Dual Diagnosis and Early Sobriety: How To Handle Being Diagnosed With A Clinical Disorder In Early Sobriety.

“Having a clinical disorder while trying to get through early sobriety is tough: so many mixed emotions and feelings, physical fatigue and hyperactivity. ”

I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Severe Substance Abuse Disorder when I went into treatment in 2016. According to the  National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) , “Bipolar disorder is a chronic or episodic (which means occurring occasionally and at irregular intervals) mental disorder. It can cause unusual, often extreme and fluctuating changes in mood, energy, activity, and concentration or focus.” My doctor had explained that it was imperative that I take my medications every day, explained how they work in my brain, and discussed the side effects of each of them.

A disorder? Medications? I felt desperate and confused. I thought going through treatment for addiction would free me from medications, not make me reliant on more of them. But I had to realize that I wasn’t the doctor in the situation. Self-medicating for about 14 years had landed myself in treatment, so my decisions probably weren’t the way to go. Dual Diagnosis is “… a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. Either disorder—substance use or mental illness—can develop first.”

Receiving dual diagnosis treatment while trying to get through early sobriety is tough. There were so many mixed emotions and feelings, physical fatigue, and hyperactivity. Learning how to live a new life while paving new paths and reconstructing the neural pathways in our brains can be overwhelming. As you try different types of recovery such as Medication Assisted Treatment or the 12 steps of a support group, you’re making the decisions of your recovery.

For me, taking medications was an important part of my early recovery and much better than the alternative: going back to active addiction while living with untreated Bipolar Disorder. All I could do was finally trust in people and give recovery a thorough shot. Thank god I did! I wouldn’t be where I am today without those medications and the program of the 12 steps during my early recovery.

“Harboring two mental illnesses in early recovery can be taxing. It can feel like it’s not worth it,  and it can be emotionally and mentally depleting. But if you keep taking your proper medications, make new friends, talk to a therapist or a counselor, and work your recovery, you will be able to experience that good life that we all deserve. ”

My substance use hid my clinical disorder.

I had seen a doctor when I was younger to specifically test for anything that would cause my terrible behavior. My drug use was disguised as behavioral problems in my turbulent household (all caused by me, of course), and my parents noticed quickly. My mother couldn’t stand the idea of having a “crazy” daughter, and took me home without getting medications.

It was easy to ignore all my mental instabilities when I was getting high. Heroin kept me in the dark about my mental illness, kept me feeling safe from the stigma. When I was getting high, I didn’t have to face Bipolar Disorder. Since being in recovery, I have noticed that my medications are really helpful with my daily functioning and, more importantly, helpful with my behaviors. I’ve always wondered, if I were prescribed the proper medications when I was younger, would I have sought out self-medication with heroin?

For once in my life, I felt whole. I was working a 12 step program and taking my medications daily. I felt invincible … until I didn’t. About 7 months into my sobriety, I started playing doctor and stopped taking my Bipolar meds. I thought I didn’t need them anymore because things were going so well in my life. Wrong! That great idea had landed me in a deep depression where I couldn’t get out of bed. I cried all the time, and when I did get out of bed, I found myself driving 85mph on the freeway hoping to get in an accident and die. I quit my job without any leads on a new one, and lost all my friends and family. I was like a virus infecting anyone I could. I wanted everyone to feel the pain I was feeling, mentally and emotionally. It was that bad.

“We don’t need to self medicate anymore. We don’t need to play doctor anymore. We don’t need to be depressed, erratic, or not ourselves ever again if we don’t want to. Take life by the horns, don’t blame the cards you were dealt, and find it within yourself to persevere and conquer these mental illnesses! ”

The second time I stopped taking my Bipolar meds, I strongly considered relapsing. Alcohol, heroin, pills—anything I could get my hands on to get out of myself and out of the way I was feeling. I stopped seeing friends, I stopped working my recovery program. I started lying to and manipulating people. All of my character defects were erupting. My life was crashing down around me, and I just sat and watched. Around this time, I isolated away from my support system of recovery meetings and everything sobriety-related. Because I have a chemical imbalance in my brain, the sudden absence of medications resulted in intense panic and thinking the worst of all situations. I remember obsessive thoughts, aggressive mood swings, and complete emotional breakdowns.

I was exhausted. It was clear that I needed to get back on my medications. And that’s exactly what I did.  I “told on” myself. I told my friends, my family, and I told my doctor. Although disappointed, she put me back on my meds. It took awhile for me to be myself—outgoing, resilient, and joyful.

Finding hope and happiness.

People say that addiction is a mental illness, a disease. Harboring two mental illnesses in early recovery can be taxing. It can feel like it’s not worth it, and it can be emotionally and mentally depleting. But if you just keep taking your proper medications, make new friends, talk to a therapist or a counselor, and work your recovery, you will be able to experience that good life that we all deserve. Today, I remember to take my meds and stay on track in my own recovery program. The grass can’t be greener on the other side because I have all the grass I need.

If you or a friend or family member suspect they have Bipolar disorder or any other disorders while in early recovery, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. We don’t need to self medicate anymore. We don’t need to play doctor anymore. We don’t need to be depressed, erratic or not ourselves ever again if we don’t want to. Take life by the horns, don’t blame the cards you were dealt, and find it within yourself to persevere and conquer these mental illnesses!

4 Tools To Help You Stay Clean and Sober in Early Recovery

Getting sober or clean and living in early recovery can be daunting. There are so many new challenges being thrown your way: new friends, new places, new aspirations and goals. It can be overwhelming at times.

Below are four quick tips that can be utilized when going through the early times, which can help alleviate any fears or anxieties you might have during that turbulent stage. Going through recovery myself, I can attest to these tips helping me and others who are going through early sobriety.

  • Managing your “HALT”: Hunger, Angriness, Loneliness, and Tiredness.

Making sure that these align with your recovery is imperative.

    • Hunger: Since our bodies were deprived of nutrients while in active addiction, it is very important to eat well when we are in early recovery. We want our bodies to operate with the utmost potential. We could have an emptiness inside us that needs to be filled, and filling it with healthy foods and diets can go a long way, mentally and physically.

    • Angriness: When angry, you’re surrounding yourself with negativity, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Angriness can release past feelings and desires of using or drinking. Controlling your anger and having steps to pacify those negative feelings is vital. Try to be optimistic and positive, as it can result in a change of your mood, demeanor, and way of thinking.

    • Loneliness: Being alone can always cause cravings to use or drink. I know that it happened to me in my early recovery. Surrounding yourself with positive and encouraging people will help ease the desire to use or drink. New people and activities can help distract you from your loneliness.

    • Tiredness: Tiredness can really take hold of our mental, spiritual and physical being, causing us to have low energy, no ability to think clearly or dealing with day to day struggles. Getting the right amount of sleep, eating well and exercising can really help boost your energy and mindset.

  • Playing the tape forward.

This is another useful mechanism used in all recovery. Essentially, it reminds you of how life was in active addiction — those feelings of despair, hopelessness, and fear. Facing the distrust with your family and friends and the bridges that have burned because of the choices you made in addiction. Playing the tape forward also helps when you have cravings. For instance, if you use or drink that “one more time,” you could easily fall back into full blown addiction. Remember that we are trying to move past those unhealthy recordings to start taping new sober experiences for the future.

  • Reaching out for help when needed.

There are a lot of resources out there for people in early recovery. If you’re into AA, there’s support at meetings and with a sponsor. If you’re not into AA, you can find people with similar interests and values that can slowly grow into your support group. Calling support phone lines and volunteering could also help you get out of your own mind.

  • Spirituality.

Not necessarily religious beliefs, but your connection with something bigger than you in this world. Meditation is a great way to find balance between your busy life and spirituality. It is a practice that brings you closer to a higher power and also helps with depression, stress and anxiety.

After trying these new skills, you will discover that life in early recovery can be easier than you thought. When I was in early recovery, these four tools were everything I needed to get past cravings, tough daily tasks, and being able to love myself during my journey. I try my best to follow all suggestions given to me, but these four were especially useful. Being in early recovery isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but with these four tips, you may be able to make your sober journey bright like those rainbows.

7 Strategies for Balancing Early Recovery with a Serious Relationship

To date in early addiction recovery, or not to date? That is the question.

Corissa from the Workit Health team offers advice for those in relationships while getting sober.

I met my now fiancé in early recovery, although the people around me told me it was a bad idea. Early recovery is supposed to be about self: self-love and self-care. It’s the one time in life where it is okay to be selfish. Rebuilding those burned bridges, finding out who you are and who you want to be is crucial during early recovery. Me? I wanted the option to be in a relationship whenever I wanted and didn’t take my friend’s advice. Sooo… I chose to get into a relationship in early sobriety. Everyone said that it wasn’t going to be easy, forming my new life while caring for and sometimes worrying about a significant other (who was also in recovery).

Somehow we have made it this far, but many people can’t say the same. A relationship in early recovery is a big risk — emotionally, we are like children. We have low life skills and also low coping mechanisms. If you break up, it might send you into a relapse. How can someone who is still figuring themselves out be a partner to someone else? True. How can a person in early recovery know exactly who they want to start a relationship with? Fair enough.

The word relationship can be defined as, “The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”  Connection. Interesting choice of word. As humans, we try to connect with things, places, and especially other people. Physiologically, humans feel better after having a hug. Humans need humans. Creating connections is vital for recovery, but sometimes full-blown relationships might blind you from the more important things that can help you maintain sobriety. If you take the time to wait before being in relationships and focus on yourself, your growth, and your self-esteem, you might attract more stable people with the same goals and morals as you; you essentially attract the people you want to be.

“Relationships are a complex but necessary part of early recovery. Any personal connection between you and another will help you feel less alone on your journey. ”

Building your foundation for recovery is imperative. As I was beginning this relationship with my partner, I had to quickly decide which is more important, him or me. As a person in early recovery from addiction, I needed to keep my recovery first and foremost before anything else, including him. If he had turned into someone that came first, my recovery would dissipate and next thing you know, I would be focused on him and not trying to better myself. It’s dangerous. That’s probably why people suggest that anyone in their first year of sobriety get into a serious relationship.

Coming into this relationship, I had to remember that my recovery was #1. I had to commit to myself that if my partner were to relapse, I would have to protect my own sobriety and leave him until he figured himself out. Now, this sounds much easier said than done. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry too much about his sobriety as he had more “sober time” than I did, but it was always on our backburners. Here are some lessons I learned from finding love and navigating recovery at the same time:

1. Keep recovery as a first priority

I said this before, recovery is numero uno. The first priority. If you figure that recovery shouldn’t come first, then you will be more susceptible to relapse. If you had relapsed, you would eventually lose everything, especially that relationship. Being in active addiction is no way to try to have a relationship. Learning to grow together and keep tapping into potential rather than old addictive behaviors should be the goal.

2. Head to separate support groups or other recovery activities

Having female and male only 12-step meetings makes it super useful to actually use meetings for what they are for: a place to keep your sobriety intact, to reach out to newcomers, a place to come together. If you’re attending a social recovery event, make sure to mingle outside of your relationship. Networking is very important to find new activities, friends, opportunities.

3. Have separate lives from one another

Ensure that each of you have separate friends that you can spend time with outside of your relationships. Spending most of your time with your significant other may cause turmoil in the relationship. Get out, do other things, and then it will make the time together mean more than when you see each other every moment of every day.

4. Understand that you are involved with someone who technically has a mental illness

If you are dating someone in recovery, remember that addiction is a disease. Understand that you are about to be committed to another person who had a separate life of addiction other than yours, and you have to keep in mind that you are dealing with someone with a mental illness. Just like any other type of mental illness or physical illness, this person is trying to rebuild their lives and get better, and that might take time and extreme amounts of self-work.

5. Boundaries

Plain and simple. Set comfortable but effective boundaries between one another. Some things may not be as easy to swallow for both people, such as the death of friends, ex-significant others, or new families meeting. Setting boundaries which will make you more comfortable and understanding of your relationship will only build your foundation together.

6. Trust

Having the foundation of trust in your relationship is vital. There is a subculture of people who are in recovery: rumors can spread, there can be jealousy and other negative feelings. How can you trust someone who may not have the best history? You can appreciate the fact that they are trying to better themselves and rebuild their most important qualities.

7. Open Communication

Communication is important not only in romantic relationships, but in all relationships you make in recovery. Having the ability to communicate will also help with your building of trust. Your feelings are better said in a healthy way than kept inside waiting to explode.

Friends are also serious relationships to have in your new life. Have you ever heard of the expression, “You are the company you keep”? The people around you are a direct reflection of the kind of person you are. Friendships will grow with people who have the same personality as you, same goals, same values and morals. All of the tips above could also apply to any personal relationship if your life, including your friends. Friends are incredibly important to have as support systems when going through early recovery. They can be there to help build you up, introduce you to new hobbies or activities, they can even be the root to a romantic relationship later, you never know!

Relationships are a complex but necessary part of early recovery. Any personal connection between you and another will help you feel less alone on your journey. When you feel connected, you won’t feel as depressed, and you won’t feel the need to use anymore (and you’ll have people to reach out to when cravings do strike). Relationships are that important. Romantic or platonic, relationships can help you through the toughest times in early recovery. My fiancé and I have lived by those tips above and we have made it through the toughest times and the greatest times together. I would never give him or our relationship up even though it was against my better judgment early on in my sobriety. Along this journey, you will discover new things about yourself and your connections. You’ll find out what you need and what you want in a partner and relationship. Remember to keep your recovery as a high priority because you won’t have any relationships if you don’t have sobriety. So get out there and start connecting!

Can Suboxone and 12-Step Recovery Work Together?

Many people in abstinence-only 12-step programs take a hard line against Suboxone. Corissa argues that both Suboxone and the steps have saved her life.

As people in recovery, especially 12 step recovery, we strive to feel apart of, something we often didn’t feel when drinking or using. We want to have a sense that our voices matter, and we’re part of the community. The recovery community becomes an open forum for us to communicate, relate, and belong.

However, there is a dispute between people who are in programs like the 12 steps and people who are in Medication-Assisted Treatment programs (MAT), such as Suboxone maintenance. People in 12 step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are characteristically known to be against any form of medication. Some people are even bold enough to vocalize their feelings in meetings, directly to those on medication. As a person in recovery, who used Suboxone and is a participant in 12 step recovery, I want to explain why this happens, where the stigma comes from, and give my personal outlook on why we should all work to eradicate stigma. A common phrase heard in the rooms of 12-step recovery is, “It’s your recovery, this program is only a mere suggestion.”  So why the judgment?


What is MAT, and Why Does it Face Stigma?

Medication-Assisted Treatment, and more specifically, Suboxone maintenance, is the gold-standard treatment for opioid addiction, using medication with counseling to prevent withdrawal from opioids and balance brain chemistry in recovery. We answer questions about Suboxone on our blog, explaining, “Suboxone operates by binding the opioid receptors to prevent withdrawal while producing a minimal high, therefore helping to prevent against any recreational use. This binding helps individuals stop their heroin or pill habit by reducing cravings.”

“Taking medication that enables recovery is on the same tier as abstaining from narcotics entirely”

Stopping the heroin or pill habit? Isn’t that what recovery is in a nutshell? I believe that taking medication that enables recovery is on the same tier as abstaining from narcotics entirely. Some other people in 12 step programs do not agree. Many people say that being on a medication in a dominantly abstinent program does not count towards sobriety since you are still on a medication that they consider “mind altering” or “drug dependent.” What is mind altering about it? Does it get you high? People in recovery consume mood-altering cigarettes and caffeine, but we don’t judge. Some people are so eager to tear Suboxone down because it wasn’t the way they got sober. At times, I think to myself, maybe it’s because they don’t know much about the medication, or just have a lack of experience with it and that’s why they hate it so much. Fear of the unknown.


The Stigma of the Steps

There are many opinions surrounding the 12 steps and the 12 step recovery community. Some accuse 12 step programs of being “cult-like,” where people hug each other, chant prayers and sayings, donate money to their cause, etc… To be involved in a program like this, many feel necessity to conform and to do things that they would normally stray away from. Interestingly, being in the 12 steps myself, I’ve heard many people spout about MAT not being welcomed, or that abstinence is the key to success, and there are even the readings saying that we are “free from cocaine/alcohol and all other mind altering substances.” In a program that is all about positivity and becoming a different, better person, all while living strict principles in our everyday lives, it seems hypocritical that we would shun people away who are trying to arrive at the same end goal as us, but just doing it a different way. According to The Fix, “Even Bill Wilson advocated for a methadone analogue for alcoholics so that ‘lost sheep’ would have a medication-assisted way of progressing in AA and completing the 12 steps.” For me, without the medication, I wouldn’t even have been physically able to enter the rooms. And discouraging different recovery paths within 12 step recovery encourages judgment from those who fear the conformity of the program.

“It seems hypocritical that we would shun people away who are trying to arrive at the same end goal as us.”

Why is it anyone else’s business anyway? This is your recovery, your journey into sobriety and whatever way it takes you to get to the end goal of sobriety and a healthy life is for you to decide.


An Alternative to the Standard 12 Step Program

If it still seems that Suboxone is a deterrent to going to 12 step meetings, there is good news! Medication Assisted Recovery Anonymous (MARA) is a program where people can go who are uncomfortable with the stigma prevalent in AA or NA. It is for people who are on MAT and still want to go through the steps of recovery. Personally, I see the 12 steps as a formula for everyday living, not just treating my addiction. As you go through the steps, you start believing in a higher power, you go back righting your wrongs in your past, admitting your shortcomings and working on them to better yourself and becoming a person with morals, values and good intentions. Facing Addiction explains the need for the new group:

MARA was formed in response to stigma against medication-assisted recovery (MAR). The issue isn’t the Steps, members say: it’s the breakdown in group traditions. Although fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous have no opinion on “outside issues,” which includes medications and other medical issues like psychiatric care, the members of that fellowship may have personal prejudices against MAR. That can be problematic for people who need methadone to stay sober, but also need the support of a home group of other recovering people.

MARA thrives and grows in communities all over the nation.


My Journey with Suboxone and the 12 Steps

When I was in active addiction, I did terrible things. I would commit crimes to fund my habit, I treated and used people like they weren’t worth anything. I would steal, lie, manipulate, and cheat at almost everything I encountered. After getting a little sober time in treatment, I was introduced to the 12 Steps of Cocaine Anonymous, along with Alcoholics Anonymous. I better identified with Cocaine Anonymous because of their all inclusive program which addresses drug use through the 12 steps. I had a major problem with heroin & opiates, not just alcohol to fit in at Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Step work not only helps me stay sober, but it helps me be a more patient, understanding, and compassionate member of society.”

The steps themselves are a blueprint on how to get sober, stay sober, and then help others achieve sobriety. But, they were also guidelines on how to live my life as a better human being. They could be applied to any aspect of my life and would be able to make things run smoother, make me feel better as a person, and to straighten out anything in the past that is still haunting me. I love the 12 Steps of CA & AA. Step work not only helps me stay sober, but it helps me be a more patient, understanding, and compassionate member of society. I feel that MAT should not be shunned within the fellowships of CA and AA, as people utilizing medication on the road to recovery are taking the same path as anyone else, they just have medication to help them along the way, and quite honestly that’s nobody’s business but theirs. Along with the 12 steps, Suboxone was a big part of my recovery.

Suboxone saved my life, I’ve always known that. In my deep heroin addiction, I had no way of even cultivating the idea of getting sober. The withdrawals were severe and I had tried countless attempts to “cold turkey” my detox. Withdrawals can take you far into dark places in your mind and with your emotions. When realizing that killing myself was the only way to beat my addiction, I was miraculously introduced to the medication Suboxone. Although I had no real idea what Suboxone was going to do for me, I was willing to do anything else besides shoot heroin into my shot out veins. Days went by and I started to feel better, more like a real human instead of a shell of a being who never left her apartment and had sore throats from not talking for days on end. Taking Suboxone helped me start looking for inpatient treatment centers for myself, helped me regain trust with my parents and friends before leaving for treatment, and of course helped me get through the crazy withdrawals from heroin. Suboxone was something that was transitional in my recovery.

Even though I am abstinent now from all substances including Suboxone, I still value and owe my life to the medication. My personal view about Suboxone is that it is a miracle drug that can help whether it’s for short term or long term. Everybody is different, therefore everybody’s recovery will be different, and any way anyone gets through to sobriety, Suboxone or not, can be considered a win.

I Faced My Eating Disorder After Addiction Recovery

So when I got sober and into recovery, I felt that everything I could control was taken away. Except food.

The people in my life assumed that once I got sober, my life would be easy. They thought it’d be full of joy, free from negativity, and becoming 100% healthy again: spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Although these two and a half years of sobriety has been amazing thus far, I still struggle. Once you get rid of your drug and alcohol addictions, other afflictions manifest in everyday life. Mine? Struggling with weight control and an eating disorder, specifically bulimia. This addiction occurred earlier in my life, when I was a teenager, and it resurfaced later in my life once again. Struggling with an eating disorder is something that I usually do not like to talk about; it always has made me feel weaker than everyone else. Today, I know that sharing the story of my eating disorder can help others, especially in recovery who have dealt with the same feelings of inadequacy, low self esteem, and low self worth.

My eating disorder stemmed from my mother’s criticism of my weight when I was younger, 12 years old to be exact. I’m tall, so growing up I was always taller than the rest of the kids. Being bigger than the rest, I was given the nickname “thunder thighs” from my own mother, someone I couldn’t run or hide from. I was only 12, and I didn’t understand that weight was such a big issue during those years. From then on, weight and appearance were always on in the back of my mind. The idea that I wasn’t living up to potential beauty in my mother’s eyes always chipped away at me. Right around that time, I was called fat at school and it completely broke me. I began to feel like weight was something that defines people — it seemed like you only matter by how skinny you are, and how beautiful. Soon thereafter, I picked up a nasty methamphetamine addiction to aid in losing weight. I was told that meth helps with not eating, so I used meth to block hunger and curb any cravings for food. As I started losing the weight, my family noticed that my behavior was suddenly unruly, that I had a bad attitude and mood swings that were uncontrollable. The absence of daily nutrients combined with the chemicals in the drugs were brutal on my body and my mental health. But, it wasn’t enough, so I then started purging. That’s when I felt that bulimia and methamphetamines were the only things in life that I needed to feel whole, beautiful, and skinny. Boys started noticing me, people were constantly complimenting me, and finally “thunder thighs” was long gone. The victory lasted for a year or two. I felt like I was in control of everything and I absolutely loved it… until I realized I wasn’t in control at all.

“Ruined friendships, an unstable relationship with my parents, depleting grades in school, everything around me was crumbling aside from finally feeling proud of my physical appearance. Was it worth it?”

I never realized how dangerous it was doing what I was doing. Ruined friendships, an unstable relationship with my parents, depleting grades in school, everything around me was crumbling aside from finally feeling proud of my physical appearance. Was it worth it? My body was malnourished, I was angry or irritable all the time, I couldn’t sleep, my friends moved on without me, and every night was a battle with my parents. According to Sierra Tucson, “…bulimia nervosa is a perilous form of disordered eating that can render a number of devastating mental and physical health risks for sufferers.” My hair fell out, my skin was a mask of pimples and red blotches atop pale, dry skin, and my teeth were starting to get yellow and corroded. I was nervous all the time, fighting constant battles with voices in my mind. I was socially anxious and felt inadequate to almost everyone. Secretly, I hated myself. No, it wasn’t worth it. Miraculously, I had a moment of clarity one night while I was purging. I thought If I continue down this path, I surely will be skinny, but my overall appearance would decline, leaving me hairless, emaciated and without teeth, miserable and alone. It took me awhile, but I picked up sports as a healthy alternative: exercise without binging and purging. I began to eat healthy foods and watched what I consumed while exercising as much as I could. I had beat my eating disorder… for the time being. I had no idea it was going to unexpectedly pop back up.

“I had low self esteem and self worth with no drugs to hide behind, and I was beginning to feel out of control.”

In my early twenties, shortly after the crystal methamphetamines and marijuana, I was addicted to cocaine and heroin. That battle would last for about 9 years: it took my job, my apartment, my fiancé, my friends and my finances away from me. I had nothing. For me, addiction was all about control. I needed to be in control of everything. So when I got sober and into recovery, I felt that everything I could control was taken away. I could no longer control my environment (because I was in inpatient treatment), I could no longer control the people around me or the places I went, what meetings to go to, the sponsor I had — everything was out of my control and dictated by someone else. I had low self esteem and self worth with no drugs to hide behind, and I was beginning to feel out of control. I started binging and purging again while I was in treatment. After every meal (if I even ate at all), I went to the bathroom to purge. No one had noticed my bathroom ritual and I felt in control again. If I couldn’t control everything, I could at least control what I ate. Being newly sober, no one mentioned to me that other bad habits, behaviors, or addictions would rear their ugly faces during my recovery, so my bulimia took place of my drug and alcohol addiction.

“My eating disorder felt like a tangible entity, a best friend that the staff was trying to separate me from. ”

When getting sober, the body goes through many changes, especially physically as you are eating again, or exercising, and just not consuming drugs. Physically, I was gaining weight still, and my body was starving for the nourishment. Bulimia was conflicting with the natural weight gain of being sober. I was petrified. Would I balloon up into a fat glob? I felt out of control again. I got sloppy. People were starting to notice my bathroom escapades and I was soon assigned a “bathroom buddy.” I was no longer allowed to go to the bathroom alone and staff were made aware of my eating habits, or lack thereof. I was trapped. The only way that things would go back to normal was if I did eating disorder counseling at my treatment center. Talking to staff about the reasoning behind my eating disorder, where it stems from, and how it makes me feel were some of the difficult topics of discussion. I realized that talking about my eating disorder was actually more difficult than talking about my drug addiction. It felt too personal to me. My eating disorder felt like a tangible entity, a best friend that the staff was trying to separate me from. I had to deal with the underlying issues that were causing me to act out via purging. I learned that I had to trust in something larger than myself, and trust that struggling like this wasn’t what was intended for me. I also learned that I needed to start participating in healthier ways of eating and exercise. I had to love and forgive myself for the damage I caused. I needed to realize that my eating disorder wasn’t as massive as I had imagined.

Dealing with eating disorders takes a toll on your body, your mind, and your spirit. I figured that I had to let go of the pain of the past when I was 12 years old. I had to realize that I was beautiful inside and outside. That took the most work. What helped me? Positive affirmations, a solid support group around me, and my willingness to live a better, healthier life. I did not get sober to still live in misery. I still struggle sometimes, but now I have the tools and coping mechanisms to not succumb to the temptation of purging. The human body can do magnificent things; it is remarkable in its own way, we just have to treat it as such.

The Difficulties and Victories of Leaving Heroin Behind

There were difficulties leaving heroin behind, but nothing that compared to the victories of giving it up.

Heroin was my best friend. It was something I couldn’t live without, something that would replace anything or anyone in my life at any given time. Even though it tore my life apart limb from limb—made me lose friends, family, dignity and self respect—I still had to have it. Until I didn’t. When I was using heroin, I couldn’t imagine making the journey to recovery and sobriety. There were difficulties leaving heroin behind, but nothing that compared to the victories of giving it up.

My story began when I was around thirteen years old and addicted to methamphetamines. My life had only just begun, and I found myself chained to a substance I couldn’t control. Combined with puberty, my meth use was completely destroying my life. It affected by relationship with my parents and with my best friends. My addiction was totally skewing my dreams, aspirations and priorities. At the time, I wouldn’t have admitted that I was addicted, or even that I had a “problem” with substances. But I had to get so far out of myself to feel any sort of normalcy. From there, things went downhill. As I started to experiment with other substances, at around 18 years old, I finally found that the last piece to my puzzle. Opiates. More specifically, heroin.

“I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. It got to the point that I removed all the mirrors in my apartment. ”

At first, it was all I needed to have “fun.” I got that warm fuzzy feeling, as if the worries in my life were dissipating. It was the ultimate high, bringing me out of myself and making me the person I thought I could be: happy, content, and in control. When I started using heroin, I didn’t know how bad it could really get. Soon enough, I hated myself. I was socially anxious, had a low self-worth and -esteem, and beat myself up about anything and everything. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. It got to the point that I removed all the mirrors in my apartment. Arrests, erratic behavior, and cheating in relationships all became part of my “norm.”

Heroin was the one tool I had to combat the self-created symptoms of being an addict: loneliness, self loathing, depression, anxiety and extremely low self-respect and -esteem. Who would give up their only defense against feeling horrible day in and day out? Not me. I wasn’t even fully aware of all the deep-rooted issues I had until I came into recovery. I became a recluse. Being alone was the only way to be sure I wasn’t harming anyone else in my life. The lying, deceit, and manipulation all came as repercussions of using drugs to survive. The times I had tried to stop on my own made me feel that I was much weaker that I had ever imagined. Not taking heroin seemed like trying to live without breathing. It was difficult, to say the least.

“Who would give up their one defense against feeling horrible day in and day out? Not me.”

It can be very difficult to leave behind something that you’ve found comfort in all day, everyday. Medicine is used to treat symptoms of disease and sickness. Heroin was what I used to treat my afflictions. Stopping cold turkey only created more problems.

I needed medication for my addiction to help my symptoms of withdrawal. Suboxone was a way out for me. I got an addiction specialist who prescribed me the medication and sought out therapists for my deep-seated issues. I was on a stable path to recovery. Or so I thought. When I started feeling better, I stopped going to my therapist and stopped taking Suboxone. I thought I had beat the addiction and was fully recovered. Like other medications for diseases, we need to take them consistently and appropriately. I was not doing that. Soon enough I landed myself into an inpatient rehabilitation center. I finally got sober.

Although, quitting heroin was as difficult as it could possibly get for me, the victories were well worth the struggle. I’ve gained my life back, slowly but surely. Becoming human again, with aspirations, dreams and priorities meant something. I was reborn. How victorious it is to put down the syringe and to say ‘yes’ to life instead of hiding away!

I had to re-learn how to make friends, look people in the eye, apply for a job, have personal relationships, and fulfill my responsibilities. Everything was starting from square one! A little over 25 months ago, I was a shell of a human being, a wasted space, a slave to a white powdery substance. Compared that to what I am now: beautiful, positive, spiritual, and sober. This evolution is what keeps me going in my recovery. I have to admit, considering how bad it got in my active addiction, the victories over it are something special. I will work hard towards them every day of my life. Without those difficulties, the victories wouldn’t feel as good.