D.R.A. members often go to Alcoholics Anonymous and
Narcotics Anonymous meetings for additional support and fellowship. Often
men and women who have been diagnosed with a dual disorder say that they
have received misguided advice about their diagnosis and the use of
medication at other Twelve Step meetings. Some have been told that they do
not have an emotional or psychiatric illness, and that they are
experiencing merely self-pity or some other character defect "You
don't need those pills; they'll cause you more problems" and "If
you're taking pills, then you're in relapse and not really sober".
Individuals who have followed such advice have experienced relapse: some
have been hospitalized; some have returned to alcohol or drug use; some
have attempted or even completed suicide. To say the least, it can be very
confusing. Though we can not speak for other organizations, their
literature makes clear that these types of statements are not the official
position of A.A., N.A., or any other Twelve Step recovery groups that we
are aware of.
On page 133 of the Big Book of A.A. it says in
about health: A body badly burned by alcohol does not often
recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in
a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a
most powerful health restorative. We, who have recovered from
serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. But we have seen
remarkable transformations in our bodies. Hardly one of our crowd
now shows any dissipation.
But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures.
God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors,
psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not
hesitated to take your health problems to such persons. Most of
them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound
minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought
miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or
psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a
newcomer and in following his case afterward."
from Alcoholics Anonymous, with permission of A.A. World
There is also an important piece of A.A. conference
approved literature called "The A.A. Member - Medications &
Other Drugs" that addresses these issues specifically plus issues
of cross addiction. Some D.R.A. members carry copies of this
pamphlet with them to help educate others when this issue is brought up.
Here are a few excerpts:
members and many of their physicians have described situations in
which depressed patients have been told by A.A.s to throw away the
pills, only to have depression return with all its difficulties,
sometimes resulting in suicide. We have heard, too, from
schizophrenics, manic depressives, epileptics, and others
requiring medication that well-meaning A.A. friends often
discourage them from taking prescribed medication, Unfortunately,
by following a layman's advice, the sufferers find that their
conditions can return with all their previous intensity..."
"It becomes clear that just as it is wrong to enable or
support any alcoholic to become readdicted to any drug, it's
equally wrong to deprive any alcoholic of medication which can
alleviate or control other disabling physical and/or emotional
from The A.A. Member - Medications & Other Drugs, with
permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.
Narcotics Anonymous says they have no opinion on the issue
of medications that are properly prescribed to control the symptoms of a
psychiatric illness. When asked about this issue, N.A. Fellowship
Services, states that "The question of prescription medication should
be decided between the member, their doctor, and the member's Higher
Power. Our pamphlet "In Times Of Illness" and our 10th
Tradition, make this abundantly clear. We strongly recommend telling
our doctor's about our history so that when prescription medication is
absolutely necessary they can prescribe it knowing that we are recovering
We also must keep in mind that few recovering alcoholics
and addicts in these groups are mental health and treatment professionals.
Almost all are certainly well-meaning. Many don't fully understand the
difference between the usual depressions and anxieties most recovering
folks go through in early sobriety and our psychiatric illnesses--nor
should they be expected to. Some people may falsely think that
antidepressants are "mood elevators" much like the street drugs
they may be familiar with. These are understandable misconceptions, but
can lead to poor advice even from some of the "old-timers".
It is clear that no one should play the role of doctor but
a licensed physician or psychiatrist. Sponsors and other well-meaning
Twelfth Steppers should not give medical advice. DRA members who seek
sponsors in other 12 Step groups must weigh carefully the potential
sponsor's attitude and understanding concerning medications and
psychiatric illnesses. We can not expect them to fully understand, but an
attitude of acceptance toward the the nature of our dual disorder and the
place properly prescribed medications play in our dual recovery is key.
Experience has shown us that honesty is the basis for successful
DRA members do need to keep in mind when attending the
various Twelve Step groups that the Traditions and Primary Purpose of each
particular organization need to be respected. Those guidelines were
developed through much hard won experience, that their meetings, purpose,
and message, not be diluted with outside issues or controversy. Those
programs were not developed to address the problems of dual disorders.
They offer neither direction nor guidance for dual recovery. Most of these
organizations are single-purpose organizations--one disease, one recovery.
Dual recovery does not fall within their primary goals. It is our
responsibility to manage our psychiatric illness in a healthy and
constructive way and do what is best for our dual recoveries.
People who have a dual illness recognize that it cannot be
divided into simple and separate parts. They acknowledge that while they
do find support for aspects of their illness from many various 12 Step
groups, they also need a group in which they can look at their total
illness and recovery needs. Dual Recovery Anonymous was formed
specifically to address the needs of individuals who had two no-fault
illnesses: an emotional or psychiatric illness and chemical
dependency. The DRA program is based on three simple ideas, that are
suggested as a foundation for dual recovery.
- Today, I will be free of alcohol and other intoxicating drugs.
- Today, I will follow a healthy plan to manage my emotional or
- Today, I will practice the Twelve Steps to the best of my ability.
that psychiatric medications are used for the purpose of managing
psychiatric symptoms and are not taken for the purpose of achieving a
"high". Therefore, the use of psychiatric medications is not
considered to be the same as relapse.
Some individuals in dual recovery must take certain medications that can
have a potential for abuse or physical dependence. These
medications, when properly prescribed and taken precisely as directed, can
be an important tool in controlling psychiatric symptoms and may be
crucial to an individual's dual recovery and well-being. We use every
caution with our medications and understand that at times, there just
isn't another option available to us. Our doctors know best. We are
rigorously honest with our doctors and treatment professionals in regards
to our dual illnesses and our history of chemical dependency. When we take
these medications in accordance with our doctors advice and our recovery
plans they do not interfere with our sobriety or "clean time."
Dual Recovery Anonymous recognizes that psychiatric medications can be an
integral part of a recovering persons plan to manage their emotional or
psychiatric illness in a healthy and constructive way.
Anonymous is interested in how you have faced issues concerning prescribed
medications and support group peer pressure. We invite your stories,
comments, and feedback about this topic and related issues. Please send
them to the World Network Central Office. We always appreciate hearing from our members
and learning how they have dealt with recovery issues. Submissions may be
used in various future publications by Dual Recovery Anonymous World Network Inc., and become the property of DRA. As always,
the tradition of anonymity will
be preserved; first
name with last initial only, or a pseudonym may be substituted. Thank you.
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