“I always felt like I didn’t deserve to get help, I just felt like I was a bad person. Why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep hurting my family and betraying everybody?”
Each recovery story is different, and for some, it is not just an addiction that is presenting challenges. Sometimes we turn to substances to cope with our mental health.
Jamie is a client at Comprehensive Healthcare and has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and also has an alcohol addiction.
“I first started drinking when I was 17, but it was just weekends or with friends. It started getting really bad when I was in college,” said Jamie.
When Jamie was 18, she left home to attend college at University of Washington in Bothell. She was away from home, transitioning into independent adult life, going to college, and she began to feel really overwhelmed. When she returned home after going through a break-up, her mental health started to rapidly decline. She spent days isolated in her room, and drinking.
“I was really unhappy, and I just started drinking all the time. The only thing that I could think of to ease my anxiety was alcohol.”
Jamie started to believe that the only way she would be able to calm her nerves, cope with anxiety, and even just to function—was to drink.
“When I was around my friends, I just saw them going to college and thriving, while I just felt so scared, and different, and wondered why I couldn’t do that.”
Jamie explained that while drinking was a way to help her function, it was also hard for her to drink without going overboard. The drinking would spiral out of control as she would feel anxious, then drink, feel ashamed for what she had done and then drink more, sometimes to the point of blacking out. Jamie got a DUI when she was only 19; she and her family decided she needed to get help. Jamie went to three different facilities to address the alcohol addiction, but was never really able to address the problems she was having due to anxiety. She continued to relapse, and one day woke up in the emergency room.
When she was in the hospital, she was put in touch with Comprehensive Healthcare. After her evaluation with Comprehensive, they suggested she go to an adult inpatient facility. After her stay, she transitioned into a supported living facility and attending group therapy with others diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorder refers to when a person has both a mental health diagnosis and a substance use disorder. Comprehensive Healthcare’s approach for co-occurring disorders is an intensive program referred to as Integrated Dual-Disorder Treatment. For Jamie, this group made a huge, positive impact on her recovery journey.
“What worked for me was being able to deal with my mental health and addiction, not just addiction. If I had great mental health, I wouldn’t be risking my life and doing crazy things.”
One of the most significant impacts group therapy made for Jamie was how she felt safe, and never felt like she was being judged. She explained how the group and her counselor created a space where she could talk about how she was feeling, sharing when she relapsed, and what she had done, but never felt judged. Their encouragement was working, and she started to get better. Jamie learned to recognize that the solution was much more than not drinking or just getting over her anxiety. She found that by addressing her mental health and substance use symptoms together she could reach her goals. She also felt supported by her counselor, and described how he would go out of his way to explain what is going on, and involved clients in the conversation about their treatment.
“I let Jamie know that our program is not about catching a person using substances, we’re working with the person find alternatives to the use of substances,” said Paul, Jamie’s counselor.
Now, at 24, Jamie says she feels hopeful and motivated. Right now, she is volunteering with the Salvation Army and applying for a paid position. She looks forward to returning to college and having a career one day—possibly in counseling or something where she can help others with their mental health or addiction. For now, though, she is focused on taking things one step at a time, starting with getting a job (something her anxiety would often keep her from doing), saving up money and finding her own pace.
“But, I know I can do it, and I don’t need substances to do what I need to do.”
When asked about what she would say to others struggling with addiction and/or mental health, she replied, “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
According to Jamie’s counselor, the recovery process is not easy, and he would tell others that counselors, especially at Comprehensive Healthcare, know this. He also says, they are here and willing to help. “You can’t pretend to be happy, or stable, or even sober. A person has to find something inside of your core-self to make changes, we help you do that.”