing thing happened. This time rehab worked, and she has been clean for a year and a half. I had to get out of the way first.
All of the problems have not gone away, far from it, but now we all have a chance to find recovery and live our lives.
When we brought our newly dual-diagnosed adult daughter into our home, she was in crisis. An automobile accident had left her with a severe concussion; she was divorced, unemployed, and depressed - nowhere to go but up, we thought! We could clean her up, correct her bad habits, and give her a new start in life.
So we scrubbed and cleaned her old apartment, stored most of her possessions, and proceeded to settle her into our home. But, an aura of unclean living hung in her clothes and possessions. So, everything she brought with her had to be cleaned before it could come into my clean house. I spent hours, days, washing her clothes, before they could be hung in my closets. I then organized all her financial and personal papers – trying to clean up that mess, too.
We started out well enough. She started support groups, therapy and computer classes. She was able to work part time, settle her debts and buy another car, all with our help. Gradually, though, she slipped back into old habits. Our attempts to reparent were failing.
When she abruptly moved out, I couldn’t wait to “clean up the mess” she left in my home. I scrubbed, repainted, reorganized, etc. If I couldn’t fix her, I could at least remove what she had left behind. I even put away pictures of her from the past – it was too painful to look at reminders of how she, and I, had failed at life.
Gradually, though, I have come to understand why I did all that “cleaning”. It helped me at the time to deal with the situation – as I cleaned her things, I was subconsciously cleaning her.
Now, as she is fighting her battle toward recovery, I am learning to step back. I can’t fix her. She has to fight and win on her own. I still have cleansing to do, though. I am cleansing my mind of toxic thoughts about her and her addiction. I am learning to separate my daughter from my addict. I am appreciating the gift that she was and is to us. I can remember the good times and the blessing she was before she became addicted, and the blessing she still is when she has a good day.
And, the pictures are coming back out onto the shelves.
Insanity Brought Me Here
When my husband and I married, I knew he was challenged by anxiety and was being treated for it with medication. Shortly after our marriage, he became unemployed and fell into severe depression. Within the next year, he was diagnosed with Mixed Bipolar disorder.
Despite the volatile environment that bipolar disorder brings to an affected family, I always told my husband I would stay with him as long as he was seeking treatment for the disease and following the doctor’s recommendations. Our family life was challenging and sometimes dysfunctional, but there were moments of joy that made the hardships seem worthwhile, so I stayed in the relationship.
During the following years, my husband’s psychiatric illness did not improve despite intensive psychiatric treatment. He began abusing psychotropic medications. Rather than following the doctor’s treatment plan, he devised his own ‘cocktail’ and became addicted to prescription medications. His psychiatric illness, coupled with his progressive addiction problems, led to multiple hospitalizations.
While my husband was attending a Dual Recovery Anonymous meeting, he learned that Dual Anon is an organization to support the family and friends of individuals affected by a dual disorder of chemical dependency and an emotional or psychiatric illness. He suggested Dual Anon might be helpful to me. I had been attending another 12 Step group where members related to the challenge of addiction, but there was little to no discussion of anyone’s loved ones also having psychiatric illnesses. I knew the dual diagnosis made our situation even more complex and difficult to manage. My husband’s most recent relapse pushed me over the edge into insanity. I jumped at the opportunity to visit Dual Anon where members might understand the unique challenges I was facing.
At my first Dual Anon meeting, members shared their personal stories with me and I soon discovered that we had much in common. In particular, hearing the success stories of some of the members’ loved ones was enough to give me hope that my husband could also succeed in recovery. The members listened to me as I shared my experiences. They were welcoming and supportive and encouraged me to come back.
My husband’s addiction brought me to Dual Anon, but I quickly realized that the program is about my recovery, not his. Dual Anon taught me to take care of myself, whether my bipolar addict husband was healthy or not. I learned that I could not ‘fix’ him and the most loving thing I could do for him was to let go of control and allow him the dignity to identify his own path of recovery. Looking internally, I found I also had character flaws, so I had no right to judge others, including my addict. I came to understand that his addiction was a disease – I could love him, while hating the disease of chemical dependency. I discovered that resentments and anger are only destructive to me and that I could not find serenity until I let them go. I developed relaxation and coping strategies that helped sustain me during the intense days and comfort me in the quieter ones. I grew in my spiritual connection with a higher power and with the universe, as I learned to appreciate the present moment and express gratitude for my many blessings.
Two years later, I can say that Dual Anon has changed my life in a positive direction. The clarity and understanding I’ve gained from the weekly meetings, exposure to diverse literature and varied topics of discussion, as well as the comaraderie and unconditional love of the members, have set me on a lifelong path of my own recovery. As I look back, I see the progress I’ve made and I look forward to continuing the journey. The program is not a temporary fix, but a lifestyle change that will carry me forward with peace and serenity.