My Story: Joey

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

My mother's alcoholism turned abusive by age 8. I idealized suicide by 13.

I began my love affair with alcohol and how it made me feel. I thought, at the time, it made me feel better. I could feel it get down to my chest. I instantly felt relief.

No more chest pain. No more stress. No more anxiety. Even though I knew this was all temporarily, it just felt good to let go of recurring thoughts, worries, and fears. I just needed to check out of reality for a minute.

I knew it looked like I consumed excessive amounts of alcohol, and I did. I was a completely unstable, unhealthy, and self-harming, alcoholic/addict who was in full blown addiction. I was only 28.

I have never been married, but I knew that I didn't want kids and I wrote off what few family I spoke to – my father included.

My mother committed suicide at the 43, and my half siblings were strung out all over the Pacific North West and a couple of other states.

I then met my drinking partner. All bets were off. There was nothing to hide. There was no stopping the destruction to come. I had a domestically violent relationship with a narcissist.

Abused emotionally and physically as a child, my drunk behavior turned for the worst and I too became very abusive.

I'm very insecure and always have been. My father who was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder had passed along his traits of the disorder onto me.

Alcoholics do a lot of the same things a narcissist does. They lie, manipulate, schemed to accommodate their addiction, acted selfish, full of false pride, and never accountable for their actions.

I felt entitled to be screwed up – if I wanted to be screwed up. Poor me, poor me. Just pour me another drink.

At 28, I also started doing coke again, but it wasn't recreational as intended for very long. I felt I had lost my mind. I'd crashed and burned over and over again.

After a week straight of sleep, manic depression set in and I couldn't function. I quit working.

I saw a doctor who diagnosed me with bipolar II disorder.

I was again, very unstable, suicidal, manic, and malnourished. All of these factors caused me to have a seizure. The hospital hydrated me too aggressively which left me with a brain injury, central pontine myelinolysis (CPM). The brain injury was diagnosed three years after the fact.

In the interim, I lost everything again. This time, officially put into the state system because I was uninsured. I became a ward of the state until I could walk again.

My CPM brain injury paralyzed the left side of my body for about a year. I was 32. Inpatient, outpatient, inpatient again, outpatient again.

AA and the process of the 12 steps, therapy, and meetings. I still relapse repeatedly. I couldn't cope. I meet a guy in AA, and I'm now trying meth and heroin. I had become an IV drug user at 36.

I'm a mess. My brain hasn't even healed yet. On the outside, I looked better, but inside, my brain had issues. I could no longer work in my profession, short-term memory loss was apparent, and unexplained rage started to occur more frequently.

All of my fears were heightened when my brain was injured. I decided to turn to God and quit everything. It was time to get back on track again.

A week later, I find out I'm pregnant. I made my decision then to quit. I poured out the rest of my vodka out and never touched it again.

I attended AA meetings, decided to get honest with myself and others about everything. We focused on forgiveness, letting go of the past, resentments, and anger, and accepting my mental illness.

Believing I'm worthy? I'm still working on that one.

Well, this changes my life, and obviously for the better. Honestly, I shouldn't be here. I have been given Grace. I decided to name my daughter Grace because of this enlighted moment.

My bipolar highs and lows, medication changes, and my rage were a concern. I put myself into two years outpatient.

There I learned about dual diagnosis and more about bipolar disorder. I did online parenting courses for parenting with mental illness.

I've now been told I am a rapid cycler. I am now 43. I haven't drunk since 2010, and I use medicinal marijuana. Yes, it works for me absolutely. I've relapsed with meth, no needles.

Currently I am clean. Not sure yet how I'm really doing. Am I pulling the smile off? I'm struggling financially as a single mother on disability. I want to crack. Not having enough money is an evil that I always drank and used over. I'm also dealing with relationship issues.

I just can't cope.

I turn into a ticking time bomb of anxiety. Then, the black hole appears once again.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

Cutting toxic people, friends, family, acquaintances out of your life.

Leave no doors cracked open. The drama, toxic environments, more toxic people, and surround yourself with others who are wanting or are working recovery – get in the middle of the pack.

Least one year in the program, working service, etc.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

Cutting toxic people, friends, family, acquaintances out of your life.

Leave no doors cracked open. The drama, toxic environments, more toxic people, and surround yourself with others who are wanting or are working recovery – get in the middle of the pack.

Least one year in the program, working service, etc.

Cut toxic people out of your life.

Cut toxic people out of your life.

Who has been there for you? How?

Not many people in my life were there for me, but my friends at AA have been really supportive.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

I'm 7 years sober. Working recovery.

What's your advice to someone else living with bipolar?

Educate yourself on bipolar disorder. Learn everything you can – how to cope, manage, and treat bipolar. Alcohol and drugs will take their toll on you.

Educate yourself on bipolar disorder. Learn how to cope, manage, and treat bipolar.

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