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I haven’t been updating the blog regularly for a long time now, and I suppose it still has its readers, so I will try to put up some new material. One thing that has been happening in my life — longtime Rubard watchers may be surprised, or unsurprised, to find out — is recovery from my alcohol addiction. There are many famous stories of “lost weekends” and the like, and people who straighten up good, but one topic that merits more attention than it usually gets is “dual diagnosis” — mentally ill people with substance abuse problems. If you suffer from a mental illness and are a drug or alcohol user, listen up: a key condition of recovering from depression or psychosis may be ditching the beer or the weed.
I wouldn’t have believed this myself a few years ago. I had been binge-drinking since I was 13 and an occasional user of weed since 14, but early in my mental illness I believed that substance abuse was treatment for my mental illness — “something to take the edge off” — not one of its causes. Though I had been experimenting with hallucinogens shortly before becoming ill, and the causal links between LSD and psychosis are no joke — and I noticed that weed didn’t really improve matters — I hewed to the alcoholic’s line that a drink or three was a civilized way to relax. Many people may see through this line for “normies” — but for the mentally ill the stakes are much higher. Mixing anti-psychotics and alcohol is a recipe for brain damage, and after a year of drinking and Risperdal I partially lost the ability to speak and write fluent English.
It must have been a trip in itself to be around me at the time. I would test my enfeebled grammatical “intuitions” by Googling potentially leaden phrases — I would drop important words from sentences; and later on, I could hardly sign my own name. Apparently mixing anti-psychotics and booze raises one’s blood pressure to dangerously high levels; perhaps I had some transient ischemic events, but at any rate I was f-ed up long after the drinks wore off. Yet I still kept drinking: even if I only did it once a month, I kept my toe in the muddy waters of alcoholism even when the stakes got higher and higher. I alienated family and friends, harassed people while under the influence — I suppose it’s a good thing I never learned to drive, since I probably would have crashed a car.
But what I really want to talk about are a different set of “stakes”: mental wellness for the severely ill is improved drastically by sobriety. Today, like an AA infomercial, I can see through delusions that plagued me for years: I never understood how to “let go and let God”, since I thought large swaths of our social world were nods to my vexed noggin. Now I have a much saner approach to illness and wellness, and can let the past be what it was and not what I cooked it up to be. If you suffer from schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorders, please, please, consider that sobriety may be the thing for you; the “insight” you lack may be that your already-troubled brain is too clouded by drugs and alcohol to see the sun that shines on all of us.